Friday, 20 February 2009

Goats and kids...

I can't say that I am normally too keen on goats. They seem to have a 'malevolent' eye in most cases and are smelly... rankly smelly. However, one lives and one learns. I should state that the smelly problem does not seem to arise with goats cheese - in fact, the smellier the better. Strange person that I am!

Our friends, Matt and Ruth, live just down the road from us, on their smallholding. They are pretty much self-sufficient with all their vegetables and meat. The only vegetable they don't have sufficient land for, is potatoes. They have chickens for eggs and chickens for meat. Every year they raise pigs and sheep, selling off the surplus to the lucky ones (like us!) as a way of paying for the purchase of the young and associated costs of feeding and raising them.

Ruth is amazing! She does so much - looking after a vast vegetable garden and looking after the animals is a full time job. But she also makes beautiful, hand painted cards, sews and knits, cooks like a dream and is generally a lovely person. Accomplished and articulate - grrrr!!! And Matt is pretty cool too - calm and gentle with a great sense of humour.

However, they have never been able to provide for their own milk requirements. At least not until a couple of months prior to Christmas when their first goats arrived. Ruth kindly invited us down to view and of course we went, albeit a little reluctantly (see above and reasons for...).

We were introduced to Iona and Bracken. Iona is three years old and Bracken is only 7 months. They are Golden Guernseys... or is that Guernsey Goldens???... oh well, hopefully they'll forgive me and they are far from the aforementioned 'types' I was expecting to see. Extremely attractive with kind eyes and charming natures and characters. Iona was already 'in kid' so as to ensure a milk supply from her.

Two days ago, the happy event took place and Iona's twins were born. Ruth tells me that normally goats aren't the most maternal of animals, but Iona is turning out to be an excellent and devoted mother. So sweet!

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce to you, Iona and her two little babes or 'kids' as I really should call them...

In the picture above, you can see the young male being 'kissed' by Iona and the female is just turning in for a nap in the corner.

Sibling love! They have bonded well as a family unit already and are very affectionate towards each other - aren't they a beautiful colour? Their coats are as soft as silk too. Sweet little faces.

I'm tired! I just want to go to sleep please...

Below is a photo of Bracken - girls just check out those eyelashes!!!! Bracken has been rather excited by all of this and Ruth thinks that she probably hasn't had a lot of sleep since the youngsters were born. Today, however, the sun was shining and she was starting to relax and calm down.

Bracken also has a new party trick, which she displayed the day the kids were born. She has taken to jumping on this box and Ruth was trying to encourage her to do so for our entertainment... but Bracken was having none of it. Just give me the food please.... so Ruth and I walked away to have a little chat about life in general and....

Bracken immediately jumped onto the box as to say, well I can do it if I want to... oh and by the way, aren't I just too pretty....

As you may imagine from someone as talented as Ruth, she has already begun to make cheese from the goats milk.... which is where I come in again.... yum!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Winter Snow and a Bear

Last night we had about four inches of snow fall here and the trees and their branches laden with snow looked magical with the light from the house shining on them. This morning, the snow is all melting but there is still enough around the garden to show you some photos taken about 30 minutes or so ago..

Here is a very special Bear who is showing us her remarkable recovery from her stroke a couple of weekends ago... She has been enjoying regular sessions of Reflexology, Reiki and gentle Massage as well as taking a special blend of minerals and vitamins prescribed by her vet.

Typical Labrador pose, sniffing the ground as she is walking along. Wonder if there's anything to eat around here?

What? Did you say something to me....? She's getting a little deaf although I do wonder if it is selective deafness as she always seems to know when food is ready or when it's time for a walk. Surprise, surprise...

Everynow and then, she lurches as the 'boat moves' and so you can see here that the effects of the stroke are still lingering. She has improved remarkably and I am so happy about it. The best thing is that she is happy once again!

But of course, it's tiring being a Super Model...

When do I get my reward for this modelling?

Thanks once again to everyone for all your kind, caring posts and emails.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dark corners...

My house has quite a few dark corners and this is a collage of the dark corner on the landing. There is only one small, mullioned window to cast any light but as it is north facing and right under the eaves of the thatched roof, there is not a lot that comes in...

Over time, I have deliberately added to the darkness by changing from a much lighter, painted chest to this walnut chest of drawers and by placing a black lamp on top. The books at the back of the chest are guarded by a charming pair of storks, both of which manage to convey a rather comical air of deep depression and gloom... I'd probably be depressed if I had to stand to attention like this all my life.

On the right hand side of the collage, you can see a rather different impression of the Sydney Opera House. Normally we see it as glistening sails over the harbour but this time the whites belong to the real sails on the yacht. I like the twist to this image.

I have often thought about redecorating this little corner into the light, bright whites of Scandinavian style. And maybe I'll do that one day. In the meantime, I am enjoying the drama of this little corner.

The candles sparkle and dance in the darkness and it makes for a nice contrast...

In this next photo you can see I have added some of the books I received at Christmas... I enjoy Dorothy L. Sayers and it was a delight to revisit the Lord Peter Wimsey stories. Somehow, most of my original copies got lost in the translation from Australia to Suffolk....

And to add to the list of contrasts, the book written by Khaled Hosseini, 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is far from the light, easy reading of the Wimsey books. But it is a book that is well worth the detour...

In the image above, you can see the rough, original lathe and plaster walls whilst the wall behind the radiator is new vintage plain, modern (boring) plaster which was added to make a bathroom. The original plaster has horsehair, and goodness knows (or wants to know!) what else in it. The pond to the south of the house was likely the place from which all the mud was drawn to make the walls.

But what you haven't seen in the collage are the uneven floors old houses have! Upstairs, we have to prop most of our furniture on blocks and somehow we have never managed to make the smart blocks we originally intended for this chest. Ah well, that's what makes life interesting - the contrasts...

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Bushfires and The Fourth of the Fourth

I'm watching the bushfires in Australia. I can hardly think of an adjective to describe this horror and find that I am fearful for friends who live close by to the areas concerned, and also fearful for friends in and around Sydney - even though there are no fires burning there at present. My dear friend Liz, who lives in Sydney, emailed me earlier this week to say that Sydney is expecting a heatwave this weekend. The whole country is tinder dry and it's just too easy for a fire to start - or be started.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost family, friends, loved ones in this disaster.

This link to the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney tells it all; succinctly.

Earlier today, I was catching up with the lastest post on Pondside's lovely blog. She had been tagged to show the fourth picture in her fourth folder. The result, as always, was charming and interesting. I thought I'd take a peek at my fourth photo in my fourth folder and see what was there. Not too bad, it's an image of my dining table/room, with the table laid for breakfast.


Meggie at Life'sFreeTreats emailed me this week and asked what it is like to live in this old, thatched cottage - do I feel a sense of history?

Here's my reply to her...

I have always wanted to live in a thatched and timber framed cottage/house – it is a delightful time living here. And yes, I do feel a sense of history although sadly there are few facts to glean from the local records at the council offices. It is only about 50 or so years ago that land titles were in place for every sale/purchase of properties in Suffolk – prior to that it was all done the old way; on the shake of hands and on the word of each party. We do know that at one time the house was a pub - but that was common too – many old properties used to have one room of the house where ale was sold to passers-by. The well at the front of the house and the proximity to Bury St Edmunds is a possible clue to the house being on a Pilgrims’ path to the old Abbey (before Henry destroyed it!!)

Just down the hill are the remains of a ‘stone cross’ which is the ancient version of the soap boxes in Hyde Park where people can stand and ‘harangue/lecture/save’ passers by. Very likely local priests or monks would exhort the poor pilgrims to repent etc. Sadly the cross has also been destroyed but the big block of stone is still there so I’ll try to get some photos of it when the daffodils are out a bit later on.

From about 1901 till up to WWII, the house was the local ‘working man’s club’ and the sitting room (the one that has the French doors to it) was the dance floor. It is difficult to find any information about those times – the only elderly man who had been here as a boy would not tell me anything about it as he implied that his information was ‘unseemly’ for a woman to hear. Absolutely infuriating! I was desperate to learn as much as I could about the house but dear old Mr B was too much of a gentleman to offend my delicate sensibilities... if only he had known!!

The house has some history or local lore, of ‘looking after’ people and of being a shelter in times of need. There is no doubt that old houses ‘wrap their arms around you’ and this one has the most peaceful atmosphere. We are very lucky to live here.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Fieldfares and Bears...

We had a few hours of glorious sunshine the other day, and the chance to get some images through the kitchen window of a couple of fieldfares feeding on the cotoneaster tree was too good to miss.

Most of the berries have been eaten and there just remain a few boughs still holding on tight to their little crop of scarlet jewels.

When the birds had had their fill, they were off...


Thanks to each and everyone of you who have either posted or sent emails to me about Bear and wishing her a speedy recovery. She is still doing well, although in truth it has to be said that that term is relative, but she is eating with a good appetite, drinking water and er.... etc. She has to be helped a lot as she is very, very shakey on her legs but my goodness, she is a fighter! Hugs to you all.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


We've been enjoying these wonderful two days of snow - the best snow in 18 years, so the best snow that I have experienced since coming to the UK 17 years ago. What a treat and delight it has been!

This morning the sun is shining and although the snow is now melting, it looks quite magical with the sun on it. My hens were rather less than impressed however and I wish that I had managed to take a photo of them when we were down feeding and cleaning early yesterday morning... they were wading through it with the snow actually reaching above their little tummies... Later in the morning after I had let them out of their run, they decided to hide under one of the cars where the snow had not reached and where I had sprinkled seed for the other little birds in the garden to eat.


They refused to come out from under the car and I had to entice them with all manner of bribery in an attempt to get them back to their run later on.

In this next image, you can see the view from my bedroom window yesterday morning -


and the difference today


Yesterday, the snow looked like this from the window by the PC where I am right now, typing this information to you


whilst below is an image taken at 7 this morning from just in front of the well, looking over the road and across the valley to the east...


In between all of this, my darling old dog, Troy (AKA Bear) has been suffering from the effects of a stroke on Sunday night. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful vet nearby however, and with the combined effects of the vets advice and the rest and love she is receiving, we are seeing improvements to her condition. Bear is now sleeping and resting by the fire in the Snug - I am hopeful of a full recovery for her. She is my best friend (next to my husband) and has been the most loving companion thoughout our many years together. It is also quite wonderful to watch the reactions of our younger dog who is clearly concerned for her friend and companion and she is also looking after Bear in the best way she can. Here's a recent photo of Bear...


and one of her sister, Chelsea, also recently taken...


Sunday, 1 February 2009

A new month.... already!

Gosh, it has been such a busy week and suddenly I find that January has slipped out the door and February has arrived. I hope that you have all had a good start to your year.

The UK is apparently experiencing its coldest winter for 13 years and we are 'braced' for a heavy snow storm tomorrow afternoon. Here, where I live, we are have a mix of pale blue skies with patches of sunshine, leaden gray clouds - and tiny snowflakes floating in the air. Quite a mix and really rather enchanting!

I have been watching for the Bullfinch family that normally raids the newly formed buds on our old Greengage trees about mid January. They are a little later than normal due to the cold weather. But this morning, I caught sight of some of them and raced for the camera to try to get a couple of images for you to see. Not the best circumstances as they were taken from inside the house and the distance was at the limits for the camera lens. But still they are magical birds and I hope you enjoy what you can see of them...

bullfinch family Feb 09

The photo above is of one the males and here below is another male in the group... (and an apology for the image being out of focus LOL!)

bullfinch family 1 Feb 09

The female Bullfinch does not have that amazing pinky-red breast but to me, her plumage is so subtly beautiful and at least as attractive as the male plumage...

Female Bullfinch Feb09

I have been watching this group since we came to this house and to their territory - there are about 9 family members now although the number ebbs and wanes throughout the seasons and years. I am hoping for a bumper 'crop' of young this year so please keep your fingers crossed for them. Bullfinches are a rare sight now, being shy and retiring birds, so we are very fortunate indeed to have this family living with us here.