5/3/2018 The creatures and I are happy to report that, after an uncertain start, this winter has been a vast improvement on last year’s, despite several spells of icy and snowy weather which at times has dissuaded even the chickens from going in the garden – but they have gradually got braver!
Since welcoming friends from Spain on Christmas Eve, the season has been, on the whole, a positive one. It got off to a good start: we, the humans, had our first experience of a Boxing Day picnic. Dexter the rabbit had his first experience of an open fire, and soon made it clear that he didn’t see any sense in ever leaving the fireside. Winston the wood pigeon looked on jealously through the sitting room window, so I relented and gave him his own short spell of indoor warmth-bathing…
Despite my tendency towards hibernation, I have been pleased, for once, with the progress on various jobs around the house and garden, on which I seem forever to lag behind, or have been putting off for months or years. My firewood stack, which is constantly in danger of running out despite the huge quantity of logs in the barn, is finally large enough to last – with any luck – the rest of the season. Splitting firewood always reminds me of Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold, and I get great satisfaction from transforming the unusable mountain of wood very slowly into piles of useful fuel – not to mention from the physical effort involved in effecting the transformation.
The winter hasn’t been without its losses, however: sadly I had to say goodbye – suddenly and worryingly, due to suspected contagion – to two ratties, Mouse and Badger (the best rattie in the world), just a few days after my autumn newsletter. Thankfully, at least, no other ratties became ill. Last week I lost Alba, my plucky, white egg-laying chicken, due to egg peritonitis. But compared to last winter, it has been mostly calm on the animal and human health front, and the winter has been dominated by the right things: delightful first B&B guests of the year after a relatively quiet autumn, and the high spirits of my fluffy friends, who provide me with an endless supply of joy and amusement, not to mention plentiful cuddles and eggs.
The only tree casualty of this season’s gales – so far – has been the ancient quince tree, which blew over in January. It looked to be on its last legs, however, and hadn’t produced a decent crop of quinces in several years; so I have cut it back, being careful to leave as many branches as possible out of the reach of goat jaws, and will wait to see whether its severe haircut might give it a new lease of life. If it doesn’t, it will begin an after-life as a quirky climbing frame for children.
Other highlights of the winter have included the first blue egg of the year in the middle of January, the unexpected enjoyment of further church visits with my cello, despite the cold conditions – once the indoor temperature was as low as 4.5˚C – and being snowed in last week, which brought another unexpected and welcome victory over procrastination. It is just a little disappointing that life is back to normal today… But then again, perhaps spring isn’t so far off as it has seemed during the last few days.