June is officially a summer month. Last year was one of those summers where the cold and damp weather seemed to make plants grow in to their pots, not the other way around. Now we have high hopes for this year, the animals and I. A kitchen garden of splendour and tomatoes the size of footballs, thank you! We will see. At least this year we might have some time to play happy gardeners...
Last year was a time for sadness and reflections. We lost a loved one, my father, Mr. Chip’s best friend. Grief alters your look on life, it's a fact you just deal with. What you don't realise is, that it takes a year for the sadness to turn into something more bearable. Somehow you just get there and plod along. Memories stay, though....
I remember how fascinated my father was by the fact that four, fully grown sheep could become so tame and trustworthy animals. He never stopped smiling when our lovely sheep wandered past, on the lawns. "There's some fluffy creatures on the loose", he used to joke. He worried constantly about our hens roaming freely, looking for trouble. At the same time loved seeing them pop in for a biscuit, after a long day in the forest.
We had a little chat, the sheep and I, about life and loved ones. It started with their feet. I mentioned that I don't know if I should trim their hooves, as some are a bit longish. The problem is that if we trim them now they might get too short in the summer and get sore. That's how we started talking about my father. He was our information bank on all things animal. The good old-fashioned knowledge disappears with his generation, never to return. I now have to learn myself and sometimes my brain overheats.... Having said that, a lot has changed for the better, where animal keeping is concerned, but not all of it. Common sense seems to disappear and it's a balancing act to keep animals in the way they should be cared for and not to over do on the sentimentality bit.
Mr. Chip is a classic example of this conundrum. He is an old, much loved dog that needs a lot of care and sometimes attention from the vet. I dread the day they tell us his leg needs operating on. Do you put a 14-year-old dog through that ordeal or do you send him up to his best friend? I keep hoping we never have to make that decision. But it is a worry and we are aware of his wobbly leg, taking one day at a time. Then you look at life and the world in general from a broader perspective and stop obsessing. You get a grip, as Molly the sheep would say.
I don't know why this became such a gloomy text, reflective and for us, almost deep and profound. Our four sheep do not mess about with such thoughts and as I write, our famous five (the chicks) have started flying back and forth, back and forth, in the stable yard. They grow so quickly and soon they have to be called young hens, not chicks. I guess it dawns on me from time to time that keeping animals comes with a lot of responsibility and sometimes worries. As I'm a bit slow on the uptake, it only occurs to me occasionally, which is good. The joy you get from seeing happy animals does compensate things, thank goodness. Having the best husband to help you out with it all is quite nice too. As he says, "It's your hobby", but I know he cares as much as I do about our lot. And he has a special place in Mr. Chip’s heart, being a man and all...
I just learned that squirrels are so clever that they put on a show for other animals, pretending to hide their food. By making decoy-hiding places they can secure their real larders from raids. How brilliant is that? We have a squirrel that always hides nuts between two huge rocks. I don't have to worry any more as this clearly is a hoax, to trick us. I do believe I needed this year of learning new, interesting facts about animals.
Take care. Next week’s blog will be full of jokes and merriment. We can only hope, at least....
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.