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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

entirely spider

Here is Pocket (quarter Bengal) basking in the warm weather that has put us all in various comatose states enjoying that much needed Vit.D. I love the little green leaf, the same colour and shape as his eyes that has fallen by his side on the decking.

The young rooks are fledging, with some pushed out of their nests too soon by boisterous siblings that flex their wings and take up too much room. These youngsters end up on the ground, too young to fly and prey to the red kites and foxes that patrol the area and rather sadly abandoned by their parents. I found him (or her) hiding in the long grass and she was very complicit and didn't mind being picked up, sitting peacefully on my arm as I sorted out accommodation for her. I wasn't going to give her a name because somehow giving her a name would make us more attached but she's ended up being referred to as Widget.

To start with I hand fed her but now she's learnt to feed herself and she's very funny to watch if she is trying out new foods, jumping up and down on the spot if it's something she hasn't seen before like rice. Cheese is always a good favourite with corvids it seems. She's now in the shade poly learning to fly which she is accomplishing very well. When her baby fluffy feathers go I'll leave the door open for her to fly back to her family.

Meanwhile the runners in the garden can all feed themselves and barely being able to fly more than a few inches off the ground, content themselves with running and swimming in the paddling pool.  Some of the pigeon's nest that has been made up the chimney fell down the other day into the hearth and to my delight it was full of white horse hair from Harry the horse.

It's been picnic weather and here is Pixienic joining us in the Nature reserve for a slap up picnic, some of which she enjoyed herself when our backs were turned.

I have been reading Mary Oliver's essays Upstream and came across one on a spider she observed in her house. She is such a beautiful writer and her description of the spider laying her egg sacs, fussing, patting and circling them, sometimes lying with her face near them - then their subsequent hatching as the shy. male spider watches from the edge of the slightly chaotic web, is so engaging that I have changed my attitude to spiders. This is quite a feat to change a lifetime fear - through literature.
When I had finished reading it I passed a huge Huntsman spider clinging onto the wall by the cupboard under the stairs. I would normally have shuddered, wondered how to get rid of it and scuttle myself up the stairs to get away from it. Instead I looked at it closely and marvelled at it and no longer felt afraid.

As Beezle and Anais Nin would say " It is a sign of great insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar."

Pixie's interesting fact is that wolf spiders can run at speeds of up to 2 ft per second.
aaah - I'm not sure I'm completely over my fear.

Below is a poem I wrote when the children were young and I realised I mustn't pass on my fear of spiders. I think I didn't succeed very well.

Entirely Spider

It broods in the folds
of the nightdress-
huge, as if it wears an overcoat
-as dark as dreams.
I shudder and sleep in the other room
There is nothing sadder than
being single and having
to deal with a large bug.

Later, when life becomes
too short to dust
and I have found other fears
I keep good company with one.
Through the borrowed view
of the bedpost
I watch her dance attendance
repair and tidy her beautiful web
nibbling at her trussed hors d’oeuvre
saving herself for the Big One
her Mr Right whom she devours
after a night of spinning passion
her just dessert.

Curled like a cat
she fills the corner
her egg sac casting a vast shadow
across the ceiling
she ceases to scurry
instead she watches and waits
her web slack with time
and misuse.

Now, as winter approaches she is ready
for her long descent.
She clings to her clever thread
my daughters screaming as she wearily
passes them
I cajole and re-assure
I place her in the palm to prove a point
and now, close up

She seems much smaller than I thought.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

the peace of wild things

Here is Beezle and Pocket (quarter Bengal)  having a peaceful moment. Pocket is the only wild thing in this picture and likes to surround himself with other wild things - rabbits, mice, birds which he distributes on the door mat and around the house. Ear of mouse, tail of rabbit, eye of shrew - sounds like something from Macbeth. A Macbeth doormat might be a lot better than the one saying "Oh no not you again." when you open the door.

 Pixie having a wild moment in the field where the horses are - where the great heron feeds.She was dancing when this photograph was taken (thank you Chloe)

and singing in this one.

Meanwhile here is a real wild thing - one of the 300 hedgehogs at the wild life hospital. I am sure any day now they will be released into the hedges and grasslands. I am putting up my hand for a few. Although our running ducks eat the slugs and snails I'm sure there are enough to go round and the badgers (who eat hedgehogs) are over a field away.

Here are the running ducks in the garden - this photograph taken by one of our guests (thank you David Jenkins.) They look as if they are holding a conference and it's only now I look closely that I see they shouldn't be in this part of the garden at all. They have clearly broken in. It transpires that this is why I found two of them marching down the track outside earlier in the week. They discovered an escape route from the forbidden garden. I had to round them up and they dutifully ran back though the gate as running ducks would.

 Harry is moulting his coat furiously and it's great to see the rooks flying off with  beakfulls of white hairs to line their nests. Those nests must be pretty lush. They don't tax their lives with the forethought of grief that's for sure.

 As Beezle and William Blake would say " Great things are done when men and mountain meet. this is not done by jostling in the street."

Pixie's very interesting fact for this month's blog post is  No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.  I told her that wasn't a fact - not even an interesting one - it was a lexophile. She said you mean to write with a broken pencil is pointless ?
What is pointless is going onto Face Book and finding that you have joined numerous groups. The Lurcher Appreciation Society. The We love Lurchers, the We love Hairy Lurchers, Foxy Fans United,
Problem Parrots (why - I don't even have a parrot?) When I found myself watching a video on how to make a cardboard washing machine I thought this has to stop. Still - I will put this post up on Face Book - after all it does feature a hairy lurcher.

I absolutely love this poem by the farmer poet Wendell Berry. In fact I love his writings.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

downward facing dog

Our lovely Beezle is recovering from a very down period in his long life.

Brave, beautiful, loyal and the inspiration for The Dog, Ray (award winning!) he has survived a badly broken leg with one bone shattered and the other a compound fracture, being kicked in the head by a horse and numerous visits to the vet to be sewn up with cut paws from racing across the flinty fields. Two weeks ago we thought he'd suffered a stroke. He fell over, had no balance, was sick, refused to eat or drink and had rapid eye movement. The vet was summoned. After fifteen and a half years it seemed he was ready to move on. But our vet was not convinced. "Vestibular syndrome!" he announced. "He'll be over it in two weeks." And how right he was. After days and days of hand feeding food and water with a syringe he wobbled up out of his bed and resumed his previous life. He has a slight tilt to his head which gives him a quizzical look and it's unlikely he'll chase hares again but happy to accompany us on a walk. Hurrah!

As Beezle and Seneca would say " learn to live wide rather than long."

Pixie is delighted too of course. On the first day of his stroke that was not a stroke she and Pocket (quarter Bengal) crowded around him and stayed close by. Pocket sitting practically on his head. They've all gone back to their usual sleeping quarters which in Pocket's case is all over the house. his favourite place being on the book whilst I'm trying to read.

I asked Pixie for her very interesting fact. She looked at me with sleepy eyes and said You cannot snore and dream at the same time. Apparently that's a fact.

These are the garden ducks running towards Spring.

I am still working on my Fox story and couldn't resist this wonderful photo of a rescue fox taken by Marilyn who runs the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital where I volunteer one day a week (see previous post)
In the garden - sweet pea plants are now planted in the poly tunnel and I hope the poly tunnel ducks don't break in and eat them which is what they've done for the last three years.

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

hedgehogs, horses and hammocks

Every Monday morning I am in hedgehog heaven.

I have volunteered at The Wiltshire Wild Life Hospital at Newton Tony near Salisbury to be surrounded by 300 hedgehogs one morning a week.  A nurse's uniform is not required but gloves are a necessity. Each adorable hedgehog has his or her own box which every day needs to be cleaned out with fresh paper, a towel, a bowl of gourmet food and a dish of water. 

Some of them are very compliant and keen to get at their new food bowl. Others understandably just roll up in a  ball and fan their prickles out.  If you're adept however you can get your hand in, just before they roll up tight, to enable you to lift them out without two many prickles piercing your gloves and then your skin.  People kindly send in stacks of newspapers as each hedgehog has probably two whole newspapers in his/her box. I try to be selective with the the top page- no pictures of Trump or anything too lurid. The TV Guide is frankly just mean. I think the crossword is probably the best. Today one of them escaped and by the time I had left, which box he'd escaped from hadn't been discovered. I suggested he was named Steve. 
( Mc Queen.The Great Escape.)

I have taken these two pics(the one just above and the one just below) from their website. Marilyn and Mike run the hospital and do a fantastic job. Sometimes Marilyn having to work till 4 in the morning if not enough volunteers turn up. As well as the badger there is a sweet fox (too difficult to photograph) and numerous birds, squirrels, a couple of swans and at the time of writing a wobbly jackdaw. When the fox cubs come in in the Spring I must be careful not to offer to take one home and bottle feed it. All the animals are returned to the wild where possible and a too tame fox cub would not survive. As it is I have to check my pockets before I leave to make sure an adorable hedgehog hasn't climbed in.

Pocket thinks I should be spending my Monday mornings with him and giving him gourmet food but Beezle is more philosophical. As he and Herman Hesse would say "Busyness drains life of its little and enormous joys." He wouldn't mind the nurse's uniform though.

Pixie's prickly very interesting fact is that the collective noun for hedgehogs is an array.

The horses are only on the blog because I haven't written about them for a while. I am still not writing about them but here is a picture of Harry.

and Trude.

And the hammock is just a gentle reminder that Spring and Summer are only round the corner. At the moment we are knee deep in mud - it's like the Somme - and being on a hill we are also in line for the prevailing winds and lashing rain and the thought of swinging in that hammock in the blazing sun is pleasing. Though I am reminded that since I got the hammock I have actually never laid in it let alone swung in it. And now I'm one of an array of  volunteers I'm even less likely to.

The Hedgehog
Paul Muldoon

The snail moves like a 
Hovercraft, held up by a 
Rubber cushion of itself, 
Sharing its secret 

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog 
Shares its secret with no one. 
We say, Hedgehog, come out 
Of yourself and we will love you. 

We mean no harm. We want 
Only to listen to what 
You have to say. We want 
Your answers to our questions. 

The hedgehog gives nothing 
Away, keeping itself to itself. 
We wonder what a hedgehog 
Has to hide, why it so distrusts. 

We forget the god 
Under this crown of thorns. 
We forget that never again 

Will a god trust in the world.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Christmas wreath and grief is the thing with spines

This is a Christmas sort of blog post featuring hedgehogs, cats and dogs and this beautiful bird picture which Chloe Coggin painted for me last Christmas.

Sad news on the hedgehog front though. The other week on one of those icy sub zero mornings (reminiscent of Antarctica - see later)(Not that I've ever been there.)I found a little hedgehog lying on the track. I picked it up intending to bury it and thought it had only just died as it hadn't stiffened up. It lay perfectly still but when I blew on it I could see tiny movement. I took it inside and rang the Hedgehog Preservation Society when they opened and they advised a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel in a box with some straw. They said it would have to be over 500grams to be able to hibernate and this little chap when I weighed him on my new digital scales (thank you Elinor -a present clearly useful not just for weighing sugar and flour.) was only 300g. He was very soft, his spines were like fur but when he began to warm up they hardened. I kept him warm all day and changed his hottie when it got cool. I went down at 2 in the morning to change it again but he had died. I think he was the same hedgehog I'd picked up on the track in the Autumn. He was very busy then and had no intention of hibernating. I guess he knew he only weighed 300 grams.

 I've nicked this photo off the internet - I'm probably not allowed to but it made me laugh and cheered me slightly after the hedgehog grief. This is a cat casting for a film.

Nancy said you'd never catch her on a lead.And she wouldn't want to be a film star anyway.

I'm still writing about a Cat myself and hope it'll be finished in the New Year -all news about it then. But I have just finished reading Mrs Chippy's Last Expedition by Caroline Alexander about the cat on Shackleton's boat The Endeavour which got frozen in the ice in Antarctica. What a lovely book - and beautifully written (see Tom Waits further down the page)I had forgotten what happened though. So moved by the little chap - even though it was over a hundred years ago I'm considering changing Pocket's name to Mrs Chippy. They look very similar in the photograph - I don't think Pocket will care too much - even like Mrs Chippy - being a boy.

Pocket quite confidence in his sex.

 I only hope my book will be as enjoyable. As Beezle and Tom Waits would say " The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering."

Pixie's very last interesting fact for 2017 is that Christmas Day is on Monday.


                                                   Hope is the thing with feathers
                                                            by EmilyDickinson


                                     “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
                                 That perches in the soul -
                                 And sings the tune without the words -
                                 And never stops - at all -

                                And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
                                And sore must be the storm -
                                That could abash the little Bird
                                That kept so many warm -

                                I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
                                And on the strangest Sea -
                                Yet - never - in Extremity,
                                It asked a crumb - of me.

Monday, 27 November 2017

mini beasts and stripey cats

I have noticed recently that Pocket (quarter Bengal) has taken to sleeping on stripy things.

 Now this may be because most of our soft furnishings have stripes on them or because he is trying to hide himself. Camouflage is a useful device, he must have padded round the house choosing the best place to sleep undisturbed - I mean if you went into the bedroom you just wouldn't know he was there. I'm wondering if I leave the doors open if a zebra will find his way upstairs and do the same thing. But this is just silly, fanciful thinking. It would never manage to get up the stairs.

My mother who was in charge of soft furnishings at home, once made a pair of regency striped curtains which she hung in the dining room. When my father saw them he shook his head in dismay and asked her to take them down. He never cared how the house was furnished but he told us he couldn't live with them as they reminded him of Belsen where the prisoners had to wear striped pyjamas. Being a doctor with the army he was one of the first through the gates when liberation happened. He hardly ever spoke of his experiences in the war and of course now he has died I wish I'd asked him more.

 This beautiful butterfly has been living in the house for a few days and maybe thinking this card,drawn by my daughter Chloe is a friend or relative, landed on it. Perhaps another form of camouflage or just trying to draw some nectar. At least there were no chemicals sprayed on it.

 At last a group photo of nine of the ducks. (the other four are in the garden.) The beautiful little brown runner came from this year's eggs and has palled up with the big white female magpie.(centre front) They seem joined at the hip - er - wing and go everywhere together. Her mother hatched four  black ones with green feathers here and there, a couple of white ones with silly hats on and the trout coloured one. Quite an assortment - like a box of Green and Black's chocolates. This reminds me that Pixie has enjoyed helping herself to the odd mini bar of Green and Black's and this morning nicked my toast when I wasn't looking.

 Considering all but the magpie ducks were born here and have known me since birth they are still convinced I'm going to eat them. There is a great deal of quacking and  waddling and flying that goes on whenever I appear. I must try camouflage.

 But as Beezle and Goerthe would say "In the beginning is the deed."

 Pixie's very interesting fact this month is that there is a butterfly in Africa with enough poison in its body to kill six cats.  Perhaps that is why Pocket is in hiding.

The tulip bulbs have arrived and I've just potted them up. I don't want to appear to be wishing away the year but can hardly wait until spring when these beauties unfurl their petals and give both pleasure to us and nourishment to those mini beasts. I jut hope they don't attract that particular butterfly from Africa.

Two Butterflies went out at Noon
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
Two Butterflies went out at Noon-
And waltzed above a Farm—  
Then stepped straight through the Firmament
And rested on a Beam—   

  And then—together bore away
 Upon a shining Sea—
  Though never yet, in any Port—
  Their coming mentioned—be—

 If spoken by the distant Bird—
  If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman—
 No notice—was—to me—