Mr. Chip is no longer with us.
It turned out this autumn was his swan song and we feel it was too short.
Last weekend our dear old dog got up from his basket, after an invigorating nap and something happened. We don't know if it was his back or the wobbly leg but the result was that he started walking slightly sideways again. You could see in his eyes that something was awfully wrong, though. So Monday was a day of pottering about, Mr. Chip got lots of treats, (in moderation) and he was hugged and kissed even more than usually. There was some sneaky hen food eating on the agenda too and good for him! There were also some tears...
On Tuesday we said goodbye to our dear, lovely dog.
Mr. Chip was a dog that touched people's hearts. He had that sort of kindness you wish everyone could encounter, at some point in life. He was also the cutest dog I have ever seen. Mr. Chip was kind to all other dogs he met and never scared anyone. He was lovely with children and you could trust him to remove himself from a situation he did not feel comfortable in, instead of him making a scene. He was a fox terrier who knew how to be a gentleman.
Mr. Chip was no pushover.
He could be stubborn like a mule, he was fast as lightning when younger and he ate live mice, which was utterly disgusting to watch. Too greedy to kill before swallowing, was our friend. Then he looked into your eyes, twinkling away and you agreed that mice were better eaten like sushi and that chasing hares was good for the digestion. He always seemed to win the battles but in the kindest possible way. All we had to do was to keep him safe and love him to bits... How we will adapt to sleeping in a bed lacking in sand, soil and a wildly kicking dog is anybody's guess.
In order to sleep, you have to stop crying.
We miss our little friend so much that it hurts. Not having him constantly bobbing around our feet, makes us feel lacking in so many ways it's impossible to list them. To be able to eat an apple without Mr. Chip yelling loudly has taken the fun factor out of apples. I've completely gone off cucumber. All those years of being told by a little white dog that all the cucumber in the world was his has made a lasting impression on me. I will eat bananas from now on...
A few years ago, when we were at the graveyard, Mr. Chip and I, he met a young man.
I was tending to a grave, our kind dog was waiting near by, when I heard someone addressing him. The young man sat down next to Mr. Chip and started telling him about his loss, his heartache and his worries for the future. Our dear dog sat there, listening and nodding. He was there for this man, a stranger who needed his support. They finished their conversation and the young man looked up and saw me. He wished me a happy holiday and thanked Mr. Chip for his time and left. After a while we met up with him again and he commented on what an amazing dog Mr. Chip was. I told him that this dog had a family who wholeheartedly agreed with the man on that one.
There is a bright candle on our dear friend's grave, lighting up the night.
It's been days of fixing and mending at our home. Dear husband has built, amongst other things, a new barn door, as the old one did not really work anymore. A door should not let in snow in the winter so even if it does look beautifully wonky, it has to be replaced. My job is usually to paint. This time I had four sheep with me as work leaders and general helpers. It was a little unclear who was who, but Molly was definitely the paint taster. She actually ate black paint when my back was turned! And survived.... Amazing animals....
As the weather was warm and summery this week, our hens were busy elsewhere. Little Ulla is growing up fast and Matti and Maja are starting to look like young, thin but grownup birds. They have all been roaming the countryside, enjoying the abundance of lingon berries in the forest. Ulla still beeps along so we can hear where they are but Matti and Maja have learned that by being quiet they can get away with a lot of things. Maja seems to be a sensible soul but young Matti has to be where the action is. This results in all the hens getting annoyed with him at one time or another during the day. As Matti is not a stoic bird, his protesting calls can be heard far and wide. (So much for keeping quiet....).
Lotta was never a doting mother to Matti. She can tolerate Maja but that's about it. Pippi is a brilliant mother hen and both Eric and Ulla have had the benefit of a caring mother. Matti has been left to bob along, as best as he can manage, so even Monty woke up to the fact that the little chap needed company. Monty's style is not always so gentle so we have had words about how to guide a young son out into the world, and now they seem to be getting on better. Monty is changing his tail feathers at he moment and is looking a bit scruffy. This makes the hens ignore him for most of the day, so Monty has time for his son. It's ironic that when the father looks a bit tired around the edges, his son is growing up to be very handsome and sweet natured.
As young Matti and his companions now add up to 14, we have started to rearrange the hen house. W need more space to fly around, more indoors playing areas for the cold months to come and more sleeping places by the radiators. I decided that the potted plants should be young spruce trees, as they can be eaten by everyone and if planted in acid soil, should thrive in a hen house. (And if Molly starts snacking, I don't have to loose a night’s sleep over that, at least...). We are also hanging branches from the ceiling so that the hens don’t just ride around on the sheep, all winter. On the whole, we just hope for a very mild winter, the animals and I.
My sister popped over for the weekend and it was lovely. Monty wanted to show her how it's done and chased, caught and ate a mouse in front of my poor sister who was trying to enjoy afternoon coffee in the sun. This was the first time our funny cockerel did not share his food with the hens. It was obviously too tasty, and he did not even offer my sister a bit of the tail! Lina, the hen, was very upset about the whole thing and told him so, loudly. So if you have problems with mice, just give Monty a call!
Mr. Chip has started working again and is taking us out for long, invigorating walks. My dear husband then shares his work in turn with Mr. Chip, so he can be seen following the lawn mower around the place. Both as happy as the other... It's wonderful to watch and long may it last.
I checked and the book said that as chickens are omnivores, they will eat seeds, leaves, herbs, insects and small mammals like mice, if they can catch them. It's the gizzard, the part of the stomach that contains tiny stones, that then grinds up what they eat. Oh goody... I guess it is ecological food, locally produced and all that, but still not so nice, especially for the mice. We also have a huge badger that is turning over our lower field, looking for wasp's nests. At least that one is too big for Monty to cobble up.
Have a nice week and join me in three cheers, as Dasha is back!!!
The morning of my dear husband's birthday went off with a bang. Literally....
The farmer next door, who had decided that enough was enough, blew up a huge stone that was in the field, just next to our house. All the maneuvering around it with a tractor takes time and where there's a rock, there is no crop growing. We were informed about this loud project so Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My were called back in to the stable while this was happening.
It's amazing to see how happy our sheep get, when asked indoors even though the sunny day has just started. It was like Christmas Eve in there, all snuggled up and smiling before I even get the door closed. They did lift an eyebrow when the loud bang was heard but that was all. "We're safe and sound indoors", seemed to be their view on special events. And why not?!
Monty went quiet for an hour or so and then got back to his tooting. The field looked a bit wild with sharp stones scattered far and wide. The rest of the day was lovely and dear husband got presents that made him smile. Apparently they are going to share the bones Mr. Chip gave him, which is fair enough.
It's apple-picking season and this year we have a lot of fruit to enjoy. This means that the elks pick apples from the trees, the deer population pick them from the ground and what they omit to eat, our barrel sized sheep take care of. Birds peck at the apples that are still on the trees and we hope to get a few, before they are all gone. So all hands, feet, and beaks to the pump, so to speak..... It is a lovely season, though...
Our vast squirrel community has once again had babies so now tiny tots are hanging around the oak trees. Thin, long tails whisking away and small faces appearing amongst the leaves. They are very sweet animals but it makes me a bit apprehensive, thinking of all the food we have to provide, this winter. Mr. Chip is standing under the trees hoping that someone will miss and fall out of there. With his luck it will be the tired mother squirrel and he will have to make a run for it.
Henrika the hen is laying her eggs somewhere in the forest, close to our house. I have tried to follow her to her nest but she turns and walks away when she sees me. Why she has moved her production line outside is anyone's guess but it's a bit unnecessary as there is enough space indoors, for everyone. The funny thing is that she has started turning up, small head sticking out amongst the long grass, squawking at me, telling me that another egg has been made. And I can't find them for love or money... One day the pile of eggs will be so high that even I will spot them!
We got a picture of little Eric and his ladies' yesterday. He is enormous and probably the loveliest looking cockerel I have ever seen. He was on his way to take a mud bath in a nearby stream and had a look of determination about him. It was lovely to see him again.... I still haven't visited our friend's, more because of lack of time than because I'm a wet blanket when it comes to saying goodbye to Eric, again. One day... He lives like a king with nice people so Eric is not complaining. Nether am I, we were lucky to place him with good friends, him being the height of a small dog, and all. Eric's new family kindly lent us a picture of him, for this text. I thought we all would enjoy seeing him again. As you can see, he still hangs out with the same breed of hens as before. This must make him feel secure, I think.
Sitting outside in the garden is like a computer game, at the moment. "Spot the hens," ten points extra for catching a glimpse of little Matti the cockerel. No points for Monty, as he informs us where he is. Autumn seems to be a busy time for our hens and now they have taken up running from one place to the next. It gives a sort of Alice in Wonderland feel to the place. We are expecting a white rabbit any day now, clock and all...
Mr. Chip is sunbathing and eating like a horse. Apparently older dogs are supposed to do that and food is extra important for them, or so he tells us. He is in a feisty mood, barking and growling when walking in the forest. He has taken to patrolling in the yard too, barking loudly as he goes. Maybe the bear is close by or maybe he is feeling inspired to be a guard dog now that he is 14 years old and should really retire. Whatever the reason, we enjoy watching him take over the world and when he barks the sheep answer so it all becomes quite musical and lovely. Monty can be heard muttering in between and that's nice too. The rest of the hens have no time for musical interludes, they are jogging...
Mice can apparently jump down 3-4 meters without injuring themselves. How do they get up?
Have a good week and enjoy all these lovely autumn days. We are eating apples...
Monty is calling out loud and clear from the top of the manure-heap. He has found a spot where his voice echoes around the village so that we can all enjoy his jazzy sound. The air is crisp and it is one of those perfect days. Our hens are on a mission to make it around the grounds at least twice in one day so they can be seen rushing around. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are grazing and sunbathing, all at the same time. I'm on my third pot of coffee and enjoying writing this.
I have a little toe that is broken at the tip. It's so sore I could scream and it's all my own fault.
The mornings are beautiful at the moment and the animals are in such a happy frame of mind that I thought we should celebrate a bit. So I took some oats out to our sweet sheep while still wearing Crocs and feeling all hippy dippy happy. Oats are the best things ever for our ladies and I should have known better. Molly got over exited and butted me in the back of my leg. Mindy, on the other hand thought she would be left without her treat if she were not close enough to me. So she climbed up on my foot and snap went my little toe. Mandy and My take these kind of things in a much calmer fashion so they just stood waiting to be served. The result of my bright idea is me limping around, wishing I'd worn proper shoes for the occasion.
We started our exercise regime early today, Mr. Chip and I. Our lovely dog asked for a walk once the animals had been let out so off we went. Halfway through the walk I spotted a huge bird of pray heading towards our stable. It flew over the fields straight in to the yard. As I am limping and Mr. Chip has a wobbly leg there was not much we could do but to hurry home in our own, funny way. (We looked like a badly made sitcom about why exercise is good for you...).
A few minutes later I heard Mindy, our brave, white sheep scream. Dear Mindy is, as I have told you, loud as a foghorn but this was her making a completely different sound. She went for it full pelt and no other sound was heard from the yard. I dreaded what we would find on our return but all was well and the sheep were showered with goodies and high praise. The hens had all gathered under a big spruce and Monty told me that all was under control. Little Matti and Maja had no clue as to why everyone was in the same spot for once but bobbed along happily in everyone's feet.
The week has had its ups and downs for dear Mindy but the hens were saved and my toe will get better, albeit a little more crooked than before. Mindy is our hero of the day and is very pleased with all the extra attention she is getting.
Hens are very practical souls, which meant that half an hour later they were off on their ramblings, once more. They really can't stay in one place for long. Our lot could enter a half marathon and make it - the way they work on their fitness routine...
I'm starting to dread the winter ahead when fourteen beaks are to share a house with four sheep. We will have to build (I say we but we all know it's dear husband who will be swinging the hammer...) a lot of entertaining climbing frames and maybe one more playhouse. We will also have to provide two sandboxes, otherwise they will end up queuing half the day.
I have been thinking if some big plants could be an idea. Monstera and some other big leafed indoor plants, just to make it more festive. I will have to read up on that... Molly would of course eat them but if they were kept in the henhouse, it might work. I wonder if other hen keepers have tried this? No cactuses, though....
The big autumn cleaning day is coming up. Dusting, dusting and more of the same.... Then we can try an alternative to sawdust in the henhouse. Hemp or peat, I guess. Hemp would be a more friendly option for the environment, so we will probably choose that. Less dust is what we are looking for.
For now we will enjoy the fact that nature is providing the daily entertainment for our animals and hope for a long autumn season. The snow will arrive soon enough and if the previous years are anything to go by, it will all turn up within a few days.
Dear husband is celebrating his birthday next week. We are all looking forward to cake and merriment and we have a present. Our dear sheep thought some dry bread would be an idea, the hens thought dear husband would like some nice, colourful feathers and Mr. Chip said that you can never go wrong with a small chewing bone. I thought it better to add something to that list.
We are not alone for long in the forest, at the moment. The deer ked or deer fly has started moving around. It was named Lipoptena cervi by Carl von Linne' in 1758 and turned up in Finland in the 1960s. We would gladly send it back to wherever it came from as it must be making life a living hell for deer and elk. Thankfully, it does not like sheep, though....
Have a nice week, be well and hopefully dry. The rain is pouring down over here, once again. Maybe time to think about that ark, yet again...
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.