It seems very sad to break my posting drought with such bad news, but Gladys is no longer with us. This marvellous hen, who gave me my first ever baby animal, in Babbs, and who kept us all organised and entertained for almost eight years, died last week. She had had a small, hard mass in her crop for a few weeks; it was hot and didn’t feel like the usual impaction one might find with an older bird when crop musculature is weakening, so I suspect a tumour. It didn’t stop her from running for treats, yelling, being generally peevish, holding her tail high and being every inch herself. Her feathers were neat and preened, her comb red and perky, but last week she went downhill very quickly; no amount of olive oil and natural yoghurt could ease the alternating discomforts of impaction and souring of her crop, and she died in her sleep after a morning snuggled up in the house with The Duck, now the only original old girl left.
Every year in the field a silent battle goes on – the Ragwort and the Cinnabar moth caterpillars vie for supremacy. I have a feeling the Ragwort may win this year, but that only means more caterpillars next summer and the weed will be decimated. These moths seem to follow a boom and bust population; very often you will see the active stripy caterpillars on totally stripped plants, craning about looking for more to eat. They may die of starvation before they are large enough to pupate, so in a poor Ragwort year, the moth suffers. The next year there will be fewer moths to lay eggs, fewer caterpillars, and the Ragwort stages a comeback. On and on it goes and there seems to be a balance. I must say the beautiful day-flying moths have been thin on the ground so far this year. Here it is, Tyria jacobaeae;
One sees this quite a bit, does one not? Greetings cards, calenders, all sorts of places. They’re generally taken in the same circumstances, and it’s rarely some patient photographer stretched out on the lawn by a mole-hill like an Inuit over his ice hole waiting for the little old man in black velvet to emerge.
It’s been a more eagerly awaited spring than most this year, and now that it’s finally here, as ever, it’s just too much to take in. There’s just no way of describing an English spring to someone that has never experienced it. I think it’s something, like queuing, steamed puddings and creativity with offal, that we can’t be bettered at.
This week I will mostly be eating fajitas and my own weight in chocolate biscuits if the cupboards are anything to go by, as I am in charge of these two, Boy and Dog of Shelley, who as we speak is no doubt collapsing in a hotel after a hot bumpy taxi ride from JFK. I have told Boy that I expect to be waited on hand and foot and I think he thinks I’m joking. Far more important to learn and meet the domestic needs of a knackered forty-something than to pass one’s GCSEs. He also seems to think he will be beating me at Scrabble, but I have already established that he doesn’t know all his two letter words (I offer you ‘gu’, a rudimentary violin. Oh yes.)
I will also be dealing with this lot;
…they do a very nice line in vertical take-offs whenever you stray near their fence. Dog is intrigued;
Dog is not actually levitating there – Boy is doing the hoisting.
Have a lovely time old girl, I’ll try not to burn the house down in your absence, or have social services and the RSPCA take the Boy and Dog away (and not necessarily in that order). Remember to look the other way first when you cross the road… I have had far too many already of those Marks and Sparks biscuits you left on the table and I feel sick.
No CGI there. It really is 22 degrees in the shade here today. Too hot for me obviously but welcome after so many months of rain and cold winds. The garden is still too damp to get on and do anything meaningful, and even over the wind I can hear the ground singing as the water percolates through it. But this sun must be a blessed relief for some occupants of the garden;
Now that the days are (slightly) longer and (slightly) warmer, your thoughts can be turning gently towards doing something creative with willow. As I type it is actually snowing, but we will gloss over this for a moment. The nice stooled specimens above come from an amazing sexagenarian lady half an hour round the lanes; she runs a charity that encourages folk with learning disabilities to care for farm animals, is a retired flying instructor with two single prop planes ‘out the back’ on a landing strip, lives on Saxon fortifications and has a mk 9 Jaguar and an Austin fx3 in her shed, both full of chickens and horseblankets. She also has cheekbones that would make Diane Keaton smack her in a jealous rage.