I’m heartbroken this morning. A fox got one of our ducks in the night. Whilst we constantly worry about losing lambs to foxes, we feel pretty secure about the fowl as they are locked away each night in a high walled ‘fort’ almost impossible for a fox to breach. But this morning I found one of our beautiful Pekins headless in the garden, still warm. The latch on a little side gate to the run, which we never use, must have been loosened over time by the wind and had blown open, so Brer Fox had easy access to a pen full of geese and ducks. Incredibly the four remaining ducks and all the geese were unharmed, though highly stressed. Luckily I had let Sam out earlier than usual this morning so he must have frightened the fox before anymore damage was done. We’ve had our five Pekin ducks for years and they move about the garden and ponds as a unit, travelling everywhere together in a comical little regiment. So it’s particularly distressing to lose a member of this tight knit group. But that is life on the farm. It’s all of us against the blasted foxes. As I walked back from feeding everyone and cleaning up after the kill, I saw the culprit in the distance – as bold as brass. But even though my father taught me how to handle a gun, I couldn’t bring myself to shoot anything. Not even a fox.
On a brighter note, we had 2 more lambs born yesterday, strong and robust and already playing together in the paddock. I’m hoping our little pack of donkeys will help keep them safe from the foxes.
Above: This is Nigel. His leg was broken in a fight, years ago when he was a lamb and though he’s quite lame, he manages to get around the paddock perfectly well so has been kept as a pet. He loves lambing time and every Spring is very protective of everyone, like an old uncle. This morning he was greeting one of our new arrivals.
Baby Phoebe peering over the Ha Ha and hoping for a little snack. We built the Ha Ha years ago so there would be no fence to ruin the view. It’s a wonderful thing as at certain angles it appears that the animals are actually in the garden. It’s too high to jump so they are separated from the gardens by a barrier, invisible from the house.
Peas in a pod. Phoebe and mother Clementine.
Seeing the dams this low is worrying. We are desperate for some good rains.
Yesterday, our kitchen garden was invaded by a flock of white cockatoos. This morning it was a gaggle of geese! So we are at least sticking with a white theme. We have quite a lot of geese – Roman Tufteds and Pilgrims. I’ve written about them before and about how lots of anything looks so much more exciting than one or two. Except for diamonds. Then one big rock is hard to beat! Anyway, our sheepdog Sam loves to herd the geese onto the pond each morning after they’re fed. It’s his raison d’etre. He is a working dog and he wakes me early each morning so I will let them out and he can get to work. He never hurts or bothers them, just moves them from place to place then lies for hours watching them. They don’t even bother about him when they have goslings – confident he won’t hurt them. But somehow this morning they all got off course and ended up in amongst the rhubarb and silver beet. Our garden is looking pretty dishevelled at the moment anyway, due to lack of time on my part, and so I’m not worried at all about a few geese trampling through. What struck me most was the loveliness of their pure white feathers against the mist and as it cleared, against the green of the garden. This combined with the silver birch trunks, the white railings of the house and the remaining iceberg roses made for a very beautiful picture. Further up the path from the vegetable garden is a 50 metre border that I planted years ago with white foxgloves. Each year I leave the flowers to go to seed and strip them upwards scattering the seed wide and far. The result is a dense border self seeded with foxgloves … all white. And each year the patch gets bigger and better. Imagine that in Spring. With a dark green hedge behind and a few geese thrown into the picture. Divine. Look for loveliness wherever you go today. M x x x
Good morning from The Potting Shed. Good grief. I knew it had been a long time since my last letter but I see from the Joe Vinks story below, that it was June 25 since my last post! I’m sorry for my absence, but such a lot has been happening at The Potting Shed as we prepare for Spring. Truckloads of new products have been arriving, lots of special orders to fill, obelisks and espalier frames to be made, gardens and pots to be planted up for Tulip Time … and so the days quickly turn into weeks and then into months. I’ve been putting off writing my blog, unable to think where to start. Or start again, in my case. Anyway, nature always gives me solutions to every problem. And this very frosty morning (minus 3 when I awoke!) after my breakfast and once the sun had burned away the mist, I strode out to survey our flock of Suffolk ewes to see if lambing had begun. Usually I’m confident about the lambing dates but this year, our rascally ram George broke through the gate to be with his girls and my planning rather went out the window! But I knew we were likely to see some action this week so I’ve been careful to watch everyone. Out I went into the freezing, frosty morning and the first thing I saw was a spectacular flock of sulphur crested cockatoos in the vegetable garden. Actually a grouping of parrots is referred to as ‘a company‘ or birds in general are a flock if on the ground and a flight if in the air. Not sure what you call them if they are sitting on posts in a vegetable garden! Anyway, I love them. They are so playful and naughty. They love showing off and strangely this morning it was as if they were trying to show me something. They all took flight in a blur of white and sulphur, and swooped out over the garden to the fields beyond. And as my eye followed them, I spotted our first lamb of spring. Tiny and black like a little spider wobbling over the frosty grass, there she was. Perfect. It’s a miracle how these little babies born in freezing temperatures get quickly up to have their first feed and then imitate their mothers and begin to try and graze. Suffolk lambs are all born black and then eventually turn white retaining only the black face and legs. We love them and lambing always marks the turn from winter to spring. This year we’ve put the donkeys in with the flock to help protect the lambs from foxes … which, I see from Wikipedia, are known, when in packs as aleash, a skulk, or an earth. We learn something new every day. Anyway, we have five donkeys, including baby Phoebe who was born just before Christmas, so I’m hoping her mother Clementine, father Digby, along with Annie and Ned Devine will all be aggressive towards foxes to protect her. It’s always an anxious time as the foxes are hungry and needing to feed their young and every year we have losses. All heartbreaking. So, though I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed at how on earth I’m going to manage lambing on top of everything else at the moment … this first arrival set my heart soaring and I now can’t wait to see a paddock full of lambs gambolling about in the spring sunshine. I’ll just get up a little earlier each day to fit it all in. After all, nothing wonderful is ever achieved without a bit of extra effort. Is it? Have a lovely day. M x x x
“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”. Christian Morganstern
Today my head is filled with thoughts of home. The thoughts have been piling up over the past week for lots of reasons. On Easter Thursday evening I drove home from work, as usual, up our driveway admiring the evening light on the neighbours pinoaks and enjoying the colours of the vineyard turning to gold. Then my heart stopped. Adrenalin and blood surged to my brain sending my head spinning. I felt sick from the rush of it. I almost fainted at the wheel of the car as up ahead I saw our stand of pines backlit by blazing orange light. Oh my God the house is on fire, I thought and flattened my foot and raced ahead past the pines, gulping back tears that our beautiful home and all the cats and dogs and birds and personal treasures within would be burning. But as I careered up over the rise, I could see it was not a fire. It was the moon coming up. Blood red and gigantic. An awesome sight. Overwhelmed and weak from the fright, I quickly let the dogs out, fed the pig and goats and geese and ducks and locked everyone safely in then wandered out into the garden to enjoy the lovely moon above. That night, snuggled safely into our cosy bed, a line by Virginia Woolf ran through my mind: “Safe! safe! safe!’ the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry ‘Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart.”
The very next day I had a call from my younger brother in New Zealand to tell me he had decided to sell the farm where we grew up, and though he knew the news would devastate me, he had made a decision for both business and health reasons. And again all thoughts of home and what it means ran around and around in my heart and head. To never again ride in his ute across the paddocks where we rode our horses as children. To no longer be able to visit the places where we used to float walnut boats down the creek and to race our rafts on the pond amongst the ducks and ducklings. To leave behind the view of the mountains topped with snow and the trees planted by our parents when they were young and we were babies. But life moves on and we all have to adapt to change. Though I have lived my entire adult life in Australia, and it is my home, I still say I’m going home, whenever I fly back to New Zealand. I think it’s like that for everyone who leaves their motherland and makes another country their home. They love them both, but one owns them more. And now as I write this in my little office at home here on the farm I am thinking about seeing my stepdaughters snuggled up on the sofas under mohair rugs over Easter, with cushions and cats and dogs and magazines everywhere. It was a rich and lovely feeling. They looked safe. They felt safe. There is magic in that little word home.
And today we think, with tears in our hearts, of all those servicemen and women who never got to return home.