I have just come home having had 3 days on a bird sketching holiday in the Cotswolds. The part of the UK where I spent my childhood and somewhere I have not been back to for a very long time. Strange to return as a “tripper”.
Our group of students had intense tutorials in the morning, under the guidance of a brilliant wildlife artist. We spent the afternoons with her in various locations – a bird zoo, falconery centre then lastly Slimbridge Wetlands centre “trying” to sketch from life. Extremely hard, as the birds are constantly bobbing about! A challenging few days in that respect.
Great excitement all round the morning I left. Thieves had used a JCB to prise the cash machine out of the front of the bank in the village high street in the night; leaving a trail of devastation behind and the locals with a lot to talk about.
I will write more in a bit. The family have just arrived for a few days and things are a little bit hectic ……
The last lamb has been born; Easter weekend. What a little scrap of a thing she is. Her mother has no milk so we are bottle feeding her. This is now three times a day. We have turned her and mum out into a field with the other sheep just up the road as the ewe was distressed away from the flock. So now one or other of us has to trail up to the field with a bottle of milk. First feed 7 am. With a little persistence “Daisy”, as GOS has named her, is doing really well. It was touch and go the first couple of days. Little granddaughter will enjoy doing this when she visits.
My highlight this week has been to have a friend down from Edinburgh for a couple of nights to stay over. I have been able to show her some of our countryside at it’s best. On Friday I arranged for a group of us to walk the two hills behind the house with her. She is a great “hiker”. Six of us and three dogs had a lovely day walking the footpaths that join and transverse the two “commons”. At our picnic spot in the bottom of a little sheltered wooded valley my friend was excited to see a red kite wheeling round only feet above us in a gap in the tree tops. She said she had never been so close to one before. They live by scavenging so we reckoned it had spotted the sandwiches! We walked not far short of 9 mile and in that distance had been through various habitats and environments; ancient woodland, open moorland, cultivated farmland…….. ending our trek walking down the steep flower lined lane back to the house; comparing the colloquial names for the various wildflowers as we went.
I am away for a couple of days myself now so will write again on my return….
Commitments over the last week I have got me a bit behind with my posting, but I am here now. . . .
Only one more ewe to *pop* and we are there! One large ram lamb was born to a “first lamber” in the early hours of this morning. She seems to have taken to her baby really well. Fingers crossed.
We have had friends for a night over the weekend; a catch up from college days. They had come over to our area from Suffolk to pick up a springer spaniel pup they had bought. A dear little chap called “Fred”. He will be a companion to their other shooting dog. “Arthur”. They had very kindly brought a big bunch of roses with for them me as a wedding anniversary present. GOS and I were celebrating our 45th! That apparently is a sapphire wedding anniversary. In deference to this information I have bought a sapphire blue plumbago shrub for a corner of the garden.
It is a long story but suddenly we have a sizeable patch of ground that needs to be cultivated and eventually planted. Presently the ground is very compacted and full of large rocks; very hard work to remove by hand! Which is what has to be done as anything mechanical would be damaged by the quantity of stone. Slow job. But it will be exciting planting the area up from scratch with shrubs.
I also need to get started in the vegetable garden. Following in family tradition ,I will be getting the early potatoes planted on Good Friday. I have chosen “Charlotte” to start off this year. I like Pink Fur Apple for flavour, but GOS doesn’t like them; so little point in continuing to grow them! After the third attempt, and putting the tray somewhere else, away from mice , I think I will get some broad beans. There are peas germinating as well.
Good Friday is also the day for my choir’s next performance. We are doing a concert in one of the local churches for charity. All very challenging music. Our MD has been working us until quite late on practice nights. I am sure it will be worth it in the long run.
We have had a dry and fairly sunny week weather wise. The verges are starting to look very lush – full of yellow dandylion, celenadines. The cow parsley and bluebells are starting to shoot up in sheltered spots; all very early. A great many of the wooded areas against the main roads locally are planted with wild cherry and with that, and the blackthorn, the blossom at the moment is beautiful and in profusion. I am never really sure about the council’s planting planning. Where roads are improved or a by-pass constructed the highways people plant a lot of trees on the banks pretty close to the road. Very nice; but then they seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trimming said trees back after a few years of growth. A process repeated again and again every few years??
Talking about the Council we have the council elections coming up the first week in May. It looks like it is going to be a proper contest in this ward for a change! We have had two of the contestants coming canvassing already – one Tory and one Independent. Our ex-MP is also standing. This could become quite interesting. . . . . . will keep you informed . . . .
Welsh Mountain Ewe
Well, lambing is in full swing now and we are both shattered. I don’t think I’ll be writing much tonight. This getting up in the night to pull lambs, and fiddling around with newborns, and all that it entails is a bit kn. . . .ing. The latest lamb born was at about 3 am this morning and it couldn’t stand for ages. It seems to have got going now this evening. We milked the ewe and bottle fed the baby the first time so it got some colostrum and it is up on its feet now trying to suck. Another ewe that was in labour “stole” a lamb from a “first lamber” who just abandoned this “thing” that had appeared out of her: so in the long run, perhaps that was a good thing. Getting a ewe to take to a lamb she loathes is hard work. You have to keep mother and lamb penned up tight for ages and make sure it sucks til she accepts it readily – can take days!
We will just be glad when it is all done with and the sheep are all back out in the fields.
Life has gone by in a bit of a blur this week. Although I did have a little titter over All Fools Day. GOS was, initially, so he told me, taken in by the story in the press of a polar bear being spotted on North Uist. . . . . Don’t think he was the only one fooled. . . .
Or rather, (Hoorah) we have had the first lamb ( 6 days old) and our granddaughter has named her “Mary”.
All is well now, but her mother, who is an elderly ewe, retained the afterbirth and was quite poorly for a few days. Antibiotics and other meds and she is fine now and both are on the drive amongst the daffs for a few days so we can keep an eye on them. But little else happening in the maternity unit at present . . . . . . I expect the other ewes will pick the most inconvenient moment to start “performing . . .
The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing,
We welcome the hope that they bring,
Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.
And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.
Tra la la la la,
Tra la la la la,
The flowers that bloom in the spring.
(from the MIKADO)
It has been a week of highs and lows. Sunshine and a promise of summer and days (as today ) of heavy rain. The forecasters are talking about a sprinkle of snow on Wednesday. Last Wednesday was glorious. I rode out with a friend in the morning ( I am giving her a hand with a newly broken horse). Ella was only “backed” three weeks ago. We are trying to get her to stand nice and still for mounting and “educate” her a bit; let her see a few things. To date, until broken in, she had never been out of a field . It is really late to start on this training as she is 7 yrs old. Most horses start to be trained at about 3 years old. She is a bit of a slow learner! Steering and brakes non-existent really. We pottered about on the lanes and tracks near her home in the sunshine and the horses got really warm and sweaty. So my girl had the afternoon back at home, here in her field, without a rug it was so warm. However, she was then in her heaviest waterproof rug some two days later! The only “down” was I managed to clip the lorry on one of said friend’s driveway walls. There is a narrow walled gateway onto her drive where I have to back off a bridge into the drive – needs rather a lot of concentration and unfortunately I got distracted by one of her dogs running loose!!. Anyway, it isn’t too much damage and GOS thinks he can fix it himself. One of the skirt panels got knocked and dented.
High: I spotted the first wood bumblebee lumbering about in the garden this week. The magnolia has broken into flower (at least a month early) and the snakeshead fritillera have suddenly appeared. ( Checkaboard petals of pink and burgundy and one clump of white ones.) I am really pleased these are thriving as it has taken a while to get then established. The white heather has been a picture but it is just starting to go over. The season for some plants has really started early.
These mild sunny days the skylarks are soaring above the hill; singing their hearts out. We are blessed with lots of these little birds. So evocative of the british countryside, but it’s recent and dramatic population declines now make it a “Red List ” species.
They really lift the spirits, these little birds. (Vaughan Williams “Lark Ascending” – such a beautiful, descriptive piece of music. . . .)
No lambs have appeared as yet. The poor old ewes are very uncomfortable and huff and puff at night when we pop out check on them. They have been kept in the last three days as they only paddle about on the mud when it I’d as wet as it has been; bleating hungrily as soon as they see me. …
Hope to goodness to have news of births next week.
I cannot believe another week has gone by already since my last posting. Before we know it the clocks will be changing again. Well, at least the weather has improved. We had beautiful warm sunshine today. The mild winter does seem to have brought some things on in the garden way ahead of time.
My flowering cherry is breaking into blossom and the brunnera (looks rather like very tall forget-me-not) is flowering. Neither of these two usually flower here until end of April beginning of May. The hawthorn hedge one side of the veggie patch is also coming into leaf. Crazy.
I have broad beans planted in trays (second go at them – the mice lifted the cover of the first lot I planted and ate all of them, just leaving the shoots). The new planting has a heavy stone weighing the cover down! I have put potatoes to “chit” on the attic window sill. I meant to buy mange tout seed today when I was in town and completely forgot. (senior moment ) I think I may be struggling to get the veg started off this year as in April I have 4 days away on a painting course and a series of friends and family coming to stay and in May I am going to be away from home quite a bit. I think I will have to concentrate on the easy stuff that can be left to get on with it in the veg patch and be a bit neglected. Anyway, if my planned trips come off I’ll fill you in in due course.
For a while now I have been trying to find an art group or courses locally. I really do not want to travel far especially in the winter. I did eventually unearth a group who meet quite nearby, but when I enquired the group was over subscribed. However, low and behold, the organiser remembered me and last week got back in touch to say someone had dropped out of the group and would I like to come along. So last Friday afternoon I joined for my first session, which was lovely, the other members were so welcoming. We have a “theme” this term to work with if we want, so that we can participate in an exhibition towards the end of September. So the theme is ” the local area through the seasons”. Below is my first effort – from a reference photo and and previous botanical sketches of my own. Hope you like it . . . . . . .
Sunny day on the canal
I am really looking forward to the next session this Friday. Only I have been inspired as yet what to tackle next: unless I do this picture again in another format
We are really making up for the kind weather in January with a vengeance! Mud, mud and more mud. The sheep are due to start to lamb in about 10 days and I can see we will be bringing them in under cover to the buildings early this year. Normally they are out in the day and in at night to make keeping an eye on them easier, but this wet would hardly do a new born lamb any good at all. The sheep better stay in the warm and dry for a bit from the end of this week.
It was so wet at the weekend our local “point to point” (horse racing) got cancelled. The overnight rain on the Thursday before did for racing on the Saturday; the course was water logged. No hope of getting any vehicles in and out let alone racing. A very kind neighbour is allowing my horse to graze as small paddock of his; so when we do have a few lambs they will have a nice field to go onto, with a bit of grass, which has not been cut up to a muddy mess with horse hooves.
The frogs seem to appreciate the wet and mild as all the ditches on the hill are full of frog spawn. I keep meaning to pop up and get a little bit to put in a bowl for when my granddaughter comes over. After it is hatched it can go in one of my ditches here in the garden; try and increase my frog population.
The chickens are now at liberty again. They were extremely confused for a few days and didn’t venture very far when first let out. They also seemed to be a bit phased as to where they should go at night as we want them to use the shed for a bit longer until I have purchased a new hen house. The old henhouse really needs a new water proof roof and a bit of TLC. The hens have now come back into lay, which is a blessing. We had lovely fresh eggs for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. ( I must say we were quite over indulgent with strawberry pancakes for supper that night !! But they were jolly yummy! Recipe on the recipe page).
Which reminds me must go and shut the poultry up as it is now dark . . and the fox has been about. . . .