It's been one of those perfect weeks of May, weather wise. Sunny and warm days that brought out all the colours and all the smells of the summer to come. Ebba the dog stood listening intently this morning and it hit me that we can once again hear the wind play in among the leaves of the trees.
Sadly, we lost a cockerel chick this week. It must have been a bird of prey as they are the only ones that get so close to the stable, without a sound. It's worrying, how they can squeeze themselves in to small spaces and still manage to kill. We had a sad day and Trisha is now tending to four round young ones. They are turning six weeks of age tomorrow and Pippi's little one is right behind them. Jane's chicks are only a few weeks old and are still sporting yellow fluff combined with long feathery wings.
Trisha and Pippi have started teaching their lot to climb trees and to fly longer distances. The taking off bit is quite under control and the flying looks good but the landing can still be a bit tricky. We must duck for fast approaching feather dusters at times, but it's all very sweet. Our dear sheep are getting used to being the landing place for flustered chicks and the mother hens are not so protective, to the point of hysteria, anymore. This leaves the field open for us to start interacting with the funny bunch without being pecked by anxious hens.
It's about time too, as we should start picking the chicks up and making them feel safe with us. This is just one way of making sure that the hen house stays a calm and happy place. Half wild hens make the winter months feel even longer as everyone gets restless if some of their friends are going hundred and ten around the stable.
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are already putting in their hours on this project and they are doing a good job of it. I keep having to wipe goo of their beautiful faces as small birds have been landing on them, first thing in the mornings. It seems that visiting the sheep is part of the morning routine for the young ones and sometimes the landing.
Our kind sheep have started their nomad life, once again. They wake up early and head off, munching away until midday. That's when they have introduced taking their siesta indoors and we are kind enough to oblige. After a few hours nap they head off again and if the evening is nice and dry, they can stay out for a long time.
This all sounds a bit over the top, but they are already four middle aged ladies so why not indulge them a bit? They feel safer sleeping in the stable and it's cooler for them, in there. This, of course means that we still end up cleaning their pen twice a day, but there are worse things in life. Plus, our guest hen that stayed on, loves to help with the mucking out and finds this system to be highly recommendable. She hurries over to assist when she hears that the wheel barrow is moving about in the stable.
This is fine, but when we had a rainy morning and all the chicks decided to help out, I could hardly move for small feet everywhere. Small birds beeping and milling around your feet can make you a tad sea sick, I've noticed. That and the fact that hardly anything gets done briskly makes you wish for a very dry and warm summer to come. Or hoping that our young hens will soon start to enjoy a spot of rain.
The month of June is just around the corner and I must start digging and sorting out the vegetable patch. It should all be done by now, but time flies and we will get there, just with a later time table. A friend of mine commented about the same problem at their end and said that things do not always have to be done the same way, every year. That's a very healthy way to look at things, when you think about it. The hens will help me turn the soil and our dear dog can dig holes for me.
I pruned the grapevine last year to the brink of extinction so that's done, at least. It really peaked from that harsh treatment so I was very lucky. It's an old and dear wine, just neglected at times. This year it's getting a new bed of horse manure and lots of love and care from our hens. They pop by to check about the worm situation and once the manure has been spread out, the hens will think Christmas has arrived early. Our dear sheep will not be interested in this project until there is growing evidence of tasty times to come.
My week was one of those where time ran away from me and things did not get done. This was a good thing, in some ways, as dear husband stepped in to help (with this as with everything else.) and made us a wonderful gluten free rhubarb pie. Almond flour, cinnamon and not too much sugar made the rhubarb taste fresh and light. If I did not love bread so much I think I would turn down gluten altogether. I'm sure it would be a healthier way to be, but as we are the country of rye bread and butter. Did you make a gluten free treat?
Ebba the dog is now informing me that it's time to go to bed. She is a whimsical and a full-on dog in many ways, but her sleeping patterns are very organised and strict. So off to bed I will have to go, as I'm very well trained.
Be well and let's try to have a Happy June, everyone!
Finally, the weather turned from the Antarctica to something resembling the Mediterranean. It really feels like spring is here when I can let the animals out early in the morning, dressed in my pajamas. It's faster too, not bundling up in down jackets and winter boots, just to walk over the yard.
It seemed like the lawns and fields turned green overnight and now the trees are also joining in the fun. The gardening season can now start in all earnest and it feels like summer is just around the corner.
Our dear animals are in a brilliant mood and eating themselves into a stupor. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are the size of large barrels, all of them happily rolling around and enjoying life to the full. Ebba the dog runs around trying to catch anything and everything that flies, crawls and hops about. Bumble bees and snakes are going to be our problem this summer as our dear dog is very quick off the mark. Shielding her from stings and bites will be a full-time job, we fear.
The hens are finding worms again and the whole village can hear our dear Monty. Can it be that him being a father of eleven chicks has made him an extra vocal cockerel? It can't be the light as that's been around for a while, but of course the warm weather might have something to do with it. Maybe he has extremely warmed up vocal cords this week and has decided to do an endurance test on them. Whatever the reason, all we know is that he is loud.
Our older hens don't seem to mind that, but keep running away from him as green grass, bugs and slugs have sent Monty far down on the list of interesting things in their life. Maybe his pride is hurt and that's what he's tooting about? Who knows....
The dry, beige tinted grass, left from last summer around the stable looks like it's alive and moving in waves. That's where eleven chicks and their mothers spend their days. As I've told before, we leave it on purpose as it's such good camouflage for our beige, brown hens to move in. We do have a lot of pray around, waiting to get at our animals.
The two groups of five small chicks move side by side with their edgy mothers muttering threats to each other. Trisha's five, who arrived first, have already changed into their first set of coloured feathers. It seems we have three of her own and two borrowed young ones in that group, as they have Trisha's very distinct colouring. At least two birds in that group look like cockerels so joy, oh joy when we have young ones with their mother's feisty temperament and their father's dizzy look on life. We will have to move.
Pippi does what Pippi does best in life: - she tends to her one chick, feeding and fending for it with such concentration that nothing else matters, for the moment. If anyone comes too close, she sends them away and this year our dear sheep aren't even allowed to help her look out for the little one. We are keeping fingers, toes, eyes and everything else crossed for it to finally being a little hen that she is nursing. So far, she has brought up two cockerels and it would be nice for her to get a daughter for a change. Feeding a little cockerel is demanding work and as she likes to do everything herself, she does get tired out. Hopefully her almost over the top care is a sign that it's a small girl that she is fending for.
Jane still sleeps with her five fluffy chicks in the maternity ward at nights. We must keep them separate as the youngest one is still very small. Still, she got wings in record time, probably due to the wintry weather, but that affected her balance a bit. She eats, beeps loudly and runs almost as fast as the others, but I fear she might get trampled by the older hens by mistake. So, Jane lives like royalty for the moment. Our young mother is not complaining but I do hope it does not make her very "high and mighty" towards the other hens. Time will tell.
I had plans to name all the young ones this week but that will have to wait. They change every day so as soon as we know who's what we will have the name giving ceremony. For the moment it's more about food, water and love.
Our neighbor, the friendly squirrel that has lived all winter in the hay barn had her first litter of babies. I met her one morning this week, carrying small brown bundles out on to the road. There they sat, long spindly tails and big eyes, blinking in the sunlight. One small one looked hopefully at my leg but I steered it to the closest tree, where it started it's climbing career. Having a tame squirrel in the house would not be ideal as we already have Ebba, the world’s best fixer dog. What a small climber friend and a large jumping dog could get up to, is more than we could cope with.
(Dear Monty just ventured into Ebba's empty paddock and is now trying to remember how to get out again. I know that one of the hens will soon show him the way as this happens on a very regular basis. Dizzy....)
The sun is up, the animals are grazing and it's time to start the day. Let's hope it's a good one, for all and everyone.
My aim this week is to learn how to make a gluten free rhubarb crumble. It does not sound like much, but as I'm a disaster in the kitchen, it will be a bit of a project. At least the hens can eat my failed attempts and I do have written instructions. Let's make it a gluten free week-everyone should try to make something and then we can compare notes. Good luck, for I know I will need it.
Spring, as we know it, has not been kind to anyone this year.
At first, we had some nice, warm weeks but then the weather turned on us. Snow, sun, hailstorms, rain plus minus degrees during the nights. The poor birds that migrated here must not have known what to make of it all.
In the middle of all this ten little chicks arrived. Ten very surprised small birds that bob about in their mother's wake, thinking that they should have stayed in their warm cocoons just a tad longer. They started visiting their friendly neighbours the sheep as soon as their little wings carried their small, plump bodies, just for some extra warmth. The radiator is a popular spot for small gatherings, too.
Our four sheep were sheared very early this year, already at the beginning of May. This was for practical reasons, as our friendly sheep farmers had time to come out and help us. The other reason is, that with this odd weather we are forced to keep the stable warm and snug for the hens which can get too warm for the sheep. Their woolly jumpers are thick and probably slightly itchy after a long winter, so the "spring look" arrived early and they love it. So now everyone is ready for summer to arrive and we have minus four degrees in the nights.
This is not a normal springtime for plants, either. We have perennials growing in the flower beds that look like they have been kept in the refrigerator. They have slimy, limp leaves and seem to have stopped growing all together. They have not frozen their roots but from an esthetic point of view they have looked better. It took the grass forever to start growing but now there is enough greenery outside for the sheep to have got the spring back into their little, older legs. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are ready to burst through the door, each morning, for some fresh, cold breakfast and they don't seem to mind the Arctic conditions at all. It must also feel so nice, being all light and bouncy after all that wool.
We decided that the shearing should be done from the ground, this time. No more climbing up on the shearing table and then secured. It was mostly me saying this as I don't like the impact the jumping down does to their knees. Or the fact that when they start messing about, they can seriously injure someone by knocking them over.
As I don't actually do much during the whole shearing process, it felt a bit wrong to change things, but it went well. The poor farmer had to spend a lot of the time kneeling on a cold stable floor but our dear sheep were as good as gold and very calm. I guess they felt safer on the ground and just stood enjoying it all. You really have to look hard, to find nicer animals than these four sheep. And, for that matter, funnier looking ones with their round tummies and large heads on top of spindly legs.
This was the year that we were supposed to look over the number of hens in the stable. The winter is long and with quite a few hens to feed and clean up after, it takes up a fair amount of time, each morning. All good intentions and all that. We now have eleven grown up hens, ten small chicks and Monty the cockerel, running around in the stable. That's a lot of feathery friends to look after, but what can we do? Monty still bobs about with a startled look on his little face, not knowing what's going on. Our dear sheep are happy though, "the more, the merrier" seems to be their motto, when it comes to hens. They stand stock still when they have tiny chicks visiting with a smile on their proud, beautiful faces which I find makes up for a lot of the cleaning.
Gardening will have to wait a bit but with everything else going on, it's fine by us. Ebba the dog finds that a brisk morning walk is even nicer in cool weather. She is also helping dear husband to build. Ebba's little house for her play pen is currently on the agenda. It will have a flat roof so that she can sit up there and keep a look out for bandits. The fact that she is such a buzzy bee, never in one place for very long, is neither here nor there. When the summer gets on its way, it will be nice for Ebba to have her little house to retreat into for a little nap and some shade. The flat roof is for comfort as I never have understood how Snoopy can cope - and yes I know he is a cartoon character. The building team will make a lovely addition to all small and larger shelters already scattered around the place. Thank goodness that dear husband makes such charming wood work that they are a pleasure to have around.
We have a sun and rain shelter for the sheep, where the hares ate their hay, during the cold months. Our dear sheep never ever go near it as they might miss some of the goings on, in the yard. We have a playhouse for the chicks, where the oldest hens lay their eggs. We have small wooden houses for the new hen families to sleep in. They are now egg laying places as the new families live nomad lives. The funny thing is that if we removed any of these constructions, the complaints would be heard far and wide. So, we know how this new project will turn out. Some extremely rare bird will find Ebba's new house to be the only place to nest in and our kind dog will have to do her own production of "The fiddler on the roof." At least the roof is flat.
Thank you for charming name suggestions-next week we will introduce the full list and character features of the fluffy team. Some boy's names would be helpful as we are being realistic.
Have a lovely Mother's Day, where it's celebrated today and just a lovely week in general. All the best, beep, beep.
I have the perfect spot to drink my perfect cup of coffee. The spot is not a café in Helsinki where the sun always shines, nor is it the café in town where the cakes are to die for. My perfect place is on the old step, by the front door, looking out at Ebba's play paddock.
The step has been brown, the paddock was once new and had a straight and shiny fence and we also had a nice flowerbed nearby. Our dear sheep ate the flowers. Paint tends to wear off, but I could not care less as it's worn off evenly. I sit, leaning against the house on two very old, worn cushions and just feel a little bit happy.
The reason for my carefree disposition is our animals. Oh yes, dear husband too!
No, really. When you skip the nice garden chair and the practical garden table the animals feel that you are more approachable, or so I find it, anyway. Ebba has her dog run next to me, the hens come right up to my feet, checking if I have any treats for them and our lovely sheep stand around the corner, sneak peaking to see if Ebba is loose. They will soon be brave enough to just step right up to the door, loudly demanding their share of the goodies.
Mosquitoes have started to fly around our heads, but Ebba catches them for us. That's her treat dealt with. She does have a new bone to chew on, the bugs are just something a little extra.
It's early evening and the two hens and their chicks have gone to bed for the night. Soon Monty will begin to droop and when he starts to look like a completely wilted flower, it's time to put the rest of the henhouse to bed. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My wanted to go in ages ago, but as this is one of the first nice evenings, in a long time, we should all be outside for a while.
Ebba's friend's, the cranes, are serenading the evening sun or maybe celebrating the day's frog hunting. Perhaps they just had a moment of happiness to and wanted the village to know? It's hard to know with cranes.
Dear husband is returning home in the tractor so Ebba is now wanting to stretch her legs. This means that I will soon be sprinting behind a rested dog, wishing I had four legs, too. With my brilliant brain, I would never figure out how to handle that, so two it is.
Speaking of rested. Both mother hens have realised that by hanging out with me, they can use the outdoor pen and finally get some sand baths. My input is to babysit the chicks and look out for gangsters. As they can't spend any time together, the two mothers, they must take turns being outside. My life as a chick minder! I do have help though, as four woolly heads follow our every move. It must be a very brave gangster to approach us!
Edit: After two days, the mothers realised that by being nice to each other, they got rid of the chick minder so I'm off duty again. Clever birds.
Gardening season is upon us and this year we will plant more blueberry bushes. We have the forest full of bilberries, I know, but there is something so charming about the shape of a blueberry bush in their midst. I will also try my hand at growing some asparagus, but the outcome of that will be next year’s news. Beans and peas will be the main crops. Perhaps Ebba will be a pea loving dog too, we will see. Dear husband says he'll grow mostly weeds, this year. We can only hope that he's joking.
Thank you for brilliant name suggestions! We now have a chick called Puffball and one called Thistledown. I can only imagine Puffball growing up to become a very handsome cockerel. Do send in more names or the rest will end up called Sprinter, Digger and Squeaker and that would not do, as they seem to be a charming lot. Sunny is the tiny chick and beeps a lot.
Ebba fell asleep on her kitchen sofa. Too much fresh air can do that to you. She has been exercising dear husband all day too, she told me. It is nice, the way the days get longer and when the cold nights go away, we can start celebrating springtime properly. We might just join the cranes, down on the field and sing our little hearts out. Or not, said dear husband!
Take care, be well and what about Willow for a name?
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.