Happy midsummer weekend to all and everyone!
We have reached the middle of what it's called the summer over here. As I write this, the rain starts pouring down once more. As it's a bit nippy too, it certainly does not feel like it's time for picnics and paddling.
So, we have been doing home chores all three days, dear husband and me. Our animals have been happy to help as best as they can. Ebba has been an all-round helper, sticking her nose into every project with catlike enthusiasm.
The hens have helped by roaming quite happily somewhere, trying to save the world all on their own. Monty also pops in to have a go at being the loudest cockerel in the county. He does this on our step, facing the house so we really can't miss his antics. The birds also take turns digging up my old flowerbed, so that's coming along a treat. Our lovely, kind sheep have helped by eating weeds, bushes and all other eatable greenery that we have been clearing away.
We lost one of our sweet hares to a big bird of prey. It was a sad moment for all of us and dear Ebba stands by the window, waiting for its return. It's heartbreaking to watch her, leaning against the window, tail slowly wagging and all she sees is blackbirds and seagulls. One nervy, jumpy hair is all we have got left. Poor Ebba. We have tried to tell her that once the babies grow up they tend to fly the nest or in our case, the apple tree but to no avail.
When we feel like lifting the spirit of this household we have the option of going to the hay barn. Not to role in the hay, I hasten to add, though that would be a very old school midsummer festivity... But sadly no; hay fever and shyness keeps us away from that kind of activity in the hay barn. Plus hay is surprisingly prickly.
We would feel shy, for seldom have so many eyes been monitoring the comings and goings in this particular barn. We now have more bats than ever sitting between the metal roof and the old, wooden plank roof. We can hear them beeping and squeaking in that high pitched voice of their species in the afternoons and then they start moving about. It sounds like small grains of sand pouring down along the roof and then a small head pops out from a hole in the old planks. Then more and more funny, fury faces turn up and there we are, they stare at us and we at them.
There is always some eager soul that leans just a tad too far out to get a good look at us and then has to fly around the barn for a while. Bats have bad eyesight, so it's understandable that some leaning is required and maybe we smell funny to them. We stand and admire the flyby and then sneak out of there. (I say we but mostly it's me, as dear husband does useful things around here).
Bats make an unholy mess in the barn and probably drive the resident squirrels up the wall, but there they are and we are pleased to have them. They eat flies and other bugs, so that's a help to our sheep and it is lovely to watch them fly, in the evenings. We also have bats up in the attic, so it's safe to say that we have gone completely batty! Still, better batty than ratty.
It's that time of the year when whatever we do, we're surrounded by animals. That's what you get for having them roaming and pruning all and everything. The elk and her two babies stay around our place and why not - the more the merrier as my dear sister would say. Dear husband sighs "There goes the donkey derby, again" when our funny sheep run past our front door.
As we worked through our list of chores, we realised that this has probably not been the traditional way of celebrating midsummer, but it's been a good way. Visiting loved ones and working together, getting things done and having a few laughs on the way. I always have a few meltdowns on the way, mostly due to the chilly weather, but dear husband just tries to ignore me as best as he can. Ebba laughs for both of us so that evens it out. Once I get some more food I'm back... (Come to think about it, I am a bit ratty, too...).
Our hedgehog project has come as far as me signing us up as potential carers if there are some prickly friends without a home. It would do wonders to this place, to have a population of snuffling, snake eaters bumbling about. Ebba would probably disagree or not, come to think of it. More entertainment for our dear dog. All we can do is wait and see...
Darya is working hard and will have to take a break from creating her lovely art for us. This blog will not be the same with only photos and our kind friend will be missed.
Have a good week and enjoy the warm weather, wherever it is hiding at the moment. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are happy with our cool, animal friendly summer. Ebba is not complaining, either and is telling me to get a grip and dig out the old winter coat. Take care!
I had an epiphany this week.
As walking with Ebba has started to feel a lot easier, less like swimming against the tide, I had to take a minute to think about it. The main reason for this is, of course, all the hours dear husband has spent with our funny dog. Ebba's confidence is growing, her humour is blossoming and she has learned where our walking routes take us. The revelation was that I have become a lot fitter since our dear dog arrived. No wonder walking feels more like a fun time spent outside and the uphill parts are less of a struggle.
Ebba's diet is a mixture of Barf and "ready made in a can" food. Raw cow stomach is apparently very tasty and stinks to high heaven. We bake an assortment of grains and seeds in the oven and this Ebba likes to eat with a bit of buffalo, for example.
We tried to do the Barf diet in a stricter, more organised way but it was too much for her tummy. We knew where she was, just by the lingering smell. (Ebba always looked so surprised by these gusts of wind and tried to blame them on us). She still eats quite healthy food and no sweet things so we can only hope she'll put on some extra weight, at some point.
I was introduced to pasta made of chick peas and I am now completely hooked. It's tastier and healthier than normal pasta made from wheat. That's my input to healthy living. Soya yoghurt and coffee keeps me going and ice cream, which goes without saying.
Our hens are eating us out of house and home, at the moment. They are working hard at producing eggs and being nature explorers so they need plenty of energy, or so they tell me. I just took them some evening porridge and it went down a treat.
Our pensioner hen is having so much fun following the chicks around and enjoying Monty's company that she seems to get younger as the days go by. I asked her if she did not find Monty a bit dizzy, but apparently good looks go a long way, when it comes to cockerels. That's good, I guess as otherwise the hen population would be diminishing rapidly. Monty is also a kind soul, though.
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My have started to complain about the warm weather we are finally having. There is no perfect weather for our four ladies and we just have to accept that as a fact. Having said that - a lazy day with no interruptions finds our sheep happily having a siesta under the rowan tree. They can spend hours over there and they look so serene it could be a clip from an old movie. Then, suddenly they are off rambling again.
The summer theater group that dear husband has joined are having their premier tonight. The production is a farce written by Ray Cooney and will be brilliant fun to watch. I will go and see it next month and Ebba will have a friend over, for the evening. Pizza, doggy goodies and a good DVD to watch with Ebba. The young friend is a saint - it's official!
Our modest home sounds like it's been taken over by poltergeists. Fluttering and twittering (a gang of happy invaders) and odd sighing noises in the attic keeps our dog entertained in the evenings. That and hares outside the bedroom window and the odd deer passing by will soon send her off to a rest home, I fear.
You guessed it - the grey wagtail babies have started their flying career and are running up and down the ventilation pipe. By the sound of it, we can tell that it's a happy event. They also find throwing themselves into the nearby apple tree to be highly amusing. So far so good and they seem to know the basics about flying. Fingers crossed and we won't risk opening the bedroom window on that side, for a while. No need to tempt faith.
I will let you go, but first I have to admit I have fallen head over heels in love. It's most awkward and not at all what I had in mind but I think that's how love works. His name is Milton and he is a 9 week old cockerel and believe me, he melts hearts. He is a grey, funny looking little thing with the same kind of enthusiasm for life as little Eric had. The fact that he looks like he's made from small Lego blocks right now, just adds to his charm. Milton loves our sheep and is already a keen horseback rider. His stallions are four slightly circular sheep, but he does not mind.
Have a happy week and hold fingers and toes for dear husband as a confused waiter at the theater. He apparently beats Monty in dizziness but it must be a fun role to act in. Be well.
I must say that the summer months feel like a complete luxury life to us all. The hens have turned into a pack of wild birds and are taking over their world. They spend their time out in the forest, playing in streams and jumping around on large stones in the water. It is a joy to see them so happy and the young hens move around together. Ten, loudly beeping birds that play games in the trees and fly like odd looking doves.
Our dear sheep are roaming the countryside, napping under some blossoming tree and then continuing with their munching. They do pop over to greet me now and again, but they don't have time to chat, much.
Our lovely dog is doing her own sort of blossoming. Ebba has started to interact more with people she does not know very well. She has also fallen head over heals for the smallest dog in the village. I told you about him earlier - a mix of Chihuahua and terrier of some sort and very small and feisty. Now that dear Ebba finally got to meet him nose to nose she fell like a ton of bricks for the little fellow. He on the other hand must feel like hanging out with a giant, so he growls at our funny dog and struts around like Napoleon. Love is not easy, but it did lead to Ebba now finding the confidence to chat with Napoleon's people as well. She even kissed one of the owners on her nose.
The hare that's placing out her young ones around our home is sticking to her guns. She has clearly told the baby hares that big dogs are better and safer than foxes, so here they are. When Ebba spends time in her outdoor pen, there are always small ears sticking out from the grass on the other side of the fence. It's like our dog is moving around with her own entertainment unit and we just have to keep everyone alive and safe.
One morning when I let the animals out for the day, dear husband returned from the morning walk with Ebba. I joked about the whole gang gathering and at the same time one small hare rushed over, sat down next to us, watching all its new friends. Our dog is going to soon get a headache.
I sat outside on the step one day, finishing a sowing project. It was a sunny, warm afternoon and Ebba was outside too. As I had my hands full, Trisha the hen saw her chance and boldly walked past me into the house. I could hear her plodding about and the clinking of food bowls as Trisha served herself and ate the rest of Ebba's lunch. Trisha stayed in the house for some time, clearly appreciating her "me time", away from the rest of the hens. When the visit was over she just passed me on the step, gave me a nod of greeting and carried on. Hens are funny birds.
We now know that our dear friend Ebba will not join any passing theatre companies, any time soon.
Her day out with dear husband went calmly but that was mainly because the dear dog was slightly startled by the whole thing. People in costumes and loud voices made Ebba hang around the safety of her car a lot. She was very relieved when I turned up to fetch her home. Dear husband, did not look sad, either.
The party we put together for our friend turned out to be a lovely affair. It was open invitation so people came and much laughter was heard. Some tears were also shed as it was an ending of an era, but that was expected. Our friend is loved by many and it was fun to be one of the caterers, hanging in the background, while she shone like the sun in the midst of friends and family.
My shining moment came when the clearing up started and I proudly took charge of the industrial dishwashing machine. I had an instruction manual and switched on anything and everything. Dishes gathered and sorted, all buttons pressed and swoosh, the machine started washing. The only problem was that I was so concentrated on getting everything right that I forgot to put the dirty dishes into the machine. So there I stood, giggling to myself while I pre washed an already very clean piece of machinery. Not my proudest moment, but then again, opening it mid washing to check was not clever, either. I was a little damp around the edges on my way home.
We have a family of grey wagtails nesting in our ventilation pipe above the shower room. They must have a warm and snug life. We also get an additional chirpy sound in the house that makes me think of those meditation cds. No whale soundtracks for us, we do the homespun version of calming down.
Dear Darya is feeling poorly so we have to make do with photos for the moment. We want to send her " Get well soon! " greetings from all of us here at Stoneback farm and hope for a speedy recovery. There is nothing worse than being ill in warm weather. Well there is, but you know what I mean.
Take care and hope the sun is warming all and everyone. Chirpy Chirp say our new neighbours.
Our summer seems to have been very short, as we are now back down to only plus 4 degrees C in the mornings. Slightly stormy days have not helped the matter one small bit. Mumble, mumble...
We have an overly optimistic hare mother who places her young ones around our little house. I'm quite convinced that it's as much for shelter from the wind as for safety from predators. What the caring mother has not really counted for, is the fact that one of the biggest safety issues lives in the house. Our dear Ebba dog thinks hares are toys or entertainment. This she informs us by sitting by the windows in the evenings, bolt upright, following their every move. When it all gets too exiting, dear Ebba comes and either bites me playfully (she takes my hand in her mouth like the big puppy she still seems to be. It hurts!) or tries to climb up in dear husband’s lap. This is not the best idea, as it's like sitting with an elk on your knee when she scrambles up.
Speaking of elks - Ebba met her first elk family. Now as I write this, it hit me that it was not a complete family of elks for I saw no bull. Anyway, we had an evening walk, dear dog and I (It sounds better than having a mad dash through thick foliage and closely growing trees). Anyway, we were bobbing about and suddenly Ebba tried to dive into a large patch of raspberry bushes and there stood two small, identically sized, chocolate brown young elks. They are about as sweet looking as any baby animal can be. Apart from hares, dogs, birds.
I stopped Ebba from that encounter when I heard their mother huffing and puffing behind me. The problem was that we were in the middle of the elks and the poor mother just wanted to get to her young ones. She was very agitated, and rightly so, the hairs on her neck all standing up. We all walked together for a while, the calves following us on one side of a small forest path and the mother on the other side. In the middle dear Ebba jumped on two legs, straining to get to meet at least one new neighbour? I felt very small but, I do so like elks.
In the end, we arrived to a mini clearing and the poor elk got to walk over to her babies who by then thought our funny dog must have been their daily entertainment. A bit like a clown at a birthday party. I had started wondering by then if dear Ebba is not altogether there as they say in the Durrell books.
Our happy hens are roaming the countryside, chicks and all. They are once again legally free and happy and as there are 21 of them, it looks impressive when they all head off for their adventures. Poor Monty has given up trying to keep them all together so instead he just runs around, visiting everyone. He looks a tad stressed and when the evening is upon us, he's the first one to fall asleep.
I finally had time and a sunny day for it, so I cleaned out the stable after a long winter. I emptied the sheep pen, although that's cleaned twice a day, and then took everything out from the hen's two loose boxes. It took me eight hours to clean, dust and refill with clean stuff. Eight hours!! All this because clever old me had thought peat and linseed straw would be better for the animals to sleep on, during the winter.
All I can say in hindsight is that peat might be better for the hen lungs but it nearly had mine. Every surface in the stable was covered in brown dust when I had ferried out the peat. I washed and muttered all day and I would still be going if dear husband had not stepped in to help with filling up with new, wonderful sawdust.
The linseed straw (chopped up like slippery sticks) was probably not a bad idea. However, we now know that peat belongs in the bog, full stop.
The stable is now very clean, very fresh and I do love the feeling of four happy sheep going to bed in a dust free home. The hens don't seem to notice and when they finally do, they quickly make everything messy again. Hens are funny that way.
The summer theater season is fast approaching and today our dog is joining dear husband for a day out. Ebba is going along for the rehearsals and this will probably be a day to remember. I have a party to put together for a lovely friend so sweet Ebba is turning thespian. Fingers crossed and I'll let you know how it all turned out.
Must dash, cakes to ferry, dress to find and flowers to be gathered. You would not want me as your party organiser, trust me. At least the sun is out. Will get back to this one, next week as well.
Enjoy and be happy, as our hens would say. Just looked outside and the mother hare is sitting munching away outside our house, baby at her side. So sweet.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.