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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—

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

ravens r us and a trip to the Tower

Last week, with enormous thanks to Chris, the RavenMaster at the Tower of London I got to talk raven.

Followers of this blog will know I am an enormous corvid fan and I was thrilled to spend so much time talking about them and getting up close. I will no doubt be writing about a raven after this Cat book I'm working on and the fox book which is waiting in the wings. Chris told me a chilling story of one female raven who led her two young suitors to the top of the Tower. She flew down, and the ravens who would follow her anywhere went after her and fell to their death. They had not yet mastered how to fly. Hence she was known as the Black Widow.(I can't help wondering if she knew they couldn't fly.)
Merlina the star raven - named when it was discovered she was not Merlin after all.

I three times rescued this little chap from the lane and the jaws of a dog. I made him a snug nest of straw somewhere safe but he definitely had his own agenda and eventually after trying to persuade him he might like to be with another of his kind I just let him be. I hope he is curled up somewhere warm.

We've had a pom pom making fest!

I had no idea that making pom poms could be so addictive. And I'm not the only one. I mentioned the pom poms to our blacksmith (I felt rather foolish when everyone else was talking about ploughing and jumping huge fences)- a young, handsome man in his leather apron and strong physique and was enthralled when he turned to me, Harry's large back hoof in his hand and told me he had a really good gadget for making them and that he and his wife and made hundreds of them. (we use the legs of a chair)

We made strings of them as festive garlands for outside but now the winter has come they are, like the hedgehog, nestled down in a box. I suppose they are a bit like coloured hedgehogs. I might have to join Pom Poms Anonymous.

As Beezle and ee.cummings would day " The world is doing its best, night and day to make you everybody else."

Pixie's interesting fact (which she didn't get from the Raven Master) is that all but one of the Tower Ravens died from stress during the Blitz. Is this right Chris?

A last rose showing it's beauty before the frosts

Pixie's usual greeting to anyone who comes to the door. She's scared a few delivery men.

The Raven - Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
''Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
''Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more.'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'Sir,' said I, 'or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you'- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, 'Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, 'Lenore!'-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more.'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
'Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, 'art sure no
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as 'Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, 'other friends have flown
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, 'Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
'Doubtless,' said I, 'what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'.'

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
'Wretch,' I cried, 'thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he
hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil!- prophet still, if bird or
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil- prophet still, if bird or
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,' I shrieked,
'Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!