It is always so lovely when someone reads something you’ve written and likes it enough to send you a note to tell you. The more writers I chat to in my day job, the more I appreciate just how cheering it is to receive a kind review or message about their work and I know just how it feels. Writing is such a solitary pastime and often it’s as if I am sending words off into the ether which only Jerry, my long suffering proofreader and I will ever read. So today’s post is a rather special edition for Jerry’s Gramps who has been one of my most loyal Margot fans and for that there aren’t enough hugs and kisses I can bestow in gratitude. Rather in need of a good chuckle at the moment, I hope that my latest countryside capers will provide just that opportunity. So Gramps, this is a little Margot missive just for you because after all, writers would be nothing without loyal readers.
Now where to start, dear Reader? The year seems to be racing on quicker than ever. The frothy cow parsley which littered the hedgerows and our paddock has gone and before I know it, I’ll be knee deep in lavender with the summer on its way out. The farmyard is as entertaining as ever. Geese, ducks, chickens, sheep – we now even have bees! 6 new hives in the lavender field and the promise of our own homegrown honey later in the year. That’s if the girls and I can manage to persuade Jerry that they are worth keeping. He’s already been stung twice and the bees have only been here a month. Apparently, they take great offence to certain types of shampoo. Well, it’s either that or they really just don’t like Jerry.
Following Christmas, our three tenors were down to one as our remaining gander took up his role as king of the pond. Every king needs a queen to keep him on the straight and narrow and so Placido found a mate. We tried renaming him to Gilbert but the girls felt this was a goose rebrand too far and so, Placido is now mostly Placbert and rules the pond with his lovely wife, Gloria. Sadly there have been no goslings this year so fingers crossed, next spring Placbert and Gloria will welcome a family of their own. That’s if Gloria is really a goose and not just a small gander. It’s bloody difficult to tell, dear Reader! The ducks remain ambivalent about the bossy white pair who have taken charge and continue to wreak havoc as normal. To be honest, I’m grateful we aren’t raising any geese for the table this year. We were still finding feathers in the kitchen in February.
Spring saw the arrival of a new boy on the block too. Enter Roger the cockerel and his harem. It seems I’m the girl you have on speed dial when you have an animal that needs rehoming and Roger’s story is a good one. Let’s put it this way, he left a life of rocking for a quiet country retreat. Although quiet is perhaps not the word you might use with Roger roaming the farmyard. I think that everyone in a 5 mile radius is awake at first light these days. Lucky for us, we have lovely neighbours and Roger has turned out to be the sweetest chap. I never tire of him greeting us by the front door when we return home from the school run. A true gent – we are all very fond of him.
With all feathered fowl on form, all eyes are firmly locked on the sheep as we await the arrival of Myrtle’s lambs. It turns out that patience is not something I was blessed with much of and as each day from her due date passes, I find myself wishing she would hurry up! Not least because nightly checks of the lambing shed involve rather a lot of wet weather gear over my pyjamas. Stumbling out to the shed every 4 hours day and night is beginning to take its toll as I juggle the day job as well as my role as ovine midwife. I take my hat off to proper farmers who do this for weeks on end with hundreds of sheep. It’s only been a week and I’m already living on a coffee drip and trying not to face plant the desk and wake up with dribble all over my notebook, dear Reader. I know, I know….you can’t hurry nature but I jolly well wish you could! The prospect of more days with broken sleep is enough to make me camp out in the lambing shed permanently and save myself the bother of setting regular alarms and pulling on waterproof trousers. I have at least managed a new record for dressing and undressing by the front door, pulling on wellies, coat and head torch as well as remembering to take a key to let myself back into the house. It’s like the party game where you have to throw a 6 and don hat, gloves and scarf at break neck speed before attempting to cut a large bar of Dairy Milk with a knife and fork. Except there’s no chocolate. Or a die. In fact, it’s nothing like that game at all but it made me feel better writing it as otherwise I’m just playing a ridiculous farmer dressing up game on my own. Balancing on one leg as I try to stuff waterproofs into neoprene wellies at 3am seems like the drunken antics of my youth. Could account for the fact that I seem to be well practised at it. Still as soon as we hear the patter of tiny hooves, all sleeplessness will become a distant memory. Well that’s the theory at least.
I shouldn’t complain the waiting and getting up in the middle of the night is proving a whole lot easier than trying to vaccinate them all which was the order of the day a few weeks ago. Chasing round the field with a bucket in a bid to catch four flighty sheep proved only to provide another opportunity to be a local laughing stock. Eventually, with some serious bribery, I managed to vaccinate 3 out of 4 with some help from one of our lovely neighbours. Of course my nemesis, bloody ‘Panda face’ has she has now been renamed, decided that she just wasn’t going to cooperate. After forty minutes of trying and failing to get her into the shed and run round fast enough to shut the gate before she spooked, I decided that I didn’t give two hoots about vaccinating her at all. Once I’d calmed down and stopped cursing her, I ended up having to creep back under the cover of darkness to finish the job. Head torch and game face on, I morphed into a sheep-rustling ninja and thankfully succeeded to out fox the wiliest of our woolly four. How I ever managed to inject the damn ewe and not myself in the dark (she’s black – making it even more impossible to see skin under her fleece) I will never know. I can only imagine the jokes if I’d had to go to A&E after immunising myself with the contents of a sheep pharmacy. That’s what you get when you call a sheep Meryl. Comedy name, comedy nature, dear Reader. Thank God, shearing was straightforward. Mostly because I was there to watch and learn rather than take part. I’ve only just got over the tale our neighbouring shepherd told of the time he ended up missing the sheep and shearing his arm. Put it this way, shearing is best left to the professionals. I fear that Jerry and I would only end up losing a limb if we had a go on our own. I’m lethal enough with the foot trimmers.
Keen not to be outdone in the drama stakes, the spaniels were the last in a line of comedy smallholding calamities. What started as a lovely walk by the river with a friend and her dog turned out not to be the idyllic Wind in the Willows morning we had planned when Dora got out of her depth and we nearly lost her to a strong current. Turns out wild swimming is best undertaken when not fully clothed. The walk back to the car was rather a squelchy one and I may or may not have looked like I’d had an accident from the waist down. Difficult to tell who was more in shock – me or the dog. I think Dora and I might be avoiding paddling in the river again for a while.
With my glittering role as comedy smallholder proving to be a casting hit, I think it would be safe to say that all is going swimmingly well at the farmhouse, dear Reader. Over and out.