Springtime Jobs

It’s time to do all those jobs that happen every year at this time. It doesn’t feel much like spring here at the moment, as we’ve had snow and frosts all week. But the mornings are lighter, and the animals know, even if we’re not sure. Depending on where you live, you will either have put your clocks forward an hour, or be preparing to do so. We move our clocks on the 26th March this year, so the US and Canada are ahead of us.

One Christmas gift (which feels like yesterday) was a pot and a packet of beans. We’re having a family competition, to see who can grow the tallest bean. It has to be in the pot provided, which wasn’t very deep. Mine grew to 67cm, then it decided the kitchen was too warm and the pot too small, and died. I planted the remaining seeds outside, and they don’t seem to mind the cold and are looking healthy. I expect the slugs will eat them, but here’s hoping.

My bean, growing next to a lemon pip (which is slower but less fussy).

The birds know it’s spring. The ducks have started laying, even though it’s cold, so April will be busy with ducklings again. There are already lambs in the fields. The cycle of life begins again.

We also have a wren in the garden. Male wrens are busy at this time of year, collecting things to build nests. Nests plural. A male wren builds several nests. When he manages to attract a female, he takes her on a tour of the nests, she chooses the best one, and lays her eggs. He then goes off and finds another female, and repeats the tour with the remaining nests. He’ll do this until all the nests have females, sitting on his offspring. Not the sort of male you want to introduce to your daughter. He’s a tiny brown bird, but has something (which I cannot remember the name of) in his lungs, which amplifies his voice. A tiny bird with a loud song. I’m rather fond of him, so I hope the cats don’t catch him.

Spring this year will be busy for me too. I need to sort out the house, because my daughter is moving home for a few months between selling her flat and buying a new property. This will be fun, but I need to make space for her. Though once I have emptied some cupboards, the job will be finished. I also need to write the proposal for my dissertation, which is less fun. I have to submit the title of my thesis, explaining what I plan to research and why, with a list of all the literature I plan to read and why it will be relevant. I am going to explore the dragon in the book of Job (chapter 41) which will be interesting, but being assessed makes it more stressful. But at least I only have to produce one, and I can submit that to the university and they will either love it or not. Being a wren and having to repeat that many times over each year must be a whole different game.

Hoping that all you attempt this week grows well and is completed on time. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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A Matter of Life and Death

I don’t know about you, but I am always surprised by how much life bursts forth in the spring. Suddenly, every weed in my garden is ten-foot-high, the chickens start hiding their eggs and going broody, wild birds start to go bananas. It is mostly wonderful.

There are a few downsides though—like the bag of potatoes I found at the bottom of the larder, with roots practically piercing the bag. Maybe not so good for mash. I had the clever idea of planting them, so the chickens could eat the new leaves when they sprouted (wouldn’t take long!) I took them up the garden, and found an area against the chicken coop fence. Ideal, I thought, I’ll chuck them there, toss a bit of compost over them, they can grow through the fence and the chickens can eat the leaves. All good.

About 3 days later, the potatoes appeared in a bucket next to the door.

“Look what I found!” announced pleased husband, beaming all over his face. “These must be the seed potatoes you planted last year, and they’ve grown new tubers.”

I told them I thought they were possibly some old potatoes that I’d found in the larder (I didn’t go into too much detail), but he assured me that the roots were really long, and there was no way they could possibly be from this year. I checked the area next to the chicken coop. No potatoes or heap of compost. I keep trying to avoid the subject, but husband has mentioned it about 50 times since then, saying how amazing it is. Might have to confess.

The welcoming committee. . .

We also had birds in the nesting boxes that Uncle Frank made. He gave them to me ages ago, and I put them near the kitchen window (good plan) so I would see if any birds took an interest. We had some great tits in the area, and I guessed the eggs must have hatched when I noticed a welcoming committee of four cats staring at the nesting box. I started to shut the cats in during the day, letting them out at night. But then one morning, I came down to find one cat up the tree, and by the time I had run outside, he had fished a baby out of the box and was playing with it. I grabbed the baby, shoved it back into the box, and shut the cat inside. Husband then assembled some protective obstacles around the base of the trees. The view from my kitchen window resembled a cross between Guantanamo Bay and a WW1 trench. Not quite what I’d hoped, but at least the birds were safe.

A little like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ wildlife picture, but this is one of the birds.

We watched the parents feed the birds, and I did some online research. Did you know that great tits have a black stripe down the centre of their breast, and that the male has a wider stripe than the female? The width is directly proportional to how many sperm he produces, so female great tits will try to select a mate with a very wide black stripe. Our male was in the ‘acceptable but not a super-stud’ range. Cool fact huh?

We guessed the hatchlings were flying because several blue jays appeared in the garden. Am hoping they didn’t catch them all—maybe the blue jay family had a banquet that day. The next morning, the nesting box was empty except for moss and feathers.

In keeping with the explosion of life that is spring, I have some duck eggs incubating in the utility room, and my beautiful white leghorn chicken is sitting on some eggs in her nest. She has a choice of leghorn (white) cockerel or legbar (grey) cockerel to choose from. I am hoping to have a female chick from the legbar male, as they lay lovely blue eggs (though whether or not a hybrid will, remains to be seen). They are due to hatch next week, so I will let you know how they fare.

I also have a female pheasant (I can’t tell you how delighted Husband is about this!) I found her in a ditch, so am guessing she had been hit by a car. I knew the fox would get her, and I figured it would be nicer to die somewhere peaceful, so I carried her home and put her in an empty duck coop next to the pond. But she didn’t die. I’ve had her a couple of weeks now. I’m feeding her grain and apples (have to smuggle the apples out of the house because technically they belong to Bea’s boyfriend). She can’t actually walk (the pheasant, not Bea) but seems quite happy lolloping around the coop and watching the ducks. There is a ramp down to the pond, and I do have some worries that she might drown herself (pheasants are very silly birds) which means Husband will have to wade out and retrieve the body—which he will mutter about for several days—but at least it will stop him talking about the blessed potatoes!

I hope your week is full of life.

Take care, and stay safe.

Love, Anne x

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Another chapter from Counting Stars will be posted on Wednesday.

Letters to a Sister : 45 – Spring Cleaning


Most of my life needs a spring clean. I have spent the last two years mainly recovering from brain surgery (which takes a lot longer than you might think) and then writing books. My house has the level of cleanliness that you would expect from someone who basically ‘does the basics’ but never has time to sweep the cobwebs off the ceiling or tackle the underneath of the beds. Actually, I have never liked housework. My boys are at uni but I still have piles of clothes they out-grew when they were ten. As for exercise – forget it!

So, I decided to do something about it. I cannot tackle the whole house – that would drive me to despair. But I can do one small thing every day. Yesterday I swept the cobwebs. Today I plan to wash all the shelves in the fridge. Tomorrow I will wipe finger marks off the light switches.

image1I have also tried to start exercising properly. Every morning I go on the exercise bike for twenty minutes, then do some floor exercises. My muscles now ache and my bum is sore. But I feel better for doing it. Today I dug out my big padded cycling shorts, the ones I wore years ago when cycling from London to Brighton. They saved my bum further discomfort. You can imagine how sexy they looked – even more lumps in strange places on my middle-aged body! Might not wear them if anyone else is in the house……


Another ‘exercise’ I have started is reading the above book, which a friend recommended. It’s excellent. It’s written by someone who understands middle eastern customs and life style and has put the teaching and life of Jesus into context. I love things like that.

I try to read a couple of pages every morning, with my coffee (illy) and breakfast biscuit (BelVita). They all set me up for the day. Today I read about the verse “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The author points out that we need to eat and drink regularly, it’s not a one-off activity. I find this terrifically reassuring. Whilst my knowledge about God related things is pretty extensive (we were after all, steeped in it pretty much from birth and then I went on to teach Religion), my level of righteousness is not up there! The thought that this is okay, that constantly needing to search is what God expects, is wonderful.

He then goes on to define “righteousness” (it’s not a word that comes up over dinner very often, is it!) He says it’s not the “going to church, don’t drink alcohol, never swear” stuff, it’s the stuff Micah talks about in his book – loving justice, showing mercy, walking with God. That’s what I need to be seeking, as often as I eat and drink.

So, there you are, I am feeling positive. Am all ready for the week  the day  well, the next couple of hours.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

PS: The ducks are laying. There is one blue egg in the aviary, am hoping the rats don’t eat it.

PPS: A flock of sheep are now living in the field that joins our garden. Kia (GSD) spends all day monitoring how close they are to the fence!


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You can read my sister’s letters at : http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.co.uk