Monthly Archives: February 2020

What does Z care how much it may storm?

We’ll refine blog party dates in a day or two, several have been eliminated. I ask on Facebook as well as on here, so a number of replies come in.

I haven’t updated you on the chicks, mostly because it’s been quite sad. We just have one left. The weather was very mild until a couple of days after they hatched, which encouraged me to think they’d be all right in outdoor coops. More fool me, it’s been awful for weeks now. Wind, rain, cold – no snow, but everything else. The chicks, with their inexperienced mother and foster mother, couldn’t cope. So now Foster Mother and her one chick are in a coop in the greenhouse and she’s quite fed up. She really wants to come out and scratch around, but she can’t. But the chick is all right and is being cared for. Slapper rejoined the others once her chicks died and seems quite all right. I just hope the chick is a girl, which will make all the worry worthwhile. Not that I need more hens but that another cockerel will be yet another problem.

It so often feels that a step forward is matched by one backwards, which makes it hard to keep my spirits up. I do try, very hard, but there seems to be so much to discourage. Still, blessings are counted and appreciated and the rest is just trivial detail, if I can put it in context. It seems, however, from a book recently published, that one becomes happier from the age of 58 to 82. I’ll report back, in the unlikely event that I get there. No one in my family even lived to 80, so I think I should aim for peak happiness on a daily basis for the rest of my life.

Hearty oak

If you have visited us here, you will probably have noticed a fine oak tree in the drive, just before it forks. There used to be three of them, but one died quite a long time ago and we left the branchless stump, reckoning it would be good for wildlife. About ten and a half years ago – exactly, now I think of it, because it happened on Zerlina’s first birthday – it quietly fell over into the drive, in between the Sage driving into Yagnub for the Sunday papers and driving back ten minutes later. The second one has lost all its big branches and is now a healthy but pollarded old tree, not much to look at but we’re glad it’s still there. The third is still beautiful.

About eight or ten years ago – I could look it up here and find out exactly when – one of the big boughs fell into the field. It was very sad and quite a shock. But the rest of the tree has been all right ever since. However, I’ve been aware for some time that a lot of the weight is on one side, with a big bough coming out almost horizontally over the drive, then splitting – I’ve felt that the jagged piece where the branch broke should be looked at, and the heaviest sideways branches cut back sympathetically. I was anxious not to spoil the shape of the tree any more than can be helped, though. I don’t know any tree surgeons and it’s hard to know how to choose one. But I was talking to a friend recently and she happened to mention that a neighbour of hers, recently bereaved, had had a lot of remedial work done to trees in his garden. His late partner couldn’t bear to think of trees being cut down while he himself was slowly dying, so the work was put off until there was, sadly, no longer that obstacle. My friend praised the tree surgeon, saying how much he loved and knew trees and so I asked for his details.

So he called round on Friday and I’ve booked him to come and do the work. I do appreciate watching someone looking at a job and summing it up – do you know what I mean? I could see his eyes travel along, observing the stresses on the branches and what to do about them. He explained what he’d recommend, which was much what i had thought; not that I’d know how it should be done. He won’t do more than he has to, as cutting too much off an old tree in one go is quite a shock, and he says the jagged part, though it does have signs of “chicken of the woods” and there’s a hollow area, is quite stable and there will be a lot of birds and insects taking advantage of it and it’s best left. It won’t be possible to do the work by climbing, or off a ladder – which I can see is the case – so he’s hiring a cherrypicker. The price he’s quoting is less than I’d expected (actually, I’d have thought it would have been at least that much plus the cherrypicker) so, knowing he’s qualified, insured and capable, I’m happy to go ahead and relieved the tree will be looked after.

I asked how old he thought it was, expecting him to say about 250 years. He reckons 450-500 years, which would make it about the same age as the house. It makes it all the more precious to me.

Z Grannies (as a verb)

We went to Norwich today to meet Weeza and the children at the Castle Museum. This is always a pleasure, it’s a thoroughly nice little museum, though I do not forgive it for having removed nearly all of their fabulous collection of Lowestoft china, including my favourite piece, and putting it in storage, to make room for lesser stuff.

There were various events for children for half term and it was all very enjoyable. We have discovered, through a chat with one of the staff, that a big revamp is going on, which is why the room with two other of my favourite objects has been emptied and why the Norwich silver has been removed from display. That’s okay, it’s fine as there’s a reason for it, though a sign or two to explain would have been good.

The cafeteria is exceptionally good, actually, We had coffee to start with and later we had lunch – the very reasonable quiche and salad, soup and bread and sausage rolls were freshly cooked and delicious and, as a Friend, I got 10% off as well, which made £26.20 for five of us for the lunch, including a beer and a splendid soft drink plus two cakes, exceptional value.

I had been severely disappointed this morning. Yesterday evening we went out to the pantomime in the next village – which is another story, if I get round to blogging it – and we had scrambled eggs on toast before we went. That left us short of bread, but I remembered that I had, expansively, ordered croissants from the milkman for this morning. I peered out excitedly from the bedroom window – a pint of milk, half a pound of butter and … a small piece of paper. Gutted, darlings, figuratively gutted. Unforeseen circumstances, they non-explained. Anyway, I was not disemboweled for long and I bought croissants from Marks and Spencer, so we’ll have them tomorrow . Hah.

I have made overtures to Rufus and Gus and they may, soon, come to Granny for a sleepover. Hooray! It’s been an awfully long time since any of the little ones came to stay.

Blog party 2020

Having checked our diaries, we have nothing planned yet at the weekends any time between mid-May and late July (that doesn’t mean we’re not open to offers, of course). So it’s over to our lovely guests. Here are the options, which will be altered as would-be guests tell us they aren’t free. As ever, it can be Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday in one case. The first ever blog party was early May bank holiday Monday, when the weather was so awful that it unnerved me forever. So, while theoretically possible, I’d rather not.

16th/17th May

23rd/24th/25th May

30th/31st May

6th/7th June

13th/14th June

20th/21st June

27th/28th June

4th/5th July

11th/12th July

18th/19th July

25th/26th July

It’s not that we can’t do August but that people tend to be too busy sunbathing and passing the Pimms.

As always, it’ll be lunchtime and you are very welcome to stay over, the night before, afterwards or both. In the unlikely event we run out of rooms, camp beds can be provided, maybe even a tent if I talk to the more gung-ho members of my family. You are all most welcome, whether or not you’ve met me or anyone else here and friendships have been made but are not obligatory. Food preferences are catered for with much pleasure, just let us know.

Z doesn’t like Saturday

Last night, when I went out to shut up the chickens and feed the feral cats, I heard cheeping. I didn’t realise the significance, but thought it was rather silly of tits to build nests where there was a possibility of cats getting to them. I wasn’t being very bright, of course.

I told you – twice, I’m afraid – about the young hen that went missing and was caught by a fox. Well, I saw her again this morning. I didn’t realise at first, I thought it was her sister, but I did see her alarm at being spotted and where she went to hide. I fed the cats and let out the hens and, when I turned round, saw the chicken again, eating from the feeder. But was it? At a second look it was her sister.

I left it for an hour and went back. And, on checking the hiding place, I spotted a chick. I felt pretty stupid. The pullet that went missing was barely over five months old, but evidently she had laid her eggs and brooded her chicks and I’d fed the cats ten feet away and not noticed her. I came indoors and asked Tim for help. We moved the bigger coop and I went and fetched the chicks into a bucket Tim was holding, and carried the hen as well to the new coop; which I’d furnished with chick crumbs (thanks again, Tim), corn, grit and water. I named the very young mother Slapper.

Slapper would not care for her chicks, but just stood there, while they were getting cold and despairing. I left them for ten minutes so that she could calm down, but came back to find one chick floppy and cold. I put her in my bra while I panicked. I did have alternatives, which were to find foster mothers or borrow an incubator, but the latter seemed too worrying for a first-timer and, luckily, Canasta’s daughters are all broody at present. So, with Boy’s help, I put two under one girl and three under another, shut the henhouse door and left them for a while. In the meantime, LT and I set up two more coops (the first one is really better for bigger fowl) and then went to have some lunch.

I’ll fast forward to later in the day; not least because I don’t want to relive the anxiety of it all. All chicks stayed where they were for a few hours so I opened the door because I didn’t want any chickens to be put off coming home to roost. But then, I found two chicks following Slapper. I put them in a coop. I checked on the rest. One had died, I’m sorry to say. The other two were under their aunt, whom I’ve called Foster. I put the three of them in another coop. Slapper was fussing about her two babies, so I opened the coop and she jumped in.

When I last checked, at dusk, the two chickens were each settled down, each with two babies. Fingers crossed there. I came in for a very long, hot, relaxing, healing, destressing bath. And I’ve warned LT, there may be no limit to the wine I drink tonight. But only “may” because I really could do with a good night’s sleep.

Later, I practised the hymns for tomorrow’s church service. There was no sign of the fourth hymn in the book. I had already mentioned that I didn’t know it, but any competent person can learn a hymn in fairly short order, so I wasn’t too concerned – but if the congregation doesn’t have the words and the musician doesn’t have the tune, confusion is rather on the cards. So I rang the Rector, who said he’d look into it…a phone call five minutes later – he’d thought the name of the hymn was line three rather than line one. And I knew the hymn after all. So, all in all, I’m mostly glad that I checked in advance and didn’t try to wing it on Sunday morning.

Darlings, that was my Saturday, in which nothing at all went as I thought it would. Much as I appreciate random and unpredictable, this was egregious. I’m surprisingly cheerful about it all, however, and certainly deeply appreciative of LT for doing housework while I was otherwise engaged.

Z pipes down. Or clears a downpipe, which is the same thing

We went out for lunch today, which is not unusual, but we took it as a small celebration. For the last few weeks, the washbasin in the bathroom has become increasingly sluggish to drain. So has the one in the downstairs cloakroom, though I didn’t necessarily link those two facts. I put washing soda and boiling water down in the bathroom and it helped a bit, but not much. Tim’s theory was that it was the outlet that was blocked, but I doubted that as the bath shared the outlet and that was fine.

Tim was right.

I’m so glad he was right. It was just a few leaves, nothing much at all, and it only took a few minutes to sort out. Then the water just ran away and, after all the time I’ve spent rodding out drains in the last few years (there’s a toilet paper theory to account for that, which I may well tell you later), to have a simple solution brought me joy. I’m easily pleased, you might think, but it’s not the joy you should focus on but the awfulness: that is, it’s the contrast.

Anyway, after this was done, quite late in the morning because I’d been avoiding the issue in the expectation it would be an Utter Bastard to deal with, I said I would take Lovely Tim out for lunch to celebrate, which was where I started. And we had exceptionally good fish and chips at one of our preferred Yagnub pubs. And, because I’m on a No Food Waste kick, I wrapped the leftover fish skins, batter and chips (there is always a bit too much food, neither of us has a massive appetite) in our paper napkins and they will be fed to the chickens in the morning. They will be thrilled.

We had a modest masala omelette for dinner. No question of a big meal. And, because it was quick to cook and quick to eat, we conducted an impromptu quiz afterwards – poor LT had no idea what to expect when he married me and I’m not sure he knows, day to day, even now – and we came out honours even. Though he did not know in which year Foinavon won the Grand National, but he was out of the country at the time, so fair play.

That’s been our day, darlings. In other news, young Perdita had regained her birthweight after a week, which is very good. Weeza is visiting this evening – indeed, she probably has already visited, whether with the whole family or not I don’t know, and all is well with Ro and Dora. I hope to go over again soon and post another picture. I’m always welcome but don’t want to impose …

Which gives rise to another paragraph – the balance between barging in and being aloof. I’ve never known where it stands and I wish I had that instinct. If one doesn’t, is one insensitive or too sensitive? I don’t know that either. I suspect that the answer is to be able to be honest with each other and not be hurt if the reply is not what one hopes and to be equally honest the other way. In this case, it’s less complicated because I can, in fact, ask if it’s convenient and if it isn’t, another day will be suggested. All their friend want to meet Perdita, after all, but Granny is welcome, I know. So is Tim, almost a grandad.

Z cuddles baby

LT is home again, after a few days at his place in Reading. We’d planned to go together but, of course, that changed when Perdita put in an early appearance. I shopped for lunchtime food and went and spent the day cuddling her on Monday – on Tuesday, Ro took Rufus to nursery and then went back to bed with wife and baby. Nighttime feeds are fine. Child on the go all day is fine. The combination is pretty tiring.

It all caught up with me yesterday and I started panic-cooking. That is nothing to do with needing food but with needing to do something practical. But all this surplus energy gave me a lovely Indian-style meal last night, which was added to this evening … and the leftovers will probably feed us tomorrow as well, unless we can’t face them and put them in the freezer (or give some of them to the chickens) instead.

Plans to have a new fence down the drive are going ahead and I hope we’ll have a starting date quite soon. I’ve had friendly conversations with the farmer whose bullocks broke in – they’re no trouble when they stay there but they’ve damaged the wire so much that they can get onto the drive any time they want. When someone appears, they jump back, which does more damage. Yesterday, I told him that I simply can’t repair the fence any more. It looks all right but they can knock it over any time they choose. He’s tried to put them back on his own field many times but one of the four is a wild boy and runs back before going over the bridge. Today was the ultimatum and somehow this got through to the bullock and he allowed himself to be *steer-ed* across ( a dreadful play on words, sorry). So now we can go ahead, whenever the fence guy can fit us in.

After letting the chickens out this morning, I stood chatting to Boy, Rose’s son, for a few minutes. For the first time this year, we could bask in the warmth of the sun. That is, the sun has shone on other occasions but we couldn’t really feel it. I left the porch door shut but the side door open, so that the house was warmed by the sunshine. This evening there was a fabulous pink and blue sunset, though the temperature had dropped markedly. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a light overnight frost, but still no sign of real winter weather. The birds are singing as if it’s spring already.