This afternoon, we’ve been dismantling the indoor tortoise run. If you’ve visited here in the past two and a half years, you’ll know that an eight foot by four foot section of the porch was taken over by it. Indeed, my friend Jamie and I were just starting to construct it on the day that Russell died. I went upstairs to see if he was getting up when we stopped for a coffee break, which he was, and minutes later he died on my lap.
But the tortoises were going to have to come indoors for the autumn and so, a week or so later, we had no option but to finish the job. When I got Eloise cat, we had to make a cover for it, as it was just too tempting for a cat, both to lie under the sun lamps and – I’m sorry to say – to use as a litter tray. We constructed it so that it would be possible to unscrew the structure during the summer, but it was actually just too much effort to rebuild it and I left it in place, just replacing topsoil. Now, it’s gone and we have barrowed away about fifteen square yards of earth and gravel (which I’d put there in some of the plastic trays that Alex used to have strawberry punnets delivered in because, at the time, I thought about taking it out again) and, tomorrow, we’ll finish cleaning the whole room and rearrange furniture. Porch isn’t really the word for it and nor is conservatory – my mother-in-law used to call it the sun room and that’s as good a name as any, but the back porch was removed when we built on the room that’s now the study, and I’ve got to have somewhere to keep my wellies.
The new chickens are eating a lot, so they must be reasonably happy, though they keep treading earth into their water bowl. This is just what chickens do, they are daft birds. Russell used to change their water bowls several times a day, which doesn’t really seem to make much sense (he had endless patience and didn’t mind: I am patient but more practical) but when he wasn’t well enough and I started caring for the cooks, I went and bought a couple of drinkers so that the water stayed clean. It’s no good in a coop though, there’s not enough room and they manage to dirty the water whatever it’s in. I grew early potatoes in two bags in the greenhouse, which was very successful and we’ve had all the potatoes we wanted for several weeks. I emptied out the first bag today, taking the last few potatoes in it for a lunchtime salad, and picked up several slugs hiding underneath. I left the woodlice as I’m fond of them, but took the slugs for a treat for the chickens. The remaining original bantam tried a peck and was rather disconcerted (I’ve no idea why, they all used to love them) and the others wouldn’t go near. So I gave them to the newcomers, who also looked nonplussed. I expect they’ll have worked it out. They’ll get used to my ways – they polished off the remains of last night’s cheese soufflé, anyway.