If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and flies like a duck…..chances are it’s a duck!

Sea Spray

A few days ago I stood at the local animal sanctuary and soaked up their surroundings for the first time. I watched a little pony called Poppy, on a lead reign, all ready for her daily constitutional down the lane. The simplest route to start her walk was through the main field full of donkeys and Poppy wasn’t having any of it. She had dug her back hooves in and several volunteers were trying their best to get her to shift. It’s for her own good they assured us. The lady who set this sanctuary up, and has run it for fourteen years, wisely kept silent and observed. She and I stood back and talked quietly. This is a pony who just wants a little girl to love her. The other horses, ponies and donkeys nip her backside whenever she comes near and Poppy’s displacement is there for those that can see. Eventually, they walked her round the edge of the other empty fields and went down the lane, where Poppy went without a murmur. She has her reasons, because animals feel, have memories and only have their bodies to communicate with us. I have offered to walk and groom her when I am down there. Best of British luck to anyone trying to get her to do anything that she feels uncomfortable with, as Poppy clearly knows what’s best for her.

I watched a little boy riding his bike on the sea path yesterday. His Mum, a baby strapped to her front, and Gran were walking behind as he sped along with a very whizzy helmet on his head. He got a little way ahead and the waves were throwing up a lot of spray, so his Mum called out to him to stop. He carried on. She called again and I watched his back tense and he kept going. His Mum called again, but kept her tone light. She and I looked at each other and laughed. We agreed that he was doing a quick risk assessment on his situation and weighing up his options. We watched for a few moments and he stopped, but he didn’t turn around. All three of us women smiled at each other.

I have had a lovely idea for the last two days to get some new creative painting done. This has not happened due to unexpected things popping up, other folks plans demanding my attention and ‘WTH’ moments. I say ‘WTH’ because my Mum reads this, but really I said something completely different. One of my dearest buddies on the service I work on has this daily mantra; ‘Try not to get angry, tired or hungry’. With this in mind I stocked up on fresh fruit and veg at the market yesterday and bought some ‘Sleepytime’ tea. I have not yet reached the point of needing to dust my new artistic materials, purchased with much excitement and anticipation, so I hold hope for a window of opportunity today.

There is grace in acceptance isn’t there? Things are as they are. Now about the duck……..

A start to the day too good not to share….

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When ‘down on the farm’ it is a stunningly good idea not to oversleep! I opened my eyes this morning and looked across at Houdini, who sleeps curled up against my back, and uttered the words ‘It does not feel like dawn…’ It wasn’t.

Within five minutes I had pulled on clothes and was outside to be greeted by horses lined up at the paddock gate. I correctly interpreted their look to be ‘And what time do you call this??’ and within another five minutes I had their chaff mix done and down in front of them and simultaneously let the hens out. This can be achieved at speed trust me. I put the corn down for the hens and rooster and headed straight back inside.

No time to light the range, but the whistling kettle can be put on the electric stove in the utility room. I discovered this very necessary act early on in my stay. I would also like to point out that the range and I have become friends, she now stays alight and I even managed to cook on her a few days back. It was edible too.

Anyway, much needed coffee in hand I headed back outside. I did not put my mug down as I grabbed the rake for mucking out and it got caught on the log store curtain. I thoroughly enjoyed the remaining inch of coffee in my mug and sighing deeply, I pressed on with my morning routine.

I made up time somehow and got the solar electric fence turned on, cleared the top paddock and stable of manure (goodness they produce a lot), cleaned out the hen house, mucked out the stable, re-filled the horse water barrels and the hen’s water containers, swept the yard and breathed out. I stopped and looked out at the valley, and with Houdini at my feet, watched the morning start to unfurl down there.

The gentle large male horse came down from the top paddock to say ‘Hello’ and for anyone who is not familiar with horses, when they flow love they lean on you. I took five minutes out and rested against the fence as he leaned on me. I rested my head against his and wrapped my arm underneath his neck. We stood like that and listened to the woodpeckers and birds in the forest and breathed together. He’s a special boy and I am carrying those peaceful few moments into my day. I wonder if my clients on the phone line this morning will feel the peace? I suspect they might.

Get down off the gas stove Jane, you’re too old to ride the range…mind you, it would help enormously if I could keep the blessed thing alight!

Forest views

I have landed in my next assignment and fallen under a spell.

This beautiful old deep stone walled home is way up a very high hill, looking down onto the valley below and across to the next hill. As I wound my way up here yesterday along a single track, a rare feeling came over me. I just knew that I was entering a different world and there were creative and loving souls living in the cottages dotted amoungst the trees. These hills are surrounded by an ancient forest and look out onto a wide river that is tidal.

I have come here for a week to care for a family’s brood whilst they take a well earned break abroad. We all got to spend some time together before they left at lunchtime today and loving bonds were formed very quickly. I am caring for a retired horse, a Shetland pony, hens, a timid rooster and a characterful fox terrier.

The forest is full of bluebells just coming out and to walk there with a dog that bounds joyously whilst I throw her sticks, is a very happy thing to do.

This little dog has many friends up here and on the way back from our walks she stops to greet her buddies at different gates. I have met the neighbours across these gates and invitations have been extended to stop for tea, cake and a natter whenever I feel the need. This hill is full of writers, musicians, artists, happy animals and love.

This morning I found myself grooming and mucking out my charges at 7am. The air is so clear and fresh up here, and there are trees left from an old orchard dotted across the fields and paddocks. It is an idyllic setting and I cannot think of a better way of starting the day. Mind you, two hours later I was more than ready for the cooked breakfast I was offered.

So far, I have managed to get to grips with some trails through the forest and finding my way back, the mucking out/grooming/feeding routine for my four legged friends, the hens needs and a few challenges.

The old kitchen range and I have yet to find a balance. I am sure there is a knack and so far I don’t have it, as she keeps going out. Thank goodness for the solar panels as this ensures me a much needed deep bath later in the luxury double ended hip bath…oh Yes! However, the challenge of making a hot drink still remains as I have a whistling kettle that does not recognise mains power.

Another interesting moment, was when my little furry companion took off as I gave the hens their lunchtime pellets. Mmmmmm, I suspected she may be making her way to the motorway to follow her family. We were in the paddock for goodness sake and it was supposed to be ‘escape’ proof. It wasn’t….I have nicknamed her ‘Houdini’ and I found her an hour later playing with her buddy, a Springer Spaniel, next door. This was just as I had started to ring round the neighbours, her family having left me a long list of phone numbers and contacts, so I take it that ‘Houdini’ has done this before.

I’m off outside now to water, feed, bed down, tidy and settle everyone before darkness falls. I am in my element, with a grin on my face a mile wide.