A life full of birdsong and blossom

As I walk quietly towards the milking shed each morning, I am accompanied by a chorus of birdsong, filling the early morning air. The trilling, chirping and warbling of species, unseen, yet still very present here at Riverside, accompany me as I go about my morning routine.

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High above the fields surrounding my cottage, a skylark produces a melody so fluid and harmonious that it flows through my body like liquid gold, making my spirits rise almost as high as the bird itself, barely a distant dot in the still golden sky, way up high. I look up, squinting to see it. Yet despite the distance between us, the song reaches me, in more ways than one.

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A melanistic cock pheasant shimmers. His shades of metallic emerald and deep forest green almost sparkle in the morning light. He flaps out of the hedgerow, panicking when he catches sight of me.  His cackling call “korr kok,  korr kok ” fills the air as he flies away.

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I absorb the scents, sights and sounds around me. Reluctant to go back inside. I store them in my mind to be recalled another day.

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I think our senses become keener when we choose to live closer to nature. We tend to notice the faintest sounds. The smallest rustle in the hedgerow. The merest hint of red in the sky. We grow to ‘know’ the wild creatures that visit us. We are able to identify each thrush, moorhen, squirrel or badger. Inside our minds we have nicknames for them all.  Or at least I do.

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Egromond is a pale olive-green toad that lives here. He shelters under an old  metal feed trough, now used as a planter, and he overwinters in the log shed’s dark, damp corners until Spring.  

Mildred is a moorhen, that currently sits patiently on her clutch of  six pale speckled eggs , set in a nest made of bent flag iris stems, on my wildlife pond. She is skittish and aloof. Her partner, Mervin, resides on the river here but visits her often. He is brave enough to feed under the bird table in full view of me. Mildred never feeds in front of me.  If I happen to get too close to her she shrieks and swears and flits off into the hedgerow, still telling me off at full volume for getting too close, even when she is out of sight.. but she  swiftly returns to her nest as soon I am a safe distance away.

Horace is the hedgehog  that once rolled down the steep slope that leads up to the river bank and surprisingly ( for us both) landed at my feet as I walked up to lock in my hens in one evening.

He is a hardworking hero here..eating all manner of garden pests. I  always make sure there are plenty of leafy and twiggy corners here for him and his family to nest in each winter.

Spirit is the barn owl that silently hunts the banks of the river  and perches on one of the vegetable garden’s fence posts, to eat his catch.  He once did so whilst I was milking Tansy.  His  razor-sharp beak tearing at a flaccid mouse’s body, whilst holding it with talons, curved and deadly, as I was a mere three feet behind him, sitting in the milking shed, as he perched with his soft amber  and grey speckled back facing me. He is INCREDIBLY handsome and I have a feeling he knows it!

……there are many more….and so it goes on. I feel as though I ‘know’ them all.

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Signs of spring are welcomed, rejoiced even, as buds appear, at last!….and then they burst open to reveal blossom, so perfect,  that we pray the rain holds off, at least until the butterflies, bees and other pollinators like the furry little bee flies have a chance to visit and do the most important job of all.

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I have a life full to overflowing with so many ‘treasures’ that I never feel the need to escape or have a holiday. In this day and age, a time of materialism and consumerism, that is a pretty remarkable thing to achieve I think and I have Riverside and ALL the creatures who reside here with me to thank for it  xx

Blessings xxx

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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?

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!