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!

Simple pleasures.

Today has been a proper spring day. A day of sunshine and birdsong.  It has been wonderful to be able to work outside all day.

In the last few days I have planted willow for arches, sown seeds, spread compost, weeded veg beds, got out of bed and checked on the goats each night at 1 am and 4:30 am, fed and watered and cleaned out hens, quail, duck and geese.  Fed and hayed and watered ponies and cleaned their paddock. Walked dogs,  met up with neighbours and enjoyed the dry sunny days!

There are buds appearing on plants everywhere.  It is time to sow seeds. My greenhouse is filling up. Baby animals are due to be born. Life feels good.

The simple pleasures of spending time out in nature are the best.

Here is to new beginnings.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Please don’t copy my photos or use any them without permission . Thank you.

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Goats in the sunshine. A day before Tansy’s official due date.

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Marigold

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Marigold.. such a sweety.

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Very fat Tansy

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Tag and Peaches snuggle on the sofa

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Through the honeysuckle arch

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Teasel heads by the river

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Looking over the garden boundary

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One of my living willow arches. Can’t wait for it to green up!

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Tiny woven nest-box..tucked away in some ivy..We had wrens in it last year.

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Spring sunshine in the garden. The heather is in bloom!

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Garlic ..planted in Autumn last year

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Time for a rest

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Willow arch by the gate

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Shadows across the garden

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Holly-Hot- Pants after a dunk in the water

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Marigold rests and chews the cud

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Marigold deals with an itch

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Pregnant Tansy

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The river and our tiny jetty

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View out of one of the side gates

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Robin nest box in the honeysuckle

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Nest-boxes of all shapes and sizes ..everywhere!

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One of our three bat boxes

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Hens in their winter shed whilst the land is rested

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Over wintered leeks

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