Yet another day of firsts!

Well, we really are galloping on apace. Yesterday I had my first shower for nearly five weeks and today I went up the stairs, on my feet instead of my bottom. Hurrah, I would have never thought that such small things could bring so much pleasure!

Yesterday I made another Victoria sponge, which came out of the oven a little over cooked. My cooker must be 20 years old, and I think it might be trying to tell me something! Nevertheless, it is very yummy. Next time I think I’ll try my hand at a lemon drizzle cake, which I love, but have never made. That’ll be fun!

Little Alfie had a telling off this afternoon as he went barging off on his own accord, through the catflap. He had heard Nicky arriving to bring Max in and he has become rather fond of her!

I can’t have him doing that, not just because he could get out on the road, but because I’m afraid he might get stuck. He is becoming rather portly (all my cake that Nicky is feeding him when she thinks that I’m not looking) and I have visions of him getting stuck with this little legs left dangling in the porch. I would have to call out the fire brigade, and as I used to work for them in the days of yore, it would be rather embarrassing! Come to think of it, most of the firefighters I worked with have probably long since retired! Ha ha.

Must keep my ears tuned to the noises outside, as our local school is having a fireworks display tonight and I need to go out and check on Max. It’s about half a mile away so not too close, not like one of the firework parties in the village on Saturday. I thought that they had invited a tank regiment or an artillery regiment, sounded like mortars going off. Poor Max, he doesn’t like the bangs, though I think he quite appreciates the pretty aerial displays. He has a lovely big sky to watch from his stable and his eyes are out on stalks. He is so funny. Alfie, thank goodness doesn’t seem to worry about them. He really is very good, and is no trouble, well, until he decides to take himself off outside!

More musings from an OAP on crutches

I awoke to the sound of the doorbell. Oh no, I groaned. I looked at the bedside clock. 9.30 a.m. I groaned again. I had overslept!

I am not surprised. My lovely nephew had taken me out to supper the previous night. On the recommendation of a friend, we had gone to a not too recently refurbished pub. I have to say that it was excellent! Brilliant service, friendly atmosphere, lovely tender, tasty steaks and a cheese cake to die for! What more could you want? Thanks Myf for the thumbs up.

We had a good ol’ chin wag, catching up with all the family news, with your’s truly knocking back two large glasses of house red!  All in all, it was a wonderful evening, not only because it was great to leave the cottage after three weeks of internment, but because my nephew is my only close relative (well, he does have a brother and sister whom I haven’t seen since their parents’ funerals) and he is such a lovely chap – so easy to talk to. As he said afterwards on FB, he was amazed at the subjects we covered!

Hence my lingering in the land of nod. I gathered up my thoughts and my crutches. Hobbling to the door in my skimpy night attire I thought I was either going to give Barry (my lovely neighbour Alfie-walker) a heart attack (he’s 72) or a big thrill! I needn’t have worried as, for a change, it was his wife who had come to collect Alfie. She’s lovely too, so bubbly and smiley and ready for a good laugh. They are a very kind, genuine couple and I am greatly indebted to them!

I was a bit reluctant to hoover, or go upstairs as I was awaiting the arrival of an Amazon order. As it takes me much longer to get to the door, I worry in case the courier gets fed up with waiting and sticks the proverbial card through the catflap. Especially as I can’t hop in the car, although I could hop outside it(!), and drive off to collect the package in some far-flung location!

I have to say that the couriers were extremely efficient, because later that day, when opening Outlook,  I saw an email giving me the time it was to be delivered! Marvellous, well done DPD – Predict, ten out of ten. Oh, I do wish that other couriers, and utility companies, could peg down the time of their visits so precisely. Would make life so much easier, especially when working full time.

Well what was the package, you may be wondering? It was a lovely, luxurious, soft cushion for Alfie’s plastic dog bed. When he came to live with me he was delivered with six weeks’ supply of dog food, his lead, feed bowls, bed and cushion. I haven’t told you the story of how we found each other, but I believe it was meant to be. Or fate, however you like to call it.

A couple of months ago when out for a ride on Max, I decided to pop by to see if a friend of mine was in. They both work full time, but also have a small holding with sheep, store cattle, etc. My luck was in and she was working from home that day. During our chat, she asked if I needed any hay as, because it had been such a good year for hay, they had a surplus. I jumped at the chance, because I knew it would be good quality, with no weeds.

So, later that day I went back, without Max, to have a look at said hay. As we were chatting a little dog came out of the house and came up to me putting his paws on my knees, lifted one which he waved at me tilting his head to one side and smiling!

My goodness, what a happy chappie, I thought. Gill, my friend, said that she had never seen him so enthusiastic with a stranger, nor had she seen him smile before! She then asked if I wanted him. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Why on earth would she want to give her dog away? “He’s obviously chosen you”, she said.

It transpired that he had been her mother’s and she had died in May of Alzeimer’s. Alfie had been lodging with them for 18 months or so. Gill’s a cat person who doesn’t really like little dogs and they had never really did get on. So I said yes, I would have him on three weeks’ trial. If he chased the cat he would come back.

The first few weeks I didn’t know whether I really wanted a dog, I still don’t.  I had told myself that if Max expired before me, then I would consider looking for a dog as I had always wanted one, but, working full time, was never in a position to have one. I would have liked a rough coated bitch. But then, things rarely work out according to plan, do they?

Alfie, is such a lovely, kind, little dog without an ounce of aggression in him. He is a bit of a Uriah Heap very ‘umble, very willing to please and, most of the time, very obedient. Which, for a Jack Russell, is more than unusual! He is a happy little fellow, who loves to chase a ball.

Alfie with his ball

Alfie with his ball

The only trouble is, he won’t let go of it! He’ll run off with it saying catch me if you can! He’ll then go beserk, roaring around the paddock like something besotted. He’s full of joie de vivre and does make me laugh!

In the short time he has been with me, he has been such a jolly little companion, especially since I have been cottage-bound. Everybody loves him, he loves everybody. He has been marvellous with my one remaining cat, the nervous little Minnie. Very, very wary of her (I think Gill’s old cat had bopped him on the nose more than once). Because of his timidity, she has gone to him and shows no fear in his company, it is wonderful, more than I could have hoped for. The only times she scoots off is when the doorbell rings and he rushes to the door barking madly. I consider myself very lucky, knowing what some dogs are like.

Because he is such a star, I felt that he deserved a new cushion as his other one is getting a little tatty, with its stuffing coming out. I had searched long and hard on Ebay and Amazon, but all the cheaper ones had negative reviews. I always check out the reviews when buying online. In the end, I decided on this one, which was ridiculously expensive, but I felt that for all the love and devotion he was giving me, he was worth it!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz love this mum!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz love this mum!

100s of rescued hens looking for loving homes!

Come on peeps, all of you who, over the last few years, have told me that you would just love to keep hens. Now here’s your opportunity to help some little hens that hitherto have had a pretty rotten life.

500+ ex battery hens are now ready to start new lives with owners who will give them the care and attention they deserve.

Little Hen Rescue of Flordon, near Norwich, have rescued yet more hens that were destined for slaughter after having spent their lives in cages laying eggs for supermarkets.

These hens are friendly and make great pets. Those of you who are interested should phone Little Hen Rescue rehoming line Monday or Friday evenings (8.00 to 9.30 pm)  07717 757596 or, preferably, email Jo Eglen at littlehenrescue@aol.com  For more information visit www.littlehensrescue.co.uk

Over 800 rescued battery hens arrived at Little Hen Rescue last Saturday and I was there to help unload them.  They had endured the three and a half hour journey from Leicester pretty well.  I was surprised to see how good they looked. No featherless ones; none with bad peck wounds, or, indeed any sort of wound.  Apparently the farm from which the hens came, was particularly good on welfare and, although kept in large cages, all the hens looked really well.

I helped unload them from their crates into the large, roomy loose boxes where they’ll live until they go to their new homes… I wanted to bring them all home with me but, sadly, I couldn’t. Although I had lost Hattie the other week, I couldn’t take any. You have to take a minimum of two, but I have four and I think to add another two to the flock would be a bit too many for my coop, so I’ll have to wait until another falls of her perch. It’s about time for Dottie, who is 7 or 8, but she shows no sign of ‘popping her clogs’. Then poor Buffy didn’t, she just went. What a lovely way to go. No suffering.

For those of you who may be wondering how little Lottie, my surviving ex batt is getting on, she is a little star, who has started laying. Well…. sort of. She is Polly’s constant shadow (do you remember how awful Polly was too her when she first arrived?) – it’s so funny to watch. They are best of mates now. Long may it last.

DSC_0085

Rest in peace, Hattie dear

It’s with a very heavy heart I have to write that I have lost another hen. Hattie, originally known as Ruby, one of my two new ex-battery hens who arrived just three weeks ago, died tonight.

She’s never been so perky as her compatriot, Lottie (originally Nellie), who is very feisty. She has spent a lot of time in the coop ever since she arrived, but I noticed today that she was moving very slowly. I gave her a sugary drink to see if it would perk her up. But, if anything, she seemed worse. When I came in for supper, she had put herself to bed, but I feared she wouldn’t last the night.

Went out to close their pophole a while ago and I found her dead in the run. I am gutted. So sad. I feel guilty that I didn’t pick up on it earlier, but it is so difficult to see changes in an animal’s behaviour when you aren’t familiar with it. Oh dear, I feel as though I have let her down…. *She says with a large lump in her throat*

My one consolation is that she had a couple of months of freedom from her previous life in a battery cage.

Hattie  2nd June rip

Hattie 2nd June rip

Who said keeping hens is easy?

I’d like to say that Ruby and Nellie, my two new ex-battery hens have settled in happily, but I can’t.

My previous experience of introducing new hens into my established flock, was when dear Buffy (rip) and Polly came four or five years ago. At that time the alpha hen was Hettie who, although she was boss, was a very kind hen. Everything went very smoothly and they were accepted into the flock only a few days after their arrival.

When dear Hettie ‘fell off her perch’ Polly, the Light Sussex took over as alpha hen, or ‘top dog’ ! I’m afraid I can’t say that she is a kind hen. She is a busy, neurotic, precocious hen that is bossy,and really ‘in your face’.

Polly, alpha hen

Polly, alpha hen

She is the only hen I have had that squats when you wave your hand over her. This squatting is an invitation to the cockerel to mount her! She must be more highly sexed, maybe than the other hens. For this reason, when she gets too hyper she tries to mount the other hens. Poor Buffy, was always the one that she picked on. Buffy was at the bottom of the pecking order, but she was a big hen and could take the weight of a mature Light Sussex, which is a large hen. Polly only did it now and again, so I didn’t perceive it to be a problem.

Poor Ruby, the larger of my two ex-batts, but still only half the size of Polly, is the one that Polly keeps chasing.  If she corners her, she jumps on her.  So far Ruby seems unscathed, no loss of feathers, nevertheless a frightening experience!  I am sure that if I had a cockerel, he would sort Polly out, but that would be yet another mouth to feed. As it is, I now have five hens and Polly is the only one laying.

Needless to say that Ruby and Nellie are still going to bed each night in their little broody coop that is inside the hens’ run. They do go in and out of the main coop during the day, just not at night. Yet.

Oh dear, why do I always make my life more complicated? I just want an easy life!

On a more positive note, this week more swallows arrived, so the sky around the stables is full of them swooping, circling and chattering! Such a lovely sight.

Names needed for new arrivals

The sad demise of Buffy has freed up space in the coop for one or two more hens. I was hoping that Winnie or Dottie would pop their clogs as they really are not very friendly, and haven’t laid for nearly two years. It’s always the way, the nicest hens die first!

Today I picked up two little ex-battery ladies. So tiny compared with my big hens. They’ll stay for a few days in the little ark, then I’ll put the ark inside the hens’ run, then after another few days,  I’ll let them all out together. It worked well when I introduced Buffy and Polly to the flock, let’s hope that it will this time.

They don’t have names and I would be very grateful if you could suggest some please.

Names needed for two little ex-batts

Names needed for two little ex-batts

The first cuckoo and a very lucky mouse!

The day started badly. Was dragging on my clothes when I noticed Minnie scratching under the bedroom door. Thinking that her sister, Maisie, was on the other side I closed the door to have a look, but was surprised to see a little mouse scurrying away under the dressing table. Eeek, I thought, bleary eyed, I can’t catch that now! I sighed, fearing yet another corpse on the dining room floor later in the day.

As I went downstairs, I congratulated myself  that I had decided to put a wooden floor down in the dining room, rather than a new carpet. Much easier to clean up behind  the trophies that the cats seem to  be bringing in with sickening frequency.

I was late rising as I had stayed up to watch the new BBC2 detective series. It promises to be good, and was pleased that I had made the effort. But it meant that I was later to bed than usual with the obvious result in the morning. I need 8 hours sleep and my internal clock always wakes me up eight hours after I have gone to sleep.

Max, my horse, is very patient and accepts my irregular hours with equanimity. Always happy to greet me, with a nicker and a smiley face! I turned him out in home paddock as the weathermen said that it was to be really windy and rainy in the afternoon. He can be quite a handful bringing him back from the meadow with wind and rain driving into his face!

After taking delivery of a large number of bales of bedding for the stable, two men from the roofing company that installed my new roof last week, turned up to clear away the rubbish.  I have to say that I would highly recommend the company, Anglia Roofing Solutions. Have never had such polite, tidy workmen before! They were a pleasure to have around.

At last I got into the garden and carried on with flowerbed number two. For once I didn’t have my headset on, listening to Radio 4, so I was lucky to hear it. A cuckoo heralding summer, as it started to rain ! How wonderful, was so pleased as they have, sadly, become a rarity these days. Though I expect the local bird population are pleased at their decline, as, without them, they will only have the magpies, and my cats to contend with.

As I looked up from my toil, I saw Maisie sauntering past with a fledgling blackbird in her mouth! Oh my goodness, did I shout at her! But she didn’t drop it, just bolted off down the garden. Five minutes or so later, one of the roofers clearing the rubbish, who had heard me scream blue murder at her, called out to say that he saw her drop the bird on the drive at which point…. it flew away! Phew, I thought, one less little corpse on the dining room floor!

My poor garden, after night time temperatures of -14 degrees this winter,  so many shrubs seem to be dead or dieing. My bay tree looks decidedly dejected, as does my honeysuckle halliana and I think a well established variagated wigelia, in the bed I was weeding, has seen better days, too.

Distressed bay tree

Distressed bay tree

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Fortunately my spirea arguta is flourishing.

Spirea arguta

Spirea arguta

So many plants can’t cope with such low temperatures. Last year I lost a ceanothus, so planted another in a different place, but the new one looks as though it’s struggling. Will have to research carefully the new plants needed to fill all the spaces in the borders.

Well, here I was sitting writing this post. Max had his tea and my supper was in the oven. There was a rustling under the desk. Thinking that it was one of the cats, I peered into the gloom. Nothing there, only a cast-off cellophane wrapping, that had missed the wastepaper basket. So I carried on typing. There’s that rustle again. Strange I thought, I hadn’t moved my feet.  So I looked under the desk again and eeek, guess what, little mousie was sitting there looking up at me, as bold as brass.

Eeek (again) what could I do? Looking around I picked up an old shoe box and scooped up mousie, before he had time to think and whacked the lid on. Phew, saved him. I rushed downstairs, got into the kitchen and realised that there were two mouse-sized holes in the ends of the lid (presumably to help the shopkeeper to pull the box out of a stack). Eeek, did he jump out on the way down the stairs? Scooping up the kitchen towel I draped it over the box, grabbed a torch, as it was getting dark outside and rushed down the drive to the long grass area on the corner.  Took the towel off and then the lid and shone the torch into the box. Little mousie, dazed by the bright light was looking up at me. “Go on scoot,” I said as I tipped him out. He didn’t waste any time to say thank you and charged off into the long grass. As I walked back up the drive I had a big smile on my face! Ahhh, a happy ending, I thought.