Looking after a smallholding like ours takes a surprising amount of work. Animals need a fair bit of care, love and attention. Hay needs bringing home. In our case big bales of the stuff, and the process involves tractors and friendly farmers. Bedding for the animals, which we go through at an alarming speed (sheep pee a lot...), is bought in town. We also buy minerals, salt stones and hen food from a farmer’s shops in town. All this needs to be collected, carried and driven home on a regular basis.
Looking after animals is made a lot easier if you happened to marry the kindest man in the world. Thankfully I managed to find him so all I need to do is care, clean and worry a lot. John does the practical stuff and he does it well.
John also has a morning team going with Mr. Chip the Fox terrier. They walk early every morning and it is a guy’s thing. It's also very funny to watch as Mr. Chip has stopped being an early riser. Cross-eyed and wobbly legged he sets off but after a few steps in the crisp air his tail is held high and off they go. Mr. Chip needs his time amongst men, old cars and tractors. He also needs to be with the ones sitting under a blanket reading a good book and eating something unhealthy. That is usually me...
The animals were my idea and my dear husband took it all in his stride. He spent days building and fixing before they arrived. Friends and family came to help and the result was charming.
Keeping animals’ happy means a lot of altering their accommodation, to fit in with their latest whims. So John builds a lot. He is good at it and has a very rustic style that I love. The hens love the fact that every time they want to move to a new place for the night, a bed appears for them. We have small "beds" here, there and everywhere in the stable, at the moment. That's mainly because Monty is afraid of the older hens, Pippi wants a new place for her and the chick, and so started our game of musical beds. I will have to give John a new hammer for Christmas.
I seem to understand sheep better, whereas John is a hen whisperer. If, when any of our feathery friends get ill, my husband does the medication bit. I think you have to be very calm to be a good hen keeper. With sheep, humor goes a long way and you can't walk too briskly or you set them off. Cantering sheep is not a funny sight. They were built for meandering and pondering. Our sheep make me think of A Certain Bear and His Friends.
There are probably easier ways to keep animals, than the Stoneback farm way. There are also husbands around who grumble a lot when there's a reason for it. I wake up thanking my lucky stars that I ran into the man who laughs a lot and sings out loud. I think our animals share my feeling. And then the hay runs out and they all call for John, again...
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.