Our dear dog has now her own (we like her too) two-legged friend. A young woman who that is allowed to hang out with Ebba and who gets our dog to calm down in her presence. That's quite an achievement, believe me!
Dear husband and I went away together for half a day the other week and Ebba needed a dog sitter. Just by chance I asked and found the perfect fit for Ebba. It sometimes pays to talk a lot. The other animals stayed indoors for the duration as the mixture of hens on the step, Ebba being Ebba and the sheep stressing around looking for us, can be a bit too much for anyone to cope with. This resulted in our dog having the time of her life while the sheep called through the open stable window that they wanted to play, too. Ebba's new friend has the patience of a saint and we are now asked to go away again, by our dear dog.
The point of the story? Just that we never could have imagined that sweet Ebba would find the courage to interact with a new friend in such a short timeframe. It warms our heart's and gives us hope of a dinner evening next month. With a wedding anniversary coming up and we could maybe celebrate it like normal people - dinner sans dog, sheep and hens. We will see.
I was told off for not training our dog to be on her own at home by one who knows better. Apparently, it's very important to do that and it gives the dog owner more freedom to do things without their dog.
Sit sounds odd to me, although it might sound like a good idea to most people. We don't really care for that to be honest, although I do know that most dogs spend a certain amount of time on their own. (It's different if you work away from home all day, I know.)
Ebba sleeps happily on our bed when we are outside tending to the other animals and suchlike. When we have guests, our dear dog prefers to stay in the house where she feels safe. All this is fine and works well but that does not mean that we would like to start leaving our slightly lost soul alone for hours on end. That's not why we invited her into our lives. Plus, we do have other animals to tend to, who would be very upset if they did not see any of us for a whole day either.So, we plod along and thank our lucky star that Ebba is becoming braver, for her own sake.
August will be a red-letter month for Ebba as the love of her life, little Napoleon is staying in the village. We will be touring the countryside in hope of running into him and his friends. It's going to be a long month for everyone else. We will all be very fit by September!
Speaking of being fit, do you remember to stretch after exercising? I'm being told to stretch after walking and doing gardening work and I keep forgetting to do so. This has resulted in me being as bendy as a washing board and I do believe I creak in the mornings. Yoga would probably break me in half and all this is quite ironic, considering I have overly bendy joints.
Dear husband tried yoga, one winter. He still does not know if he likes it or not as he fell asleep during the relaxation bit and never really got stuck into the yoga mode. Dear husband stopped going as driving 15km for a nap and back again seemed a bit silly. Especially in snowstorms and icy conditions.
Our dog stretches every time she heads out for a walk and our four sheep could give Jane Fonda lessons in the art of morning workouts. (One does so give away one's age, mentioning the Fonda workouts, hm.) They do look sweet as buttons while doing it, especially dear Mandy. Hens stretch when they take a sand bath and while sunbathing. Monty just flaps his wings a bit and carries on with the day. Maybe I could start there. Wave my arms around for a while, yodel like a stressed-out Tarzan and start my day. We could make a "Hello morning!" video for anyone wanting to join in. However, I guess that would mean dear husband packing up and leaving home and that would not do. So back to being the first walking, talking washing board and just to get on with it.
Take care and I do wish you could hear our young cockerels trying to sound manly and cool. It sounds like they are stuck under a bus but in a charming way. Our dear sheep are trying not to snort, kind friends as they are. Be well.
P.s. Henrika has now six chicks as all her eggs hatched. Most of them have dark stripes on their backs, which make them look like tiny, wild boar babies. They beep a lot and loves cottage cheese mixed with bilberries.
We still have seven young cockerels but their three sisters moved to a new home, this week. Last year's chick Maja was meant to move with them, but she got wise to the plan and spent that particular day deep in the forest. Not to worry, though as there is a second good-home that could take her on, if someone else can move with her. All this is to prevent building up a henhouse full of relatives. The young ones need to move, see the world and not be related to the males in their hen house. It's still sad to see them go, though.
Happy August to you all!
It's been a week crammed with perfect moments, all involving animals.
Summer makes us feel like we are living in a zoo and as my dear sister commented; "This year nature seems to have exploded on us". Blackbirds, fieldfares and all kinds of gulls are turning up outside our little house in the mornings and evenings. Funny dog Ebba chases them away and looks very proud about it, every single time. It seems to be a game that everyone's enjoying as the birds keep coming back, day after day.
The baby elks are growing and getting warier of people, just as they should be. Thanks to the hens - who are hard at work adding nutrition to all the nettles around the place - most of the hare babies have safe havens under the surprisingly tall plants, as have our chicks. It's just to hope those safe havens continues to work for them. And if one more squirrel gets babies this summer, we simply must change the name of our home to Squirrel's Nest and be done with it.
Still, the first week of our holiday brought even more animals with it, to liven up our lives. First out was a very beautiful cow from the big farm, next door. (A few kilometers away, still next door). The cows live like royalty and wander around their field's and in the forest free as birds. This particular beauty decided to give birth to her baby somewhere quiet and secluded. Her people wished to find her to check everything was as it should be so we all plodded along looking for her.
To find a happy, newborn calf wobbling along next to his proud mother on a sunny hay field is a perfect moment. I told the farmer this and that we should be dressed in old fashion costumes and playing the fiddle, to make the whole scene complete. Like an old, black and white movie, you see? No, neither did our friendly neighbour who looked worriedly at me, probably thinking I've finally gone completely odd. It was just such a happy moment.
A few mornings later dear Ebba and I went for a very early walk. Ebba bounces off like on springs, I creak behind her, believing to meet my end at the first uphill. Once I get up that one my legs wake up and I feel there is some hope for me. Ebba is a trooper and just pulls me along, so I do try to lighten her burden by moving as briskly as I can. It's just those first five minutes.
Anyway, we got into the forest and our curious dog stopped to investigate who was climbing up and down a tall aspen tree. It sounded like a squirrel but as the sun was in our eyes, it was difficult to see. I let her get on with it so I was a bit taken aback when a funny, lit up head turned up, from behind the tree trunk. It looked like an illuminated miniature Yoda, the pointy ears and the worried little face made it very Star Wars. That’s when I realised who it was and pulled Ebba away. The small pine marten seemed disappointed to have the game aborted so abruptly but pine martens bite. It was lovely to see the small, well looking creature though and once again I felt blessed to have been granted the honor. Ebba was miffed as she wanted to stay and play with her find.
The last ‘picture perfect’ moment, involving wild animals, also occurred on an early morning walk. The sun was out and the fields had just started blossoming in yellow, it's field mustard or Brassica rapa as it's known in Latin. And yes, I know! It has already bloomed everywhere else in Europe. This is Finland, where the morning temperature outside still struggles to brake the ten degrees mark. Cold nights, cool days but our animals are happy about it.
Anyway, walking on the road, fields of yellow on both sides, Ebba and I heard the loud sound of wings working steadily towards us. Two cranes were moving from one ditch to another and had decided that flying very, very low saves energy. So, there they came flying straight at us, low enough to take us with them. We ducked down, they passed in a very stylish fashion and carried on. Even Ebba stood stock still for a moment, until she realised what large birds had just passed her by. One walker’s perfect moment can be an other's missed lunch. The cranes took no notice of us at all and were soon busy eating frogs again.
Our dear sheep are acting as brave stallions when seven young cockerels and three small hens play horsy themed games. Mandy is completely taken by this and can play along for hours on end. Mindy spoils the effect for the brave jockeys by stopping to blow on them until they fly away. Molly and My are more interested in eating so the hens can ride around the countryside on their broad backs without any interruptions at all. Molly carries three cockerels at a time on her back and takes no notice to the small tag-alongs. The hens do eat any flies brave enough to land next to them. The older hens are busy nesting and grazing, so they love the fact that the youngsters are off doing their own stuff. "Some peace and quiet", they tell me.
Dear husband has finished the summer theater for this season. They have played to a full house most evenings and the play has been well received. Now dear husband has a short summer holiday too. We have a list, long as our arm of things to do for him, Ebba and I, but we have not told him that yet.
July is coming to its end and the bilberries are getting blue and ready to be picked. It's one of my favorite time of the summer. Be well, be happy and look out for low flying birds.
Our old and tested rhododendron is standing tall and in full bloom, this summer. This is a shrub that has lived the life of a nomad – first, due to lack of knowledge and later because circumstances change. I counted (on fingers and toes), that this shrub must be over twenty years old and as it's almost as tall as I am, I can't be far off with my calculations.
It started its life at our place growing on the edge of a field, fighting off grass, sun and elks. This went on for far too long and finally we got wiser and moved it to the edge of the forest, where it belonged.
Then an old tree fell next to our poor rhododendron and it ended up living in bright sunshine. The right kind of soil and nice neighbours was not enough for it and the shrub started wilting again.
The third time that our, by now, quite tired looking bush moved, we got it right. It lives entwined with an old apple tree. It also got two younger cousins for company and the sun shines on them all early in the morning and late at night. All of this has led to it finally starting to thrive and as I said, bloom like it's never bloomed before.
I have never been a huge fan of this particular family of shrubs. I find rhododendrons to be bulky and sad looking in the winter when they stand knee deep in snow. Still, we have cared for our friend and tried our best to keep it alive and happy as it was a gift and a fighter.
My old flower bed has the same sentiment going for it. It's full of plants given to me as gifts. Seedlings given to me over the years, plants given to me because a friend felt I needed them and some old school perennials another friend felt belonged with us. I then added my own favorites into this mixture of plants and it all became a wild, colourful mess. Then the flowerbed was left to fend for itself for years and is now a jungle of perennials.
This year I have started to take stock. I have moved some plants that struggled, added some more geraniums and I will still find some new flowers to fill up spaces that has been created by four lovely sheep. (I found them standing in the middle of the flowerbed, munching away, the other evening). Where there is some soil to be turned, the hens soon help out. This leads to flying plants, pecked leaves and some general fun time being had by all. Ebba the dog then gets into the swing of things and the result is yet another big hole dug somewhere where it was not really needed.
Trees are easier. Trees are planted, they grow slowly, we forget they are there and life goes on. Then one fine day we realise that we have some beautiful trees growing in funny places on our yard, much too close to each other and already populated by birds, plants and creepy crawlies. That's when we also realise that the ship has sailed and we let them be, growing up to be stunning trees, all in funny places. This happens to us a lot and we have a bundle of fun watching all the birds that live next door to us in the summer.
The hazel shrub we planted many moons ago is now as high as the oak trees it grows next to and the effect is stunning. Surprising but stunning. This garden design (ho, ho...) also allows the squirrels to move easily from hazelnuts to acorns without having to jump very far. It makes the collecting of food much safer too, as the bird of prey can't see the small busy bees hard at work. The actual bees also love the hazel for its pollen.
The conclusion is, we are no garden snobs. We will never have a very symmetrical, designed garden or even a logical yard to look at. The plants get pruned and dug up by our lovely animals, trees are eaten by elks and deer and sometimes plants that finally get going die in the chilly winter. Sometimes a shrub that is far past its middle age just takes a deep breath and starts blossoming like never before, all because even after many mistakes, we got it right, for once.
Stoneback Farm will now put its feet up, work like crazy anyway and call it our summer holiday. We will be back in touch on the Sunday the 23rd of July with more greetings from us all. Enjoy the summer and be well.
"We are going on no summer holiday, all the worry stays a week or two....."
All the same, it's not minus 10 degrees cold and the sun is high in the sky so let's try and be happy.
All the best from all of us.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.