We have three foxes that walk passed our stable, in the mornings.
The snowstorm, earlier in the week, brought along some new white stuff and it carries these three visitors nicely. With the sun coming up and the snow glittering around them, they are a magnificent sight. Unfortunately, they are checking out if any of our hens happen to be around.
It's colder again so our dear dog Ebba is in a brilliant mood. She is ploughing through the winter wonderland with us in tow, finding our speed to be lacking in so many ways. Apparently, snow means even faster walks and all you can see of her in the paddock, is a diving, flying tail. Ebba is getting a bit more confident and is putting on some weight. Most of that is muscles from pulling us around the countryside, but it is making her look more beautiful by the day. She does eat a lot and that is a good thing, too.
We have never had an animal who has stayed skinny for long, in this house. It has always been about weight control and thinking about what kind of food to get in. Now we go searching for fatty food and bones made of elk skin, to help dear Ebba build up her strength. It feels funny in a world that's gone completely diet crazy.
Ebba still hides her treats in our bed. To avoid constantly sleeping on chewy bones, I bought our dog a 60 cm long one to tackle. I thought that we would at least see it coming. Ebba was very surprised and not at all impressed. Apparently, it's a nice bone but a tad vulgar. That told me!
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are not too skinny. They look like four round balls of wool and they should be slimmer. It's not good for their legs and joints to carry too much weight but how do you diet a sheep?! They eat hay and some vegetables in the morning. Without their dry bread that they get because they are so sweet, they would get sad. Maybe we’ll have to diet in the spring. All five of us can take up jogging when it gets warmer. Or not. I look like an elk when I run and our sheep would probably start rolling down a hill, never to be seen again. So, joke aside, dieting is hard work and Ebba should just continue to enjoy her full fat diet.
I had a birthday this week and got lovely presents. I'm spoilt and very happy about it!
Now we have amazing coasters with pictures from our blog on them, that are too pretty to rest a mug on. I sit marveling at our friend's artistic talents and end up looking like I'm trying to get a card game going. I'm also counting our blessings, having such dear family and friends. My lovely husband bought me the book "Nigel: My family and other dogs" by Monty Don that I will enjoy immensely. The vegan chocolate that was part of the gift is calling out to me and will probably not last that long.
It feels like spring is finally around the corner.
We have sunny days with the snow melting, just to freeze again during the night. Molly skidding around the corner makes my heart stop for a second and the blackbirds bob around the place. Molly the sheep doing her version of ice skating is an annual sign of spring to come. She has a sixth sense for spotting the slippery places and heads for them with speed. Her broad, ape like face alight with pleasure when she glides past me makes me think how lucky we are to be able to spoil our friends. All sheep should have the chance to be ice princesses if they wanted to. Molly's three friends find eating hay, outside in the sun, to be the more dignified way to be a happy sheep. Each to their own.
Eric, our friendly cockerel, has grown up to become a friend of machines. Last I heard he had taken to driving small tractors and is probably reading the manual on how to start a car, as we speak. Eric's father was always telling us about all the dangerous things in life but his son seems to have missed these lectures and is enjoying himself immensely. He could not have found a better home and I expect our dear Monty to put in a request for transfer, any minute now. All I can say is that it could not have happened to a kinder cockerel...
Ebba is sleeping next to me, tongue sticking out and legs going hundred and ten. Her dreams seem to be as active as her days. She looks like an oversized squirrel and she is hogging the bed with her long legs flying about. Her tail is also flying from side to side. Life with Ebba seems to be a lot like that, long legs and speed which is fine. Life with sheep is more about calmer pace and woolly hugs and the hens bring the noise and the mess into the mixture. And when you think about it, who needs that much space in bed.
Have a lovely week and enjoy the beginning of March, everyone!
I just read an article about the fact that children don't spend so much time out in the forest anymore. In Finland!!
Our country may be small and full of anti-social people, but we do have a lot of space for children to play in. Forests, lakes, fields and the sea, to name but a few adventure-enticing choices. It's quite sad if parents don't find the forest to be part of their children's upbringing. All the beauty and diversity that nature can offer to a child's creative mind just going to waste.
We spent our childhood summer’s more or less outdoors, only going indoors for meals. This meant that we stomped around in high black rubber boots made by Nokia. They were heavy and not that pretty to look at but they saved us from being bitten by adders. There are a lot of snakes where we grew up and the adder is a poisonous one.
There was always a village’s worth of cousins around to play with and we had fun. Swim school and horseback riding, theater plays and dogs that followed us in our tracks.
I had my animals and there was never a dull moment. We did not have mobile phones and the TV reception was not brilliant, but we had books. We used to bicycle to the library bus every second week. I still remember the excitement, when evening came around and we went to bed and there were unread books waiting to be opened. For some reason the library bus was more fun than the big, nice library in town. It must have been the bicycling that made it special. I still can't stop smiling, when I'm out on a bike. My dear husband finds it a bit funny and thinks it makes me look like someone who could do with some help. I guess I could.
I do not feel that everything was better when we were young but I do feel that life was simpler for children. It was not a luxury to play, it was everyday life and we were good at it. I could have done with less cross country skiing in the winter, I must admit.
Ebba keeps us in tune with the countryside, these days. Her dislike of roads turns walking with her into a trek in the forest and mice hunting on the fields. We still do most of it at full speed and we must look so odd, bolting across fields to then do a full stop and stay put for ever and ever. Ebba believes in digging proper, deep holes when she finds the time to stop.
Her style of finding mice requires a dive, head first, into the snow. Then she starts sniffing and exhaling deeply which makes her sound like Darth Vader. I expect the empire to strike back at any minute. Tiny Jedi rodent younglings surfacing to save their world from Ebba and her big nose. I truly hope she has not already eaten all the Jedi knights as that would severely weaken their force.
This nonsense goes through my head as I stand waiting for Ebba to finish her hunting and digging. As I can spend quite a long time doing this, my mind runs away with me and all kinds of stuff pops up. Some days my mind fills with thoughts of Mr. Chip and I start missing him so much, once again. Grief does that to you, it surfaces when you least expect it and hits you till it hurts. Other days I can stand there writing long letters to friends, all in my head, that I later can't remember at all. I did think about making this into a new form of meditation technique. Hole digging and soul searching. What do you think? Ebba could be running the course and I could provide everyone with strong coffee and gloves.
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are enjoying the warm, sunny winter weather and are chomping through spruce trees and willow twigs, in the yard. They say it's tasting a bit like heaven, after all the hay they have eaten this winter and I believe them. The ground is still covered in snow and ice so their outdoor lunch is usually limited to about an hour or so. They also find time to be brushed and pampered and I get to work on my arm muscles, which is good. I sometimes believe we have the sweetest animals in the world and then two hens decide to fall out and spoil that thought for me. Ebba is kindness on long legs, but her humour can be a bit full on, at times. She finds thumping us with a big paw to see if we really were asleep, to be the funniest thing to do. She can go out for a wee, forget the purpose of the exercise and start to play with a pine cone for ten minutes instead and this can drive you up the nearest granite wall. However, Ebba means well, it's just so much fun. I have learned to wrap up warmly whenever we pop outside, Ebba and I, as I never know how long we will be. Ebba can't tell either, as her philosophy in life seems to be an extreme version of "go with the flow". We're flowing this way and that.
Katy and Trisha, our younger hens almost scared me to a standstill the other morning. I was thinking about Mindy and wondering about animal health in general. Then along came two happy hens with the most abnormally shaped feet I've ever seen! It looked like they had huge warts on their toes and ankles. However, these two were completely deformed. I rushed to look at the others but they were fine and then I realised what disaster I was facing. Katie and Trisha had first walked through a deep bowl of sour cream and then carried on plodding in unpeeled sesame seeds. The effect was pure Frankenstein's monster and in the early morning light all I saw was pain and suffering. My nerves took some time to recover.
Our animals still spend a lot of their day indoors, dreaming of warmer days to come. Our funny hens probably dream of worms and slugs, our dear sheep can dream about their green grass and hope there's still a flowerbed to be eaten. Ebba plans where all the holes should be dug. I will dream of a time when children will recapture the joy of playing in the forest finding interesting and new things to learn. I will also dream of a time when nature will once again be truly loved and cared for. I will not think of hens and their feet.
Be well and be safe.
P.S. Our sunny week has turned into slush and snow, as I write this. We are going to bake cinnamon buns and ignore the wet weather- as soon as all the animals have had their breakfast and clean surroundings. Ebba won't even notice the change in weather.
I will now be slightly boring, extremely critical and even a bit political.
The first two come naturally to me but politics is something I don't find to be very interesting and I'm clearly not good at it. The trouble is that I fear I'm not alone with this particular affliction.
It all started with Mindy being ill. We tried in vain to get a vet to come out and see her, during the weekend. On Monday morning I still got the same questions about her eating habits, but not much offer of help. By midday I had enough and pointed out to the vet that when Mindy stops eating, the game is probably over for her. The vet turned up two hours later, checked, medicated and left us with a weeks’ worth of penicillin, syringes and a syringe filled with some painkiller.
I have never injected anything into anyone and I strongly believe that that's how it should be. I have no training as a nurse and I'm a little uneasy around needles. Dear husband can't even look at a needle, so as the A-team for Mindy's welfare, we left a lot to be desired.
I spent the night going over all the options; who we could call in to help, how many days we could ask of them and what to do about Wednesday when two injections were needed. Dear husband had called around and it all seemed a bit desperate, to be honest. In the morning, I spoke to one of our long-suffering neighbors who is of the "get on with it" school of thinking, so I did just that.
Mindy is kind and lovely and apart from the day I accidentally pushed the needle into my finger, we muddled through. The first days were easier as Mindy was feeling a bit poorly but by the end of the week she seemed much stronger and wanted to walk away from it all. We all felt the same way and it was an enormous relief when the last dose of penicillin was injected.
Mindy is showing signs of getting better and my dear husband has been the best help for her, all through the week. Him being the calmest, kindest man on earth helps me a lot, too.
What makes me slightly irritated, though, is the fact that three days had to pass before help arrived. On the Monday in question our town had one vet doing all the work. She still managed to be calm and kind but her work load must have been massive. It did surprise me that she assumed we could do the medication ourselves but maybe that is how most owners of farm yard animals operate. What if someone got the same situation thrown at them and didn't want to admit defeat? Would that animal not get help? Mostly I worry that I will do something wrong and poor Mindy will pay for it. We have clearly become a town where money is being saved on care, be it caring of animals or humans.
I needed help from a town nurse, last December. I called about a pain and asked to be directed to the right person. Two hours later they called back to tell me they could help me next week. I obviously chose to seek treatment elsewhere but it made me wonder how times have changed. We can no longer rely on help being offered when needed, not for humans or for animals and as farm animals seldom go privately, it's an unnerving thought. Dogs and cats, as humans, have a range of private clinics nearby to choose from, but sheep stand alone in this money saving, new world. It's a chilling thought and something needs to be done about it.
I never thought I would sit down and complain about this, that and the runaway cat, but it turns out that I was wrong. It just seems that today's mentality is to look out for yourself, your life, your money and it's accepted as the norm. Small people (as in nice, no fuss human beings), small animals as the larger ones too, must fend for themselves. If all goes well, someone might turn up next week, if they have time.
I have no complaints about the actual care, Mindy got. The town vet who arrived is very good and our animals trust her. The point is, that by saving money and resources, the end of the week vets are being shared by many towns. This means, that driving around the countryside is too time consuming for them and prioritising kicks in. So, small, hobby sheep get pushed far back in the queue.
It was funny to see how concentrated I had to be, to get through my week of needle work, though. (Some bad nurse humour). When the last day of medication was over, I just relaxed so thoroughly that my speaking ability suffered. I could not put together a string of words that made any sense and poor husband just looked even more tired. The affliction passed, eventually and we got back to being a communicating team. Mindy just munched through her food, giving me suspicious glances from time to time. I fully understood her and just told her that you really must look long and hard to find kinder animals, than our lot. They fully agreed and continued with their eating.
P.s. A few days later our dear sheep popped out to check that all was well in the yard. I was tending to the hens when I heard Mandy call for help and rushed out to see. In less than ten minutes our dear Mandy had managed to get a proper sized branch of a Spruce, wedged inside her ear tag. There she was running with the branch following her and she was frightened and a bit confused. Mandy is permanently confused so adding fear to that is not nice!
I called her over and she came, but did not allow me to touch the branch long enough to detach her from it. I started working on plan B, when Molly called over from the stable door. She was right. Once we all went inside, Mandy was safe, calm and ate half the offending object, once it was removed. A sheep can get into trouble in the blink of an eye but as a team they are sometimes very good at solving the situation. I am learning more, all the time...
Mindy sends her love.
I got a small booklet for lists, the other day. It's called a Listography pocket book and it's very sweet. It contains pages for lists of things to do when I have more time, lists of things to look forward to, ways to nurture my mind and so forth. The funniest page is the one where I'm to write down my favorite dinners.
It struck me that I am not really a deep and profound person. I never ever make lists in my head. I long for this and that to happen, I wish that certain things will never come about and that's about it. Making lists must be something some people do and others do not. Or?
I do get homesick to places where dear husband and I have lived, during our time together. Missing friends in other countries is also something that comes naturally, if you have lived a bit here and there. However, to start writing down a list of favorite places would be difficult for me. Favorite books can also be a challenge as books represent different moods, certain places and even special people, in my mind. Some authors are directly connected to specific animals in my small, muddled brain and will always be so. To write a list according to that would take some time and probably give me a headache.
It's a beautiful little book but I'm afraid it will stay just that, pretty and empty. It would be interesting to list my perfect breathing spaces but I don’t really understand what it all means. I should sit down and fill in all the things I would like to be more knowledgeable about, but that would take a long time and fill up a lot of pages. Instead I will play with Ebba, feed the sheep and collect some more eggs. Those activities could be listed on the page of things that make me smile so maybe I could learn to be a list maker. Or not.
Mindy, our beautiful white sheep has an infection in her udder. It was a ball of infected stuff that we now emptied, cleaned up and hope will heal quickly. The vet was not highly concerned as she still eats like a horse (Mindy, not the vet, as far as I know...) but we will see how things are, in the morning. It's always a huge worry when someone is feeling poorly and I feel inadequate, every time, as a sheep keeper. Sheep and goats are tricky animals to care for as they tend to inform you that something is wrong a little too late. Mindy showed no sign of anything being wrong today, so that gives me a flicker of hope that all will be well soon. It would break my heart if anything happened to our darling sheep. Tending to her needs is a scrum and we tackle sheep left, right and center, trying to get to Mindy. Her three friends form a barrier around her when the disinfectant powder makes its appearance and we push and wrestle our way to help her. It's called sheep-rugby and we struggle to win. I could make a list of things that worry me, come to think of it.
The henhouse is back to being a calm, fun space with happy looking hens. We had to give up keeping three cockerels in one place and little Matti and Ullrick went to heaven. Matti became so horrid to the hens that the young ones stayed where they had slept and missed their food times. Ullrick copied his friend and it just became unbearable to watch. He pulled feathers and chased around like he was not altogether there.
I spent a few sleepless nights over this and then made the sad decision. We did not have good homes to send them to and it being in the middle of the winter did not help. Just giving them to someone we did not know well was never an option so to heaven they went. Sad times, but half an hour after they left the hens were munching away and two days later everyone started laying eggs, in abundance. Monty is calm and sweet again and told me that this is how it should be. I do believe him but I miss the young cockerels we lost, but certainly not the grown-up ones they became. Why they had to be so horrid I don't understand as young Eric grew up to be a charmer. Maybe the feisty breed of ours could not handle sharing hens. I do know that the sheep felt relieved when their friendly, calm hens returned to them. I certainly don't miss having hens flying in to me in panic as they were being chased by nasty young boys.
So, I could write a list of things I wish had not happened and a list of friends I miss from the animal kingdom.
Life's little ironies; we just started the year of the rooster, as China celebrated their new year. Maybe we can make it the year of Monty and, once again, hope for the best?
Happy New Year to all who celebrates it this time around. The world could do with starting afresh.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.