We are about to enter the magical, heartwarming month of December. The first Sunday of advent is upon us and we are officially allowed to sing Christmas carols out loud and not just in our heads. We can also start to bake gingerbread in all sorts of funny shapes, ready for the big event.
Our dear animals do not care that we are getting into the swing of Christmas to come. They strongly believe in the "here and now" mentality so they are just enjoying our mild weather. The hens are digging for worms and our lovely, kind sheep are nibbling and tasting their way through the fields. They don't even mind the drizzling rain, as their coats are so short that I can dry them when they get back into the stable. They look like four extremely round dogs in a row when I dry them before they carry on eating, this time their hay. The hens never, ever mind rain if they have things to do and places to explore. If they don't want to be outside they complain loudly that it's cruel to make them wet and cold. It's just to let them out in the mornings and to see from which way the wind is blowing this time, so to speak....
Ebba finds all kinds of weather to be wonderful and as long as she has the company of dear husband she will go far, for long periods of time and fast. Ebba is turning into a real gem and she has the kindest of heart. She is still frightened of most people and many things but she tries to put on a brave face and soldiers on.
Ebba even got into a car and came to visit her friendly vet, one afternoon. We went to get her claws clipped, as she still feels unsure about that. It's better to let the professionals’ help, until Ebba finds more situations comfortable and safe. We also wanted to check her weight and to get some vitamin and mineral supplements for her. She still needs to put on more weight and we got some oil to add to her food, too. All went well and her relief when we got back home was so endearing to watch that it almost made me cry. She is really reluctant to enter new houses and to get into cars in case she has to move again. We keep telling her that she is stuck with us and maybe she will start to believe us, soon...
A funny thing happened when we got home from the vet. Ebba came in, ate some food and the next thing we knew she was running through the house like a dog possessed, playing with a new tennis ball. For ten years this house has been a tennis ball free zone. Mr. Chip was not allowed to play with them as he got so agitated by it that he became a slightly different dog than the kind soul we knew and loved. So Ebba turning up with one was a surprise. We wondered and pondered about this and the next night Ebba turned up with a brand new, red little Christmas elf's hat, white bobble and all. Now we are thinking that maybe Ebba has friends in high places. We do have hay in the barn, ready in case Rudolf turns up next and Ebba has the look of a dog that could mix in magical circles... and you never know, Advent time and all.
We have a Christmas rose, 'Helleborus niger', on our kitchen table. It was a gift and it just keeps making new buds amongst its white flowers. I find it's the most dignified of all Christmas blooms and the most difficult one to keep alive indoors, all through the winter. There's a legend about how it sprouted in the snow from tears of a young girl. The girl cried because she did not have a gift for little baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem. Beautiful legends aside, it's good to remember that the Hellebore family is a bunch of poisonous flowers. Maybe we should move ours away from the kitchen - or maybe not, as it's hopefully safe from Ebba there. Our kind magician still eats all our pot plants...
Molly seems to eat a lot too and she is soon the world's roundest sheep. Mandy has a haircut that makes her look a bit out there and Mindy just gets more beautiful with every passing day. My has the glossiest coat I have ever seen on any animal and wears it proudly. The sheep and I have started our winter club and meet up most evenings, in the stable. We aim to discuss world events and fashion but mostly end up talking about food and friendly hens. It's a very wonderful way to put the day to bed and we all feel better for it. The hens pop in and out but only Darya is part of the group. Darya the hen and I share the title of honorary sheep.
The Danes are selling the concept of their "Hygge" to the world as the best way to feel happy. We are doing "happy" in our own way and we do hope you have time to relax a bit in the evenings, too. Be well and Happy December to you all!
The Finnish forest reindeer 'Rangifer tarandus fennicus' is a rare and threatened subspecies of reindeer native to Finland and northwestern Russia. They are larger in size than the semi-domesticated Northern reindeer 'Rangifer tarandus tarandus' and prefer dense, boreal forest to the open tundra.
Don't we all??
P.S. We are very happy to welcome our illustrator, Dasha, back after a few weeks of sickness.
As you can see, little Ulla did a U-turn and changed colours losing her roundness. Hello Ullrick!
This means that our poor hens and sheep have three odd sounding boys beeping and yodelling to them in the mornings. Monty takes this in his stride, as he is too much in love with our guest hens to really care about the other boys in the band. Little Matti (not so small anymore...) on the other hand is already having sparring sessions with the new guy. This is still a rather sweet affair, both trying to stare the other one down. As they have the eyes on the side of their faces, they end up leaning their heads and it looks like they just have a bad hearing problem. Both of them...
Then mini Ullrick fluffs up all his tiny feathers and they start to dance. Matti has grown up and is now a very handsome young cockerel. Mini Ullrick looks like a worn down bottle brush, so the whole thing is still a game to Matti. He refuses to be challenged by someone so young, which still brings his mother along for support, when out fighting. What the spring holds for us is a totally different kettle of fish...
As the stable is full of snuggled up animals my days seems to be constant cleaning and feeding marathons. The snow is melting away again but the grazing is over for this year. The slimy grass that will appear after the thaw is no good to anyone. I do wish that the hens would pop out occasionally when the weather gets warmer, as they need the exercise to stay nice and polite with each other. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My have been out to play in the snow for a while almost every day during the cold spell. They run and battle with each other. A lot of head butting and jumping, but they soon start calling to be let in again. Half an hour’s worth of fresh air seems to be enough when it's cold outside. It has done them a world of good though, to stretch their legs and run off some of their roundness.
I'm writing this blog early in the morning, snug and warm in a big armchair in the living room. The days of sitting up in bed writing are over as dear husband needs to get some sleep in the mornings. This is not possible since Ebba the dog moved in. If she finds that dear husband is in bed after she's been out to check the world Ebba runs full pelt, leaps and lands on him, loudly wishing him a "Very Good morning". She then starts to chew on him for a bit, just to make sure he notices her and then a second leap from a short distance. Having 20 kilos worth of happy dog landing on you entitles you to be slightly cross. Dear husband just groans and I remove us from the room, briskly. Ebba is still waiting for the morning walk with her hero but now there is a closed door between them. The wait is not long, as dear husband only has time for an hours nap before the day begins.
Ebba is a fixer. She has removed all the support sticks from the indoor flowerpots. By standing on furniture she managed to pull them out without tipping over a single flowerpot. She then played her favourite game of "shredder" and turned the sticks into mulch. This game is apparently best played in our bed, very quietly so I did not hear a thing. Dear husband got home from work and wondered if I had started chopping wood indoors. Ebba was very proud.
Ebba likes the taste of furniture, mats, plants, pillows and us amongst other things. She also finds the drain in our shower to be fascinating and spends time guarding it. Why, we don't know, but it looks very sweet when a happy dog hurries past, on her way to check the drain situation. (It has been cleaned, so it should not be smelly....).
Ebba does not like walking on a lead with me. She behaves almost nicely with dear husband but takes walking with me as a joke. So until we get our act together dear husband is the main dog walker in our family and I spend a lot of time running around in a sheep paddock. (There are some funny, ironic jokes in that but we won't go into them right now....). I am learning to throw a Frisbee and that is a new skill, I guess. Teaching a dog some common sense, not so much my thing, it seems...
Monty, Ullrick and Matti will be a problem, early next spring. Where to place two sweet little cockerels and how to be able to do it.... We do have a lot of hens in the stable at the moment so maybe, just maybe the three boys could cohabit and behave. That's what I hoped about Monty and little Eric this spring and that did not happened. We'll see.... We just have to enjoy the winter and take what comes later. Ebba said she could help us out with the excess of cockerels but we politely declined the offer.
Sheep spend 15 percent of their time sleeping. Ebba, not so much...
As soon as I told you about the rainy days, it all turned white, outside.
For some reason winter felt the need to arrive in the beginning of November. The fact that this occurred at the same time as our lovely sheep were sheared in time for winter, made it a bit hard on them.
Shearing our funny sheep Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My is hard on our friendly sheep farmers. As soon as our ladies lay their eyes on them, you can feel the collective pulse rise in the sheep pen and we are off... Mindy is the sensible one but as she weighs a ton and has the thickest coat of wool it must be like tending to a polar bear with a built in foghorn.
Mandy did well this time as the clever farmers brought a wide plank with them so Mandy could walk up to the shearing table. Her jumping days are over, having slightly iffy hind legs. She stood looking worried all through her haircut and smiled her nervous smile when she knew it was all over. Her huge head is once again a prominent feature, when she sports a sleek, glossy new coat of wool. My was her sporty self, a danger to all that tried to help her and Molly decided to show extreme attitude problems towards the whole shearing process. So when our friendly farmers are done looking after our animals, I'm the one who looks most tired. I do worry that someone will get hurt, as our sheep look more like Shetland ponies, with every passing year. Tending to them can be a wrestling match, when they don't know you very well. They are also muscular and after a summers worth of good food very, very round animals...
So now they are semi naked and snow has arrived. This made our hens "over the moon" happy as the heat is turned up in the stable and it's cozy and warm for them too. The hens do so love a warm radiator....
Ebba, the dog loves the snow and finds field mice to chase. She stands listening and then plunges in.... Mr. Chip used to do this as well so we are well trained to close our eyes and hope for the mouse to make a run for it. The mouse has a sporting chance with Ebba, because being a bit childish still, she stops mid chase to check that you are watching her brave attempt to save you, so the mouse scampers. Some mice are unfortunately now in mice heaven, enjoying heavenly cheese, I hope..
Ebba is a shy dog and spends the evenings hiding, when guests arrive. Then when they are gone, she checks every room to see that the coast is clear to start playing again. She is a funny dog and the fact that she even checks the sauna for leftover people makes me smile. Small steps, lots of humour and a trip to a shoe shop for shoes with more grip seems to be the plan, right now. We do love her to bits, already and Ebba finds dear husband to be her hero. It's lovely to watch her set out for yet another adventure with her new friend. Dear husband has abandoned any hope of ever sleeping in again. It's like in the army around here - Ebba's in charged of the wake up calls and we just do as we are told. She is not a shy dog around her own people and we are very grateful for that. She is just finding her inner puppy and it seems to be a loud, active little thing. It also seems to be a hungry one because Ebba is starting to eat her food more eagerly and that's a relief.
Being such a kind soul makes Ebba's activeness bearable. She does not bully us, it just seems to be so much fun to be Ebba at the moment and she likes to share this happiness with us. Our indoor plants look as tired as we do but after one cactus incident Ebba learned that some nibbling should be avoided. Our mittens, socks and hats are safe to chew on, apparently and I spend my days trying to remember where I've hidden them from her. Maybe it's a safety thing? I read that Siamese cats chew on wool when they feel uneasy. Maybe Ebba just finds wool to be the thing for showing her happy disposition? Who knows? We just try to save some warmer clothes for the colder days, ahead...
I will now go and try to convince our young hens that all the white stuff around the place is quite safe to step on. I do fear that they plan to stay indoors until the next spring. That will mean lots and lots of cleaning and no rest for their co habitants.
Have a good week and have fun starting the skiing season, you who share our white, cold world.
Queen Elisabeth II was given a Siamese blue point kitten as a wedding present, to celebrate her marriage to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. As wedding presents go, that was quite a charming one. I do feel for their furniture, though....
Dear Dasha, our wonderful artist has been sick this week, so we have added photos of the sheep. We wish her all the best and hope she is feeling better soon.
The rainy season seems to have hit us in a warm, sometimes drizzly way.
This means that our sheep stay indoors most of the day and the hens get to rule the outside world. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My do not mind this at all as they have spent an eventful summer outside in the sun, and are now ready for a rest. The summer has been quite a roller coaster ride for them, when you think about it.
First I had the brilliant idea to add some more sheep to the flock. That was a mistake, if ever there was one! Then we got five new hens to the stable who were the most hyper active hens we had ever met. This, not long after Eric had moved house, so all the hens were already a bit restless. Adding five small fluffy canon balls to the mix made the stable a noisy place, for a while. Then chicks had to be tended to and the summer went on its merry way.
Mr. Chip died and that was sad for us all and our sweet natured sheep kept looking out for him. They had loved our dear dog and his slightly slow movements so when a bigger, bouncier dog moved in I feared this was it. I had a vision of four sad sheep, backpacks filled with hay, heading off to walk the sandy roads; sad and let down by yet another of my brilliant idea's....
So the rain came at the right time. Our four sheep have had a break, been fussed over by us and stopped stressing over Ebba the dog. They still think that she has nothing on Mr. Chip but at least they are no longer sad about her being here.
The hens have probably not noticed Ebba yet. They are digging worms, splashing in puddles and generally making a mess. The three ladies are wandering around doing longer walks every day. They will soon be as athletic as the rest of the gang. They sing as they go along and that is good for us, as we know where they are. We just have to hope that Ebba's presence keeps the foxes away from our yard...
Meanwhile Ebba is settling in. Our bed is still her safe haven so that's where she hides her treasures. One night I found a dried pigs ear in my bed, dear husband gets mittens, socks and her toys. Yesterday morning I woke up, wondering about something uncomfortable under my pillow. It was Ebba's chewy bone. As I have a slight cold, I had not smelled it but Ebba was really pleased and proceeded to munch on it, at 6am, in our bed... Dear husband keeps suggesting a dog-training course, for me, not for our friendly dog. So we wash a lot of sheets and are getting to know each other and we miss Mr. Chip a lot. Life goes on and Ebba seems to like us and that is the main thing.
A friend sent me some good reading material about training a young, frightened dog. I learned a lot from them. After sounding like a distressed puppy every time Ebba chewed on me, she stopped. She did give me funny looks for a while afterwards but started on the furniture instead. Now the table legs are wrapped in up newspapers and it look quite funky.
Walks in the forest are done briskly, to put it nicely. Ebba still does not trust trees to stay put so we fly past them. Smells and small forest mice add to the excitement, as we speed along. Waterlogged areas are scary places, but when Ebba met the sea she did not even hesitate, she just plunged in. As she was on a lead I nearly went after her but we had fun and that's all that matters, at the moment. And now we know that we have a sea loving dog....
The paddock is turning out to be the best invention, ever. After a day of concentrating and working out what we are trying to achieve, Ebba gets to run and play with dear husband. She is a fast dog and to see her run, laugh and play is heartwarming to say the least. The shear joy of it all is what it is all about, at the end of the day. We might not walk in an orderly fashion yet but we do have fun trying to get there. In the meantime we'll just hold on for dear life and pray that our walks are devoid of deer and hares, as I'll never keep up with their speed. Dear Ebba will, there is no doubt about that.
We have set up the outdoor bird feeding places again. This means that some seeds go to the actual bird population that has decided to stay the winter. Most seeds find their way into the hiding places of our squirrels. I say "our squirrel's" but we do not claim them, they found us...
We got our first Christmas flower, an Amaryllis and it gave the house a cozy advent time feel. Do enjoy the long evenings and be well.
Feeding bread to ducks is actually dangerous to the birds. White bread, especially, can cause a condition called "angel wing" to ducks. Their wings start pointing out, instead of staying in line with their body and they will loose the ability to fly. This soon kills them. It's the lack of vitamin D and E and manganese in their diet that does it. White bread is just junk food to them. Not even birds thrive on carbohydrates. Cracked corn, birdseed mix or oats are more in line of what ducks need to keep healthy. Now we know that.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.