Today is Dad's Birthday. We clubbed together and bought him a 'Beware of the Chickens' sign from the Pet Supermarket. He seemed strangely pleased with it. Dad pretends that he doesn't take much notice of birthdays, but we think he quite likes presents and cards, because he seems to get disappointed if he doesn't get any.
He seemed especially pleased with the wine that Mum's sister and her husband gave him. He had two cards with chickens on the front and two cards with old cars and buses on. Mum's card had a field gate on it. We need a couple of new field gates come to think of it. And he didn't get any jokey ones - perhaps when you get to Dad's age you can't see the funny side any longer -- only joking, Dad! Happy Birthday! Gordon & Sylvia xxx
The last of the daylight
Yesterday was a lovely sunny day! This is Lois' field at 6.20p.m. She is there somewhere in the photo, as she mooed softly when the flash went off!
Some of the leaf buds on the trees in the hedgerow burst open and a few more primroses braved the February air.
Harry the Peacock sat on the fence and preened his tail and we all enjoyed the warmth on our bodies.
But this morning is very foggy and grey again. Mr and Mrs Fox are making quite sure that everyone knows they are the superior pair in the neighbourhood. With Little Mr Fox out of the way they are boldly and systematically excavating Petes' friends houses, leaving tell-tale piles of doe's fur at the entrance to the burrows in the bank. They are also marking their territory in no uncertain manner - and Harvey and Honey pick up every scent! It is a bit scary for us all and so Harry has been appointed our Look-Out. Unfortunately sometimes he goes wandering off and forgets his duties. Gordon & Sylvia x
Mum and Dad knew it was wet this morning when Honey didn't get out of bed to come and drink her little bowl of milk. Then Harvey appeared just as they were leaving to go and open up. Yes it was raining. A steady drizzly rain, the air still and everywhere painted grey. We emerged cautiously from our boxes and barns and looked around to see if we could get to the food without treading in a puddle.
"Fantastique!" exclaimed Harvest. "Oui! Oui!" said Alice, trying to chivvy her dawdling friend along. At least they were happy.
Lois had moved to the lowest and most sheltered part of her field - the only part of her body that was warm and dry was her tummy. The rain ran off her back in rivulets. The silly sheep were huddled at the top of their field against the gate and looked particularly soggy. The water that had drained off the fields was gathering momentum in the ditch that headed towards the pond. Yes it was definately a wet morning.
Tiny droplets of rain clung to the beech and hawthorn's bare lower branches. And they shimmered and shone against the grey background like the most precious of diamonds and pearls. Gordon & Sylvia x
Mickey has a table on which he displays an array of finds and captures. Mainly mice and small creatures. This morning there was a Treecreeper laid on his bale - a dear little fellow, just five inches long with a dainty curved beak that was as long as his head.
We used to have a pair that regularly nested behind the open door of a loose box. A somewhat precarious nest of twigs, moss, grass, bark, hair and feathers. If we had shut the top door it would have probably clung on to the side of the rough bark on the box for a while before falling apart. So for many years we left that door open. But the pair moved on eventually and we would still often see them making their way up the trunk of a nearby tree in search of insects and larvae.
This little fellow may have been caught unawares by Mickey, but after the hard winter it isn't unusual in February to find some of us chickens and wild birds that have died of 'old age', the struggle to keep warm in the short daylight hours proving just too much for us.
Roll on the warm summer days! Gordon & Sylvia x
Mickey was very excited this morning! He ran down to the yard and told us about Little Mr Fox in his barn. He pretended that he had fought and defeated him single-pawed.
"Good gracious Mickey!" Mum exclaimed when she had come to give Mickey his breakfast."Who is that?" Mickey had peered around the bales as cool as you like, which had led Mum to believe that the Fox was probably dead and not asleep. He was curled up in the hay, not ten feet away from Mickey's bowls and obviously had been a regular visitor to the barn.
"Mr Fox? Are you ok?" We all would have thought that the probability of his not being okay was apparent, but Mum went on: " Are you asleep?" With that she nearer the Little Fox and confirmed that he was indeed not asleep, but dead. Two nights ago we had heard a most dreadful noise in the dark of the evening and we now wonder if it was Little Mr Fox challenging his father. We remember that one of the four cubs born in the Meadow last spring had very black ears - just like this little chap and he could well have been sent packing by the dominant fox as the Mr & Mrs Fox were establishing their territory for the forthcoming season. But when Dad came to bury him he said that he could see no visible wound. We were all a bit morbidly curious, but didn't get too close - just in case he was only sleeping! Gordon & Sylvia xx
During the winter The Robin has always been the first, last and most vocal of our friends that join us in the farmyard each day, but he has been ousted recently by Mr Blackbird, resplendent in his jet black coat and buttercup-yellow beak. He sings loudly from high in the tree, re-asserting his territory in no uncertain manner. The lone primrose that we spotted about ten days ago has been joined by only one other though, and the fields are still looking bare and cold. It is raining quite steadily today and chilly with it.
Today Dad plans to move some of our relatives and friends around ready for the breeding season. And apparently this week is National Nest Box Week. Dad has fashioned several nest boxes for wild birds over the years and all of them have been occupied by blue tits. He bought Mum a bat box one year and a blue tit lived in that too. A friend of Pippas, that it was really meant for, lives in a plastic pipe in the roof of their cottage instead.
We have a water tower that overlooks our yard. Many years ago it used to house two two-hundred gallon tanks and supplied water to the big house. The outside is covered in honeysuckle and rose and there is an old door at the top which is a bit rotten. Barney the Barn Owl lives in here now. We don't see much of him usually, but a few years ago there were a pair nesting in there and sadly the male got caught on some barbed wire whilst hunting for his wife and their four very young chicks. He went to hospital, but they couldn't save him. Dad took over feeding duties and every day for weeks he ascended the tower by ladder to put mice and chicks (none of us, we hasten to add!) in for the rest of the family. Mum and Dad got in touch with an Owl man and he came and weighed and rung them. And between Dad and Mrs Owl all four babies survived! Even the little one! Gordon & Sylvia x
Dad left the food just inside the door and Mrs Owl fed her babies
The four chicks - A bunch of fluff
Growing up - What's Dad brought us today?
The 'Baby' - nearly ready for the off
Kizzie and Harvey and Honey went on their lunchtime walk yesterday and saw Mr Fox, Four Roe Deer, Five Peewits and Seven Buzzards.
The Peewits arrived in 2010 - first one pair and later on they were joined by a second pair. Then they disappeared during the winter - perhaps they headed west to the Somerset Levels and joined a winter flock. But now they are back! We have had a lot of rain this month and the Big Field is wet and puddly. A lot of bugs may be washed to the surface and the worms easier to pick up. We love their song and acrobatic manoeuvres as they duck and dive and roll across the Field. Lets hope they stay for this breeding season too.
It was a bright day with white clouds billowing across the sky and the Buzzards were flying high on the thermals. Their nest in the top of the Ash tree is clearly visible still and they are adding sticks to it before reoccupation! You can't see it at all when the leaves are back. Gordon
Lois the Cow
Today Lois is fifteen. She is the great grand-daughter of Meg, a Hereford x Dairy Shorthorn that Mum was given as a calf for her birthday 35 years ago!
We only have Lois now as Zoe her cousin died last year. But Lois likes being by herself and each morning Mum takes her hay to chew and then she cosies down in it for a snooze. She didn't want to come into her box again this winter and has grown a very thick coat to wear in the field. She sees Mr Fox each night and enjoys his company while he follows his well-worn track. Lois didn't used to like him at all when she and her family had their calves, but she much prefers him to the neighbouring sheep, who she tells us are a bit aloof. Soon the farmer will be putting his cows and spring calves out and the younger mothers will ask Lois to babysit whilst they go off in search of tasty grass. Lois gave me a slice of birthday cake, confiding that she really prefered her hay. Sylvia x
Honey's woolly jumper
Honey is very short-legged and long. She gets extremely soggy when it is a wet day and Kizzie has to wring her out. And she found it very chilly in the snowy weather. Despite exhaustive searches on the internet, it was impossible to find a coat for her that fitted. They were all too short or too big or not big enough. So when Aunty Bella visited recently, she measured Honey and knitted her a woolly jumper!
We had some rescue battery hens last summer who were bald when they arrived and Aunty Bella was going to make them jumpers too. But their feathers came through very quickly and they didn't need them as it was quite warm. We think Aunty Bella should set up an internet shop selling bespoke woolly jumpers! Sylvia x
Truffle had a lot of followers - she wasn't on Twitter - just had a lot of, well, - admirers.
And today being Valentine's Day she received two special poems:
"Dearest Truffle. Of such beauty untold,
And feathers of shimmering, burnished gold.
Come scratch with me. You're a real Charmer.
For ever and always, Bruce the Brahma."
We all knew that Bruce had a soft spot for Truffle, but the second poem was unsigned:
"Roses are Red, Violets are Blue.
If I found a worm, I would give it to you."
And she really hoped that it wasn't from the Bossy Rosecomb! Gordon & Sylvia
Who sent me that Valentine?