The grass is always greener…………….after rain.

Everything is so green and lush and vibrant here now. I am loving it! The recent rain has sent everything into overdrive. Grass in the fields and all my vegetable plants are growing fast! Trees are in full leaf now. Better late than never! There is rich dappled shade to sit under on sunny days. I love that contrast of light and dark.  It is wonderful!

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The grazing, that I rent further up the lane, really needed the boost and the paddocks that I am resting til later in the year are looking lush and healthy at last.

I shall strip graze the paddocks using electric tape to allow the ponies to access a little fresh land each week. Shetlands and other native ponies do not need too much rich grazing. In fact it can be dangerous for them to be allowed too much spring grass, as they tend to be more prone to laminitis….(and mine are right piggies and will scoff and scoff til they bloat!) Both of mine came to me as previous sufferers of ‘lami’ and one has Metabolic Cushings Disease, so I have to be extra vigilant.

By dividing the paddocks off into weekly strips, not only is it a better use of land but it also means the grass gets grazed down evenly and tends to grow better as a result. I can control how much they eat and watch them for signs of weight gain and loss etc. I simply move the posts forward once a week ( with the tape still attached but the energiser turned off) and I ensure they have access to water.

I  have just purchase two secondhand Aquaroll 40 litre water containers, large cylindrical containers that you can roll out to where you need the water..so no heavy buckets to lug across fields. I only need to do this in the middle paddocks luckily,  as both end ones have water containers set under a gutter systems that run off the roof of each shelter and they are self filling every time we have rain. So I rarely need to top those up.

Because two of the paddock areas have large field shelters in them, if we are forecast severe weather the ponies are simply put into those ones and in Winter when the grass is sparse and low in nutrients, the paddocks are only divided in half. That way the ponies always have access to warm stabling  with thick bedding and one paddock is rested completely for 6 months, ready for spring. When it all starts growing again and needs dividing up into smaller areas I simply bring out the electric fencing again..

Seeing as the weather has warmed up now, we are heading towards June after all!…..and the ground has dried out here at Riverside, I have moved my hens back outside onto a new piece of ground. Electric poultry netting gives you so much freedom to rotate your animals grazing areas. I use it for my goats, geese and hens here…and I use electric tape for the pony paddock dividers, the main fencing is post and rail with electric  wire on the inside. It is a great system for those with a small amount of land. Flexible, secure and easy to move.

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One hen (A Pied Sussex named Blackberry) is still in the winter coop, as she has just hatched a clutch of eggs, so she is enjoying some time alone to rear her babies. She will be re-introduced to the flock once the babies are a bit bigger. I am hoping for at least two hens  out of her chicks, ( Sod’s Law will mean they all turn out to be cockerels no doubt haha). We could do with a couple more egg layers here, so fingers crossed.

One chick appears to be a very pretty subtle blue/ grey colour! They are mixed breeds, as the cockerel I ran with the hens this time is a  multicoloured frizzle cross, so we get surprise colouration/ feathering/ shapes and sizes and we like it that way. Hybrid vigour and a hotchpotch of colours!

The wild moorhen that settled here has hatched all her eggs. I haven’t done a proper head count (They are tiny and they move so fast and in all honesty I don’t want to disturb them too much) but it seems I may have got it wrong thinking she had lost some of her eggs before hatch day, as I am sure I have seen at least 5 chicks! They are in the water already..darting about between the reeds and calling for their mum when she strays too far.

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Holly-Hot-Pants my broody goose is still sitting tight on her nest inside the shed, ( no idea how many eggs she has!) with Teasel-Tussle the gander guarding her. I am the only one that can get  anywhere near close enough to feed them, change their water and tidy the shed.. albeit tentatively! I haven’t disturbed the back of the shed where her nest is. I will clean it properly once she is up and about with her babies.

Daisy-Do-Gooder, the other female goose I have here, is being ignored by them both. She seems to be piggy in the middle and appears to be no use to either of them. Poor Daisy! But she remains devoted to Teasel, bless her,  despite being given the cold shoulder and she refuses to be  parted from them even if given the choice.

Marigold my VERY pregnant goat doesn’t have long to go now. Her official due date is in the first week of June..but she is looking HUGE!..and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she popped early. I am hoping for twins or a single kid.Triplets would be a lot for her to cope with, she is a first kidder and I prefer to let the kids feed naturally on their mothers rather than be bottle fed. So two would be more than enough. Hoping for females of course!

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This shared milking system I have used here has worked well with Tansy and her twin kids.  I am still milking every morning and am getting around 1.5 litres a day from her. Not bad  from just one milking session. I am making lots of cheese and yoghurt and kefir and using it in my tea and coffee etc. Even people who tell me they dislike goat’s milk have taken it in tea and coffee when visiting me here and have remarked at how lovely it is.. No goaty tang at all!

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Although despite all this lovely raw milk I have here I am still buying in some organic cows milk, just to culture the kefir grains that I sell online and to experiment with more cheese recipes. Not sure if I’d be allowed to use my raw milk for kefir sales..so I am playing it safe with shop bought stuff for my customers.

I will be doing two milkings a day once the kids are fully weaned, which going by their progress won’t be long, as Tansy is letting them feed less and less and they are happily eating concentrates, plenty of good hay and are grazing/ browsing well outside and they drink plenty of water. Time flies!

My little incubator is still going. I set some duck eggs into it straight after hatching the quail. I just adjusted the humidity for duck eggs ( quail eggs need far lower humidity).

I was hoping for the best really, as these were eggs gifted to me from a neighbour of my parents. She gave them to me to feed to my dogs, as they were past their best and a bit too old for humans to eat.

I risked it and tried my luck with the incubator, having nothing much to lose. I popped them in to see if any were fertile and on day two, disaster!!… we lost power ..So I thought they’d be  well and truly done for. If any were going to be viable then chilling them on day two was probably not the best way to get any to develop! However, miraculously 5 have survived and have continually candled fertile! Amazing! So we shall see what we get from our pot luck, chilled and re-heated, rather old dog food duck eggs.

If we get any at all it will be remarkable!

Sadly during that power outage we lost three quail chicks, as it happened in the middle of the night when we were sleeping and their heat lamp went off. I awoke at 3 am noticing we had no light/power so rushed out to check. I was too late to save them all sadly, as one had died under the huddle of chicks trying to keep warm, but we quickly set the brooder cage in front of the woodstove and got a good fire going and set tea-lights all around it to keep the temperature up til we sorted the power problem out. A day later we were left with 17 healthy chicks from 20 and so not all was lost, but things like this really do get you down.

It was such a shame. My daughter was so upset. She had got up with me at 3 am , helped me move the brooder cage in front of the stove and she had tried everything to revive the tiny floppy cold chick..but her efforts were in vain.

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On a brighter note the veg garden here at Riverside is doing well. No major hitches (yet) this season . I have not grown as many plants that need heat or protection this year, after struggling with some tender plants last season.

I have also given up with growing sweetcorn, after losing three sowings of expensive organic seed last year, to hungry mice! I hope they enjoyed it as much I would have if it had grown and developed cobs haha

I am desperately short of  growing space here ( If I had my way the lawn would go completely! Not sure my landlord would be so keen though) and so the space for things like sweetcorn etc which needs to be grown in blocks for successful pollination, can be used for other things that I know I can grow easily and successfully. I love my leafy greens, garlic, leeks, soft fruit, herbs and salads, so am using the space that I do have for those kind of things…and cramming edibles into every available space. I am also still planting trees on the river bank…Lots of trees.

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I am trying to get more hardy, heavy cropping and perennial edibles in the garden. Dotting them in amongst the flower borders. I am planting out soft fruit  bushes under trees (grown from cuttings)  and then low growing herbs grown from seed and other fruiting  plants like strawberries under and in front of those. Areas between trees have been sown with a wildflower meadow mix…and I am not mowing that area til after it has set seed.

On the subject of mowing, I now mow all my grass with a small push mower. It is leaving a bit more length to the lawn and the other plants that grow in the lawn don’t get decapitated, which is great for bees, as flowers like clover etc are left in place… and is so quiet and easy to use, even on a big plot like this. I am so glad I gave away my two petrol mowers!

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With the weather in the UK ( and worldwide) so unpredictable now and temperatures so slow to warm up each year, I guess growing hardy edible perennials/ annuals is the way forward, if I want to have plenty to eat. Unless you have space for massive polytunnels!

I don’t have a polytunnel yet, in fact I only have a tiny lean to greenhouse here atm (which is a bit too sheltered/shaded), so space for protected crops is severely limited! I aim to fill the garden with stuff I can grow well in our weather and I aim to do all this on a mega tight budget..so plants are mostly grown from seed/ cuttings. Patience is required, with quite some time passing before some plants are mature. So it is a work in progress and maybe something I will never see reach fruition  But half the joy is discovering that something does really well on your plot, especially where other things have failed and in watching them grow steadily, even if you never see the end result.

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Keeping fingers firmly crossed that my tenancy here goes on for a few more years yet. I do so love it here! But with private rental properties you just never know…….

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I’m keeping on my rose tinted spectacles…..

Despite the many hardships smallholders/permaculturists and those following their own path to self-sufficiency endure, it seems to me that there are far more positives to this lifestyle than negatives. Or maybe that is just because I really do see everything through rose-tinted spectacles and that’s how I enjoy living it?

It certainly isn’t an easy life or for the faint hearted.

Some examples: Well there is the lugging of firewood, the cutting, stacking and sawing that accompanies a life in a basic cottage where wood is the only fuel that heats your home and your water. Then there is the dusty job of cleaning out the stove/ fireplace, the making of compost, the baking of bread, cheesemakiing, brewing and fermenting food and drinks, mucking out animal housing, erecting fencing, growing food, walking to and from your paddocks daily, the carrying  and stacking of bales of hay, filling of haynets and hayracks, filling and carrying of water buckets and topping up of troughs, the carrying of hefty 25kg sacks of animal feed, much sweeping of yards, the heavy wheelbarrowing of loads of well-rotted manure onto veg beds, preserving your food and cleaning up your clothes and cottage interiors of all the hay and mud that seems to be the identity badge of the self-sufficient / small-scale farmer.

I have days when utter exhaustion wipes out any sense of wellbeing and enthusiasm, just like anyone else does, yet those rough days tend to be balanced out with far more days filled with pure joy at having witnessed something wonderful. Today it was the joy of seeing some jays, four of them actually, a bee fly and a red admiral butterfly on our walk back from the pony paddocks and at having achieved a long sought after goal or dream, like getting a long-awaited pre-loved, used polytunnel frame gifted to me!

I may spend my days covered in hay and animal hair now. I may not look smart or glamorous. I may even be considered scruffy by some!  ha! But it is the special moments that make it all worthwhile, ……moments such as when I am heading outside to milk one of my goats, Tansy…
I have dragged myself out of a warm bed reluctantly.( I love my sleep!)
I am alone.
It is very early in the morning.
The world is just waking up.
Birds in the surrounding trees and hedgerows are singing their uplifting good morning song and flitting from branch to branch, foraging for food. The moorhens that live on the river here, scuttle out of my wildlife pond and rush up the steep bank back onto their own territory, embarrassed at being caught out trespassing in the garden wildlife pond or occasionally a pair of mallards, that also often visit my pond, catch me unawares and fly up in front of me as I walk across the garden, making my heart leap out of my chest! haha!

Trout rise in the river taking gnats and other small insects from above the waterline, and then they are gone, as swiftly as the appeared, leaving behind beautiful reflective patterns made up of concentric rings, rippling outwards on the water’s surface, as they disappear into the depths again. There is so much that makes this life worthwhile.

I try to keep to a routine here at Riverside. Not because I am OCD about the endless jobs that need doing, far from it,  but because it makes everything run more smoothly. Animals get used to it and milking needs to be done at the same time each day anyway.

I feed Marigold first.. a scoop of goat mix , so that she can eat her breakfast quietly whilst Tansy is eating hers on the milking stand. Goats are not patient creatures and the sound of one eating, will undoubtedly cause the others to yell loudly, until they get some grub too. So Marigold is not made to wait. Plus I really enjoy the quiet time I get whilst I do the milking and contemplate the day ahead.

I then open Tansy’s little stable and she skips out and heads straight for the milking stand in the feed room. She hops up on her own and puts her head in the yoke and begins to eat hungrily. Goats are always hungry 🙂 I give a scoop of goat mix to her kids whilst mum is busy scoffing her own food…..and then I sit down beside her and clean her udders gently with the udder wipes.

Softly I lay my head against Tansy’s side and talk to her as I milk her, she tilts her head at me listening between mouthfuls, her cheeks bulging, her jaw in constant motion..chewing or cudding. We have eye contact..an understanding…. it is hard to explain. I tickle her tummy now and then, and she arches her back and goes all gooey eyed..she makes a mellow snickering noises..not quite a bleat, more a soft mellow purr ..Can goats can purr?…It is the sound of contentment. She knows she is loved and cared for.

Once I have finished taking all the milk I require, ( I leave some in her udder for her babies)  I thank her and offer her some sliced carrot from my pocket (You end up with pockets full of odd things when living a life-like this: baling twine, string, penknives, castrating rings, animal feed..even goat droppings! Don’t ask! lol). I unhook her lead from the milking stand and she slowly wanders back to her goat shed to be reunited with her babies. They finish emptying her udder out and then set about eating the Summer scented hay that I have placed in the racks for them. Water buckets are rinsed out and refilled. Then the poultry are all fed and watered. I have a stainless steel pail full of warm frothy milk to get inside, filter and cool as soon as possible.

Now this may all seem wonderful..but just imagine the same scene in Winter. It is freezing cold and very dark…yet all the above still has to be done daily.  In all weather. Buckets have to be plunged into icy water troughs to be filled. Ice has to be broken in order to get access to the water. Soggy mud underfoot means everything ends up with a liberal coating of dirt…..and no matter how careful you are, hay and mud ends up inside your house too!

I have come to the conclusion that you must either be eccentric, mad or extremely dedicated to want to do all these jobs with absolutely no break in routine. No holidays..No sick days…Not to mention the sheer effort involved in mucking out and any animal illnesses you have to deal with!…and on top of all that there is the ‘paid’ work that you squeeze in somehow! Often this is done in the dead of night when you should be sleeping or at weekends when everyone else if heading out on their jollies. So I am not sure which category you’d want to put me in?…. or maybe I am  mix of all three!  Eccentric, mad and dedicated?  Exhausted sometimes too …But I am happy  to work hard to keep the life I love so very much 😉 …and it is this life that makes my daughter so totally content, so desperate to learn more about the natural world….and I would do anything to keep that going for her. x

These hands…..

Plunged wrist deep in damp compost. Stirring in dry gritty sand. Turning and tipping, patting and mixing. My hands provide the medium for my seeds to grow in. The ingrained soil stains the tiny creases in my skin, like rivers marked on a map and it leaves them looking well-worn, like sun-bleached driftwood….the grain showing through. These hands have the patina that comes with age and heavy use outdoors. I like it.

Delicate lifting, seedling transplanting, caterpillar picking and ladybird gazing . Like fine tweezers, they serve me, but strength they provide me. Plunging fork or spade into soil. My hands, my most important tools. These hands, my gardening friends.

Gently compressing an udder. Rhythmic gentle pressure, from one pink freshly washed finger to another, as the thumb and base of forefinger act as valve. Gentle clamping and squeezing. Finger muscles working in unison. A wave-like motion. Smoothly and calmly, as frothing and creamy. These hands extract the milk.

Mixing and stirring, thumping and rolling. Knuckles are needed… for kneading the dough. These hands help produce our daily bread and a way to de-stress.

Lifting and carrying, chopping and sawing, stacking and fetching, lighting and poking. These hands prepare the firewood and tend the wood-stove, that warms my home, my water and my heart.

Tender forehead caressing, tight squeezy hugging, proud and jokey back patting, waving and clapping and secure hand holding. My hands show their love and appreciation to my children and loved ones. These hands never run out of love.

Delicate gathering, placing and carrying. Eggs from geese, hens and quail, are carried indoors to the kitchen. Doors are opened. Full baskets are lifted and into a frying pan, a porcelain shelled nut-brown egg is cracked….neatly in half….just right!  These hands provide the means to gather and cook our meals.

Sweeping and scrubbing, rub a dub dubbing, wiping and hosing with buckets of bubbles , mopping away, your dirt and your troubles. These hands clean the dirt that comes from a life spent outdoors.

Cleaning and washing, wringing and hanging, folding and ironing (although that I do rarely). Piling up, neat stacking, clean linen, fresh smelling. These hands, they allow me to be clothed in fresh fabric, keep my home tidy and bring sunshine inside.

Holding reins, as we trot along lanes, across fields, the wind on your face, carriage wheels turning, you feel every bump and steady the pace, no need to race.  Deep pressure on brush, as you groom away the dried sweat from a morning of traveller’s joy, with the sun on your backs, the smell of horse on your hands and in your head forever more. These hands care for the animals that take me places and make my heart sing.

Holding pen or pencil, crochet hook or knitting needle, typing letter or story, threading cotton through needle, mending and make doing! My hands they communicate and cooperate, confidently, they earn my keep and keep the wolf from the door ………as I attempt self-sufficiency. They try their best and that is all I ever ask of them. I can’t ask for more .

These hands…..

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In bed ponderings….

It is way past 11 pm.

I have just returned from my evening routine of checking the animals and putting the goat kids in their overnight pen, locked away from their mum for a few hours, so that I can milk her early tomorrow morning, before reuniting them. Mum seems to enjoy the peace and the kids sleep.

It is a clear, still night.

The gusty wind, that has blown hard all day long, has finally put itself to bed, leaving behind a silky silence, draped seductively beneath a velvet night sky.  It is deliciously beautiful and I absorb the chill stillness before heading inside.

I am tired. But as I lay in bed,  pondering my life here at Riverside now, I realise how happily tired I am. Exhausted even..but it is a good exhausted ..if that makes any sense?

My life once consisted of doing school runs, doing lunch, doing make-up and hair, choosing the most flattering clothes or trendiest/sexiest shoes, texting boyfriends/ girlfriends to arrange dates or nights out, worrying if my home was tidy enough for visitors, worrying about my weight, my height, my stretchmarks, my wobbly tummy, my grey hairs…Just worrying about things that truly do not matter, not in the grand scale of things!

I worried and fretted a lot. I tried hard to be something I wasn’t and it WAS exhausting but not a good exhausting. Not at all.

I grew tired of it, of trying to fit in, of trying to be accepted, or desired … It bored me.

I spent my spare time working in schools, watching rubbish TV, straightening the tassels on rugs, plumping cushions, hoovering floors, listening to chart music (eek!) …and shopping! Shopping for crap that I didn’t ‘need’ but that temporarily filled a void in my life.

This all seems such a long time ago.. and thank goodness!

Throughout my life right back to my childhood, the common thread that has made me feel extremely happy ( apart from my three beautiful children) has always been animals/ wildlife/ the countryside/nature, but even so, there have been extended periods in my life when those things played a lesser role.. due to peer pressure, marriage / divorce, child-rearing, low self-esteem, health scares and being single for the first time in yonks and not knowing how to handle it.  Amongst others.

I look back now and realise that it was all essential to me getting to where I am now. It was part of the process of me getting to know myself (as cheesy as that sounds) and of becoming confident enough to follow a path in life, a path that is  far less trodden.

Of becoming ME rather than just a mum, wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister etc.

I gained an identity that was not linked to a relationship with anyone. It was just about who I was.

I think the trials and tribulations of a rollercoaster life, of the ups and downs, be they health related, relationship related, money related …..or all three!…can help us to grow as individuals…… and in comparison a life lacking, in these often hard and painful life lessons, can be one lacking in personal growth, ambition or adventure. It is often one lacking in empathy too.

The safe path is easy. It is secure. You know what to expect each day.

But is it REALLY all you want from life? Truly?  Does hair and fashion really matter THAT much? Will people truly like you less if you do not own the newest TV/ car/ phone etc?  I can now look back and see that at the time these things did matter.. but why?  I still haven’t  totally figured that out. I think I needed to be liked and by fitting in with social expectations, I thought I’d be liked more. Daft huh! After all people who only like you because you have nice clothes or money to lend them, tend not to be true friends!

I have made many, many mistakes in my life.

Some of the mistakes I made were relationships that failed..and some failed because of me not  because of them. I have met some wonderful people, who, through no fault of their own, were just wrong for me and my, by now, growing plans for my future……. and I have met some not so wonderful people, who hurt me badly, but who I have forgiven totally. They too were probably lost and finding their way and simply hadn’t got to where they needed to be, when I met them. I was part of their journey and hurting me was possibly their way of showing that they were struggling with their own issues. Or maybe they were just jerks haha! Either way, I have forgiven them.

So I have made mistakes, fallen down, messed up again.. and finally learnt from it!< That last bit is the important bit. Then I brushed myself down and started again. Stronger! Although I certainly didn’t feel stronger during those hard times.

My family was wonderful! They supported me when I was an emotional wreck and kept me going when things got really tough. They even let me live with them, when I had no place to go.

Now, aged 45, I am back to being me. After a few years here n there, lost and searching for my place in this Earth I seem to have found it… and once you have found it, THEN you can look back and laugh at yourself.

I realise now that I didn’t need someone new in my life to make me feel whole and happy.

I needed to re-find myself and get back to my roots. Grey ones at that! 😉  ha!

So here I am.. I no longer need new shoes, holidays, phones or even much money to be happy.

As long as I can get by and pay the bills, then that’ll do for me. I have my wonderful children, my health and a whopping big bag of optimism. Would you like some?

I may not own much, in the traditional sense,  but I have time. Time to do things I love. Time to teach and to learn. Time to read. Time to be with my family. To nurture my children. To offer caring homes to animals. To write. To help people. To take photographs and to paint. To work. To make things. To grow food. To forage. ……To blog haha!

……Time is valuable! It is priceless, I am rich!

Yes…This ‘simple’ sustainable life IS tiring. It is physical and involves hard graft and long hours… but it is that ‘good’ tired feeling again.

I have my family, my animals, my tiny rented cottage, no need for a TV, or car….no holidays, no new clothes, no fancy gadgets like dishwashers or microwaves or smartphones …….Just a very simple life…….A life connected to nature.

Simple it may be…..

…………….but it was a darn complicated journey getting here! 😉

Here is to all you lost souls.

May your journey be shorter and faster than mine. Never give up hope. Keep your eye on the destination. For you too can one day lay happily exhausted in bed, looking out of your window at a velvety night sky.

(Take that whichever way you wish lol)

Alarm set for 5:45 am..

Goodnight  world xx

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!