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.

Love,
Anne

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.
anneethompson.com

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I missed the ambulance when it arrived.

I missed the ambulance when it arrived, sirens blaring, lights flashing, roaring up my driveway. I wasn’t there, I was at Lunch Club, serving fish and chips because the week was too busy to cook, so I had cheated, and ordered take-out food. But it meant I missed the ambulance, when it came.

I didn’t know there’d been an accident, until I arrived home, and was met in the driveway by one of the men working on the pond. He asked if I’d been told, if someone had phoned to tell me what had happened. I instantly assumed that one of the cats, who I’d been unable to shut away that morning, had been run over. The workmen were using a digger, and a tip-up truck, to move the soil where the pond will be, and I thought one of the cats must have run in front of a vehicle. I hid behind my sunglasses, and waited for him to tell me, not sure that I was going to react very well. So when he told me that someone had been injured by the bucket on the digger, and they’d called an ambulance as they thought his leg might be broken, I tried hard to not say:
“Oh good, I thought you’d killed one of my cats!” Instead I managed to look concerned (which I was, after I recovered from the relief of not having lost a cat) and asked how he was.

Apparently, whilst changing the bucket on the digger, it had bashed into his leg. He had managed to crawl up onto the lawn, and call one of the other workers, who phoned for an ambulance. I thought about the amount of silt that had been there a couple of days before, and how falling over in that quicksand would have been so much more horrible.

Other than injuries, the pond seems to be pretty much on track. They pumped out the water, and dug out the silt – which was several feet deep and an evil grey colour. Then they began to build the new wall with sleepers, backing them up with clay so they don’t leak. Next they will dig down, to where the water-table is (the pond is fed by the water table, which is very high just there, and tends to flood that lawn after lots of rain).

The island is a rectangle of earth that they left – if you dig around earth that is already compacted, it makes a much better island than one that is constructed with sleepers and then filled in. They will taper the edges, so the ducks can clamber out when the water level drops. One of the problems with a water table pond is that it’s very full after a lot of rain, and very shallow in dry months; so it’s hard to grow aquatic plants as they’re either submerged or dry. But ducks tend to eat absolutely everything anyway, so plants aren’t really possible unless you fence them.

At the moment, it’s all rather scary, as the lawn looks like a building site and the pond is empty. I do hope the new pond is okay, and it will be easier to stop it silting up as it’s further from the trees.

The ducks are complaining about being in a cage, and I’m constantly refilling their water bowls, as their main activity is splashing the water all over the sides. The chickens are desperate to be free, and try to escape every time I go up to see them. Thankfully, the hen has now gone broody and is sitting on her eggs. They should hatch in a couple more weeks. As the cockerel is half bantam, I’m not sure if the chicks will be small. It’s a time of waiting. I will let you know how things turn out.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the leg wasn’t broken, but was seriously bruised, so needs a few days of rest. But my cats are fine…

Thank you for reading. Have a safe week.

Love,
Anne x

*****

anneethompson.com

Caution: Old(er) Woman Running

It was Grandpa’s 80th birthday, so we invited the family round for cakes and scones. Those of you who remember that I am meant to be reducing my cholesterol levels, might be wondering how cakes and scones fit with this. But my mother told me to never answer questions like that.

To be fair, I have tried to increase my exercise, and I have started to run. Opposite our house is a big field, about 125 miles in circumference, and when I walk the dog, I now jog for some of it. It’s nicely remote, so no one can see me, and I started to run just a few paces, then walk to recover, then run a little further. I can now jog around 3/4 of the field, which I think is pretty good going. I won’t be entering the marathon, as other people might measure distances differently.

As soon as I start to run, the dog picks up a stick, and then trots in front of me, tail up, head forward, as if showing me that she thinks my speed is pathetic. When Son 2 is with me, I have to tell him I am jogging, otherwise he might just think I am doing a funny walk. There is not much discernible difference in speed between my walk and my run. In fact, the only real difference is my face goes very red, and stays that way for about 3 hours afterwards. I have no idea whether it’s making any difference to cholesterol levels.

My other news is that we have started work on the pond. It’s quite a large pond, and it’s under some large oak trees. The trees drop all their leaves into the pond, so the bottom was filling with silt, and the water was becoming ever more shallow. It was also eroding the edge, so was in danger of undermining the roots of the trees. We therefore decided to hire someone to move it. Which has turned out to be fairly major work.

Firstly, I had to catch all the ducks. This worked well with my aim to teach the duckling who was hatched by the chicken, that s/he’s a duck, and over the course of a week, I managed to catch all the ducks on the pond. They’re now in a cage, very unhappy but safe, and I spend lots of time cleaning them out and refilling water pots.

Yesterday the workmen arrived. They first had to dredge the pond, so removed the fence to make an easy access point, and began to pump out the water. They also had to move some plants that we hope to keep. A delivery of sleepers arrived, and these will make a wall on the side where the trees are, so it doesn’t erode in the future. The other edge will be natural, so it will be easy for the ducks to get in and out. They painted the grass to show where they plan to dig. The island had to be far enough from the edge to be safe from foxes, so they asked how far a fox can jump. They can, according to Google, jump 2m, so I’m hoping that’s an exaggeration or requires a run-up. I’m not sure how athletic the foxes around here are – more athletic than me, that’s for sure.

Today, a digger arrived, to dig out the rest of the pond. I had to shut the ‘outside cats’ in the workshop, as they won’t necessarily be helpful. The remaining chicken and cockerel are also still in a cage, so the fox can’t get them. Which means all my animals are caged, and I do not like animals in cages. I will let the hen go broody, so she has something to do, and then I will allow them out again in September, when any chicks she hatches will be big enough to be left. The ducks will be free in a couple of weeks I hope.

Hoping you have a healthy week.
Love,
Anne x

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.
anneethompson.com

Getting Old…

The painter man has left. My house is now smarter, though still untidy. It has been quite a good opportunity to have a sort out, and I have been ruthless with old ornaments and broken pottery that I should have thrown away years ago.

We also sorted out the DVD collection. Husband and I spent a cheery evening wading through the heap, deciding which ones we were likely to rewatch and which ones could be recycled. I was surprised by just how many DVDs we have managed to accumulate, and most of them I can’t remember watching. There was of course, some denial over who had actually ever bought some of them. All the Disney ones we blamed the children for (though there are a few that I’m suspicious may have been ordered by Husband). All the religious ones we blamed my mother for. Both of us were certain we never bought the dodgy film about a Ukrainian prostitute.

The sort out was such a success that Husband decided we should also sort out our CD collection. This was more difficult, as I never know the names of artists or albums, and needed to be reminded what the songs actually were. There were also a surprising number of CDs which were in the wrong boxes (must be the boys’ fault) and it was impossible to correct this as it seems to be trendy to produce black CDs with no discernible writing on them. Husband spotted that they all had a tiny symbol, which matched with a symbol on the box. Seems a very stupid idea to me. Felt very old.

Now sitting on duck eggs – but don’t tell her!

Other news: All my female ducks have gone. Not sure if they’ve flown away to find mates (it’s that time of year) or if the fox got them, or if they are hidden somewhere on nests. If it’s the last choice, I will find out in four weeks, when they appear with ducklings. I would like some more females, but don’t have time to hatch any eggs this year. I had a few duck eggs in the fridge still, and a chicken has gone broody, so I removed the single egg she was sitting on and replaced it with 5 duck eggs. She hissed at me, but is still sitting. We shall see what happens. It’s easier if she hatches them, as she’ll then raise the hatchlings for me.

I have also been invited to preach at a church near Bluewater. When the call came, I had gone to bed, so told Husband no, I don’t preach any more (I used to, several years ago, before I was ill). But then, when I woke the following morning, I thought that actually, although I’m not sure if I can still ‘preach’, I would really love to give a talk about all I learnt recently about the Prodigal Son. So I phoned the person who asked me, and said that I would come, but could I talk on the Prodigal Son? There was a long pause. He then said, rather hesitantly, that actually it was Pentecost Sunday. I said that was fine – please could I speak on the Prodigal Son? He agreed. He has now sent through the programme for their services, and they will be doing a series on ‘lost things’, so my talk will fit rather well. I hope I manage to do it okay. It is quite a test for me, to see if I can still do it. I will let you know how it goes.

Now selling copies of Hidden Faces, JOANNA and CLARA.

In Author World, I am still not managing to write very much of the new book. I simply cannot see the characters clearly enough yet. Never mind, they will appear eventually, and there’s no hurry, because I hate having to sell the books when they’re finished anyway! The selling bit is pootling along. Mum had a stall at a local fair for me, and sold a few books. There is also a little community shop that has opened in a nearby village, and they’ve sold a few copies too. Plus all the normal outlets. I have sold a little over 100 copies of Clara since the launch at the end of February.

I have also – finally – submitted some blurb for an author page on Amazon. I’m not sure what, if anything, it will achieve, and I had no idea what to write, so I spent some time reading other people’s author pages. Some were very personal, some said nothing except blurb about their books. I decided to go for something in between. I also had to submit a photo. Struggled hard with the ethics of submitting photo of daughter instead (she’s prettier than me). Decided she might be cross.

Have a look if you have time, the link is:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-E.-Thompson/e/B07CL8HV95/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Hope you have a good week. Thanks for reading.

Take care.
Love,
Anne x

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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.

 

Animals and Neighbours

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The cockerels survived! If you read an earlier post, you’ll know that the DEFRA quarantine (for bird flu) lasted until the end of February. I was worried that when I released the birds into the garden, the cockerels would think it was new territory (having bird brains, and all that) and would fight. Cockerels fight to the death, even if you try to separate them, so I was worried. I couldn’t find anything helpful online – I’m not sure many ‘hobby’ farmers keep cockerels. I decided I would start to let the birds out just as it was getting dark. They are rigid about their routines, and as soon as it gets dark, they all roost on their perch, all in a set order. I thought that maybe, if it was beginning to get dark, even if they started to fight, the urge to roost would be greater, so they’d stop attacking each other before one was dead.

Well, it worked fine. I opened the cage door, and they all rushed out. No fighting. Excellent. The four new ones have never left the cage before, so they were very interested by it all, the older ones went straight onto the compost heap for a good dig.

One of the new ones is tiny, even smaller than her mother (I bought “large chicken eggs” on Ebay, but one- the mother of the latest clutch – is a bantam. That’s Ebay for you!) She was so excited she started to fly around and sit in the trees, which was pretty cool. I was slightly worried the cats might think she was small enough to catch, as she’s smaller than a rat and they do a good job at keeping them under control. When I released them, the dog and all four outside cats arrived to watch. The cats like living outside, but they’re both nosey and keen for snuggles, so they follow us around when we’re in the garden. I watched them carefully, but whenever they were approached by a hen, even a small one, they backed away quickly. They clearly associate chickens with being pecked rather than with sport/food. Which is good. Always a good idea to introduce very young predators to adult birds – they learn to not attack. My cats had some sharp pecks when they were kittens, and obviously remember.

As it grew darker, the three old birds went straight back into the cage to roost. The younger birds partied for a bit longer; which worried the dog, who was keen to round them up, but I wanted to wait and see what happened, so made her sit beside me. She sat there, nudging me with her nose and whimpering – disagreed with my decision. It was fine, they all went to bed before it was properly dark. That’s the only nice thing about short winter days I think, the chickens go to bed early. When the clocks move forward, I will have to wait until later before I can shut the door, which makes going out in the evening difficult.

The ducks are all laying. There are little nests of eggs all around the pond. I keep finding them, and don’t know how old they are, so am leaving them (would be embarrassing to give someone an old egg to eat). Not sure if they’ll sit, it’s still quite early, but sometimes they do if the weather’s warm. I have enough ducks, so if they do, when the ducklings are full grown I’ll give them away. They’re not far removed from mallards, so can fly and would cope fine on a wild pond. I do hope bird flu doesn’t spread to this area. I like my birds.

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The cats are fat. I think they put on extra fat during the winter months, plus their fur is really thick. They are wonderful to cuddle. Sometimes I try to bring one inside, but they’re very unsettled and want to get back in the garden as soon as they can. They all come running when I whistle, so if I have any meat scraps, I’ll call them to the door.

We have sheep in the field next to the house. They’re fat too, so I’m hoping we might have lambs soon. I don’t like walking through the field when there’re mothers and young – sometimes they become aggressive – so we’re having to find new walks. The dog likes this, but I don’t. I tend to walk each day when I need a break from writing, and I like to walk the same way, so I don’t have to concentrate and can loose myself in the story while I walk. Then when we get home, I’m usually ready to write the next part of the story.

At the moment while I walk, I’m also delivering invites to the book launch on 29th. My neighbours all live several fields away, so I rarely see them. There is one house, which has tall fences and gates, down a private track. It has no name, no letterbox. No one (that I have asked) knows who lives there, but it used to be a pop star. If you look on Google maps, there is a big house and a few small cottages. Who lives there? Could be someone famous. Or a Mafia don. Or someone royal. Very interesting. Very occasionally, the gates are left open. If I’m walking past, I shall sneak in with an invitation – you never know, they might like to come to a book launch. If I discover who lives there, I’ll let you know.

xxx

Thank you for reading.

xxx

 

Letter to a Sister – Bird Brain

So, a few disasters this week. I’ll gloss over them quickly. First was on Monday, at Aunt and Uncle’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. It was a lovely event, saw most of the extended family, food was beautiful, everyone seemed happy. I felt somewhat of a plonka, having taken the “Dress Code: Sixties” bit to heart. Thought I ought to make an effort. Most other people had taken the “optional” bit to heart. Felt rather silly in mini dress and false eye lashes. Especially as there were a few non-family guests present, who possibly thought I usually dressed up like an ageing drag queen.

Next disaster was Wednesday. After a couple of days of high winds, the tree outside our bathroom window had scraped roof tiles onto the ground. The tree acts as curtains – we don’t have nets at that window – but those branches needed to be trimmed before they did more damage. Husband then phoned trusted builder to come and repair hole in roof. Which he did. Early on Wednesday. When I was just about to have shower in now uncurtained bathroom. That would have been good information to know in advance…..

Lets move on to some animal updates:

Before we went away, the sitting duck hatched her eggs. Ducks are generally terrible mothers – they have a tendency to sit somewhere the ducklings can’t reach them, or squash them by mistake. She had nested in a big plastic crate (nicely rat proof) so I lifted out the eleven hatchlings and put them with the mother into the dog cage in a corner of the aviary. She was furious with me, but I did manage one photo:

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They were sharing the aviary with the earlier two ducklings. The mother hissed at them whenever they went near, so I had to keep them separate. This wasn’t difficult, as really all they wanted to do was be with the chicks that they’d been raised with. They wandered up and down the edge of the aviary, cheeping at them. It was hard not to put them back together, but I know it would cause big problems later.

The big chickens (nasty, nasty, creatures) kept attacking the new chicks. They will be so much safer if they manage to form a unified flock, so I don’t want to move them out. Instead, I positioned lots of crates so they had areas they could escape to when attacked, and hoped for the best.

When we returned from Sri Lanka, I couldn’t believe how big they all were. They were, unexpectedly, all still alive (the house sitter did very well.) The chicks are now small chickens. They have still not exactly ‘bonded’ with the existing flock, but at least they’re not being attacked. They’re also copying them, sitting on the crates at night as an attempt to roost.

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The big ducklings look full grown. As soon as their wings feathers have grown, I’ll clip them and put them on the pond. You only clip one wing – it’s like having your nails cut, it doesn’t hurt. But they won’t fly if they’re lopsided, so I can shut them onto the pond at night and they can’t sleep on the bank and be eaten.

The eleven ducklings are also much bigger. Am pretty sure the mother stole one of those eggs – there’s one completely black duckling, very beautiful.

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Looking after the birds helps me forget about publishing – publishing a book is a LOT of hassle – nowhere near as much fun as writing them. I was hoping that Hidden Faces would be in the bookshops in July, ready for the summer holiday readers. That looks unlikely now, more likely September. Which might mean fewer sales, or might mean people will enjoy it and then buy it for someone else for Christmas. Hard to know. I am trying to be patient, to remind myself that God helped me write this book, if he wants people to read it then editors, typesetters and printers won’t ruin the time plan. But at times I want to scream!

Take care,

love, Anne

Clara Call Duck has a Problem

An Animal Garden Story

 Clara call duck was cross. It was a very cold February and lumps of ice had formed on the pond. Annie knew that soon the whole pond would freeze over. This was very dangerous because Mr Fox could then walk across the water. He was hungry and would like duck for dinner. Annie wanted the ducks to be safe, so she had put them all into a large cage.

The cage was very big. It was tall, so the call ducks could fly if they wanted to. It had fresh hay, so the big fat white Aylesbury ducks could sit and chat. There was food and big bowls of water. Most importantly, it was safe. There was strong metal fencing around the sides, across the roof and even under the mud and hay on the floor.

However, there was nowhere quiet and private and Clara wanted to build a nest.

On the first day, she laid an egg in the corner. But Annie collected it when she brought fresh water.

On the second day she laid an egg in a box of hay, but Edna, the East India duck laid her egg there too and then made a mess!

On the the third day she laid an egg at the top of the ramp. But Amy the Aylesbury duck knocked it, and it rolled all the way down and cracked on the hard mud.

On the fourth day, Clara found a tiny gap between the mounds of hay and a stool. There was just room to crawl underneath. Under the stool there was room to pull bits of hay to make a nest. Clara laid her egg, then crawled out to play with the other ducks.

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The East India ducks were too busy splashing water to notice the gap under the stool. The white Aylesbury ducks were much too fat to fit under the stool. When Annie brought food and water she was too busy to notice the gap under the stool. The boy ducks were too busy chasing everyone to notice the gap under the stool.

Every day, Clara crawled under the stool and laid one more egg. The clutch of eggs became more and more. When there were fifteen eggs, Clara didn’t lay any more. She sat on the nest and plucked lots of soft feathers from her tummy and made the nest soft and cosy.Then she spread her wings across all the eggs and rested.

When Annie came with fresh water, she noticed that Clara was missing. She looked in all the boxes and under all the ramps, but she couldn’t find her anywhere. She worried that somehow Clara had escaped.

After four weeks, the eggs began to hatch. It is very difficult to climb out of an egg but ten ducklings managed to hatch. When Annie came with the food, she was very surprised to see lots of ducklings! She quickly collected them all and put them in a large container with Clara, so they would be safe. She didn’t want an Aylesbury duck to sit on one and squash it!

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A Prayer:

Dear Father God,

Sometimes I have problems. Please help me to think of what to do.

Amen

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Thank you for reading.

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