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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Being Bitten in the Garden

Just a quick post to let you know how things are progressing in the garden – because things are all changing fast!

The six outside chicks are all doing well, and spend their days digging in the mud with mother hen, and snuggled underneath her in the nesting box at night. They regularly kick mud over their food and water, so it’s impossible to keep them clean. Whenever I go into the cage, the mother becomes very scary, and runs at me with her feathers all fluffed up, so cleaning out the water several times a day is less attractive than you might think. When I don’t back off, she gathers them all underneath her, and sits there, glaring at me. The chicks are unaffected, and like to come and see what I’m doing. I do hope they are not all cockerels.

The chick I helped to hatch didn’t survive. He lasted a few days, and we called him Gerald. The second day he was quite perky, and cheeped very loudly, but he never learnt to eat independently. Then I didn’t put the heat lamp on one night, because I thought it was warm enough, and in the morning he was very weak and very cold. I felt so guilty. He died a few hours later. That’s the trouble with animals—you don’t get many chances if you mess up.

The pond is looking pretty already, though needs some border plants to grow. The floating plant I bought, which I think is called a ‘water lettuce’ is doing well, and sending out shoots. The ducks are still caged (I’ll let them out soon, when I think the fox cabs have grown up and left) so the plants are all growing and not being eaten. Not sure how many will survive the ducks (none, I am guessing).

However, one thing that’s also growing well without the ducks to eat it, is mosquito larvae. The pond is crawling with them. Completely awful. I think every mosquito within a mile has been looking for water to lay in, and a nice new pond with no ducks seemed like a great place. We needed to get rid of them quickly, as once they develop into mosquitoes, they will be a right nuisance, and I don’t think we have enough bats in the nearby trees to eat them all.

We looked online for possible solutions, but they all seemed to be either chemicals that would hurt the ducks, or available only in the US, so wouldn’t arrive before the larvae develop. We decided to buy some fish. I am pretty sure the ducks will eat them, though the man in the shop assured us: “Ducks won’t touch them”. We shall see. At least they will eat lots of larvae before the ducks are released. It would be rather lovely if they do survive. We bought fairly small ones because (they were cheap) the bigger ones are more sensitive. This family doesn’t do very well with ‘sensitive’.

Thanks for reading. I’ll let you know how things develop.

Take care, and don’t get bitten.
Anne x

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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.

Anne x