Monday, 24 June 2013


As a smallholder I conceder myself to have a pretty unsqueamish nature when it comes to farm yard manure. I’m far from faint hearted in the face of faeces and don’t get deterred by detritus. In fact, I am one of the few sheep owners who can still enjoy a bag of chocolate covered raisins without the slightest feeling of unease. But yesterday however, I met my match!
When it comes to poo, I prefer the nice healthy normal stuff like the black and shiny or the fresh smelling and firm. I’m also unphased by the fibrous and flaky or the slightly sloppy and starting to set. But the stinky, soup-like dollops of revolting nastiness which greeted me this morning had me on the ropes.
The recent heavy rains, fresh grass, broody hens and visiting ducks have all conspired to result in wretched pools of grey/green smelly sludge just about everywhere I looked. I chuntered to myself as I scraped it all together for the muck heap and hosed off the sloppy stuff - then decided to take a breath of fresh air in the garden.
It was a beautiful day and the vivid pinks and purples of the rhododendrons stood out against the yellows and greens of the new leaves on the shrubs and hedges. The striking red of the ornamental poppies and crisp white of the lilac trees in the border contrasted nicely with the dark leaves of the copper beach and glossy green and cream of the variegated ivy in the distance. Everything looked so cool, fresh and inviting and it made me smile to think that all this colour, scent and beauty is in many ways thanks to the muck heap.
So here’s to the humble but essential FYM. Be it firm or flaky, fresh or fetid, solid or slimy, or dry and disintegrating. It puts food on our tables and flowers in our gardens, posies in our vases and grass in our meadows. It may be occasionally unpleasant but it’s always essential.
Now...where did I put those chocolate raisins?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sunshine after the rain

What’s the weather like with you? It’s been pretty wet here off and on, and sunny in between. As a result the grass has been shooting up and the pasture’s like a jungle. In fact it is now so long that we have had to call for a bit of back up in the shape of a few cows to eat it down.
As the rain clouds finally cleared yesterday and the evening sun came out, my friend arrived with a couple of her Dexters, Buttercup and Sunshine, and their calves.  Buttercup has stayed with us before and soon recognised the place and settled in. Sunshine and the calves, Earnest and Algernon, took a little longer.
Lilly took great exception to the unannounced arrival of the cows in her field and marched Lucy and the lambies to the gate where they set up a protest. The lambies held a sit in (though I suspect this was in fact because they couldn’t be bothered to  stand up). Lilly did the next best thing to chaining herself to the railings by forcing her head through a gap in the gate and yelling, while Lucy paced up and down and joined in the synchronised bleating.  
They kept this up until I eventually gave in and opened the gate, whereupon they all ran out of the field and into another one nearby where they chose to spend the night. 
This morning however, the rain had passed, the sun was shining and everyone seemed to have settled down. The ewes were bleating to be let back in to their field, the cows had made themselves at home, and peace was restored again. All is quiet and calm. Until our own cows arrive in a couple weeks that is...!
Lilly and Elvis are distinctly underwhelmed!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Diamond Dove for the day!

I realise that the life I lead is a little less than mainstream, that my animals are rather eccentric and that I myself could be described as somewhat unorthodox. So when a friend of mine asked if I could bird sit her diamond dove, Piff, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
After all, I had met Piff at his home on a number of occasions and he had popped round to my house once (not on his own you understand) and preened himself at the kitchen table. However, despite looking after my own animals, taking care of other people’s pets can suddenly feel like a huge responsibility and by the time he arrived I was doubtful that he would survive the day.
I needn’t have worried though, as Piff is an experienced traveller who loves meeting new people and animals. He put me at my easy straight away as we discovered a mutual interest in vintage radio comedy. He sat on his cage preening and cooed happily in response to the sound track of a parrot in an episode of Dad’s Army. 
After a light lunch of mustard cress and linseed (that was Piff’s lunch, not mine) he spent a little time with my other half in the workshop, before winding up his day wandering along the living room window sill surveying the garden and chatting to himself.
By the time his owner, Cathi, came to collect him later that evening, we were all quite settled and even the cats were sad to see him go (though they may have had their own reasons for this). Despite being only a small bird, Piff has a big personality and the place seemed quite empty when he had gone.  I do hope he visits again soon.

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