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

The heart of a home. Love and a log fire.

Well my daughter and I are finally over the nasty virus that laid us up for almost a fortnight. Thank you for all the lovely get well wishes. I have caught up with all my jobs…..at last. Hurrah! Happy me.

Hannah is back on track and is starting a new entomology project, so please feel free to link to any useful resources that may be of use to an insect mad ten-year old 🙂

My heavily pregnant goat, Tansy, is now settled in her newly washed out and disinfected kidding pen. Her sister, Marigold, is settled in the pen next door, so they can still see each other. I have the kidding kit ready by the back door. It includes a bright torch, lamb reviver (they don’t seem to do one specifically for goat kids), emergency colostrum/ milk replacer, bottle, syringe and tube, lambing ropes, lubricant, iodine, towels etc……and a hip flask with a small drop of whisky in…….but that’s for me! 😉

Fingers crossed when the time comes it all goes smoothly. This is her first kidding . I am currently doing a late night check on her and her sister, who is not due to kid until June, every evening, before I go to bed. I remove Tansy’s water bucket overnight,  just in case she manages to drop a kid in it, even though it is raised in a bucket holder. Better safe than sorry. Then I check her again at 1:00 am, again at 4:30 am, then again first thing in the morning. I drag myself out of bed on hearing my alarm go off, put on a thick towelling robe over  the top of my jim-jams and push on my old faithful welly boots and  sleepily plod across the garden to the girl’s sheds, torch in hand, to quietly peek in and see if anything is happening.  Then I head straight back to bed (removing the wellies first!) and set the alarm for 3 hrs time. I must say that I love my sleep and getting up in the middle of the night is not my idea of fun…….but somehow when you have animals due to give birth it doesn’t bother you at all.

Her ‘official’ due date is March 6th but they can kid a week either side of that date. Hence me being prepared 🙂

You can click on any photo on my blog to enlarge it.

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The girls, Marigold and Tansy.

On a less bright note:

I have had a bit of upset with a ‘neighbour’ that lives in the next lane in the village.  She arrived at my door in a foul mood and promptly went about telling me in a very abrupt manner, how my geese were on HER land and she wasn’t putting up with them or their poop on her property.

I must add that my tiny property here is bordered by a river along one boundary and my three geese are indeed loose on this river all day as I cannot afford to fence the entire river off  and they had managed to get across to the other side of the river, climb up the steep riverbank and onto the farmland that this lady owns and had then travelled through her farmyard onto the lane where this lady lives.  She was VERY angry with me. I apologised profusely.
What she hadn’t waited to hear, before getting cross  with me, was that I had been out looking for them all day. Even though they live semi wild here on the river, I do in fact feed them every single day in my garden. I missed them  instantly that morning as they never arrived for their breakfast and after hours looking for them I had come to the conclusion that they had been either stolen or being caught by a fox.  I had no idea they had travelled so far!
I would never intentionally allow my geese on another person’s property. I felt awful. I do not cope at all well with confrontation and it really upset me.
This lady then insisted that they had to be put in her neighbours paddock with her geese as that was PROPERLY fenced in 😦   So it appeared that I had inadvertently lost my beloved geese.  I cried my eyes out when she left.

However my son then arrived to collect his dog Chester (I look after Chester a few days each week ) and my son insisted that we go find the geese and get them back and that he would help me construct an escape proof run for them to prevent further problems.  So off he went and back we  all came some time later carrying three full-grown Embden and Pilgrim geese in a huge crate!  They were VERY heavy!

My son is my hero!

But I am incredibly sad that this means they are no longer allowed to swim on the river. It seems such a shame. They loved it  so much. If they seem unhappy I will have to consider re-homing them 😦

The geese on the river..click to enlarge photos

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The week has since got a bit better.

Our new rescue dog, Peaches, has finally mastered walking on the lead. She used to just collapse and lay on her back when we put a lead on her. She didn’t seem to have a clue what she was supposed to do. But she  has learnt very quickly! The other dogs helped loads and she eventually followed them and got to grips with the whole going for a walk thing.  She also had some fun ‘off lead’ time with the other dogs in a nearby field and she had great recall! I am thrilled with her progress. She is gaining more and more confidence each day. She fits in here perfectly.  She is so willing to learn and so well-behaved. We love her to bits already. The other dogs seem to love her too x

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On another high note:

My chimney has FINALLY been rebuilt, after many difficulties fitting the chimney liner. My wood stove has been reconnected to the chimney, a new chimney stack has been built up on the roof and a new cowling fitted on the pot at the top. I have heat and hot water once again! It feels like home again. Hurrah! A real fire really is the heart of my home.

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It really has been a lovely week ( despite the earlier upset) My daughter received a surprise parcel in the post from a lovely friend of mine this week  and one of the items was a beautiful apron. I love it so much.  My daughter  plans to wear it when she bakes shortbread this week. I want one in my size 😉

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I am so grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and for the ability to ride the waves when things get tough (which they inevitably seem to do) and I am so thankful for all my amazing friends and my fabulous family, who love and support me  and accept my eccentricities 😉

Thank you all xxxx

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…..and right on cue to top the evening off with yet more loveliness the sky painted a beautiful picture for me tonight. I took a photo. Enjoy! xx

Red sky at night……..Goatkeeper’s delight 😉

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Goodnight x