A Foxy Problem

I decided to let the chickens into the garden. They had been shut in their cage for a few weeks while the local fox had cubs, and again while we were in the Lake District, and again while some plants were being established (because chickens like to dig). But it’s much healthier for them to be roam free, to have dust-baths to clean their feathers, and to fly into the trees. I opened their door, and out they rushed.

It was hours later, as I was cooking dinner, that I realised I had never collected the eggs. I left the potatoes bubbling on the stove, and walked up the garden. As I neared the pond area, I smelt the unmistakeable whiff of fox. I started to hurry, peering into the trees for signs of feathers.

As I reached the chicken coop, I could see all the chickens, peacefully digging in the earth as they searched for tasty bugs. No casualties. But as I rounded the corner, there in the coop, just sneaking through the door, was a fox. Without thinking, I rushed up, slammed shut the door, and locked it.

The fox leapt to the corner of the cage, then turned, eyes flashing, teeth barred, fur raised. It flung itself at the locked door, then leapt for the far corner. It dug at the earth, clawed at the bars, ripped the netting from the sides of the cage. But it was trapped. Now what?

I hadn’t really thought this through. If I released the furious fox, it would almost certainly snatch a chicken or duck as it passed. But I couldn’t keep a wild animal in a cage, and soon it would be dusk and the chickens would want to roost.

I watched the fox as it flung his angry body around the cage, then I went to get reinforcements. Jay happened to be visiting, and Husband was working in his study, so I told them I had caught a fox, and asked if they could help. Both appeared amazingly quickly.

(Later, Jay informed me that this was another instance of my not being normal. Apparently normal mothers do not catch foxes, nor do they ask in very calm ‘please-can-you-empty-the-dishwasher’ type voices if their sons can help with a trapped fox. But I have given up trying to be normal.)

The fox was still angry/upset/terrified. I thought the chances of one of us being bitten was fairly high, and I wondered if foxes, like bats, have rabies. It looked healthy enough. I was impressed with the energy it was expending on trying to rip up my chicken coop, and pleased with how strong the coop was proving to be. I watched the fox as it climbed a vertical wall, traversed the roof upside-down, then dropped to the floor. Agile as a cat, vicious as a hyena.

My animals were not much help. Kia arrived, but I worried she might fight and be hurt, so I took her back to the house. Three cats arrived, and sat staring at the trapped fox. Stupid chickens arrived—it was time to roost—and lined up next to the door, ready to go inside. Did they not recognise a predator? Clearly not.

The problem was: How to remove livid fox from coop in such a way as to ensure no chickens would be hurt? Or ducks. Or cats. Or humans.

We own a couple of metal dog crates. One was inside the coop, used as a nesting box. We got the second one, checked it would fit through the door if the coop, and placed it inside a huge bag used for collecting leaves. This made a dark space, somewhere a scared fox might try to hide. We tied string to the door, so we could shut it from afar. When the fox was at the far end of the coop, we placed this wrapped cage in the coop.

We then used sticks and noise to ‘shoo’ the fox into the wrapped cage. Not as easy as it sounds, but we managed it, pulled the string to close the door, then Husband rushed into coop and closed the latch. Fox was now secure in smaller dog crate.

Jay and Husband carried the dog crate away from the coop, all the chickens went back inside, and I closed the door for the night. Disaster averted.

Note to self: Next time I trap a wild animal, it would be good to have an end-of-plan strategy in place.

Hope you don’t have any disasters this week. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

P.S. Pleeease don’t feed foxes. They are wild animals, and when they lose their fear of humans, and their gardens, they become a problem.

Anne E. Thompson
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cockerel and hen

A Confused Cockerel and other complaints. . .

He Fancied His Mother, So We Named Him Pharaoh

cockerel and hen

Hello, how are you getting on with this very strange year of 2020? I keep thinking I am used to it—I  have come to terms with the fact that every book-signing and fair has been cancelled this year and I really am not going to be selling many books—and then something else is cancelled, and all the frustration returns. I am obviously not alone, because our town is planning to have an ‘open day’ on 3rd October. It was planned through our town Facebook group (usually the place for people to rant about potholes and inconsiderate parking). Lots of people make crafts, or are artists, and we are all discouraged by the lack of places to sell our work. So, on the 3rd October, we are all going to place stalls at the end of our gardens, and people can walk or drive around town, looking at what’s on offer. To be honest, I doubt if I will actually sell any books, but it’s rather nice to have something in the diary, isn’t it?

Of course, all my animals are completely unperturbed by Covid-19. The ducklings are now on the pond, and—wonders!—they are all female. (You might remember that last spring, all my females flew away in the search of mates, and I was left with a pond full of obviously unattractive drakes.)

The chicks I hatched are a cross between the white Leghorn chickens and my grey Legbar. I am really hoping that the females will lay blue eggs, but they are still too little to lay at the moment. The Legbar cockerels are no more, as they started to get vicious. I only have one full-grown cockerel at the moment, and he is very beautiful but rather sad, as his mate died last week. He keeps running to all the places she used to go and calling for her—so my garden is very noisy at the moment. The relationship was a confused one, as she was also his mother, so I named him Pharaoh, because marrying siblings and fathering children with daughters seems to have been quite a thing in ancient Egypt. I was very confused when I was studying the lineage of the Pharaohs, as there are so many weird couplings—they have a very narrow family tree—it’s probably just as well many of them were sterile and the line died out.

We went to the beach last week. I was feeling depressed with life, so Husband rearranged his schedule, and we zoomed off to Camber with the dog. Kia loved it, and it ‘did my soul good’ as my granny would say, to see her running through the waves. When she had her twisted stomach at the start of the year (really—what an awful year this has been!) my fear was that after such a big operation, she would never enjoy life again. But I can report, that whilst she is beginning to feel her 13 years, Kia is still tremendously excited by sea and sand and seagulls.

On the way home, we had lunch in a pub (The King’s Head in Playdon). There was hand-santiser strategically placed, and the staff wore masks, and the tables were well spaced, and every customer had to leave their contact details. It all felt very safe, and encouraged me to think that eating out doesn’t have to be risky.

But then we went to Ashdown Park Hotel for lunch on Sunday, and that was entirely different! The staff did nothing at all to guard against Covid. They didn’t wear masks, we were given the same menu folders as other tables, they placed the food and drink directly on the table, and I wasn’t aware of any extra wiping or washing or screening at all. Such a shame, especially when they must be struggling to cover their costs and need customers to return. It was a lovely venue, but annoying they aren’t doing more to stop another peak.

My fears for society are reflected in the vocabulary in Mandarin I am learning so that I can chat with my friends:

Jingji weiji shi hen dou gongsi daobi, ye shi hen dou ren shiqu le gongzuo.


Which reminds me to tell you: I have decided to study ancient Greek and Hebrew. I often feel frustrated when I discover that something I thought I understood in the Bible has a completely different meaning when you look at the original language it was written in. I realise that if I don’t start to study the things I want to study now, then suddenly I will wake up and I’ll be too old. I have signed up for a course that begins at the end of September, and I am very excited about it. I shall tell you all about it when I start.

On another brighter note, the plum trees have loved the weather this year and my freezer is now full of plum crumble. When I walk, the hedgerows are teeming with blackberries and fat acorns are dropping from the trees. weird fungus There are also a whole new lot of weird fungus growing on my lawn. We might have had a rubbish year so far, but nature remains beautifully abundant.

I hope you have a positive week. Thank you for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson

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Trying to be ‘Normal’

Trying to be ‘normal’

Yesterday, Bea brought home a friend she wanted us to meet. I knew this was a fairly big deal for her, and so I was very keen that we shouldn’t embarrass her. Usually I consider that I have earned the right to be embarrassing to my children due to suffering through their teenage years when their clothes and hair and general attitudes were often not what I had hoped for when they were 5—but not this time. This time I was keen to be ‘normal’.

Now, I would say that housework is not my forte. Basically, I hate doing it, and although my kitchen is hygienic, you might find dog hairs on the floor and dust on the window sills, so my first task of the day was to tidy the house and wave a duster around a bit. Unfortunately, Husband (always to be relied upon in these situations) had helpfully decided that this was the day he was going to empty the loft of important papers from 20 years ago, and put them into bags ready to be recycled. The whole of his office resembled a rubbish tip. We had an argument (always a good start when guests are due).

I then began to wipe surfaces in the kitchen, when I noticed an unpleasant smell wafting under the utility room door. We have one of the outside cats in there, in a cage, because she has pulled the ligaments in her back legs (fell out of a tree) and the vet said she mustn’t climb or jump, and I have no idea how you stop a cat jumping, so I have put her into the old dog crate, which is big enough for her to walk around in, but has no opportunity for jumping. She is very cross, but the ligaments are healing, so all is good. Except yesterday, she had dirtied her bedding.

I attempt to open cage door and remove dirty bedding without cross cat escaping, and am about to shove dirty bedding into washing machine, when I hear a shout from the garden. Husband is yelling that the cockerels have been fighting.

I have several cockerels, hatched last year. Until now, they have lived fairly peacefully alongside each other. Cockerels will sometimes live for several years in the same flock without incident, provided they have sufficient space and females. However, sometimes you hatch an aggressive bunch, and then you can only keep one. I hurried into the garden.

One of the cockerels was clearly suffering, having been attacked by one of the bigger ones (his brother actually—chickens are pretty nasty creatures). The bird was obviously dying, and in pain, so I quickly killed him. When chickens are dead, the nerves in their bodies continue to function, making them twitch, so it can be hard to know they are completely dead. I didn’t want it to suffer, so to be sure I chopped off the head. (A chicken with no head is definitely dead, though bizarrely they can still run around!)

Looked at time: daughter due at house with friend at any moment. The cockerel had been a big bird, and it seemed wrong to simply throw him away (waste of a life) but there was no time to do anything with him. So, I tied up his legs, and hung him in garage, to deal with him later. Sent Bea a message: “If you give friend a tour of the house, don’t go in garage because there’s a dead chicken hanging from the ceiling!”

Bea replied: “What? You are meant to be trying to be normal! Dead chicken hanging in garage is not normal!”

I felt she had a point.

The rest of the visit went okay, and we liked her friend immensely. I have no idea what the friend thought of us, but hopefully we appeared to be relatively normal.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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 I am excited to tell you that my new book, Sowing Promises, is now available. A sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, it is also a stand-alone book and my best one yet (though I always think that!) A family saga, set on a farm, it is all about a family coping with unexpected happenings. . . and trying to be normal.

Available from an Amazon near you, and if you buy a copy today it will still arrive in time for Christmas–it makes a great gift for someone who you want to make smile.

UK link HERE

US link HERE

Amazon Germany HERE


Diary of a Hatch continued…

Diary of a hatch continued…

The first egg hatched Thursday, the last one (which died halfway through) was on Sunday. By Monday, the box I had used as the first brooder was beginning to look too small. I had 9 chicks in there—though the female Longbar was still looking very weak and wasn’t feeding on her own. I began to feed her yolk every hour, in one last attempt to give her enough energy to recover. The males are fine, but smaller than I was expecting. Apparently, they are a fairly rare breed, so perhaps they are difficult to raise, which is a shame (I really want some of those lovely blue eggs!)

I moved an old dog crate down from one of the coops. It was covered in cobwebs and old bits of straw, so it needed a good clean. I placed it on its side, with the door at the top, so I can easily change the food and water pots. The gaps between the bars are currently too big (though the chicks will soon grow) so I wedged fine mesh fencing inside (cutting my fingers as I did so).

The chicks still need to be fairly close to the heat-lamp, so I put some upturned washing up bowls in the bottom, then covered them with hay, hence raising the height. I dragged the whole lot over an old piece of sacking (because the last time I had chicks in the garage, I left a mucky stain on the garage floor, and for some reason this matters…)

I find that I waste a lot of time when I have new chicks. They are wonderful to watch; I can spend ages staring at them. When they first went into the bigger cage, they were very anxious, and all huddled together under the red light. I checked them after an hour, and they were going bananas! The Leghorns were rushing full speed in circles, round and round the cage, excited to have so much space. The Speckled Sussex are already growing wing feathers, and keep testing them—they’ll be flying before I know it, so I need to keep the door/lid shut. I am supposed to be proofreading my farm book, Ploughing Through Rainbows, which will be published imminently, but watching chicks is way more exciting.

Day Six

When I came down this morning, the female Legbar had died. What a shame. At least I know that I gave her every chance to survive. Sometimes a chick is doomed from the start, perhaps something internal didn’t ever develop properly, or maybe something was injured during the hatch; you get rather accustomed to death when dealing with animals, life is very precarious.

The remaining 8 chicks are all vibrant and growing well. They run madly around the cage, eat and drink independently, and then suddenly, with no warning, will close their eyes and be asleep. They are still clustering under the lamp to sleep, so it’s not time to raise it yet (as they develop feathers, I will move the lamp further and further away, until they no longer need it.

My next problem is how to introduce them to the established flock. My plan was to add them to the broody hen’s nest. However, due to the weak chick, I delayed this (as she would definitely have died, and I wanted to give her a chance). I now have rather large chicks. I could still attempt to smuggle them into the nest and hope the hen doesn’t notice—but she will then abandon her own eggs, and I feel a little uneasy about in effect killing unhatched eggs which must be almost fully developed (she has 2 potentially fertile ones). However, if I wait many more days, the chicks will be too big. I can then introduce them as ‘teenagers’, when they are feathered and more robust but still submissive. They’ll have a horrid few days while the adult chickens establish the pecking order (basically by pecking the young ones and hurting them) but then should be accepted into the flock. If I don’t do that, they will form a separate flock of adults, and will fight if I attempt to combine them with the established flock (and chickens will fight until one dies, so I don’t want that to happen).

Day Seven

I threaded a stick through the bars of the cage, so that the chicks learn how to use a perch. It’s much safer when they’re adults if they’re accustomed to roosting somewhere high (especially if for some reason they’re not in the cage at night). They were very interested in the stick, and pecked it.

Day Nine

The flight feathers are beginning to grow, so the Speckled Sussex now have patterned sides.

The chicks are using the stick (perch) as a hurdle, and seem to enjoy leaping over it.

Day Ten

The outside nest stinks—obviously at least one egg has gone bad. The plan was for the broody hen to accept the incubator chicks with her own hatchlings (she has 2 fertile eggs from Ebay, and several of her own, infertile ones). But, if she abandons the nest due to bad eggs, she will also lose her nurturing instincts.

I donned heavy duty gardening gloves and a coat (despite hot weather) and went to tackle the nest. Hen extremely angry, and fluffed up her feathers, and swore, and attacked me—all rather scary. Even when I moved away, she was flying at me and pecking. In the end, I trapped her under an upturned crate for a few minutes, so I could remove the eggs from the nest. I threw away all the bad eggs (one was so bad, that as I put it into a bucket, it exploded, covering me in extremely stinky pale yellow stuff.

I released the hen, who fluffed her way back to the nest and turned the remaining eggs. I wasn’t sure if she would begin to abandon the nest, so decided to try adding the chicks. I selected one male Legbar, briefly covered the hen’s eyes with a flowerpot, and placed the chick next to her on the nest, with one of her feathers on its back. Then I stepped back, and waited…

The chick was cheeping for its family, the hen was making a sort of low growl—which I didn’t know if it was a warning or a comforting sound (I don’t speak ‘chicken’). They stayed, a small distance from each other, not moving, for ages. I went to have lunch.

Returned after lunch (I still smell of rotten egg) and the chick had disappeared. Had the hen killed/eaten it, or was it safely underneath her? I watched for ages, and eventually, the chick’s head appeared from under the hen. Phew! It was safe. I collected another chick, and left it on the edge of the nest (the mother hisses when I go near—I am beginning to learn ‘chicken’ language).

The second chick was accepted, so I began to add another chick every half hour. Each time, the chick cheeped, the hen made her low growling noise, the chick gradually drew nearer (I’m guessing because she was warm) until the chick was actually leaning against her, crawling under her, climbing on her. All seemed to be going well, and I was feeling extremely relieved.

Although the chicks are cute, the next couple of weeks will be hard work if they remain inside. They will grow very fast, and produce lots of poop, so I will have to replace the hay frequently. Then I will need to gradually acclimatise them to outside, with trips of increasing length to the aviary (transporting them is always adventure, watched on all sides by 4 cats).  My life is so much easier if a hen adopts them.

I then had a problem. I introduced the first big white Leghorn chick, and the hen hated it. She wouldn’t let it near the nest, and when it approached, she pecked it. I have no idea why, maybe it smelled different, maybe I had introduced the chicks too quickly. Whatever the reason, she suddenly turned against the chicks she had previously accepted, and started to peck them too. They ran away and hid in a corner.

I decided to leave. Perhaps, as the chicks grew cold and cheeped, the hen’s maternal instincts would surface and she would care for them. I didn’t think she would actually kill them.

An hour later, all the chicks were huddled in a corner, trying to climb under each other to get warm. The hen was ignoring them. I tried to put the first chick close to her, but she pecked at it. I left them until the evening.

At 6pm it was getting too cold for the chicks to be out without a heat source, and the hen was refusing to adopt them. I put them all into a big flowerpot and carried them back to the heat lamp in the garage. What a shame.

Day Eleven

The chicks are using their wings, and fluttering all around the cage. One Leghorn has found the perch, and flies up to stand on it. The others are trying to copy. As I clean them out, the level of the hay will get lower and therefore further from the lamp, so the warmest place will be on the perch, which should encourage them to roost on the perch at night. (If the mother had adopted them, she would naturally take them on the perch to roost when they had feathers. Such a shame she rejected them.)

Day Fourteen

The chicks seem bigger every day. Today, I decided I would put them outside for a couple of hours, to start preparing them for when they’re outside permanently. I first checked the hen, and got bit of a surprise. The infertile eggs she’s been sitting on were obviously not all infertile, as today she had chicks. They are tiny, and beautiful, and she would not let me see them (I think she has 7). When I went into the cage, to add chick-crumb and water, the hen flew at me, beak pecking, trying to kill me. In her fury she scattered the chicks, and one was injured, I think its leg is broken. The hen bustled back to the nest with her chicks, and I rescued the injured one from where it was hiding under a crate. I put the big chicks outside, and put the injured hatchling under the heat lamp to recover.

When I returned to the garden, the chicks were all huddled together in a corner, looking cold—I don’t think they’re very keen on the outside! But they’re getting too big for the garage really, so will have to start spending days in the garden. I’m off to Poland for the weekend, so Son is looking after them while I’m away (I’m not quite sure how to mention that he now has 7 extra to care for…I might not saying anything and let him discover them when he goes to feed the hen!)

Thank you for reading. On Monday I will tell you about our trip to Krakow.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Arriving Home from Hong Kong

Arriving Home From Hong Kong

We had a night flight—taking off at midnight(ish). I thought this would be okay, as I had kept my clock behind HK time, but it wasn’t, it was ghastly. I was travelling back economy class, and I don’t know how anyone manages to sleep sitting up—I certainly can’t, even with one of those clever curly neck-support pillows. I did try, but it was useless. Watched the entire boxset of The Little Drummer Girl and slept for about 10 minutes the entire 12-hour flight—and those 10 minutes were after they’d served breakfast and cleared away, and I was woken from my lovely deep sleep by the pilot saying we were landing. A bit of a shame that he couldn’t circle for a bit, seeing as I’d just got to sleep, but that’s life…

We arrived home about 7am, so the rest of the family was rushing to get ready for work. Nice to see them briefly before they left. The dog, of course, was ecstatic to see us, and bounced around the house shedding hair by the handful.

The hen has at last gone broody, and is sitting on the eggs outside. This means if the eggs in the incubator hatch, she should raise the chicks for me. However, the incubator was emitting a nasty smell (to be honest, I thought at first it was Husband’s socks! The incubator is in the utility room, and there was a pile of washing on the floor, and I thought that was where the horrid smell was coming from. Luckily I didn’t say anything…) The family have been keeping the water topped up for me while I was away, but that’s all I asked them to do (they are all very tolerant of my animal hobbies, but they don’t necessarily want to share them fully).

The only way to check the eggs was to take each one out of the incubator and sniff it. As I arrived home during the last 3 days, when the eggs are no longer turned and you’re supposed to keep the lid shut so the temperature and humidity stay constant, this was bad timing. But a bad egg could kill all the others, so there was no choice. I sniffed one egg that was very pongy, and another which was suspect, so removed them. No way of telling if the other eggs had been killed by the nasty fumes—or by my opening the incubator at a crucial time—just a matter of waiting until the end of the 3 days and seeing whether they hatch. Such is the precariousness of life.

I had pretty much decided that all the eggs had died, when I noticed two were trembling. When I listened, I could hear them, cheeping away inside the eggs. This is always so exciting, knowing that there is a chick inside an egg, and having to wait until it hatches before you can see it—a wrapped gift, hidden from sight. Forced myself to not open incubator again, and to just wait.

One day later, and a third egg was trembling. A tiny chip had appeared in one of the eggs – one of the Speckled Sussex eggs (which I am now pretty sure are bantams). I usually place a piece of muslin underneath, to soften the hard plastic incubator a little and so the chicks don’t waste energy by moving the eggs rather than cracking them (they would be held still in a nest). I didn’t have any muslin, so used a blue dishcloth – seemed to work.

By the third day, one chick had completely hatched and was loudly trying to persuade the others from their eggs. I took it out of the incubator a few times, so it could drink, but worried that every time I opened the lid, I was decreasing the chances of the other eggs surviving. I set up a box in the garage, under a red heat lamp, and filled it with straw. I was really hoping a second chick would have hatched, but in the end I had to put one little chick by itself into the big lonely garage. I gave it a mirror for company (it’s a chicken, they’re not known for their intelligence).

I’ll let you know if any more hatch. I hope you have some nice surprises this week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
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All Quiet On The Chicken Front…

I thought I would give you a quick update on my news. First, the family of cockerels. As you may remember, I was fortunate (!) enough for five of the six hatchlings to be male. Now, contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to have a flock with more than one cockerel and not have open warfare. I know this because I had two cockerels who lived very peacefully alongside each other for a couple of years (until a fox ate them). However, five young cockerels, plus their father, seems like a lot.

As the hatchlings grew, and were allowed to roam freely around the garden, the flock separated. The parents and the female wander around the garden together, and the young cockerels form a separate flock. A few weeks ago, they started ‘facing off’ to each other. None of them has spurs yet (the deadly sharp talons on the back of their legs) so I figured they were unlikely to kill each other, and were probably simply sorting out the pecking order. I left them to it. The dog takes a keen interest in this, and has taken upon herself the role of peace-keeper. If they start to fight, she stamps on them – which is remarkably effective.

When we went to Devon for a week, I was worried about leaving them all in the same cage, so I split them up. I waited until evening, when they were all roosting on the perch, and then went to move the young cocks into a separate cage. I have to say, it takes an amount of courage to approach a cockerel, which is staring you in the eye, at head-height, with an elongated neck and fluffed up feathers. But I managed to pick them all up, ignored all the squawking, and carried them, one by one, to a new cage; and I survived without getting my eyes pecked out (which would have made Husband cross).

When I returned home after Devon, I opened both cages, to see what would happen. For a couple of days, the father and both hens roosted in one cage, the five young cockerels in the other. Gradually, as they have established a pecking order, two of the weaker cockerels have started to join the parents. I now have ‘the elite team’ of cockerels in one cage, and the rest in the other. For now, we are at an uneasy truce. If any of them become very aggressive, they will have to go (don’t ask me how – but I am not vegetarian, and neither is the local fox, so I figure I have a couple of options…unless you would like a pet cockerel? Do let me know.)

My other news, which is sort of vaguely related, is my new book, which is set on a farm. The first draft is finished, and I began to send it out to publishers. One publisher sent back a detailed editorial report, saying they didn’t want to publish it as it was, but would reconsider if I rewrote it. I am therefore in the process of rewriting it. This is taking much longer than I expected – longer in fact than writing the first draft, because as I change things, I lose the rhythm of the story, so have to rewrite increasingly large sections. It feels like work, and is not much fun. But I do feel the book is improving, so it’s worth the effort. When finished, I will resubmit to the publisher, and see what happens. I would like it to be released in the summer, but it may take longer than that. I will let you know.

A late Christmas gift was a trip to the British Museum and having a tour of the artefacts that relate to various stories in the Bible. Do you know why it was historically appropriate for Daniel to be put in a lions den? Or the name of the Pharaoh who put Joseph (of the coloured coat) in charge of all the agriculture? Or the Pharaoh who suffered the plagues at the time of the Exodus (because it probably wasn’t Ramesses!) I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s blog.

That’s all for now. I hope you have a good week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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The Mystery of the Missing Lighthouse

Dear M,

I’ve had a nice weekend, how about you? I want to tell you about the lighthouse – but first I’ll tell you about chickens.

There’s a bit of chicken news, as I decided that the chicks are now big enough to be let out of the cage. The cats never touch the chickens, but would eat the chicks if they could, so I have to wait until they are definitely big enough to fit the cat definition of “chicken” and not “dinner”. The parents have been very antsy, waiting to be let out, and the cockerel has made a few escape attempts, by lurking near the door and rushing at it when I open it to feed them. Today, I let them out.

When I opened the door, the parents were waiting, and were out in a flash. The chicks started to follow – and then stopped – and waited. They stared for a while at the outside, and then, very slowly, turned back to the cage and walked away from the door. I waited for a while, and then just shut them in. Stupid birds. I’ll leave the door open again tomorrow, and see what happens; I didn’t want them to wander out after the parents had left, as they’re safer in a flock.

I thought the hen was still not laying, but when I did a proper clean up of the cage, I found a whole stash of eggs hidden where I couldn’t see them. Nice to have eggs again.

The chicks are still too small to be laying, but they do now roost on the perch at night. Very grown-up of them!

I keep looking, trying to guess which are males – cockerels have large red crowns on their head. Only two of the six have little crowns, which suggests I have four cockerels. (Four! Very bad news.) However, the mother has quite a large crown for a female, and so I’m also checking the chick’s legs. Two have definite thick, cockerel-sized legs, but two others are thinner. So, I am still hoping that I might be lucky and have more than two hens in the clutch.

Now to the lighthouse mystery. You remember that S gave me a lighthouse for Christmas, to go next to the pond? I loved it, because it was solar-powered, and at night went round and round. But the ducks weren’t so keen, and made a big fuss, so for a few months it lived near the house. I became rather fond of it, seeing the light sweep round the garden every evening when I shut the curtains.

Anyway, when the new pond was finished, I wanted to persuade the ducks to sleep on the island, not the bank, and I thought I could use their dislike of the lighthouse. So, I set it up, with a piece of masking tape across the area that would shine on the island, and put it next to the pond. I didn’t want it to fall in, so I built a little clay wall between the lighthouse and the water. It worked really well, when it got dark each evening, the light would start to sweep around the pond, only the island was dark. I thought it might also help to keep the fox away.

However, a week later, when I went to feed the ducks, the lighthouse was gone. I looked all around the pond. The little clay wall was still there, but no sign of the lighthouse. It was too heavy for a duck to move it (even the big ducks have no weight to them, and would be unable to move it, even if they flapped their wings right on it). I felt so sad, I thought that either someone from the farm lane had seen the light and climbed into the garden to steal it, or else the fox was so annoyed by it he had carried it away. I tried to sweep the bottom of the pond with the long net, but no luck, the lighthouse was gone.

Then on Sunday, when I was lamenting, again, the loss of my lighthouse, Dad said he’d try and search the pond for me. He set off, in leaky waders and bare legs, into the muddy pond. I wasn’t hopeful, but about 20 minutes later, a soggy man appeared at the kitchen door, with the dripping lighthouse. I was so pleased. He said that it was about 2 metres from the bank, which suggests it had been thrown rather than fallen. Can angry foxes throw? Maybe they can.

I don’t know if it will ever work again. I’ve unscrewed all the parts that I can without breaking it, and have spread it out on newspaper to dry out. Kia – nosiest dog in the world – tried to help. Next week I’ll reassemble it, and see if it works. But even if it doesn’t, I’m so glad it’s back. I’ll let you know next week if it works (or not…)

Hope you have a happy week.
Take care,
Love, Mum xxx



Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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Just Life

Hi, how’re you? Yesterday I had a grotty night, and woke up feeling snotty. I hate colds, don’t you? I know in terms of illnesses, they are very minor, but they don’t feel minor, they feel rotten. I gave myself an easy day.

On Friday (before I was ill) it was my turn to cook. Several of the staff were away, and a few have retired, so I had to be very well-prepared, and it was all quite hard work. While I was peeling potatoes, one of the team members came to chat to me. Most of the team are older than me, so I love hearing their stories. He was talking about the war, and he said that one of his friends was in the marines and belonged to the ‘special forces’ (whatever that might mean). Apparently, before they went on a mission, they were given drugs, so they could stay awake for ages, and wouldn’t feel frightened, even though they were going into extremely dangerous situations. He thought they were given heroin, but when I told my son, later, he said it was probably cocaine. I have no idea myself—I didn’t know such things happened in real life. When the marines returned, they went straight into hospital, where they had to stay for the week, until the drugs were out of their system.

I don’t know if this is true, or exaggerated. But it’s kind of interesting, don’t you think? I wonder if things like that happen today. War is always terrible; the rules change.

Anyway, I survived the cooking (without the need of narcotics) and the seniors survived eating it. They also survived the ‘keep-fit’ session we have introduced at the beginning. An ex-PE teacher came, and showed them some exercises they could do. Apparently, if you have arthritis, it’s very important to use your joints, otherwise they seize up.

My other news in brief: The chicks are growing fast. Each day I look, and try to guess whether they’ll be cockerels or hens. Cockerels have a very red crown, and thicker legs, and even at this age they tend to be very dominant. I think 4 of the 6 chicks are cockerels, which is very bad. Last time, only 2 of the 6 were, and they lived peacefully together for ages (until the fox got one). I’m not sure how four will fare, plus their dad. I may have to separate them, which will be a right pain. Do you know anyone who would like a very noisy pet?

I have also nearly finished the first draft of my new book (due to be published in June 2019, because the next part takes ages!) This book has been fun to write, as it’s a lighter read than my last two, and has some funny parts. As it’s set on a farm, I thought I would take some photos of the cows in the field next to the house. They are young steers (boys) and when I arrived they were all lying under a tree, which was no good for a photo. I climbed over the stile, and called to them, but they ignored me. So very gradually, keeping an eye on how far I was from the gate, I walked towards them, my camera poised. One stood up, but they didn’t come any closer. I was talking to them, trying to look as if I might have food, making general cow-like noises. Eventually they all began to stand, and then, as a single mass, they lumbered towards me, their great fat sides swaying from side to side. I didn’t want to be pushed over, so I retreated to the stile, and stood on it. They came right up to me, the flies buzzing round their eyes, their wet noses dripping, their tongues reaching out to touch me.

I took several photos, while they took it in turns to lick me, and press their noses against my jeans. I returned home very soggy, and smelling of cows. I like cows though, there is something uncomplicated about them. Don’t you think so?

Hope you have a good week, and don’t feel the need to be drugged (and also hope you manage to avoid having a runny nose—there are a lot about!)

Take care.
Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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Animal Update

Things are getting exciting in the garden! The broody hen is still sitting, and her eggs could hatch any time now, though are due in a few days. (I’m not sure if the warm weather we’re having will speed things up, or if it takes 3 weeks to hatch a chick, whatever the weather.) The cockerel is very bored, and tries to escape every time I go up to see them. I’m trying to give him cabbages and pots of mud to play with. But he’s still bored. Poor chap. He’ll have to stay caged at least until September, because the fox is still visiting.

The ducks are less bored, as there are more of them, though I don’t think they’re very keen on being caged. The ‘duckling which hen hatched’ is now fully integrated as a duck, and although s/he hangs back a bit, is definitely part of the flock. They are quite hard work, as their main pastime is to fill the water bowls with mud. They need to do this to some extent, as the mud then dissolves, and when they drink the water they also absorb grit, which they need for their egg shells. Except, all my ducks are male, so they don’t lay eggs, which means it is mostly just annoying. They splash the water everywhere, and it’s fun to watch happy ducks playing, but it does mean that their cage is a mess, covered in wet mud at all times. I cannot imagine how much worse keeping a pig must be.

The pond is almost ready for them. It was rather scary when it was first done, as we were basically left with this big, clay lined hole. As we have never lived here during such a long dry season, we didn’t know how low the old pond would have been (it’s a water-table pond, so tends to fill and empty with the weather). However, looking at this huge dry hole was a worry. Then the storms came, and the pond began to fill, and—more importantly—stay full. Phew! We went and bought some plants in our excitement. This was a bit daft, as I know when the ducks are put in, they will eat them all, but I couldn’t resist. My favourite (which unfortunately also looks rather tasty) is a floating plant. It has roots which dangle under the surface, and the plant drifts across the pond. It will be killed as soon as we have a frost (unless I bring it in, I guess; perhaps we’ll have a bowl of water in a shed and try to keep it alive). But I am pretty sure the ducks will eat it. Ducks eat everything. Except, they did not eat the water irises that Grandpa gave us last year. They were yellow, and I rather fell in love with the purple and white water irises we saw in Japan; so I bought some when I saw them in the shop. They are tiny, and were quite expensive, so I have one of each colour. Am hoping they will spread.

The ‘outside cats’ are now free, as all the diggers have gone. They had fun exploring the pond before it filled. The old grumpy cat is now confined to the house, as every summer she gets an allergy, which makes her scratch her fur out. I didn’t catch it in time this year, as it started early (I guess due to the warm weather) so by the time I trapped her inside, she was already very itchy. She then began sleeping in her dirt tray; and using her dirt tray; which was completely revolting. I could not bring myself to stroke her (not that I do much anyway, because she bites me). I looked online, in case I needed to take her to the vets, and learned that cats will sleep in their dirt tray if they are distressed. I guessed being itchy was distressing her, so we waited, I tried to bath her (have the torn skin on my arms to prove it) and we tried to be kind to her. After a few days, she started to sleep in her bed. Happy days! It’s remarkable how low your animal-contentment levels can go.

I feel bad that she’s stuck in a single room, it feels like a prison (but she’s old and will poop in my house if I let her roam free). I therefore put the dog and Milly (one of the outside cats) in with her every so often, as she will tolerate both of them. (I cannot say she ‘likes’ them, as I don’t believe she likes any of us.) The dog takes her gifts. She is unappreciative.

Hope you have a good week.


Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.


Mother Hen

My broody hen has done rather well. Yesterday, when I went to let out the chickens, I could hear someone cheeping from the nest. I tried to see, but mother hen wasn’t moving, and I am wary of her beak. I checked several times during the day, but although there was often cheeping, there was no sign of any hatchlings. I wondered what it would be.

You might remember me telling you, a few weeks ago, one hen went broody and made a nest. I don’t want any more chickens, especially as at least half are cockerels, so I decided to remove the eggs. But a broody hen gets very upset when you take her eggs, and will sometimes disappear in an attempt to hide a nest. I do want some more ducks, and I had some duck eggs in the fridge, so as I removed the chicken eggs, I replaced with them with duck eggs. Mother hen hissed at me, but continued to sit.

Chicken eggs take exactly 3 weeks to hatch. Duck eggs take exactly 4 weeks to hatch – the cheeps were heard after 3½ weeks. So I had no idea what it was, duckling or chick?

Had the mother laid a sneaky egg after I’d removed them? Or had one of the other hens dumped an egg in the nest? I checked several times, but she wouldn’t budge. A very good mummy, but frustrating for me!

Finally, today, they had emerged from the nest. There were two empty shells, (and two dead eggs). I only saw one hatchling – who was being shy. I still couldn’t be sure if it was a duckling or a chick! 





Eventually, they started to move around. The duckling watched the mother, copying what she did. She learned how to eat the chick crumb, and drink from the water pot. I’m still not sure if there’s a second duckling – if not, I’ve no idea what happened to the other hatchling (perhaps they ate it!) I will let you know if it turns up (the hen hasn’t actually left the cage, so it could be hiding underneath her).


The mother hen was a bit perturbed when her ‘chick’ insisted on climbing into the water drinker, rather than just drinking from it. I fear she has a few water related surprises ahead. And she’s going to be very disappointed when her chick can’t fly this time next week. But so far, she’s doing brilliantly.

Thank you for reading. I hope your day is full of happy surprises.

Take care,

Anne x


You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.