The kids playing in the sun today.

Tansy’s kids

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Being grateful…

I aim to find something to be grateful for every single day…

Today I am grateful for sunshine, especially as at 7 am this morning we had snow!

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I am grateful for healthy, happy, lively, ever so bouncy goat kids. They make me smile with their prancing and leaping.

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I am so grateful for all the times that I see our local barn owl, hunting the paddocks, my garden and along the river here, and I am especially grateful that today I managed to get a few photos of him/her, albeit fuzzy ones.  Sorry for the poor quality but I do not have a telescopic lens.

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I am grateful that my fabulous Mum has lent me her camera, after my one decided to die two days ago. Thanks Mum!

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I am grateful to share my life with my lovely dogs, cats and other animals and to be able to live so close to a nature reserve, where I get to see all manner of wildlife..

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I am grateful for my amazing family, my three wonderful children and for my kind and compassionate friends.

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SO MUCH to be grateful for!

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Can you spot the barn owl?

What are you grateful for today?

Building a bug hotel here at Riverside

Today my daughter and I decided to construct an insect ‘hotel’ from materials we had gathered over the past few months.

We used an old wooden pallet as our frame. We nailed a large hardwood plank on top of it, as a roof, and then we filled the base with rocks and stones to help anchor it to the ground. It was set against a wall for stability.

We then placed some holey bricks at the base and proceeded to fill each layer with some cut up downpipe tubes, stuffed with various natural materials and we filled in the gaps between these tubes with bark and pines cones etc..

Materials we used:

Pine cones, layers of bark, straw, dried grasses, hollow stems from hogweed, bamboo tubes, cut branches, moss, twigs, bits of dried root, dried plant trimmings, feathers, hay, dried leaves, sawdust / wood-shavings etc

Here are a few photos of the finished article and my daughter proudly showing off her hard work.

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We have over 18  other wildlife boxes here.ImageHere are a few photos of just some of them. We have bird nest boxes, bug boxes, bat boxes, toad hideouts and even a hedgehog house…

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Next on the agenda is to construct an owl box!

Tales from our River Bank: Ratty, Owl and Mole pay a visit.

It is 6:30 am. I have lit the fire and am now outside, alone in the garden, or so I think…..

I am heading towards the goats shed to do the morning milking, pail in hand, humming contentedly to myself, listening to the birdsong, breathing in the chill frosty air.

My daughter failed to rise with me this morning and is sleeping peacefully, snuggled up in bed under numerous heavy blankets and feather filled eider-downs, with the dogs at her feet.

I greet the goats with a chirpy “Good morning girls”. Then take a scoop of feed to Marigold (my pregnant goat). I then lead Tansy, my milker, to the milking stand that is set inside the warmth of the feed store.

I put her breakfast in the milking stand trough, she climbs willingly up onto it and starts to eat, noisily.

I wash her udders, talk to her soothingly and strip a little milk from each udder into the strip cup.. and then proceed to milk her properly into the pail. I listen to the rhythmic whooshing and frothing sounds of the milk as it hits the bucket. It is almost hypnotizing.

Tansy suddenly stops eating, looks up and stares out of the doorway ….and there, right in front of us, is a barn owl, swooping silently over the veg patch, then settling down to perch on the fence post that is barely ten feet from where I am sitting.

It has it’s back to us and it is seemingly unaware that we are there. I sit stock still hardly daring to breathe..and in seconds, all too soon,  it is gone. Beautiful!

I smile and carry on milking.

Tansy settles back down to the serious job of eating. She finishes her rations in super quick time and becomes fidgety. I calm her with my voice but she is determined to make it known that she wants more food and so she bleats loudly in my ear, then nuzzles and pulls my hair. I cave in and give her another handful.

Eventually milking is completed. I wash her now soft udder and massage a little udder cream into it. I give her the carrot slices that I have been hiding in my pocket and lead her back to the goat shed, where her kids are waiting to finish emptying her udder.

I top up all of the hay-racks and water buckets for the goats. Then quickly feed the hens, quail, geese and duck. All done in super quick time, I take the milk pail back to the kitchen in order to filter and cool the milk as fast as possible, but as I do so I see a small mound of earth move on the riverbank, right next to a clump of snowdrops….

Suddenly a tiny black furry head and two huge feet appear in the centre of it.. then promptly they disappear again. A Mole!! That is a first for me, as I have never seen a live mole before, only the apparently undamaged carcasses, that my old cat Rosie used to present to me occasionally.

We have ‘trouble’ with moles here at Riverside. The riverbank is dotted with their hills and the steeply sloped bank is no longer is a smooth swathe of grasses and wild-flowers, but is instead a cratered ankle breaking, obstacle course! But to see a mole, a real live mole, albeit for such a brief moment, is a delight!

Indoors again now, hands washed and time to pour the fresh, frothy milk through a filter into a large milk jug. The lid is put on tightly and the jug is submerged into a deep bowl of icy cold water. The cold tap runs into the bowl and over the jug and overflows into the sink, acting as a make shift cooling system. It works fine.

Once thoroughly chilled, the jug is put in the fridge.1.6 litres of wonderful natural goat’s milk from this morning’s milking!  Thank you Tansy!

I  top up the fire and make a cup of tea. My daughter is still sleeping and the dogs are now  fussing me for a biscuit, which of course they get.

I then sit down at the kitchen table to drink my morning cup of tea. I gaze out of the window at my bird feeder and there sitting on a hanging bird table, right in front of me, is a rat. Fat, brown and furry, with two black glossy bead-like eyes and small almost transparent rounded ears. It’s almost hairless tail is hanging over the edge of the tray. It twitches the tip of it now and then as it stuffs sunflower seeds into it’s mouth. I tap on the window. Nothing…..It simply looks at me. Haha! The cheek of it! Eventually it climbs down and picks up a few fallen seeds from the grass under the feeder and then runs off into next door’s orchard.

Now as much as I would prefer rats not to come here, and I am quite aware of the diseases they can spread, I still have to admire this little chap’s boldness and ingenuity. My bird feeder is metal and he has scaled a single, smooth metal tubular pole to get to the hanging tray at the very top. Quite a feat!

I think it is impossible to get on top of the rat population here. There have always been rats along riverbanks.  It is the perfect habitat for them, and although I do set traps and we do get owls hunting them here, there will always be rats where there is water. It is something I have learned to live with.

But I do not encourage them to come near the cottage or in the animals housing. All animal feed is locked away in metal bins. No food is left out.

But it seems that they have now learned to climb my bird table !  So what to do about that? More traps maybe?

It is now 8:30 am.Time to wake my daughter. I have Tales of the River Bank to tell her …..Ratty and Mole and Owl came to visit today  🙂

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Have a great day!

Are you in Lincoln UK? Want to to become a Master Gardener?

Are you in Lincoln UK? Want to to become a Master Gardener?

We’re looking for people with a passion to inspire others to have a go at growing their own food.

Master Gardener vary hugely, from a couple of years growing experience to many decades. They’re welcome from all sections of the community. They don’t need to be experts on organic growing as this is part of training and support.

Click the above link to find out more!

Louth Festival of the Bees

Louth Festival of the Bees

Louth In Bloom group are holding The Louth Festival of the Bees in which Transition Town Louth is organising a day of workshops, displays and lectures on Thursday 23rd May 2013 at the British Legion Hall, 55 Northgate, Louth. LN11 0LY and a week of art exhibitions from the 17th to 23rd of May on a bee and wildflower related theme.

Milk maid

Milk maid

My daughter milking Tansy. March 2013