Where, Oh where are you Spring?!
My! What a contrast to March 24th last year! We turned back the well-worn pages of our Diary to read our Ode To March - and what a different day it was in 2012, with bright sunshine, and plants and animals alike enjoying the warmth of spring . This morning we have snow on top of ice, with a cold north-easterly wind. Yesterday we had a bitterly cold day with heavy rain and snow - the wind was still a north-westerly. Poor Harry sat on the hunting gate and tried to dry out. But he looked a sorry sight. Mum and Dad trudged around packed in their layers, gathering firewood. We are all darned chilly and quite fed up now!
Where, Oh where are you Spring?!
As the first grains of light pushed their way out of the darkness we rubbed our eyes and peered at Spring so far. No real improvement there then! A cold north-westerly wind with rain. Very miserable. A look across the big waterlogged wheat field confirmed the situation. Plenty of worms and insects by the look of it. A small army of jackdaws marched purposefully side by side over the muddied soil. In the far distance Mr Buzz plodded and hopped like a giant prehistoric starling and a cock pheasant strided quite nimbly in a straight line from one side of the field to the other. A tiny pied wagtail jumped and scurried in some fresh soil that had been moved to the edge of the field and a huge flock of two or three hundred fieldfares alighted out of nowhere. They are one of the many bird flocks migrating at this time of the year and will soon move on again. They rose and fell like autumn leaves, a swathe of blue grey feathers turning and twisting and landing, like a flag caught in a breeze. At one point they surrounded the cock pheasant who, unfazed, continued his determined quest to reach the other side.
Little Suzy trotted over to us, quite breathless with excitement:
"Uncle Gordon! The primroses are so very pretty! I would love a dress in marzipan and lemon colours!" And with that, she wistfully settled down next to Sylvia and Mrs White, her quilly pen and notebook in her claw.
'I wish I had a wardrobe
With gowns of Nature's hue.
A frilly little cocktail dress
Of the richest cornflower blue.
And an ivory satin ball-gown
Trimmed with fairest green.
A tribute to the Snowdrop -
Our very first sign of Spring.
I'd razzle-dazzle in Violet,
And pizzazz in primrose shades.
Have a sundress in the brightest gold -
Like the Gorse on heathland glades.
And a dress made of chiffon,
In pink and coffee and cream.
Like the fragile early blossom
On the hedgerows to be seen.
But for all the organza and chintz.
And all the taffeta and satin.
For all Nature's most vibrant colours -
It really doesn't matter!
For in my dress of diamond white,
With finest black lace and all,
I no longer want a new wardrobe -
I am truly the Belle of the Ball!'
Robin sang sweetly
When the days were bright.
"Thanks! Thanks for summer!"
He sang with all his might.
Robin sang sweetly
In the Autumn days.
"There are fruits for everyone.
Let all give praise!"
In the cold and wintry weather
Still hear his song.
"Someone must sing," said Robin
"Or winter will seem long."
When the Spring came back again
He sang: "I told you so!
Keep on singing through the Winter;
It will always go!"
Yesterday we had so much rain. Not just rain. But real rain - of the heavy, incessant variety that forced it's way through the gaps in the roof of the barn and the stables. Just when you thought you had found a dry spot in which to shelter - there it was - drip, drip, drip on your comb. Ghastly.
And poor Stewart Stoat met with an untimely end. He with the gleaming red coat and pale yellow tummy was found lying in the middle of the road upside down and stationary. Very stationary. Mum had spotted him earlier dashing across the road in the middle of the afternoon. He hunts by scent and was after the baby rabbits in the bank we think. But he made just one crossing too many and whop! Off he went to the great Mustelidia in the sky. We peered inquisitively at his teeth. Not big - nothing like Harveys - but as sharp as needles. But then the most obnoxious odour emanated from his rear end - his final word on the matter - and we very soon retreated to our drippy shelters.
So the Vernal Equinox is almost upon us again. There is an old myth - or is it real - that you can stand raw eggs on end on the first day of spring. Astronomers define the beginning of spring as the time when the Sun is seen to cross the celestial equator, although as far as we can make out there is no astronomical reason why you should be able to balance raw eggs on the first day of spring as opposed to any other day! But if we can persuade the ladies to provide us with an egg or two we shall put it to the test!
Talking of seasons - we have decided in our wisdom that March, April and May are spring. And June, July and August are summer. September, October and November autumn and the three longest and coldest months of December, January and February are winter. Irrespective of what the Astronomers say. And to back this up we dug out four Ladybird books in Harvest's vast library. They were written by E.L. Grant Watson and published between 1959 and 1961 and they are called 'What to Look for in Spring' etc. and each one covers the three months as we outlined earlier. There! Absolute proof!
And just a word of condolence to Harry as we hear that Captain Peacock died yesterday.
Gordon & Sylvia xxx
A snow cloud passes over
We have had all manner of weather here at WattleburyFarm recently. Snow, icy winds, heavy rain, frosts, rainbows - and a fleeting glimpse of the sun. But it is March - and we can have all sorts of weather in March. The Roe Deer twins are often down with Lois, and Mysty has made friends with a fine buck and another female. If we don't see them as fleeting shadows springing across the fields, they stand as silent statues amongst the old Christmas trees. Sadly One Cub died a couple of weeks ago. Mum found her lying on the old hay bales where Mickey lives. She had been inevitably excluded from the new pairing Foxes who live with us. With no siblings to look out for her the winter had been very hard although her coat was of the most glossy and well-kept fur.
Martha Mouse is snug inside
Lois is starting to shed the long hairs of her winter coat, with the help of her Magpie friend. It is one thing to have the most useful grooming buddy, but Marjorie does tend to leave her poops behind. On Lois' back - and even on her head. Lois calls her Marjorie Poops for this reason - and it seems she has found a mate too. He is called Ninkum.
There are a family of mice settled into the old Land Rover. They starting feasting on Mickey's cat biscuit - so we have had to put it in secure tins. Mickey is in fine fettle. His coat is bushy and shiny and he still enthralls us with his Tales from time to time.
Barney scans for food (he's here somewhere!)
The fields have provided shelter and food for our friends this winter. With only Lois to mooch around, there are plenty of long tufts for the Fox to hide in and pounce on an unsuspecting White Pigeon. Their numbers went from 14 to 4. But they are back up to 7 now! Barney the Barn Owl hunts regularly too. Swooping low, his face turning from left to right as he scans the ground.
A few of our family and friends have found the winter hard too. Old Mrs Rosecomb, and one of William (the Conkeror)'s wives have sadly passed on. But we have the first two new babies born! Two Rosecombs - and Dad says that there will be some Sebright babies coming along any day. Spring must surely be on it's way soon! Gordon xxx
"An eventful week, Gordon. An eventful week," mused Mum as she plodded manfully across the yard, headscarf battened firmly down and bowl of corn in her mitt.
"Jolly chilly wind, more snow and now rain again. And the forecast doesn't look too promising. You know, Gordon, this time last year was a positive heatwave. But perhaps it is a sign that we will have a hot summer."
I'll believe that when I see it!
"Anyway, as I was saying - eventful week. Last Saturday us Best Buddies from days of Yore met up in London for our reunion. It was well over a year ago that we all met last time. Doesn't time fly?"
It certainly does.
"Dad dropped me off at the station in good time. Lucky that, Gordon - as the station has been completely refurbished since I last went, and I couldn't actually find my way in. You could see the looks on the station peoples' faces as they saw me coming. 'Here comes trouble' flickered across them as I approached."
Yes - I know what they meant.
"I bought my ticket after a great deal of quizzing the nice man behind the counter - he was remarkably patient considering - and then studied the computerised board to see which platform I needed to be on. After a few minutes - even though there are only 4 platforms, I headed back to the nice man behind the counter - and would you credit it, Gordon? He said 3 before I had even asked him the question!"
"I then waited slyly behind another gentleman to watch where he put his ticket - so as not to make a complete fool of myself -"
"- And headed for the platform! So Mandy arrived on the train and I sprung in beside her and off we set for London!"
"We made good time Gordon - actually caught two Underground trains too - and met Aunty Bella and Pauline in Covent Garden at 11 o'clock. We walked to Trafalgar Square - the name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars over France. A kind man took a photo of the four of us!"
Sir Henry Have A Look?
"There was a huge Fountain - Harvest would have loved it! Do you know that at the beginning of last April they stopped all the water supply to the Fountains in Trafalgar Square? The Hosepipe Ban, Gordon - and you know what happened then!"
I sure do!
"Then there was the statue of Horatio Nelson - really high - and he had a pigeon on his head. Nelson was the vice admiral who commanded the British Fleet at Trafalgar. Of course there aren't many pigeons in Trafalgar Square now, Gordon. At one time there were 35,000. Too many. We only saw a brave handful, and you aren't allowed to feed them."
"And I met this really nice Priest who gave me a Lollypop. He was either over 7 foot tall or standing on a plinth. But I wasn't going to peek under his Priesticles to check.
The High Priest aka The Lollypope
I don't think it was the new Pope Francis, Gordon. Although they do say he is a humble and generous soul, and apparently travels by public transport to work. I mean there were plenty of London buses around. A kindly being, we are told and not one to pontifficate."
Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
"So we went to a very nice hostelry nearby and ate and drank and talked. And talked. And talked. Until it was time to catch our trains homeward and we parted ways with fond farewells ---- until the next reunion!"
Gordon is far too modest to tell you of his recent outings. He is not one to Blow his own Trumpet - or Soufflez votre propre Trompette - as Harvest so succinctly put it. I will therefore tell you myself, as we are all extremely proud of him. On February 10th at the Kent Show he not only won Best Sebright, but Best True Bantam also. And yesterday at the Reading Bantam Society's Open Show he won Best Gold Cock in the Area Club Show. Dad says he has a fine head. Some may argue with the reasonings that go on inside it - but there we are. Gordon told us of all the Sebrights he had met and lots of people that Dad introduced him to as well. He had a wonderful time.
Well done dear Friend. Love Sylvia xxx
Harvest was explaining about the Chinese New Year to a spellbound group of pullets and cockerels.
"It began on 10 February this year. This marked the start of the current Year of the Snake on the Chinese Calendar. The date of the next Chinese New Year will be 31 January 2014 when it will be the Year of the Horse. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. Different animals represent different years - a total of twelve."
In unison they all excitedly asked what the other animals were.
"Well - there is an Ox. Like Lois. And a Dog - like Harvey. And a Rabbit. That would be Peter. Then there is a Rat. Like Roland and his chums."
"Is there a Chicken?" Piped up Gilly.
"Of course - a Rooster!" Harvest looked very pleased with herself, and then her beak drooped slightly. "Sadly no Duck" She shook her big brown head and looked at her foot.
"What else Harvest?" Reuben eagerly prompted her to continue.
"A Monkey! That could be Baby White! Mrs White was always calling him a Little Monkey! And a Tiger - like Strawberry The Cat! And a Pig - I suppose we are all guilty of that when a yummy morsel arrives."
They all laughed and trotted around.
"And a Snake of course. A Sheep and a Dragon" Harvest scratched the back of her head with a large webbed foot. "I can't remember the last one now --- aaah! Yes! A Horse!"
Just then the two Spotty Bantams - Les and Larry scooted through the yard. In a flash Gaylord called across -
"You could be The Year of The Horse - Les arn' yer?!"
[No comment. Gordon]
Well here we are in February - the 10th to be precise. And just haven't written in our Diary for some time, as is apparent. This is mainly due to our Quilly Pens having frozen up during the cold weather or our Parchment, upon which we make notes, having been wet and soggified. Our efforts to keep warm have not been in vain - most of us have survived the dark days of winter - and now we are looking forward to spring. The mornings are getting gradually lighter earlier and the evenings too, are miraculously staying lighter later. The honeysuckle is sprouting her first leaves in the hedgerows and the primrose is pushing her green undergarments up amongst the dried, pale brown oak leaves in the bank.
Mum and Dad have sported an assortment of strange clothes during the cold weather. They seem to go for the layered look - piling as many coats on top of coats as is humanly possible to walk in. Dad has not been spied without a brown furry Balalaika on his head. It has long ears and reminds us of Sammy Squirrel. Mum says it is a sort of Balaclava - but we're not so sure. And Mum has taken to wearing an old-fashioned headscarf! What is that about? Kizzie was frankly horrified - as are the motorists that see her at the wheel of her car.
"It keeps the wind out of my ears," she explained. "You know Gordon - everyone wore a headscarf like this when I was a young pullet."
What even Dad?
"And Princess Anne still wears one!"
It does have it's disadvantages though - the woolly hat that perches on top most precariously, slides off at the drop of a hat. Many a time Mum has returned from feeding Lois minus her bobble hat. We think there are three to our knowledge scattered around the field somewhere. Come to think of it - that will be a good idea for a Treasure Hunt when this year's chicks get under our feet! Gordon xxx