Saturday, 2 September 2017

Officially Autumn

Happy September everyone.

It's been a funny old week with warmish days, some very windy ones and a proper autumn feel to it all. Ebba the dog has been reveling in the feeling of something new to come and has found her voice, to celebrate it all. Ebba now talks loudly about things and she sounds like a big dog imitating a puppy. It must have to do with the fact that she's in season, but the voice seems to be a new, braver Ebba thing too.

Yesterday a dear friend came to visit and was greeted by Ebba who tried to climb up in her lap, while telling all about her day. It was a both comical and moving moment and in the end, we just had to go out into the paddock to play with our sweet dog. She is a lot of things but a lap dog she is not.

We are looking in to getting a friend for Ebba. A smaller dog to give her that last bit of confidence she is so clearly lacking. There is room at the inn, so to speak, and maybe she is a dog that would thrive with some canine company. We will have to work on that one.

Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are looking perky and happy. Cooler air and berries in abundance makes for very happy sheep. They are also looking forward to the time when they get to stay indoors, snuggling up with their hens for company and lots of food to eat. They are a funny team of animals who love staying in their pen. It must be that feeling of safety and no stress that appeals to them. The young cockerels and the chicks still ride around on their woolly backs so it can't be the company of hen birds that they are missing out on, being outside all day.

The first flocks of migrating gees flew over us this morning. Their calls being answered by our cockerels made for a very nostalgic moment. It all starts again, that feeling of something ending. Nature winding down, the migrating birds starting their long flight towards warmer climates and us staying put. The cure for this gloomy feeling is to hug a sheep, drink a lot of coffee and clean up after a messy bunch of happy hens. Then call for Ebba and head out for a nice, long walk in the woods with dear husband. If all else fails - chocolates.

It's been a pleasure to write to you all about our funny, little life out here in the middle of nowhere. Two years on it feels it's time to call it a day. We are hopefully not going anywhere soon, especially as Ebba is not done yet with digging her way down to the middle of the earth. If you have a sweet looking dog popping up in your flowerbed one day, check that it's not our digger on four paws. You never know, as magical things do happen, but if it is her, do send her back as we do love her so.

Take care, be safe and above all - try to be happy as often as you can. We will do our best at this end....

Lots of love from all of us at Stoneback farm.

Saturday, 26 August 2017


This was probably the shortest summer in the Finnish history. I know it's probably not the case but it certainly feels that way.

We had snowstorms in May and now the cool air is back in the middle of August. Mind-numbingly cold fingers and toes in an official summer month is not on! Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My aren't so fussed about cool days as they are already sporting this autumn’s wooly jumpers. Ebba the dog loves all weather, if we are outside enjoying it. It's the hens and me that grumble and jump up and down, to stay warm. Our dear chicks are struggling to stay upright while the first autumn winds twirl in the fields, but find the suggestion of them spending some time in the henhouse preposterous, to say the least. They are as curious as their older relatives, so they feel that being tossed around and turned over a bit, is a small price to pay for being where the action is. Hens should all live in the town center where they could sit and do their life spotting while eating a healthy lunch together.

Our enormous flock of cockerels are roaming high and low for food, fun and adventures. They are a funny bunch as all but one are copies of their father. It's like seeing double over and over again. One of the stars is turning black and has a temper to go with his colouring. He is not my favorite, I must admit, but he is nice and polite to me so we plod along. Our hens are getting fed up with our boy choir. They are loud! But as my dear sister so rightly put it "Its not everyone that can enjoy such a beautiful sight as they make when they all turn up." And that's true... They do make an almighty mess in the stable, though.

Everyone has their own way of preparing for the winter to come. The forest is chock-a-block with berry pickers and that sentence is wrong in so many ways, come to think of it... I seem to try to mix the nautical and the wood land world to no avail so will try again.

The forest around where we live seems to be full of people gathering berries and mushrooms for the winter to come. Bilberries, lingonberries and chanterelles are leaving the village in huge buckets and you must wonder about the size of freezers awaiting it all. We pick berries as often as we have time, Ebba and I, but we end up eating the lot. We will just have to buy more during the winter. Our dear sheep prepare for winter by eating berries and love the Rowan berries. It's my work to gather them. I love to do it and it works as my morning stretching, I'm trying to get in to that - hear my deep sigh.

A dear friend of ours gets ready for colder days by buying lovely, long woolly socks. This, she does every year and every time I see the new pair I decide to learn to knit more varied patterns. Maybe this is the winter I get stuck into that. I know the basic hearts, stars, boy, girl, dog patterns but anything more complicated makes me very confused. Most things do that to me, I fear.

I start cleaning. Not indoors where it would make sense but outdoors. I put stuff away, I clear away weeds around buildings and clear the roads of branches and suchlike. I also clear out and clean the hay barn. This is actually important as you can't fill it with new stuff on last year's dirt and dust.

This time I knew it would be extra fun as the bat families have had a good season with lots of babies. Lots of bats equals plenty to clean. I have to admit, after a day of bat poo, I have gone off them for a while. It will pass and soon I'll be back on the lawn in the evenings, cheering them on when they do their "flyby show." For now they have to manage without my support.

Our wedding anniversary day came and went.

Lovely, dear husband started the day by playing Our Song for me. It was the song the hotel where we had our wedding lunch chose to play for us three times, three different versions of the blasted song. Hence our song is Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks though they are here to stay, oh ..... and on to describe half the man and so forth.... Oh joy!

I read "Darling buds of May " again this summer, which I do most years and yes, I do believe in home-made traditions. After reading all the stories about the Larkin family, while hens and sheep kept me company, I commented on wanting to see the tv series one day. Dear husband got me the whole box set as a present and we have started watching it. All I can say is that it's lovely and I'm a very lucky wife.

Life is a funny old thing and tends to throw this and that our way. It's not always fun, it's certainly not always easy but we still have to stop and count our blessings, at times. We do get good stuff too and when life calls for it, I do believe in dancing in the sunrise. Just a short home-made ballet performance on the lawn, a morning greeting to the world out there. And having written this, I just realised that I probably scare away the sun and am creating all the rain we are having. Blast....

Do take care and have a safe week. Last week of August, time flies.

Sadly, next week's blog is going to be the last one, for now at least.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Hawks and men

 It is starting to feel like autumn is right around the corner.

The mornings are misty and the lawns are wet with morning dew. Although nature is still green and lush, there is that feeling of it all starting to wind down soon. The feeling of nostalgia is creeping in and the migrating birds are probably starting preparations for their long journey towards warmer climates.

Here at our place the birds of prey have started visiting in the mornings. Yesterday, a sparrow hawk sat outside the stable, looking in through the window at 6am, while the young cockerels sat on the other side of the glass, looking out. Even our young, funny boys realised that the visitor meant danger and for the first time in their short lives, they kept quiet. We all decided on a sleep in and they went out an hour later.

It is always in the early days of spring and at the beginning of autumn, when the bird of prey start visiting. It is worrying, and this year it's very understandable. The noise level is constantly loud around our eight cockerels and this must sound like a breakfast gong to hungry hawks. But try telling that, to our lot.

So, we try to keep a look out and of course our four, friendly sheep act as safety features for all the small chicks. They take naps next to the sheep and when something happens, you usually find tiny yellow balls of fluff hiding under a sheep belly. This means that the sheep must stand still or get pecked in the leg by a concerned mother hen. Molly can't always remember this anymore. If she sees me approaching, she starts walking towards me, which all becomes a tad dramatic. So far no one's been stepped on but that's because small chicks move faster than lightning when needs be. I do understand dear Molly, though. She is the shape of a barrel and has not seen her own feet since May. This means that she can't see the chicks and to be expected to remember tiny birds, when all she thinks of is food is just too much for her. She probably sees me as a dry bread delivery service and wants to be first in line when I stop to hand out the goodies.

Ebba the dog has gone the other way and thinks of food as something you have to get over and done with, eventually. Her mind is now focused on finding dear Napoleon - Ebba's small dog friend - as she is in season for the first time in her life, we think. This all sounds like a Jane Austen novel, having a London season and all that but it means that our dear dog is growing up.

So far Ebba finds it all to be confusing and silly but in a few weeks’ time we will know how much fun it really is. Some dogs take it in their stride and some feel like their world is crumbling down around them and start stressing a lot.

Life would definitely be easier without our lovely little flock of sheep and our vast number of hens, not to mention all our cockerels. It would also be a much quieter life, without the 4am wake-up call from the stable, each and every morning! But as a dear family member so aptly put it, "It really is a lot of fun with animals around the place, isn't it?"
That says it all, really and dear Ebba would be sad not to have all these potential snacks bobbing around her all day. Somehow, I feel they all enjoy each other’s company as much as we enjoy theirs. It might not seem like a lot to some people but it means the world to me, having happy animals in our lives. Dear husband likes them too, I hope. Better not ask him.

Have a good week, be well and oh dear! Dear husband and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary this coming week. Time flies when you're busy.... and having fun...

Let's do something nice for a loved one this week, to celebrate.
Source: Shutterstock

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Two more chicks

Jill decided that it was her turn to become a mother, so two tiny, loud chicks were made. They are the smallest ones that we've seen, but very perky and already outside at the age of three days old. That's "chick power" attitude for you!

This was the last of the lot to hatch so we now live in hope that things will get back to normal in the hen house/sheep home. We can only hope and the concept of normal can be stretched whichever way you like, I guess. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My finally gave in trying to keep up with all the young cockerels and are now focusing all their care and attention on Henrika's six small ones and on the two minuscule newcomers. This is good news, as our dear sheep aren't getting any younger and they get sore legs from all the running about the place. I do worry about their knees as they are very heavily built and rather big for being sheep.

Ebba the dog has started joining me in the forest, picking bilberries. This results in me covering much more ground while picking than ever before. I must keep moving as Ebba catches up with me and starts eating from the same branch as I'm collecting from. It's very sweet of her to be close by and to help, but the result is slightly slobbery berries that I don't want to eat. So, I keep moving, Ebba keeps up with my pace and so we carry on. It's fun and Ebba gets a lot of vitamins. It's a berry that apparently is very good for your eyes, so Ebba should be sorted.

While we are out collecting our healthy snack four round sheep stand yelling to us from the stable yard. The reason for this racket is that they operate under the misconception, that whenever I'm in the forest, it is for the sole purpose to collect food for them. So, when I leave the yard, the whole village knows about it, like it or not. It's a bit silly and it can get on your nerves a bit, when all you are doing is some berry picking while the sheep are working themselves up for nothing. For this reason we try and sneak away as soon as the four ladies have gone in for the night. Then it's just Ebba, me and all the bugs that wake up in the evenings. Oh, and eight loud cockerels, of course.

The summer holidays are over for the school children of this country. It feels wrong on so many levels, especially as it seems like the warm summer weather just got started. The rest of Europe are celebrating their holiday's and we are going back to business as usual. We had an almighty thunder storm last night so if youngsters were out celebrating the end of their freedom, they really got soaked, bless them. The thunderstorms are getting wilder and more intense, it seems, and last night's storm started in seconds.

It was one of those nights when you gather all and everyone, make hot drinks and something nice to eat and then sit it out together. My dear sister made a berry pie and as we had candles on the table, ready to be lit, we never did have a power cut. What we did get was 19mm of rain and dry tree branches flying in all directions. The world looked thoroughly washed and ruffled this morning. We will check for fallen trees later today, but so far so good.

Our lovely animals were all tucked in and safe in their homes and Ebba did not get stressed at all, although the thunderstorm went on for hours on end. She did stay close to dear husband during the whole thing and that helped. She also got cheese so that turned the evening into a bit of a party for her. Some go out dancing, some eat cheese... I know I would have no difficulty choosing which party to join. We have some really good cheeses in this country, by the way.

Now it's up, up and away for me as hungry chicks wait for no man. I can hear the older ones beeping on our step so it's time to start mixing up fruit and cottage cheese. There's that cheese again.

Have a good week and be well. Come to think of it, maybe this week's aim could be to learn how to make a cheese pie with bilberries? For me, I mean. I know most of you know that one already.

Have fun!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Morning rituals

It seems to have become a morning ritual for our funny animals to come and greet us by our front door. The cockerels toot away in all their different melodies, some in tune with Monty, most not even in tune with themselves. It's loud, it's funny and we really have to do something about the fact that we have eight of them.

The sheep hang around in the background, monitoring all that's happening. As soon as our dear dog disappears around the first bend in the road, all eagerly bouncing off for her first walk of the day, you can hear light tapping on the steps. That's My, the sheep stepping up, literally, to get to the front door. If you're not quick enough, the next sound is like a loud crash. That's Molly, jumping up and one should be careful because if there is no goodies forthcoming at this stage, Molly will try to get in to the house. Our lovely Molly is now the size of a small pony and as agile as me so you really don't want her in your kitchen, dancing around.

So, I run out to meet the sheep on the step, with dry bread and small talk. Mandy, who is shy, would never jump up to someone's house uninvited so I can find under the old apple tree, ready to be fed in style.

Then the hens arrive. They all liked to spend rainy days on our step. Now they use it as a club house in any old weather. This means that getting our young dog in and out of the house becomes more of a challenge than it should be. Ebba thinks that anything and everything could pass as food, if properly prepared and the hens think Ebba should respect the fact that they were here first. I wave like someone not altogether right in her head and try not to step on anyone at the same time. The waving does not always work so I end up tooting like one of the cockerels, before getting past all our birds. I'm starting to wonder if my antics are really the main attraction and that the hens think the step is our village theater, with Ebba and me in starring roles. If so, this play is hardwork for us actors and could unfortunately turn into a tragedy for some if I missed a bit of the script.

Henrika and her six fluffy chicks just rush past the house now and again. The beeping is so loud that they give plenty of warning, before turning the corner, any corner. They look like a small train, gliding past. (Our small village now sports both a theater stage and a local train service.)

Henrika is a brilliant mother; stern with everyone, completely lacking in humor and just focuses on feeding her small ones. Although the perfect mother, even Henrika does that funny thing of throwing sand and soil onto her chick's, when she gets digging. There they all stand in the shower of soil, wondering why their mother believes this is any fun. Hens never care who stands behind them when they get the urge to dig and your shoes fill up with sand and soil very quickly if you don't move away. Straightforward "hen logic."

Trisha, our hen that was once extremely stressed and not always kind to others, had five chicks and realised motherhood was hard work and became a very kind hen. This also sparked a thought in her head that life could be a tad bigger than just the henhouse and it's surroundings. So now Trisha visits us every morning as soon as Ebba has left the house.

The first time she came to call I did not really see it coming. So, when Trisha jumped up onto our bed I just sat there, a little surprised. As our lovely hen had waded through wet, newly cut grass, the bed ended up looking like a salad made in haste with a large, happy hen on top. There she stood, proudly informing me that "She has arrived!" We worked out some ground rules and Trisha now leaves the bed alone. She does love phones and any gadget with a keyboard makes her day. Otherwise she walks around, eats all our home spiders, investigates open bags, jumps into baskets and generally makes things fall over. When I get started with my day I must ask her to leave. She finds this to be bad manners, on my part. We have this discussion every morning and then we leave the house together.

All these rituals are part of the magic of summer. We all wake up at 5am, the sun is out and the world is a large, light place to play in, which the animals love. It does mean that we constantly sweep floors and tidy up. Our bread bill is astronomical, but come autumn we will miss it all.
It's also nice to know that we have created a world for our animals where they feel comfortable to be themselves and be a bit eccentric in the process. I guess dear husband and I are a bit dizzy too, come to think of it.

Hope you are all feeling the benefit of some sun and all the lovely berries and fruit we now get to enjoy. I'm chomping away like an oversized fruit bat. Be well!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Ebba's friends and getting older

Wild boar markings on the new chicks
Our dear dog has now her own (we like her too) two-legged friend. A young woman who that is allowed to hang out with Ebba and who gets our dog to calm down in her presence. That's quite an achievement, believe me!

Dear husband and I went away together for half a day the other week and Ebba needed a dog sitter. Just by chance I asked and found the perfect fit for Ebba. It sometimes pays to talk a lot. The other animals stayed indoors for the duration as the mixture of hens on the step, Ebba being Ebba and the sheep stressing around looking for us, can be a bit too much for anyone to cope with. This resulted in our dog having the time of her life while the sheep called through the open stable window that they wanted to play, too. Ebba's new friend has the patience of a saint and we are now asked to go away again, by our dear dog.

The point of the story? Just that we never could have imagined that sweet Ebba would find the courage to interact with a new friend in such a short timeframe. It warms our heart's and gives us hope of a dinner evening next month. With a wedding anniversary coming up and we could maybe celebrate it like normal people - dinner sans dog, sheep and hens. We will see.

I was told off for not training our dog to be on her own at home by one who knows better. Apparently, it's very important to do that and it gives the dog owner more freedom to do things without their dog.
Sit sounds odd to me, although it might sound like a good idea to most people. We don't really care for that to be honest, although I do know that most dogs spend a certain amount of time on their own. (It's different if you work away from home all day, I know.)

Ebba sleeps happily on our bed when we are outside tending to the other animals and suchlike. When we have guests, our dear dog prefers to stay in the house where she feels safe. All this is fine and works well but that does not mean that we would like to start leaving our slightly lost soul alone for hours on end. That's not why we invited her into our lives. Plus, we do have other animals to tend to, who would be very upset if they did not see any of us for a whole day either.So, we plod along and thank our lucky star that Ebba is becoming braver, for her own sake.

August will be a red-letter month for Ebba as the love of her life, little Napoleon is staying in the village. We will be touring the countryside in hope of running into him and his friends. It's going to be a long month for everyone else. We will all be very fit by September!

Sharing secrets

Speaking of being fit, do you remember to stretch after exercising? I'm being told to stretch after walking and doing gardening work and I keep forgetting to do so. This has resulted in me being as bendy as a washing board and I do believe I creak in the mornings. Yoga would probably break me in half and all this is quite ironic, considering I have overly bendy joints.

Dear husband tried yoga, one winter. He still does not know if he likes it or not as he fell asleep during the relaxation bit and never really got stuck into the yoga mode. Dear husband stopped going as driving 15km for a nap and back again seemed a bit silly. Especially in snowstorms and icy conditions.

Our dog stretches every time she heads out for a walk and our four sheep could give Jane Fonda lessons in the art of morning workouts. (One does so give away one's age, mentioning the Fonda workouts, hm.) They do look sweet as buttons while doing it, especially dear Mandy. Hens stretch when they take a sand bath and while sunbathing. Monty just flaps his wings a bit and carries on with the day. Maybe I could start there. Wave my arms around for a while, yodel like a stressed-out Tarzan and start my day. We could make a "Hello morning!" video for anyone wanting to join in. However, I guess that would mean dear husband packing up and leaving home and that would not do. So back to being the first walking, talking washing board and just to get on with it.

Take care and I do wish you could hear our young cockerels trying to sound manly and cool. It sounds like they are stuck under a bus but in a charming way. Our dear sheep are trying not to snort, kind friends as they are. Be well.

P.s. Henrika has now six chicks as all her eggs hatched. Most of them have dark stripes on their backs, which make them look like tiny, wild boar babies. They beep a lot and loves cottage cheese mixed with bilberries.

Fresh bilberries

We still have seven young cockerels but their three sisters moved to a new home, this week. Last year's chick Maja was meant to move with them, but she got wise to the plan and spent that particular day deep in the forest. Not to worry, though as there is a second good-home that could take her on, if someone else can move with her. All this is to prevent building up a henhouse full of relatives. The young ones need to move, see the world and not be related to the males in their hen house. It's still sad to see them go, though.

Happy August to you all!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Perfect moments

It's been a week crammed with perfect moments, all involving animals.

Summer makes us feel like we are living in a zoo and as my dear sister commented; "This year nature seems to have exploded on us". Blackbirds, fieldfares and all kinds of gulls are turning up outside our little house in the mornings and evenings. Funny dog Ebba chases them away and looks very proud about it, every single time. It seems to be a game that everyone's enjoying as the birds keep coming back, day after day.

The baby elks are growing and getting warier of people, just as they should be. Thanks to the hens - who are hard at work adding nutrition to all the nettles around the place - most of the hare babies have safe havens under the surprisingly tall plants, as have our chicks. It's just to hope those safe havens continues to work for them. And if one more squirrel gets babies this summer, we simply must change the name of our home to Squirrel's Nest and be done with it.

Still, the first week of our holiday brought even more animals with it, to liven up our lives. First out was a very beautiful cow from the big farm, next door. (A few kilometers away, still next door). The cows live like royalty and wander around their field's and in the forest free as birds. This particular beauty decided to give birth to her baby somewhere quiet and secluded. Her people wished to find her to check everything was as it should be so we all plodded along looking for her.

To find a happy, newborn calf wobbling along next to his proud mother on a sunny hay field is a perfect moment. I told the farmer this and that we should be dressed in old fashion costumes and playing the fiddle, to make the whole scene complete. Like an old, black and white movie, you see? No, neither did our friendly neighbour who looked worriedly at me, probably thinking I've finally gone completely odd. It was just such a happy moment.

A few mornings later dear Ebba and I went for a very early walk. Ebba bounces off like on springs, I creak behind her, believing to meet my end at the first uphill. Once I get up that one my legs wake up and I feel there is some hope for me. Ebba is a trooper and just pulls me along, so I do try to lighten her burden by moving as briskly as I can. It's just those first five minutes.

Anyway, we got into the forest and our curious dog stopped to investigate who was climbing up and down a tall aspen tree. It sounded like a squirrel but as the sun was in our eyes, it was difficult to see. I let her get on with it so I was a bit taken aback when a funny, lit up head turned up, from behind the tree trunk. It looked like an illuminated miniature Yoda, the pointy ears and the worried little face made it very Star Wars. That’s when I realised who it was and pulled Ebba away. The small pine marten seemed disappointed to have the game aborted so abruptly but pine martens bite. It was lovely to see the small, well looking creature though and once again I felt blessed to have been granted the honor. Ebba was miffed as she wanted to stay and play with her find.

The last ‘picture perfect’ moment, involving wild animals, also occurred on an early morning walk. The sun was out and the fields had just started blossoming in yellow, it's field mustard or Brassica rapa as it's known in Latin. And yes, I know! It has already bloomed everywhere else in Europe. This is Finland, where the morning temperature outside still struggles to brake the ten degrees mark. Cold nights, cool days but our animals are happy about it.

Anyway, walking on the road, fields of yellow on both sides, Ebba and I heard the loud sound of wings working steadily towards us. Two cranes were moving from one ditch to another and had decided that flying very, very low saves energy. So, there they came flying straight at us, low enough to take us with them. We ducked down, they passed in a very stylish fashion and carried on. Even Ebba stood stock still for a moment, until she realised what large birds had just passed her by. One walker’s perfect moment can be an other's missed lunch. The cranes took no notice of us at all and were soon busy eating frogs again.

Our dear sheep are acting as brave stallions when seven young cockerels and three small hens play horsy themed games. Mandy is completely taken by this and can play along for hours on end. Mindy spoils the effect for the brave jockeys by stopping to blow on them until they fly away. Molly and My are more interested in eating so the hens can ride around the countryside on their broad backs without any interruptions at all. Molly carries three cockerels at a time on her back and takes no notice to the small tag-alongs. The hens do eat any flies brave enough to land next to them. The older hens are busy nesting and grazing, so they love the fact that the youngsters are off doing their own stuff. "Some peace and quiet", they tell me.

Dear husband has finished the summer theater for this season. They have played to a full house most evenings and the play has been well received. Now dear husband has a short summer holiday too. We have a list, long as our arm of things to do for him, Ebba and I, but we have not told him that yet.

July is coming to its end and the bilberries are getting blue and ready to be picked. It's one of my favorite time of the summer. Be well, be happy and look out for low flying birds.