It’s been a while since I updated my (very occasional) personal online diary – Leaning On The Gate. I think this is because the initial excitement and awe of living in one of England’s most beautiful counties, Devon, and the sheer joy of being in the heart of farming countryside has now mellowed into the familiarity of ‘everyday life’ so I don’t feel so compelled to keep a record of ‘what goes on’, outside of some of the Big Events (like the arrival of our two new donkeys!)
That is not to say, however, that I take this wonderful rural life for granted. Far from it!
I still, every so often, get a feeling of 'we'll have to go home tomorrow' - you know that feeling you get when you are enjoying a wonderful vacation but are aware that it will need to end soon? I've come to the conclusion that I have this feeling because we're only temporary custodians of 'Windfall Farm' (not its real name). The old part of the house was built circa 1769 so it has seen several generations and many different people living here. Some of them are still here! (See my journal entry for November about our ghosts!). So this house isn't 'ours', my family and I are merely the present residents. Although I have warned that I fully intend to stick around as a Venerable Spirit myself when the time comes. (A good while yet, I hope!)
|The window on the right is my bedroom window|
the stone-built part of the house was built circa 1769
Every morning when I get up I stare out of both my bedroom windows in turn – front and back duel aspect. The front window views over the front garden, which needs a bit of autumn debris tidying up, the stable yard (hidden by the dogwoods an holly tree) and Donkey Field, which is our neighbour’s field but is being kept mown by Barney and 'DumpyDonk'.
|DumpyDonk (real name Pedro)|
The back window overlooks the orchard and our little aspect of the Taw Valley.
For the past too many weeks this view has been obliterated by louring grey cloud (the Devon word is ‘Dimpsey’) and pouring rain. I know the rain’s bad when I can’t see through it to the bottom of the orchard and the rounded hills and woodlands beyond have vanished. What’s the saying? ‘If you can’t see the hill it’s raining. If you can see the hill it’s about to rain.”
|'Our' bit of the Taw Valley|
and the farm opposite us
November sees the Valley in all its autumn finery. Today the sky is blue and there’s a watery sunshine. The trees and hedgerows are a glory of colour: reds, golds, browns – I never realised until moving here just how many shades of green there are.
We have many resident birds which visit the bird feeders ‘out the back’ house sparrows, tree sparrows, chaffinches, nuthatches, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, robins, woodpeckers, yellowhammers, dunnocks, jays, magpies, willow tits, wrens, blackbirds, thrushes, goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin, bullfinches…
The sparrows also congregate out the front. The honeysuckle that grows next to and over the top of the front door hosts an entire tenement colony of sparrows - we call it Sparrowville. Some evenings the squabbling between the families is like a TV episode of Eastenders!
An injured wood pigeon also visits. He’s hit overhead wires at some point because his chest feathers are damaged. There’s no way that we can catch him to inspect any further damage, but he comes down for a good feed so nature has to take her course.
|Growing up Franc...|
|Franc at a week old with Mum, Saffie|
Franc (Taw River Dracarys) will be a two-year-old next April, but already he is enormous – not far off sixteen-hands. It’s hard to believe that my son-in-law, Adam, actually picked him up on the day he was born! Franc’s mum, Saffie is now twenty (going on two as far as she is concerned!) is again healthily in foal, due in May. We’re hoping for a filly, a little Francesca!
We still have two geese, Booboo and Colin, and a few ducks, but daughter Kathy has switched from breeding Call Ducks to Pekin Hens (similar to Bantams but prettier with their feathered feet and puffed up bustles!) They are wonderful mums (and ‘Arri is a wonderful dad – he poddles around walking like Charlie Chaplin!) The little chicks are so sweet! The rain hasn’t been kind to them, though, as we’ve lost a few babies. With broods of nine to thirteen chicks the hens can’t get all their children under their wings and sometimes the rain comes too quickly and heavily for them to hurry back to the warm dryness of the hen house.
|'Arri and one of his Ladies|
Rats are a problem of farms (and towns actually!) The blighters have killed a couple of the chicks and the mother hens. No matter how secure you make the henhouse these horrible creatures get in. Our orchard looks like Colditz at the moment. I drew the line at discovering a rat making its home behind the fridge in the scullery though! It got dispatched PDQ I can tell you! Yuk!
As for my writing… well, you see the trouble is there’s always something to do outside, or the colours and light across the valley changes, or the farmer is rounding up the sheep and I just have to sit at my desk and watch…
I’ll get the next book finished soon… or as they say here in the West Country “Dreckly” which is a word which means… well... ‘whenever’…