This summer has been full of excitement and activity, and, sitting in a sunny garden listening to bird song while I write, I am glad to feel it is not yet over.
With only a few small pauses between B&B bookings – all of which were occupied by visits from family and friends or short musical trips away from home – and averaging 5 concerts a month since April, I feel happy to have made it to mid-September without having to hide in a darkened room (more than once or twice, at least).
There have been so many highlights it would be hard to choose between them. One, of course, must be the many lovely people I have met and the joy with which they have shared my house, garden and creatures during their stay. Many of the other highlights are of course creature related. A kingfisher flew over my pond – I’m not sure what he was doing here as there are definitely no fish in it, but I was very happy to see him all the same – and I have seen hares in my garden almost daily. One crossed the bridge recently, which I as a result I now consider a magic bridge. Leia the chinchilla, who sadly lost her friend Solo earlier in the year, found a new friend and it only took a few days before they were snuggled up together. Malteser and Dusty the rabbits… well, cute, fluffy and funny pretty well sums them up. The goaties have, surprisingly, refrained from too much mischief this season but continue to rule the garden and the chickens with their usual self-assurance.
Winnie Pigeon has been the cause of the most hilarity: she started building a nest on the shelf in my new bathroom – not yet in use, and with the window left open more or less permanently – until she was disturbed by the inconsiderate person who came back to finish building the cupboards. She left pretty promptly, and I didn’t manage to discover whether, or where, she had chosen an alternative nest site.
Until my neighbour’s 12 year old son, who was sweeping out the goat shed a couple of weeks ago, said to me, ‘you do know you’ve got two baby pigeons in your shed, don’t you?’
I was shocked. ‘They must be Winnie’s!’ I exclaimed, thinking I’d find two tiny little squabs sitting quietly in their nest. No. I found two nearly-full-grown young pigeons sitting quietly in their nest – until the second time I went to look a few hours later and they were marching up and down the ledge above the door. I might easily have missed their fledging. ‘How did that Winnie manage to sneak those two big babies past me?’ I wondered, equally surprised at how unobservant I’d been. I suppose it didn’t occur to me, after her bathroom take-over attempts, that Winnie would go back to the same spot as last year, so after a few checks earlier in the summer, I had stopped looking above my head when I went into the shed. Clearly Winnie’s husband (to whom I haven’t been introduced this year, but I assume has been quietly doing his duty as a father) had become used enough to me not to take off in a wild flap.
A few days later, the babies left their nest, and a few days after that, returning home from a short break on the coast, I found Winnie sitting outside the back door accompanied by two black-beaked Winlets, now almost bigger than her. What a proud grandma I am.
Cheeky and Monkey chickens have lived up to their names by going exploring on more than one occasion. Cheeky was missing for several days before I managed to track her down at a neighbour’s house at the end of the road where she’d happily moved in with their chickens. I think they were sad to give her back: she had already won them (if not their chickens) over with her bare-faced cheek.
Monkey wasn’t so lucky, however. Having gone exploring and come home safely on one or two occasions, her luck ran out, and she was caught by a fox, I assume – in the empty front pond, where I later found Monkey feathers. The same neighbours discovered her while out walking their dog round the perimeter of my garden. I wouldn’t wholly begrudge the fox its dinner, despite my emotional attachment to its chosen meal, but she hadn’t really been eaten.
Still, Monkey certainly made the most of her few months of freedom and reminded me daily of some important life lessons. I shall try to follow her example by treating every day as an opportunity for a party, in case a fox turns up. And if he doesn’t… well, then we can have another party tomorrow.