The snow finally carried us for a few mornings, in late March, and Mr. Chip got his favourite walks. We are so happy for him and now I got my pinkish suntan. Our lovely dog found enough hare droppings to keep him going for days but still wanted his lunch and dinner. We could have rolled him out in the evening but apparently it's very important to eat a varied diet. Or so we were told. It's mostly bark and dry grass in hare droppings, I guess.
Walking up and down on fields got me thinking about animals in general. Mr. Chip would not venture out on these walks alone. He wants company and reassurance that all is well. He turns and checks that he is on the lead and that his team knows to follow him. Mr. Chip is getting older but non-the-wiser. If a hare appeared in front of him he would shoot off and there would be no stopping him. Because of his slightly wobbly leg we try to avoid this, so he stays on a lead. He is a nice looking dog, though, when he does his dangerous climbing up and down the wide ditches dividing the fields. I'm sure in his mind they are huge crevasses and he is a mountain climber. I'm holding on to the safety rope and celebrating with him when he makes it back. Lots of fun and it does a world of good to both of us.
The point I was trying to make was that without our help, Mr. Chip would not enjoy these walks as much as he does. Interacting, playing and cheering are part of an animal’s day, as much as it is for humans. Rest, snuggling up with a good book and food are also on our dogs top ten list.
Our four sheep make me wonder about this, quite a lot. A sheep is an animal you see scattered around fields, next to busy roads, munching away. In some countries sheep stay out all year around and even survive floods and other catastrophes. They seem to be a happy bunch and that's that, really. Then you meet our lot; four so different characters that you never cease to wonder about them. They are funny, they have moments of pondering (mostly Molly after she has eaten some hen food, so there might be tummy ache involved in that...) and they have the need to interact, in the same way as a dog does. This fact took me by surprise, I must confess. I never thought sheep would be such social animals. I imagined them to be more of a group of happy, woolly friends that would hang out with me, occasionally. It seems I was wrong.
At first I thought they wanted more dry bread or something but soon learned that it's affection that they seek. So that has started me thinking about animal behaviour in general. Have I triggered the need in them, to be noticed, somehow, or do all sheep need this kind of attention? Do a lot of sheep out in the countryside break out of pens and fences just to come and say "Hello", to someone? Are people who tell me that sheep are boring really the problem themselves, for keeping sheep in a boring way? This is a conundrum for me now and I will carry on pondering about this. (My world is not that big...).
It is the same with the hens. We treat them all kindly, I feed them the same food and they all get to do the same outings. Still some hens are grumpy, some really kind and some get picked on until I step in to sort it out. This for example resulted in Darya transforming from henpecked to a blossoming, happy hen. Lina is now gaining weight and being a feisty hen, again. Monty turned possessive and forced poor Eric to move house. (I know its territorial and all that but I still feel hurt by that one. There was no need to fight; we could all have plodded along happily around here). With hens I think the stress factor has a lot to answer for. Hens that are bred just to produce eggs tend to be a harder breed altogether and more prone to picking on each other. Our lot are more mellow as they get to do what they feel like, mostly. We don't feed them outside but they come up to greet us when we meet on the road. Some like to sit on my arm, the view is better from higher up, and Lina always has a kind word for people she meets. I believe hens need interacting, too. Even the squirrels have started to greet me, in the mornings. They climb down the tree, not up, at breakfast time. That feels nice, although I still worry about the fact that there are so many of them. I will carry on wondering and pondering about our friends and enjoy the fact that the spring sun has started to warm us all, a bit. Small steps, on all fronts...
The cockerel is linked with solar energy - a symbol of dawn, illumination and the sun, in Celtic and Nordic myth. So when Monty really gets going, early in the morning, I will try to feel the mythical side of it all. I will try, at least.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.