Crossways Farm Summer Update

19/9/2018 It has been a busy and fun summer, full of sunshine, B&B guests, church concerts, animal happenings and house improvements…

DustySmudgeThe two most important events that have happened this season are, first, the arrival of Dusty and Smudge, two gorgeous and soft rabbits. Dusty is a Lionhead, like Dexter (though with more upright ears), and Smudge is a Mini Lop. They cannot replace Dexter, who is still deeply missed, but they are a great joy and comfort. After a few weeks of rabbit withdrawal, and sure that I’d find no other rabbit that would match up to Dexter, I thought perhaps I might just go and meet a few rescue rabbits and then make up my mind.

Dusty and Smudge, then called Pippa and Jasmine, were the first two rabbits I met. ‘I won’t be taking them home,’ I told the volunteer at the rescue, ‘I’m only coming to meet them’. But before I left I had reserved them and told her I’d be back the next day to collect them.

DustyAfter six months stuck in a hutch – and perhaps their whole lives so far – I thought they would be stressed and withdrawn when I got them home. But they spent all afternoon binkying around their make-shift enclosure in the sitting room, ecstatic in their freedom to run. Despite having been easy to pick up in the rescue, I didn’t want to force them to be handled until they came to trust me. Given the choice, it turned out, they didn’t even want to be stroked. Two early vet trips for vaccinations and daily eyedrops for Smudge didn’t get our relationship off to the best start. But, with time and patience, I trust they will become as cuddly as Dexy. Their living arrangements still aren’t quite settled, due to litter training issues, but they now climb all over me for treats, allowing me my fill of cuddles, kisses and strokes (especially of velvety ears). And, with a bit of bribery and distraction, they more or less consent to being picked up now. The best treat of all is that they have shown me what a bunny flop is. Dexy never did one in my presence. I have never seen anything so funny and sweet. I haven’t managed to capture it on video, but suffice to say you could spend all day watching bunny flops on Youtube…

SmudgeDustyWinletsThe other, no less exciting, event is that I am now the proud grandma of two ugly (but sweet) grandchicks. Winnie – now definitively Winnie, not Winston, since I witnessed her being fought over by two boys on more than one occasion – has built a nest in the goat shed with her ever-tolerant husband and is busy raising a family. Not tolerant to be married to the extremely beautiful Winnie, of course, but tolerant of Winnie’s odd habit of hanging around The Human and wanting her nest so close to the house. I’m sure she would have tried to build the nest IN the house if her husband had let her…

Winnie
Winnie posing proudly with her nest

Her first nest, not ten metres away in the shed next to the chickens, was unsuccessful: I found two long-dead week-old chicks in it. I felt sad, but afterwards reflected on the odd fact that my pigeon-parenting success rate so far was 50% higher than Winnie’s. But then, I suppose, she doesn’t have the internet to refer to for instructions. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this time things will turn out well. I worried that the empty eggshell I had found a week before was a symptom of nest raid rather than chick-hatch. But thankfully I was wrong, and a few days ago glimpsed two little healthy, odd-looking dinosaurian squabs sitting quietly in their nest the first time I found both parents away from home. Not a peep.

EggsThe chickens continue in their funny habits. I had at least six broodies at one time this summer, and the Brahmas spent almost the whole summer indoors; my attempts to dissuade them were in vain. One of my new Columbines managed to give me the run around for several weeks. Every time she appeared and I tried to watch where she went in order to find her nest, she’d wait till I looked away for a second before disappearing. Eventually, by process of elimination, I managed to discover her stash of about 20 eggs – laid by her sister chicken, which I know because they were blue – under the table in the greenhouse. In the middle of the heat wave. A panel was missing from the door (thanks to the goats) and both roof windows were open; but still, it must have been heading for 40˚C in there. I was extremely thankful not to end up with roast chicken or hard-boiled eggs, though many of them had to be thrown away.

FelicityThe house improvements have taken the form of a new brick footpath and step down the lawn side of the house. It looks infinitely better than its predecessor, and Felicity barely waited for the cement to dry before claiming the step as her own private throne. Ilo is happy to stick to the bench which he claimed long ago. Indoors, I have a lovely new carpeted and insulated bedroom, with exposed beams on the old barn wall. There was more than one moment when I regretted having decided to decorate it myself – particularly during the hot summer months – as stripping the window frame turned out to be a punishing job that took as long as the rest of the decorating put together, but I got there eventually and I am now enjoying the results even more for having done the work myself. I have even moved my bed so as not to have my back to the beamed wall…

The summer is ending, fittingly, with a recital in St Edmundsbury Cathedral – the culmination of a season of cello practice – and birthday celebrations with friends, and then I am off to Cornwall and the Scilly Isles for two weeks to walk, write, catch up on sleep and reflect on the season that has passed by, as usual, far too quickly…