Sunday, 13 March 2016

Winter thoughts

It's funny but I used to love long, cold winters. Dear husband building his snow hole (digging a house into the snow instead of upwards like an igloo...) and taking long walks out into the crisp and white world. Coming home with frost on our eyelashes and frozen faces. You do feel alive in such conditions and you spend a lot of time feeding the wild animals out in the forest. You also keep fit.

Since our little group of animals arrived, my view on the winter season has completely changed, not altogether a surprise. I spend hours listening to mutterings about snow being hard to dig in (this from the hens) and mutterings about how the world stands still (sheep thinking out loud) and I understand them. From summertime, when everyone bobs about, meeting up friends here and there, the world gets very small for the animals when the cold hits us. They long for sunny days, lounging about on the field, seeing everything that's going on around the place. They also enjoy hearing what's going on in the forest near us. Winter is a quiet time of the year in that sense too.

So I walk around with hens, make paths in the snow for our four sheep who think "Ladies do no such things!". When I'm done they walk gingerly off in my tracks, making me step aside into the deep snow, giving way to them. It is very Jane Austen and I feel like the scullery maid. Apparently making paths is my job as I wear bright blue wellingtons and that's not lady like. We still do longish walks with Mr.Chip but we do not break any land speed records anymore. So I'm as fit as a flapjack and not half as sweet, unfortunately. And I would not have it any other way!

Dear husband out on a winter night.
Credit: Dasha Dimitrova

My dear husband swapped his Diesel engine car to a petrol one after our really cold spell, this winter. It gets a bit depressing when the car is even slower to get going in the morning than the frozen driver. A few years ago I would have asked him in a silly "no car expert style", what colour he got on the new family worker. This time my first question was "if we can fit a sheep in it?" It's always a worry if someone gets ill and need to go to the vet... Animals do that to you, next I will confess that my favorite song is "Old McDonald had a farm..." but not to worry, we are not there, yet.

The squirrels around the place are doing very well, this winter. We have never seen such healthy, huge tree climbers and they are the red squirrel. Mr.Chip has decided that they cannot be chased or disturbed in general, in fear of them having a heart attack. It's not so much that they are fat, they are just feeling really well and have grown a lot. They are a pleasure to watch but we do worry about the bird population, in the spring. We will have to build new bird boxes with metal around all the round doors. The squirrels will eat every egg and bird baby in the yard, otherwise. There is always something to do in the country, the building I mean....

As the cold spells seems to come and go, gardening becomes a bit of a lottery. When to prune apple trees, when to sow seeds and so forth. At Stoneback farm all the pruning has been done at the wrong time of the year by four eager sheep. Hopefully our pear tree will still give us that one pear, so we don't forget that it's not an apple tree. The berry bushes got cut down so thoroughly last summer, that they will look like the trees up north; small, scraggly things, fighting cold and wind up on the fells. Our sheep do a proper job, when they set their mind to it. As Molly pulled up most of our flowering bulbs last spring, we will have to hope the forest gets a good amount of white and blue anemones this year. Otherwise nothing much will bloom around here this spring.... Apart from four woolly friends, lots of hens, two oversized cockerels and a little white dog, we hope. My dear husband and I will just try our best to fit in. At least one of us gets a suntan, I turn pink as a piglet...
Just read that squirrels give birth to two to eight offspring so that means we all have to move. Not enough space for all of us... Just joking, but that's a lot of baby squirrels around the place. Mr.Chip will get burned out chasing them! Here's hoping our lot are a squirrel boy band....

A footnote; A few days ago our smart cockerels decided that spring had arrived and had one almighty fight. I found them both bleeding from major cuts in their faces. The hens were not impressed either! So now we keep them apart indoors and I walk around telling them to behave, outdoors. We are thanking all and everything for good friends as our lovely friends will take on Eric when the weather gets a bit warmer. We will have to send two of our hens with him as no one should have to move house alone. Young Eric will move in his father's and grandfather's footsteps and move to a farm with horses. Sad times but he needs to get his own place and our hens will like the fact that kind children will spoil them rotten. So now we just have to keep the fighters at bay and hope for the best. Eric will cherish the chance to be the king of the hill and hopefully grow up as beautiful as his father.

Text by Nina

Next blog post on the 20th March.

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