“Yes. These are both mine. Stand up nicely children, the man’s going to take your photograph. Yes, yes, dear, I’ll explain it all later. Just stand still and do one of your pretty little smiles. There, you see that was really so easy, wasn’t it?
“They are twins, of course, but obviously they aren’t going to be identical twins. I think I’m quite glad about that now. In a way I was, sort of, hoping that they would be. You know, it would be quite nice to think that I was the only one who could tell them apart, and that sort of thing, but, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Children do grow so fast at this age, don’t they?
“Yes, they’re being very good for Mummy, aren’t you Darlings? Being good for Mummy, Dear. Staying close to me and not running off all over the field. Yes, as I was saying, with all this lovely new Spring grass, I don’t doubt that they’ll soon shoot up and it won’t be nearly so easy to know who is who any more. Meanwhile, I just count myself lucky to have twins that I can easily tell apart.
“And of course, the difference in size will come in really handy when it comes to hand-me-downs.”
We arrived at the T junction to find it blocked by a very large truck. Huge bags of animal feed were being swung off the back into the farmyard. Naturally we stopped to watch. Jackie and The Dog soon became bored with the marvels of modern mechanisation and moved off. I stayed, because I didn’t want them to think that they’re unloading was, in any way, of no account or boring.
Eventually, the truck driver, after a demonstration of his considerable expertise in turning the very large vehicle in the awkward space of the junction, left and I exchanged a few words about the quantity of animal feed, and expected increase in the size of the flock, with the guy who had been driving the fork lift truck.
“We’ve started lambing already.” offered my informant – so off I went to peer into the nuances of the ovine maternity process. As you can see from the photo the rooms are small, with no TV or Wifi, never-the-less they are provided with all the important accoutrements – but you’re probably more interested in the youngster – safely delivered in the early hours of the morning. He’s up and exploring, even though he (and everyone else) had very little sleep last night.
The wretched gout has me struggling to even limp around at the moment – so I haven’t walked The Dog or taken any pictures for these last two weeks. Jackie has been on Dog Walking duty, so I thought it would be only fair to use one of her pictures. As the bird table and feeders fall within her area of responsibility, she most often takes photos of the birds that visit there. The picture I chose is a recent photo of one of the two Jays we see occasionally in the garden.
They are a member of the crow family and they have the fine singing voice common to Corvus – a penetrating, raucous screech. Like Piglet and unlike Tigger, Jays like acorns best. They do share the intelligence of their fellow crows and will often spy on squirrels as they bury their winter cache, and then remember where to come to dig them up, for themselves, at a later date.
This may just be what this guy was doing. The low wall is the front of the bank that holds our oak trees in check and stops them from stomping all over the garden. The soil, just there, is soft deep leaf mould, in the autumn the acorns are scattered liberally in this area.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he/she isn’t doing a little pre-planned pilfering.
Now, King Croesus lived round 600BC
(or maybe he’s just part of mythology)
he attacked the Persians and, being fabulously wealthy,
thought he’d check first with the Oracle at Delphi.
The Oracle said “A great kingdom will fall.”
“Oh,” said Croesus, “is that all?”
He charged off into battle – and was defeated,
because, you see, the Persians cheated.
The Greeks disbanded when winter came,
but the Persians didn’t – and ruined the game
So the moral is, even for the incredibly rich,
now and then Life’s just a bitch.
We had Half Term last week and a couple of daughters and a grandson popped up to see us. The weather wasn’t that bad until the day they were due to go home. We arrived at Talkin Tarn for a last opportunity to stretch our legs prior to the long journey home. As we drove into the car park, the heavens opened and dumped an inch of hail on us. It slackened off, and we decided on a dash for the coffee shop, we hardly had the car doors open and – the sun came out. Still, the decision to go to the coffee shop first, stood, I’m pleased to report. This turned out to be one of many such hail storms – almost as though, all through the half term week, the weather had been holding itself in until it burst. Since our guests left we have had those nasty cold winds and rain, hail, rain.
We popped down to see the beck this morning during a break in the rain and sleet. He had on his old brown overalls and was busy giving his bed a good shake-out, bundling all those odds and ends he had collected along the banks off down stream and away. One by-product of this enthusiastic life laundry, I’m pleased to report, is that the stick, which had become stuck in an eddy near the bank during last weeks Pooh Sticks league battles, has at last moved on.
This isn’t your last chance to have a Happy New Year – we still have the Vernal Equinox to come – so, if you find you are reluctant to allow yourself the luxury of a whole year of happiness, you can always wait for that.
One of the things that we do have in abundance around here is sheep. So to have a year of them won’t seem to be strange or different for us. Those of you who have had to struggle through years of horses, snakes, rats and monkeys, might be feeling a little relieved to have safely navigated the stormy seas of astrological beasts to reach Sheephaven. But for us – it will be business as usual.
The most important thing to remember this year is that friends and family are there to be imposed on. Got a problem? Don’t keep it to yourself for a moment longer than you absolutely have to. Get a friend to buy you a coffee while you immerse them in your troubles. Phone your Mum. Tell her that you really need her advice – and has she made any of those cheese scones lately? It is never too much trouble to organise your friends to listen to your troubles – you only get a year, so make the most of it.
By the way – do you know under what circumstances, New Years Eve and New Years Day fall in the same year?
We keep a sharp eye out for any sign of Spring. It’s not that we are impatient for Winter to be gone, we wouldn’t be so impolite, but we would like some reassurance that Spring still has us on her To Do list. We have snowdrops everywhere, and many green spear-like leaves promising hyacinths, bluebells, daffodils and crocuses.
Now, there is a difference between birdsong and bird calls. Birds call all year round, but most only sing during the mating season. The blackbird is one of those with a markedly different set of sounds for Spring. With it being such a long time since last year, he can’t quite remember how the tune goes. As soon as he’s sure that Spring is really on the way, he will find a quiet corner and practise a few trills quietly to himself.
We’ve caught him doing this a few times these last few days – so I wrote him a poem.
In the hedge as I passed by,
in winter’s branches brown and dry,
I chanced to hear a blackbird sing
stirring in me brief thoughts of spring.
The melody was not so strong,
as if some half remembered song.
Softly, he sang this private bird,
not knowing I had overheard.
I, embarrassed to do such thing
silently left him to his practising.