Fearsome Mr Fox

A week or so ago I was having a bit of a bad day…  Kazuo was ill (and that is another long and ghastly story, for another day perhaps) and things just didn’t go at all according to plan…

Last Monday morning we called the chickens for their post-breakfast treats (toast crusts) and only our half-blind little treasure, Naynaynay Number Four, turned up.  I thought that a little strange. An hour or so later, a friend drove up the drive to meet us for an outing to Elie Beach/The Cocoa Tree Cafe in the East Neuk.  That was when we discovered that Mr Fox had finally made a broad-daylight foray into our little world.

When we got the chickens, we had seen a fox prowling about our yard late one night, so made a particular effort to ensure their nighttime home was fox-proof.  But we got a little over-confident about how they would fare during the day.  We don’t have any real fencing, so they have been free to roam far and wide, which they have loved.

They loved their freedom so much that about 6 weeks ago they began laying elsewhere, and we searched the hedgerows and the copse and could not find their stash anywhere.  Then Mrs Cluck disappeared – and at that point we were fairly certain the fox would get her at night.  A week later she reappeared.  Skinny and out of condition, but nonetheless, in one piece.  We were astounded.

But last week, with oats surrounding us in the fields about hip-height and new fox cubs to be fed, I suppose the inevitable happened. The bravest of the girls were happy to roam up and down the drive.  On Monday morning, I assume that Mr and Mrs Fox snuck out of the field into the drive, made a snatch and grab, and left three little piles of feathers where the hens would have been.

It was a sorry sight, but I was relieved it was not actual bloody carnage.  And I comfort myself with the thoughts that (a) these girls got a good 6 months of totally free-range chickeny life they would never have had otherwise, (b) the little foxes need sustenance too, (c) we don’t have to subject these three fiesty happy creatures to more constraint when we move into our village cottage in October [we will need to build a run since we will be in the village].

For now, our half blind survivor poor little Nay is a nervy, lonely girl and I’ve been making an effort to keep her company outside for an hour or two each day so she gets a little roaming time.  But this weekend we hope to get her some company so that she doesn’t die of fright.  Who would have ever thought, back in January, that she would be the sole survivor of our little rescued flock?  It is a little Aesop-esque this tale of our chickens…

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Birdy Birds…

One of the wonderful delights of our little rural idyll are the birds.  This morning our house was bombarded by housemartins as we got ready for the day. We recently signed up as family members of the RSPB and finally made a short trek to the local RSPB Reserve at Vane Farm.  It was a a bit of a greyish day, and taking two year olds out to a bird sanctuary is perhaps not the most conducive to enticing shy birds to come close – but once again we had a lovely stroll and managed to spy some ducks and geese that we would not normally see at home. Part of Kazuo’s RSPB mission was to ‘buy a blue tit for me’ – we are endeavouring to foster his budding fascination with our feathered friends.  So now there is quite the collection of fluffy birdies who sleep with our wee one…and come into Mama & Dada’s bed in the morning – so far we have blue tit, woodpecker, penguin and pukeko: Birdies are appearing everywhere – my current favourites are the bullfinch, who made a fleeting appearance a few weeks ago.  They are such a gentle and colourful addition to the birdy garden – so much so that I even planned out a whole re-decoration of one of the houses we tried to buy recently (long saga…still ensuing…sigh) based on shades of bullfinch!
Since the wee guy is becoming more and more fascinated with our feathered friends, I felt it timely to embark on some birdy crafting.  The duvet needed a new cover, and I had some leftover of the scribbly bird fabric I’d collected in IKEA some months back, so a comfy cushion for the reading nook also made it through the sewing machine.   Although I still find it a challenge to do anything other than cook, clean, wash laundry and get out and about with the lads on the weekend these days – it was so satisfying to whip up some birdy bedroom crafts…  I do hope I manage some more crafty activity in the weeks ahead!

Happy Father’s Day – ish

I know, I am a little late.  But last weekend we were so busy having a lovely time that I didn’t get on here to record…and then the week filled up with graduation events at the University and sadly I didn’t take any pics of that (note to self…all that lovely ancient pomp and ceremony DEMANDS some photo effort next year!)…and we are back into the treadmill of househunting since we put in an offer on a beautiful river-front villa a few weeks back and didn’t make it through the mire of the Scottish system of closing-date blind bidding…

But amidst a little anti-Father’s-Day protesting from the paternal one, Kaz and I still got up early and made Dada some River-Cottage blueberry pancakes together last Sunday – here is my little chef amidst the chaos of early morning kitchening:

And the wee one had made Dada a card at Nursery, so that took pride of place at breakfast:

Then we ventured out to Kingsbarns to poke amongst the rockpools – one of the things I love most about living here in this northern kingdom is how easy it is to get outside somewhere lovely quickly…and I love that the doctor is happy with the simple things in life on the weekends – from Kaz and I, we just want to say: Dada…you’re great!

We’re Have I Been All This Time…

Longest break I’ve taken in a while…somehow, at the end of a week at the keyboard, it is kinda hard to make time to pop in here.  Silly me.

Weekends have taken on a new measure of quality family life now that our time all together is really limited to breakfast and dinner/bath/stories/bed.  We ALL look forward to those weekends.  Since I last checked in we have had a few adventures.

April was our Scottish Summer this year I think.  So one weekend we took advantage of the delightful weather and strolled along the Fife Coastal Path

with our new friends Tomandsuzie (not to be confused with Tomandclaire) and our wee tots to the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem.

Then we made some essential modifications to the chicken coop so that the girls could get up and go to bed without our help (esp helpful now that it is light around 4.30am and dark at 10.45pm)…and so that a helpful undergrad could come in and feed them whilst we made our first UK road trip to visit Tomandclaire in Manchester.  During this balmy weekend we managed an outing to the local RSPB reserve…

…and HeatonPark which had the added bonus of a tiny farm and a playground.

The following weekend was the Royal Wedding – and though none of us are particularly royalist in persuasion…there is something kinda lovely about a wedding…so I managed to make a cuppa and turn on the TV for some of the proceedings – though I did have a lot of interference from the easily distractable male members of the family.  We followed up the festivity with our first BBQ of the season – though the weather was not so great then, and has not really picked up since.  Sigh…

Later on we even managed a spot of garden planting.  As per usual, the little herbies are doing great.  But after an unseasonably warm April, May has been so cold that not much else has survived the transfer to the cold little garden patch .  Apart from the fabulous radishes we harvested this week.

The big news of the month was QPR (the Doctor’s football love) were promoted to the Premier League.  Whilst sport is still really something I do not understand…this was an event worth celebrating – with chocolate cake and bubbles!

And the other big news was the big-boy bed.  We took the sides off the cot…and Kaz has pretty much settled into a rhythm of sleeping in his own little space.  We have to lie down by him now to get to sleep…but that usually happens pretty quickly.  He has fallen out several times, and one night I stepped on him in the dark (oops) and another night he fell over all his toys trying to get out the door in the dark…but slowly we have made adaptations and sleep IS happening.  Now onto potty training…

Our final news is the galvanising into action on the house-hunting front.  We have been out most weekends looking for a permanent home.  A frightening and enlightening process.  We think we have narrowed down the area we would like to live in…and this charming village has caught our eye…

…Kaz has so far loved going to see houses, esp when we come across a playground en route

…but it will probably take us most of the summer to find something we are sure about…so no move imminent yet!

So…a big update.  Sorry it was so long…and I was absent for so long…hope to mitigate that in future.  It all got a bit hectic there for a while.  Happiness to you and thanks to those of you who kept popping in to see how we are doing.  I will try to be back here more often in future!

Ten Things of Happiness

Thought it was time for a little summary of the things that make me smile right now…whether in fact or in wishful anticpation.

1. The weather is so lovely and warm and in the sunny springy mornings, I have been loving my walk to work.  I trundle through the ancient St Mary’s Quad, complete with bursting-forth magnolias and an abundance of beautiful spring blooms.  Then I walk across town – a lovely stroll through cobbled streets, down pretty alleys, past charming shop windows and more ancient stone wonders – like the glories of St Salvator’s Chapel.  On more organised days I can also wander along the East Sands and up past the cathedral.  It is a quaint little town and I love the peace of walking through such prettiness to ease me  into the working day.

2. My new hastily-chosen spectacles that are due to arrive in a fortnight.  I have had the current beloved Chanel frames for five years now, so I think I got value for money…but they have been mangled a lot by the pop, so hopefully the new eyewear will feel a little more robust. I am looking forward to that inevitable change of look that comes with new specs.

3. This teapot – the doctor is not terribly interested in homewares.  But when I showed him this teapot (and I am in dire need of a teapot for more than two…) he said ‘Amazing!’  Which I am hoping is shorthand for…”if you want to buy it, go ahead…”

4. We need a holiday sometime soon…it has been far too long.  Lately I’ve been flirting with the notion of a little glamping – my initial desire was a yurt in the French Pyrenees, but then I started thinking of being a little more ‘eco’ and going somewhere closer to home.  Like this fr’instance:

But it turns out the doctor, though a fan of camping, would rather be in something a little more concrete and secluded if we are not ACTUALLY camping…fair enough…I shall continue to dream…and probably plan a little cottagey hideaway instead…

5. Beautiful sunny days at the beach make ice cream an essential dietary requirement.  Here is the pop eating his first ever big-boy cone,  he LOVED it…and it was a very balmy 21degC out…perfect day!

6. A dire internet connection and a kinda sick again little boy brought a revival of They Might Be Giants this weekend – with Here Come the 123s featuring on the must play list (‘The numbers one Mama’) and the excellent Here Comes Science making a comeback too.  Love love love some silly singing combined with educational wonderfulness.

7. And speaking of silly and fun and educational and worky…have to say that perhaps against our own better judgement we are ALL loving Dada’s new iPad2…he was not a big fan of going down that route, but it seems to be revolutionising his work routines and the wee one had a happy little time on the weekend playing with the Eric Carle app – anything that is so functional and makes his little memory get going has to be a winner in my book.  Simple and stylish…typical…

8.  This summery elegance, of course I’ll never look this willowy and carefree, and our beaches are a bit cold for such frolicking, but dreams are free…

 

9. A new broom ALWAYS sweeps clean…and I am loving my new straw yard broom.  The chicken poop was getting a bit out of hand.  I love that they are free to range, and that our girls come up to both doors to welcome us whenever they see us coming.  But it was high time I had some way of restoring order so we can still sit outside in the sun – like we did on the weekend.

10. Mornings in the kitchen.  Here is a birdy still life…we have fresh eggs before breakfast every day, and we are often peering out into the fields and hedgerows to see details of birds we are spying out the kitchen windows…then checking the bird guides for identification.  It is never a dull moment in our kitchen…and the birds outside (of all persuasion) help to keep up the drama.

And of course…when speaking of happiness and things I love…I have to finish off by mentioning these guys…always make me smile!

Hope you have some things to love and bring you happiness this inter-seasonal period…

How Are Those Chickens Getting On?

Eleven weeks ago we brought our little brood of rescued battery chickens home to roost in our yard.  Since then they have thrived in ways I never imagined – though we did hope, from the British Hen Welfare Trust paraphernalia that we had read that they would eventually do so.  Akira is faithfully waking earlier and earlier to let them out to roam about as close to dawn as possible, and they linger about either in the house or nearby at dusk so that we can shut up shop for the night.

The girls spend their days scratching, pecking, dust bathing, pooping and sunbathing about the yard.  After a couple of weeks of keeping them in or near the coop, we let them roam free just before I started work at the University.  Pretty soon they found the outer limits of the property – and can often be found somewhere on the driveway scratching around as we come home from work in the early evening.

We feed them a high-protein ex-bats feed that has enabled them to feather up rather remarkably, and they all look luscious and feathery (apart from bossy Mrs Cluck, who is only now sprouting new neck feathers).  There was a brief hiatus of moulting in February, and they went off the lay a little.  But now they each lay an egg daily…so we are having to find alternative means of distributing the excess!

At first they were not so clever in the adverse weather, but it was pouring with rain yesterday morning and they had all taken cover under the hedge by the time we left for work.


It took a few weeks to establish the pecking order, but we think they have it sorted now.  Being able to free range means the lower order chooks don’t get pecked at much, and Mrs Cluck (who is definitely in charge) gets first choice of food, and calls the alarm when things look scarey, but otherwise seems to do little to assert her power these days.  One of Mrs Cluck’s recent funny habits is coming to the front door in the evening, triggering the sensor light in the dusk, and hanging out enjoying a little extended ‘daylight’.  Today she killed and ate an ENTIRE shrew…so she will either be in a bad way in the morning, or she is truly the most omnivorous one!


Feathery Frou Frou keeps a bit of a low profile.  She drifts about with Mrs Cluck and Floppy Comb most of the day and has feathered up rather beautifully.  her comb is also a lovely vibrant red.  Secretly, I think she may have been the egg-freeloader for a while, but she seems to just follow the crowd most of the time and is also a little more wary of us.


Floppy Comb is probably our favourite.  She is a gorgeous gingery-golden colour and has an inquisitive and very cheeky nature.  Floppy is the most likely to take risks and try new things.  She comes running whenever we appear outdoors and even jumps up on the living room windowsill to say ‘Hi’ if she spies us in the lounge.


Little Naynaynay Number Four is looking pretty and feathery (apart from a wee bald patch on her head – probably the permanent result of endless battery-induced pecking) and although she has a funny habit of facing the world with her blind eye – and thus never really knowing what is going on – she seems to get by in her own chickeny little way.  We were not sure she would make it, but she has been the most consistent layer, and seems to love having enough space in which to thrive.


We cleaned their house out a few weeks ago, and now that they spend all their daylight hours outdoors, the whole set up seems to be rather low maintenance and quite a happy addition to our little rural hideaway.


Our big challenge now is to find chicken minders for any holidays we plan to take this year.  An advert in the student job shop has yielded a few interested parties – so I am feeling hopeful that having chickens will still mean the best of all possible worlds.

The best part of this endeavour has been that Kazuo is devoted to the chickens.  He finds them hilarious, charming and a little funny.  He is so happy now that the long evenings means time with the chooks when we get home from town each day, we have to drag him away for dinner! They think his fingers look like worms and Floppy Comb makes a bee-line for the little person to have a peck at his fingers whenever he is out and about.


Spring is Springing

It’s still pretty cool and the woods pretty ‘stick-y’ here in the northern kingdom.  But hope of new life and springy loveliness has begun to burst forth.  Locally, we have recently discovered the delightful Cambo estate that specialises in the cultivation of snowdrops.  The past few weeks they have been in profusion – there are little clusters just outside our gate that the wee one exclaims gleefully about each time we pass them.   So on the weekend past, we finally got to take a stroll in the magical wonderland of Cambo gardens.

I love the delicate tenacity of snowdrops – and they put on a charming show in the moist morning.

The snowdrop walk ambles down to the sea – and so Kazuo was in his element, flowers AND seaside in one outing – perfect!

I am also totally taken by the tiny perfection of the minature irises that are popping up everywhere.  In our neighbourhood in St Louis there were several large beds of standard sized irises that bloomed in early summer that I loved.  But these wee treasures are bursting forth now and come in so many nuanced shades of blue.

Yesterday was another sick day at our house – the wee guy has been ill with something or other for about 6 weeks now, and consequently no-one has done a full week of work or nursery since I began at the university three weeks ago.  It has been tough…but he is still able to make a little trek to the gate even with the direst of lurgies.  So we were both delighted to discover this teeny clump of snowdrops halfway down the drive on our wander yesterday.  Spring, you are VERY welcome!