Monday, 21 January 2013

Not as cold here as it might have been

We're into day four of the snow and most of it is still lying on the ground. The children have been sledging every day; they've made a wickedly dangerous compacted sledge run including a ramp halfway down a hill in the vineyard behind the house, and as a result have suitably bruised knees, elbows, legs and backs.

The Dunnock with the poorly leg is still with us (hooray). I feel a huge sense of relief every morning when she turns up for seeds and grubs with the other wild birds. M thinks we should give her a name. Usually our youngest son names all the animals so I'll have to see what he can come up with. Here she is this morning, with gammy left foot in clear evidence. (NB- she's now been named Poppet).


I think the snow is starting to melt. I took these pics of icicles hanging off the house and greenhouse this morning. I'd forgotten how beautiful they can be.




One of the best things about snow for me is the animal tracks. They are tangible evidence of a secret world going on right under your nose that you know nothing about. I think there's something magical and reassuring about that. When we lived on the farm I used to get up really early after snow had fallen and spend hours following the prints that had been left. That way I learnt of secret badgers setts deep in the woods and hidden fox holes on the edges of the fields. I've never lost that sense of excitement and joy you can get tracking animals.


M's leeks are surviving the snow. They are the only things left growing in the veg garden following a particularly dismal summer when plagues of slugs ate everything almost faster than he could plant them out. The unwarranted destruction of his lovingly sown, grown and tended veg is the only thing that sends my usually calm husband into an apoplectic rage (well, that and people who drop litter, and also the way Chinese words are translated into letters that  can't be spoken in English when you place them beside each other- Zhejiang/Xiajiang). Fed up with taking this lying down (the slugs, not litter droppers or Chinese translations), we went out one night armed with torches, buckets and spoons (don't ask), bent on the annihilation of this most mortal of enemies.
Rather disgustingly, we scooped up over a hundred of the slimy buggers in an hour. Feeling that we'd struck a blow for veg growers everywhere, we were extremely upset to discover they'd replaced themselves the very next night. Where are frogs and hedgehogs when you need them? And that reminds me, I've been meaning to phone Mrs Tiggywinkles since last Spring. I must add it to my to-do list.


The leeks may be snug tucked up under their snowy blanket, but the chickens are decidedly unimpressed with the whole white winter wonderland thing. Mavis (see below) has barely ventured out of the house at all. As our blue egg layer she is the drama queen of the group. She is also highly strung, a victim to her nerves, and given to attempting to fly over your head if you say hello to her too loudly/ suddenly/ or in the wrong type of voice. As M often reminds me, the record for a chicken flight is ten seconds, so she's kidding no-one.


The others are more robust and do at least venture onto the snow, but even they have more or less downed-tools and stopped laying in protest at the white stuff that's hidden all their favourite grubs. We're down to one fresh egg every other day-ish. This is better than nothing and I'm certainly not complaining, especially since I was forced to buy eggs from the supermarket the other day after a casual remark about the amount of poo they were leaving on their eggs resulted in wholesale strike action. 
I thought the shop was having a laugh at first when I opened a pack that said "large" on the box. LARGE? They were about a quarter of the size of our girls' eggies. You're being robbed, all of you who don't get eggs fresh from the hen. Normal service was thankfully resumed when I was able to report back that shop eggs are decidedly second-rate in comparison to their golden-yolked, fluffy-whited beauties



We're very fortunate to have enough space in the garden to have the girl's pen right beside the house. Even with this added security measure M created their run with a double layer of reinforced fox-proof wire, which is dug into the earth a foot or so and stands at over five foot tall and is not  strung tight, because foxes have been known to climb wire as well as dig under it or chew through. My poor sister had a fox visit her girls not long before Christmas- he took the side of their house off and killed all three hens. Driving back down the lane last week I saw two huge foxes in the vineyard beside our house. I stopped to admire them and then panicked because I'd been letting the girls out for a wander round the garden in the afternoon and had left the gate onto the lane open. Luckily they were all in their house but I won't be doing it again without being at home myself.


Rennie likes to come in to the house through the cat flap

Mrs P's double yolkers




I've been having an on-going disagreement with M, who faithfully records rainfall in his weather log every day. The rain-catcher is of course full of snow and he has decided to translate the snowfall into rainfall, which I think it wrong. After a furious debate about the ethics of recording misleading misinformation in weather logs, we finally agreed he would translate the snowfall amount into rain but record it as snow, thereby preserving weather-log accuracy and at the same time marital harmony. I should put a quick note in here about our naughty boys, who, realising how infatuated dad was with his rainfall gauge, and how meticulously he recorded the levels everyday, decided to play a prank on him last summer by slowly adding water from Robin's (our guinea-pig) water bowl to the gauge over a period of several days. M didn't notice which they found even more hilarious.



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