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Smart duck

♥Sep. 12th, 2017 // 07:27 pm

When we went to put the animals to bed (before dinner! The nights are drawing in.), Eskarina was sitting on her own by the pond. She looked up and wiggled a bit when I walked over to get the feed dish, but she didn't jump up and head for bed, which was ominous.

I gave Mike the rugs I was carrying (most of the boys rugs are off being cleaned at the moment, but their two thinnest ones go in our washing machine ok so I took advantage of a sunny, breezy day to de-stink them) and went to pick her up, which is when I realised that she had a piece of nylon thread wrapped around one of her legs.

Fortunately, she didn't wiggle while I untangled her, and even more fortunately she hadn't been struggling enough to have actually cut all the way through the skin. As soon as I'd finished, though, she was off with a flap of her wings and a squawk.

It got me thinking, though (after I'd picked up the rest of the thread and thrown it away): it doesn't really surprise me that, say, elephants go to people when they need medical help*: they're smart. Similarly, dogs do it because they're tame. Ducks, though, are neither of those things. My runners are fairly domesticated, but anyone who's ever seen the reaction when I have to pick one up knows that they're not at all tame**.

Mike pointed out that birds are quite smart for brain size, and it's true that I'd be fairly unsurprised if, say, a corvid that I'd been feeding did the same thing. On the other hand, I'd be completely astonished if the robin, who follows me around when I'm carrying the duck / wild bird food, nagging me to hurry up with it, did the same thing.

* Elephants also, I just heard on the World Service, go into stealth mode when in danger from people: they hide out during the day and travel fast at night if they know that there are poachers in the area. There are now plans to look out for this on the researchers' movement trackers, so that they can alert the rangers to be on the look out for trouble when they see that sort of movement pattern!

** Except Esme, she was fairly tame, poor little thing.
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♥Jul. 11th, 2017 // 05:49 pm
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It's raining! And the forecast is for it to keep doing so all night! (Maybe now the fertiliser that Mr Farmer put on the field the other week will actually get washed into the ground: radical concept!)

The swallows have fledged their chicks. We suspect that the wrens have as well, but they vanished fairly quickly. The swallows, on the other hand, are still around and learning how to fly: we keep walking into stables to be met by confused birds trying to avoid flying into us.

I'm a wee bit worried about Esk, who seems to be having some difficulties in the egg department: she keeps laying wonky ones, and a couple of days ago she produced two in one afternoon, the second with a rather squidgy shell that Jo was very pleased to receive. Mind you, that was the same day when we found one that Agnes had laid actually in the pond, so, y'know....

This afternoon, I had my first private session with my new Pilates instructor. I'm rather tired now. I think it'll work out, though: I've booked another session!
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Hot hot hot...

♥Jun. 17th, 2017 // 08:17 pm
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This morning, we went up to the summer pasture and set up the electric fence (to keep the boys away from the (rickety and barbed-wire-topped) real fence), and then took them up there. It was quite warm. As ever, they spurned the water trough up there and so drank all the water in the stableyard when they came back down. Sigh. (It always takes them a few weeks to deign to drink from the trough up there, presumably because it tastes different: it's a stone trough when they're used to plastic, and/or the water doesn't go through the softener that treats our water.)

I'm a little concerned by Agnes, aka Limpy McDinosaur Duck. She's being even limpier than usual, and holding her wings very strangely as she hobbles around the place, and when she's lying down she's been wibbling her beak and twitching her wings. I was half thinking I'd pick her up for a quick check when we put them to bed, even though she hates being handled, but she made it easy by getting most of the way to their house and then just collapsing with a splat on the ground. Couldn't find anything obviously wrong, and I'm not going to be calling a weekend evening vet for her, but I am quite worried that she's suddenly got much worse. Fingers crossed that the magic 'pick her up to see what's wrong' cure will work and she'll be better tomorrow.

The garden, on the other hand, is going along well. The polytunnel's looking very green, and there's at least one actual tomato set on the early russian variety:

(10th May, to compare: they have grown!)

We've also got actual you-could-eat-those baby courgettes, very teeny squash, lots of tomatillo cases with baby fruit inside, and runner bean flowers. This afternoon, we shared the first mange tout of the season. The wild strawberries by the riding school are also doing well, and the jar of strawberries in vodka is filling up nicely.

I have been appreciating my hammock, which is on the grass in the shade, and so lovely and cool. I *almost* came inside to get a light blanket when I was in it a couple of days ago!
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Things we have done

♥May. 17th, 2017 // 08:11 pm
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The swallows have come back: we've seen lots of activity in the last few days, including plenty of flying in and out of the stable, so we didn't scare them off. Phew!

The bird 'flu restrictions are, finally, over, which is also a big phew. The ducks are very happy to be back in the garden, and it's meant that we could put the boys in the stableyard, which was getting rather overgrown, so that the field could have a rest. It's currently raining steadily, and set to keep doing so for a few more hours (another phew!), so hopefully the grass will be able to get a bit of growing done tomorrow without being instantly munched back to nothing.

It's been quite hot for the last couple of days, so the Jug Of Minty Water has reappeared in the fridge:

It was much appreciated this afternoon when I came in from weeding the jungle front bed, which is always a sod and got away from me rather this winter, not helped by the lack of ducks disturbing the weeds. It's taken me a week, but at least it's not quite a Forth Bridge job.

I finished off the quilt from my workshop:

("How did you get it done so quickly?" someone asked me at a fabric sale last weekend. "I've had my mother-in-law staying..." I replied. Then she mocked me because I was carrying bolts of fabrics in two solid greys and three beige patterns, so I picked up a plain teal as well and bought some just to show her!)

Does anyone fancy having a go at some orchid identification? I'm stumped by this one, which is potentially more troubling than it would otherwise be as it's in the field we borrow in the summer and I don't want to let the boys near it if it's rare!

It's probably just an odd common spotted, but.... It's not monkey or military, or an insect one. The pink buds make it look like a burnt, which I don't think we get around here and the petals aren't right for anyway. The petal colours look a bit like a chalk fragrant, which is local, but the shape is wrong. That pink border, and the lobe shape, have me quite stumped. It *might* be a lady, but I can't see any 'arms'. They do have the pink buds, and the two-lobes on the petals, though. Hmm. I might go and have another look at it tomorrow....
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I was going to do some more weeding...

♥May. 5th, 2017 // 06:59 pm
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... but it was drizzling when I got back from walking pooch, so I hit the sewing machine instead.

This is going to be a cushion cover for Sue's Mum's boyfriend, who used to have a tame pheasant in the garden.

Note to self: remember to do the eye!

(It stopped drizzling shortly afterwards, but ah well, the garden will still be there next week.)

While walking the pooch, I saw Mrs Farmer, who had a genius idea: ducks are filter feeders, so I can make their pellets into soup and leave it out all day without the wild birds being able to get much of it. Worth a try to get a bit more food into them, especially as I'm worried that the case that was reported overnight might mean another extension of the bird 'flu restrictions.
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♥Apr. 11th, 2017 // 01:32 pm
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Esk has finally done her duty, so for my lunch today I had the first duck egg of the year!

(I also had one of the veg box hen eggs, just to check, and even though they're free range from a small farm they really don't taste anything like as nice.)

This morning, I was catching up on the last couple of Archers omnibuses. Am I the only one who, after the first session of nets, assumed Usha was being deliberately crap-but-perky to make Lilly and Molly feel more at ease? I was thoroughly expecting her to wait a few weeks and then 'fess up to actually having played for her university team or similar. I certainly didn't expect what's actually happening. I didn't expect to be saying "Hello Tiger", either....
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Ducks and flowers and decorators and seedlings

♥Feb. 20th, 2017 // 08:02 pm
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I've just been looking at the bird 'flu guidance for when the current control order runs out (at the end of the month). Given that free-range birds can only be kept in for twelve weeks before they become barn-raised, which happens at the start of March, I was expecting some changes and had my fingers crossed that I'd be able to start feeding the ducks properly again. Actually, though, they're just officially permitting what I was already doing on animal welfare grounds....

So, it looks like they'll not be getting ad-lib food until at least May. They don't like this at all, and my first duck egg of the year is getting further and further away. I'm very jealous of Mrs Farmer, who moved her hens into an unused polytunnel and is getting far better egg production than usual for the time of year.

In more pleasing spring-time news, yesterday we noticed that one of the dwarf irises on the drive was about to flower and a few more had green flower spikes. We went out at lunchtime today to see that half a dozen of them had suddenly burst into bloom. Oddly, the flowers last year came out the day we went to Eastercon and were pretty much over when we got back. It's been a cold winter this year, and was warm last, so I can only think that it's because they're better established this year: last year was their first.

The decorators have been hard at work on the living room today, and there's one coat of fresh paint on everything. We're camping out in the study: it's not a very small room, and would probably be fine with just the two sofas and coffee/side tables in it. Those plus the usual two desks and masses of books, though, are making things very cosy. Jo is bemused but coping.

Tomorrow, I'm going to pot on the first of this year's veg seedlings. Fingers crossed for a better spring / early summer than last year, and resultant shelves full of passata and other bottled stuff.
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♥Dec. 10th, 2016 // 03:02 pm
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This morning, Mike went out to give the boys their breakfast and found Bugsy happily eating the front lawn.

I must have not quite latched his door last night, and then he smashed his way through the chain that's there as a second line of defence (this was odd, as previously he's just gone under it).

In retrospect, this explains the happy horse noises I heard outside late last night: at the time, I just assumed it was TWWOTV's mares and a weird echo / sound reflection, which we get plenty of. I'm surprised that GB wasn't shouting, though. He had sweat marks on his coat this morning, and his stable was a complete state (for the first time since we've been here, I just threw away his whole bed and gave him a new one. Contrast with Bugsy, who gets this about once a fortnight), so he'd obviously spent the night being a big bundle of stress.

My back was feeling much better, if still sore, yesterday morning, which was fortunate because Mike was in London so I had the whole stableyard to do on my own. My back is feeling much worse today. I have learnt my lesson and Mike will be doing the mucking out for the next couple of days.

Some experimentation has shown that the ducks will neither eat nor use their pond indoors. When Mike moved the pond outside and refilled it this morning, they charged over to have a bath and Agnes (who has a bad leg and spends a lot of time in there) doesn't seem to have left it since except when they had their corn. We're being careful about getting rid of left-over food before to corvids notice it, but I don't really think that there's much else we can do: there's no point stressing them to death to avoid the risk of catching 'flu.

We went, with a certain amount of trepidation, to get a Christmas tree this morning. Last year, when we went on the equivalent of yesterday, we had great trouble finding one. Today, though, the little garden centre had a good dozen that were much nicer than the one we ended up with last year, and the one we bought seems to be very suitable: nicely symmetrical, branches not starting too low down, no enormous bald spike on top. Phew.

Mike seems to be coming down with another cold. I have explained that this is Just Not On, as it's currently *my* turn to be lying around feeling pathetic, but he's insistent on having it. Men!
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Bird 'flu

♥Dec. 7th, 2016 // 01:25 pm
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It seems there's a bird 'flu outbreak in Europe, and Just In Case there are now restrictions on birds in England.

We can't practically keep the ducks indoors (the stable where they sleep is small and dark), so after a bit of a ponder we decided that they definitely have to stay out of the front garden, where there are far more wild birds. As (bad) luck would have it, this morning the horses had their annual dental check, so they were also in the stableyard for a while. As (good) luck would have it, we've been meaning to have a bonfire for a couple of weeks, so we rearranged the bonfire pile to make a barrier around the door to the duck's stable and just let them in the little patch of outside that resulted, with their food and water inside.

Magrat, in particular, complained loudly for the first couple of hours, but since then they seem to have just gone back to bed. They ate *most* of their breakfast, but it took them several hours to do so (they're not laying at the moment, so they're not so interested in food), which we can't really do: it won't be long before Stableyard Robin realises and starts popping over to finish it off.

After a couple of chats with Old Mother Farmer in the woods (she didn't have time for a long walk, so took a shorter route home, and then we met her again ten minutes later), I've decided that, although the guidance says that ducks should be treated as chickens and kept in, our ducks are so free range / wild that really more like geese / fancy wildfowl, which can't be kept indoors: I'm going to keep them out of the front garden but let them have the run of the stableyard, and I'm going to switch both of their meals to corn-in-the-stable in the hope that they'll eat more quickly.

I can't decide what to do about their pond, though. At the moment, it's in the stable and it's not been used all morning. I'd like to put it outside, but I know that if I do and (especially) if we have another cold snap then the birds will be drinking from it. Hmm.

Speaking of cold snaps, we had one: a week or so of frozen taps, riding arenas, and pretty much everything else. On the other hand, lovely sunny days and, best of all, hardly any mud!

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Something is eating me....

♥Sep. 12th, 2016 // 08:12 pm
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I'm not sure what it is, but I'm waking up every morning with more bites. I would say it's mozzies, but we're a bit late in the season for them to suddenly appear and there's not much open water around here. I've been bug-spraying the bedroom each evening, and tonight I've gone to the extreme of closing the window before doing so. Fingers crossed....

Today, the vet called. She wanted to see how GB's eye was doing (fine) and let me know the result of his blood test (not fine). We've upped his medication, but I'm a little worried about it as he's now at the highest dose he's previously been on.

Later, the saddler came to check that the boys didn't need anything changing. They didn't, and she was pleased with how both of them looked when I rode them. "He's put weight on," she said of Bugs. Yep, that's why I've brought two girths over! "Ah, are we having to sometimes use fatty girth?" Yep! (Although he *has* just had a new saddle pad, so maybe it's fluffier than the old one...? No, ok, just fat!) I told her of recent vet annoyances, and she recounted a story about the same chap: an ex-racehorse who'd had spinal surgery years ago. When she went to fit a saddle for him, she tried everything in her stock and got angry face about all but one of them (this when they were just popped on his back, not ever a girth never mind a rider), so they went with that one and he was fine in it. He had a lameness, and when the vet came out he said it was because the saddle didn't fit and it was (drum roll) causing the horse to have the back problem that he always diagnoses. Not, you know, an issue because of the old surgery. So not having him back if Bugs shows problems again.

Later, I was sitting listening to PM when I noticed movement on the front patio and saw Esk wandering around. We've never before seen a duck on the front patio (they're not terribly good with steps), but a bit later Agnes joined her and they poked around in the pots going "ooh, this is tasty", interspersed with looking through the window at me and quacking loudly. It was nearly bedtime, but it did seem like odd behaviour and I wondered where Houdini Magrat was, so I went and poked my head out of the front door. No sign of her, but I could hear her quacking. Out on the road again? No, and I couldn't hear her any more. Went back inside, and heard the quacks again: in the back garden. No idea how she got there, and I'm pretty sure that we're going to have to go hunting for another hole under the fence fairly soon.... (The back garden is off limits, both because it's not duck-proof in the way that the front (allegedly) is (so they could get out to the field and / or road) but also because we don't want them trying to get in the fish pond in case they get tangled in the (heron-proof) cover.)

Archers spoiler: here )

I half decided not to go to and half forgot about B-Movie. Did anyone make it? How was it?
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Swimming lessons

♥Aug. 4th, 2016 // 08:27 pm
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Jodie had her first swimming lesson yesterday. Much to my relief, it involved her walking into a tank at floor level before the hydrotherapy nurse closed glass doors at either end and then slowly filled it with water: I'd gone dressed on the assumption that I'd have to persuade her to go down a ramp into a pool, probably by going in first! She was a bit bemused by it all, but took to it pretty well, and the nurse was pleased both with how she did and with the progress she's made since her op. (We also popped into the main reception area, to weigh her, and everyone was very pleased to see her and impressed with how neat the scar is. Everyone at the vet likes Jodie!)

I've finished making the rest of the quilt blocks that I started in my last class. I'm vaguely thinking a snake-like table runner....

Oddly, we had no eggs today. On the other hand, yesterday Mike reported that Esk was behaving oddly and, when I went clambering around behind the barn, I found her next to a little scrape in the ground with two of her eggs in it, neither of them just-laid. I've a vague memory that she went through a phase like this this time last year, as well, and the others copied her a bit. Guess I'd better check the front garden as well.
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Other things

♥Jul. 25th, 2016 // 05:17 pm
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My parents came to visit, but they've gone away again now. While they were here, we had the hay delivery, so that's all sorted for the winter now. They left on the day of quilt club, so the nautical quilt didn't get shown and told.

There was a wren in the kitchen the other day. Somewhat surprising, but I managed to catch it in a shawl and it flew away when I took it outside. Also a cricket sitting smack in the middle of our duvet.

Magrat The Duck was lame one day. Worryingly, the traditional treatment of Frantic Chase Around The Garden Then Being Cornered And Picked Up didn't provide the usual 100% cure, but she was fine the following day. ("I heard a tremendous amount of quacking this morning," said my mother, "and when I looked the white duck was standing on top of one of the brown ones in the pond, giving her a tremendous ducking!" No, mother, you have the wrong consonant there....) She's also been doing her Houdini tricks again. Several days of setting up the stop-motion camera in various places failed to catch her in the act, but then (when we'd narrowed it down to one corner of the garden) Mike spotted the hole under the fence that she's been using. It's now blocked with a log, which should be enough provided that the hole isn't part of an active badger run.

The hollyhocks and gladioli are just starting to flower, and looking very pretty (other than the one that the horses can reach, which looks rather sad). TWWOTV asked what the hollyhocks were, and explained that until the flowers started to come out she'd been worried that they were giant hogweed. Because, obviously, we wouldn't notice eight foot dangerous high weeds in our front garden.

Jodie is doing really well, and looks much less silly now that the hair is growing back: it's still short, but at least she's the right colour now! She's walking for about ten minutes, three times a day, and will probably be coming off the painkillers and starting hydrotherapy in the coming week (I don't know for sure, because the vet hasn't returned my call from Saturday, grr). As far as she's concerned, she's completely better, which means that she wants to go chasing bunnies and thinks nothing of spinning 360 degrees while simultaneously jumping up in the air when we get back from leaving her alone for ten minutes. We may have to start crating her when we go to take the boys up the hill (although the surgeon said that she could start doing that towards the end of this week, thankfully).

The boys are fat and lazy, and have done very little work in the last week or so: it's been too hot and too full of flies. The horseflies, at least, seem to be stopping for the year. I've only had two bites in the last four days!
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Bits and bobs

♥Jul. 8th, 2016 // 08:41 pm
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Duck seems fine.

Bugs had a visit from the 2nd vet, who wants to see him at the surgery. Which will be fun. And expensive. I've been texting around people that the receptionist said might be able to do transport for two horses for the day, because of course GB can't be left on his own....

No word from Jo's vet about a new surgery date, so they're probably still playing phone tag.

In the last week or so, I've had five emails (that is, half of what hits my gmail account's spam folder after going through initial screening on Mike's provider) that purport to be from someone I know, though not from their email address, and that address me in an appropriate way for that person. I suspect that if I emailed the people involved, we could figure out which service has leaked their address books (there are, for example, some yearoftheteledu addresses in the cc's, and an address belonging to someone who used to swap to a new free email address every year or so when he started getting too much crap in his inbox), but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

We had been planning to go to the Kent County Show but thought we'd have to go tomorrow because of the vet. As it was, he was gone by 2pm, so we thought we'd go for it: it's much quieter on Friday than on Saturday. There were a few things missing: not many heavy horses, and about half the cages in the poultry tent (which is also where the rabbits are) were empty. The horses were apparently all busy haymaking, and based on the fact that all the people working the poultry tent were girls in their early teens I suspect that most of the competitors hadn't been allowed to skip a day of school to attend. On the plus side, the flower arrangements were all lovely and fresh and looking at their best, and the cakes hadn't started to sag in the heat. Plus, fewer people. We had a nice time, wandered the shop, watched bits of a handful of horse classes and saw the pig racing:

(Number five won the Grand National, which means that Teresa May will be the next Prime Minister. Previous predictions included Farrage to be PM after the last election and a Remain vote, so I wouldn't rely too much on their piggy predictive powers.)

We bought very little that wasn't edible, and I several times uttered the words "Oh, I neededn't have bought that on Amazon the other day". In reality, though, the one I bought on Amazon was probably cheaper. This probably has something to do with why the shows are all struggling a bit: once upon a time, they were a serious shopping opportunity.

We also looked at some new garden furniture, but didn't see anything that made us want to rush to buy. We were intrigued by the fact that two different places had almost identical stock. One, in a nice marquee, was more expensive than the other, which boasted of huge show discounts, all display stock must go, delivery this evening after we close. The latter had no proper signage or fliers, which made it look dodgy as hell, but also offered a 12-month payment plan, which was odd. But, I suppose, may well have involved a big bloke coming 'round to check you hadn't forgotten to make your payments....
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Lame animal count: 3

♥Jul. 7th, 2016 // 08:06 pm
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Esk was looking quite lame when we went out to put her to bed, so I traumatised her back into health caught her and checked that there was nothing obviously wrong, after which I put her down and she ran away looking perfectly normal. This is not the first time one of the ducks has done this!

Bugs is now consistently lame again, so I've got the second-opinion vet coming back for him tomorrow.

And Jo Jo is still hobbling around like a hobbly thing. Annoyingly, I had a call from her vets today, saying that the surgeon has said he *can't* do her op next Friday, because he won't have time for three surgeries. It sounds like they've been playing voice mail tag with him: they now going to try to actually speak to him and find out when he can do it. Depending on what the answer is (and, indeed, how long it takes for it to come), we might have to look at getting it done somewhere else.
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Foiled you!

♥Apr. 21st, 2016 // 02:08 pm
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I'm pleased to say that our mighty human intellects (and ability to use a hammer and some chicken wire) seem to have foiled the ducks. It's nice to know we're smarter than some of the animals....

GB, despite his best attempts to bite me on the head (ow) is also foiled, or at least his bad leg seems to be, for now. He's doing really well, so much so that I think Mike will be usefully able to have lessons on him again soon: we've got through another winter, that's the main thing!

I've been quilting, which has gone both more quickly than I expected and less quickly than I'd been led to believe by the throw-away comments of Chap From The Sewing Bee. I am at least generating fewer 'go back and fix that by hand' instances than I was, which is also good.

I also seem to have a new laptop: as ever, I wasn't really listening when Mike said "so, do you want a new laptop?", and vaguely thought I was agreeing to something that might happen in a few months. It was a little surprising when he handed me an Apple Store bag when he got home from work this evening. Tomorrow, I shall play with it, for tonight I'll struggle on with my unusable keyboard!
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♥Apr. 18th, 2016 // 07:58 pm
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Ducks in the field again. Sigh.
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Naughty quackers

♥Apr. 17th, 2016 // 02:25 pm
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Our attempt at re-duck-proofing the fence the other day didn't work: they were back in the field this morning. On the plus side, as soon as they saw me come out to get them they ran back under the gate and into the stableyard. As a temporary measure, we put a handy object (poo scoop) over the place where they now seemed to be getting through and left it for later.

Later came, as it does, and I headed up there with a roll of chicken wire. When Mike followed me out a minute or so later, he found me chasing ducks around the back garden....

(Again, as soon as they saw me they headed for somewhere they're allowed to be and, rather sensibly given I was in the way of their usual route, cut across the back garden and headed for the side gate to get back to the front. Unfortunately, the side gate was shut (to make sure that, er, the ducks couldn't get into the back garden), causing much squawking and trying to climb through stock netting fences. Spoiler: ducks don't fit through.)

So, the gate now has Even More chicken wire around the bottom of it, and we'll see what happens: there is a gap at the side, they might be able to squeeze through there....

This morning, I went to a small local village for a fabric sale at the village hall. The village obviously has Parking Issues at the best of times, and adding a couple of hundred bargain-hunting quilters didn't improve matters; I couldn't quite bring myself to park in the church carpark on a Sunday morning (and others obviously felt the same) so I suspect that I stole someone's parking space.... Still, I'm all stocked up for my next project now. (And I'm about to start quilting the flying birds, probably tomorrow. Fingers crossed!)

I've been saying it ever since we moved in, but this year I really am going to get rid of the spanish bluebells that we inherited in the garden: we're just too close to the bluebell woods for me to be happy having them. (Bloody Europeans, coming over here and hybridising with our native species, etc.) Does anyone who's coming to visit over the next few weeks and doesn't live near bluebell woods want them (in the green)? I could also feasibly meet up with someone in the City / near K'sX-St P on Thursday 5th at lunch time (although probably not actually *for* lunch).
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Done! (I think.)

♥Apr. 13th, 2016 // 07:58 pm
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This afternoon, I Caught Up (what on earth is that solicitor thinking? Presumably soon someone will remember that Carol's daughter is a barrister, yes? I do hope he dies, but I doubt that it will as that would make things too simple) and did some sewing: I think that my 30-themed quilt is now done, and it's turned out to be fairly close to my original sketch, except that I abandoned the idea of needle felting some sheep onto the background. I'd quite like to have something alive in November, but I can't really think what: there's not much space, maybe a crow in the tree?


(Click for much bigger!)

This afternoon, just as one of the afternoon's flash squalls kicked in, I noticed that the ducks were in the field.

The boys were over at the other side, but I feared that there would be trouble later when the boys started hanging around the gate looking for their dinners so I went out to move them. Esk immediately went back to the stableyard: good duck! Maggers and Agnes, however, headed further up the field. Until the boys came over to see if it was time for dinner and getting out of the suddenly heavier rain, at which they tried their best to get into the stableyard but did so by trying to get through the fence, not the gate. The boys got quite interested / excited by this, possibly because they were worried about what was scaring the girls (that would be: the boys, with a small side helping of 'oops, we're not supposed to be in here and the human's come to chase us away').

Agnes did her best to squeeze through the fence, which gave me a chance to grab her and lift her over, but Magrat turned tail and ran up the hill. GB excitedly followed suit, and unfortunately that brought his back leg into contact with my shoulder: ow.

(Magrat did the sensible thing, finally, at this point and dashed under the gate while the boys were distracted by running around.)

Fortunately, it was just a glancing blow, and I think it's just going to be a bruise: I've got full movement in it, it's just A Bit Sore. Even more fortunately, it's not so sore that I couldn't drive to the station to pick Mike up, although I struggled a bit with roundabouts!

Oh, and I got soaked. Lovely.

Tomorrow, we need to do something about the gate. It has got chicken wire under it, but I think something larger than a duck is pushing under it and bending it out of shape. Maybe a bit of wood across that corner?
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Well done, Magrat

♥Apr. 2nd, 2016 // 02:06 pm
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She finally (after an occasional incomplete attempt) seems to have managed to lay an actual egg today! That's the first she's managed since, oh, the autumn. I wonder if she'll keep it up?

We, on the other hand, managed to have two bonfires, finally! We've been stuck because we prefer to only have them when the wind is away from the neighbours, but that direction tends to also be the one that brings rain. Today, though, we finally managed to burn the last of the leylandii that Mike took out before Christmas (as well as various prunings, that manky old wooden planter from by the back door, and the last of the fence posts that we had replaced before we moved in. That last isn't just us being crap: we'd been using them to keep bales of hay off the barn floor but we've now finally accumulated enough pallets that we can use those instead, which will make life much easier).

Mike also mowed the back lawn, while I did a bit of tidying in the embarrassment that is the bee garden and put in some plant supports. We'd just finished a very little light pruning of the vibernum (taking out a couple of wayward branches) and I was casting about for more jobs when we had a few spots of rain. They didn't come to much in the end, but it did get chillier so I'm glad that we abandoned the garden in favour of putting rugs on the boys.

Tomorrow, provided the rain continues to not amount to much, we're having the field harrowed and there are various potting shed jobs to be done in the conservatory.

My new phone is up and running, thanks to Mike's office wifi. It's very fast, and has a super battery. I should probably get a case for it before it gets all dinged like the old one.
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Short memories....

♥Feb. 2nd, 2016 // 06:23 pm
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The ducks were a bit out of sorts on Sunday, especially when it came to time for bed: without Esme to chivvy them inside, we had to go and herd them. They managed it on their own this evening, though, and they're back on the flowerbeds when I'm weeding, although much more quietly: I keep thinking that they've wandered off, but every time I turn around with a nice juicy worm to see where they've gone, there's a beak waiting for me to hand it over.

Jodie was a bit confused, as well: she usually waits in the front garden until they've come through, and yesterday she was there for longer then usual, waiting for them all to arrive.

We've been keeping a close eye one them, and they don't seem to be getting poorly. It's a good job, because there's not much we could do to stop it: I could change their bedding and disinfect their house, but I can't do that for the whole garden!

They're forecasting a little snow tomorrow, but I doubt that it will happen. Chilly out there, though.

(Thank you to everyone who said sympathetic things about Esme. Thank you also to all the people who resisted the urge to say "It's only a bloody duck"!)
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Esme 2014-2016

♥Jan. 31st, 2016 // 03:04 pm
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It's funny: I know the duck for "feed me!" and for "the food is coming!" and for "where did you go?", but I don't know the duck for "goodbye".

Two days ago, Esme 'helped' me with the weeding, plonked next to me waiting for worms.

Yesterday, she laid an egg and, Mike reports, was her usual noisy, gobbling self when it was meal times.

This morning, though, she didn't want to leave the house, and she couldn't manage the steps up to the garden. When I carried her up them to see if breakfast was tempting, she was struggling to catch her breath. Later, after the other ducks had come back to the stableyard, I carried her back down so that she wouldn't be on her own, and she went and hid inside the bonfire, panting frantically and silently.

This was very similar to when she had a chest infection last autumn, but that took four or five days to develop, not just overnight.

It being Sunday, the vet doesn't open until 10am, but they booked us in for 10:45 and I borrowed Mrs Next Door's cat carrier. Fortunately, Esme had emerged from the bonfire by this point, but she was in a pretty bad way.

Unfortunately, she didn't make her appointment: by the time we got there, I no longer needed the vet's help to make a diagnosis. I very much doubt that it would have made any difference if it hadn't been Sunday and she'd been seen a couple of hours earlier.

As Mike said, it would have to be Esme, wouldn't it? she's always been my favourite, for all she's a bit runty.

This afternoon, we went to the garden centre and got that corkscrew hazel I'd been planning. It's got extra fertilizer in the bottom of the hole.

Magrat, Esme and Gytha 1, looking scrawny just after they arrived:

Agnes, Magrat, Esk and Esme, looking stylishly accessorised and much plumper, last month:
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Animal update

♥Jan. 24th, 2016 // 11:15 am
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Another promising session with Bugs this morning: it was foggy here, and fog is frequently Scary, so I decided I'd just lunge him and not risk climbing on board, but actually I think we would have been ok. Even before we got to the school, a pheasant flew out under his nose and he just looked at it worriedly, rather than throwing himself around in panic. In the school, he directed a couple of suspicious looks down the valley at the fog but then settled down quite well. We had one unauthorised canter, but only three or four steps, and another where something worried him and he was about to go but didn't, which is really good: he's starting to use his brain. The halts were vary variable: two or three were spot on perfect, two or three (especially towards the end, when his brain was getting tired) were really ropey, the rest were somewhere in between.

Mike rode GB, and wasn't terribly happy with him. It's harder for me to watch him when I'm lunging than when I'm riding, and what I did see was pretty variable. I'll have a short lesson on him on Tuesday, though, so we'll see how he is then.

Three of the ducks keep getting into the field, which is annoying. Esk is a good girl and stays in the stableyeard, squawking in an annoyed tone at being left alone. (Actually, I suspect it may just be that she's the biggest of them and can't fit under the gate.) I did put another piece of chicken wire on the gate yesterday, but they got back through it anyway. Mike's muttering about hooking the chicken wire up to the portable electric fence energiser....

And Jo is her usual lovely self, if slightly badger-y at present!
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Poor ponies. Poor ducks.

♥Jan. 7th, 2016 // 02:58 pm
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We managed to get the horses into the field yesterday, but then it rained again overnight / this morning, so they've had to make do with a couple of hours in the stableyard this afternoon. The ducks are unhappy about this, because it's keeping them away from their pond.... Still, the sun's out now and we've no serious rain forecast for the next little while, although I'm expecting a frost tonight (which will be fun in entirely other ways).

In gategate news, we walked up to the gate with Jo this afternoon and met Mrs Next Door driving the other way. The gate was shut. Whoever-it-is had snapped off the small tree I'd chained the gate to, closed it, and tied it shut with another manky bit of knotted string. I have now chained it to a significantly larger tree.

(In doing that, I discovered an interesting new light on the car's dashboard, which seems to be some sort of non-specific 'take me to the vet mechanic now please' thing, which is a bit worrying. Ex-Mr Next Door is away until Monday, but we don't think we need it again until next week, so we'll wait until he's around.)
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At least the ducks are happy with their new pond....

♥Jan. 5th, 2016 // 02:28 pm
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♥Dec. 7th, 2015 // 06:21 pm
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More eggs! I suppose I'd better start feeding them on egg-laying food instead of just tasty, tasty corn. Wonder if it will last? (I stopped because they weren't eating it and then the misc corvids were getting it. At least if they just get corn I can put it underwater, so it's still there for them to come back to later.)

(In other duck news.... I was riding GB this morning when I heard lots of quacking, and I figured that they were just at the end of the garden having an argument about something. Turns out that they were, and the argument about whether or not they should go through the accidentally-left-open gate to the back garden. A few minutes later, they appeared and started poking around. Fortunately, given I was busy, they didn't make any moves towards the pond, or more to the point the nice tangly pond cover, and I herded them back out again when I'd sorted the horses out. They got into the field the other day, again through an open gate, but they've not shown any inclination to explore for a while now: another sign that they're getting hungrier.)

The new splashback for behind the new Aga arrived today, which is good: decorator's booked to come next week and fit it, and paint the new plaster work. I'm about 80% sure I've told him the right paint colour. Not like me to have not written it down.
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♥Dec. 6th, 2015 // 10:38 am
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We were very astonished this morning to find that Esk and Esme had laid eggs, the first we'd had since the end of September. They have been a bit greedy for the last few days, but we didn't expect them to come back into lay until the spring.

Last night we went up to London for a lovely time at a party: many, many thanks are due to our lovely hostess, who made such a nice dog-friendly space for Jo that we ended up with a mini party out there as people came out to cool off for a bit! (And yummy sausage rolls! Nom!)
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New specs

♥Dec. 3rd, 2015 // 02:42 pm
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This afternoon, in the woods, Jodie acquired a lovely yellow leaf in one ear. It was terribly stylish and more than usually firmly attached, although she still lost it before she got home. Not to be out-done, Esme got herself a tasteful leaf necklace, which she wore for the rest of the day (until I took it off as she went in to bed, just in case it was potentially painful):

After we brought the boys in, I went into Canterbury for a bit of shopping and an eye test: new glasses the week after next, and (hurrah! finally! hate the bloody wonky things!) new sunglasses as well. I've just realised that they didn't give me my new prescription on a card, which is annoying. I hope it's not New Policy on the grounds that they can look it up for you on the computer if needed, especially given that their computer obviously sucks (rather than be able to just look it up, someone had to spend half an hour trying to call the branch in London that my previous pair came from to find out how much lens thinning they had on them and, when she eventually got through, was told that they couldn't find the record...). Must remember to ask for it when I go to collect the new ones.

The change is mostly (as ever) on my astigmatism. They have a fancy new (to me) machine that they use instead of the big metal frames with the slot-in lenses: much, much quicker (especially for the astigmatism bit, which always used to take forever), but gave me odd visual effects when the 'lenses' were changing from one setting to another (especially for the astigmatism bit). I suspect I'd have felt nauseous if I were that way inclined.

Right at the end, after I'd chosen my frames and lenses, the not-optician used a Device to measure my pupil distance and went "hmmm," especially when I casually 'mentioned' that I'd had to get my last pair re-made after they got it wrong (gosh, five years ago!). He took my current glasses away to see what the measurement was on those, and came back with the optician, who used the Device, went 'hmmm,' used a ruler, used a different ruler, want 'hmmm' some more about the fact that all four readings were different, and eventually told him to get them made the same as my current pair.

(Mike got new glasses a couple of weeks ago as well: a reading pair and a driving pair spare reading pair ("My driving prescription hasn't changed in 20 years!"), for an eighth of what my pair plus half-price sunglasses cost. Sigh.)

On the way home, I heard Hilary Benn's speech from last night on PM . Gosh, that was rather good, wasn't it? (Whether you agree with him / his politics or not, IMO.)
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♥Nov. 7th, 2015 // 06:11 pm
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Today, it was less wet than forecast and very windy, in the direction away from the neighbours, so we've now disposed of the leylandii pile. Of course, we'll be making a new pile tomorrow, but there we go.... It having been wet, and the wood being so green, the fire was incredibly smoky. The ducks were unimpressed when the garden filled with smoke and came charging through to the stableyard to get away from it, only to be met with an enormous fire and, because the wind was very gusty, random puffs of smoke that followed them around.

Other than that, I've mostly been starting on a little quilt for Baby Next Door's Christmas present. I have left this shockingly late, by my standards, but only decided I was actually going to do it a few days ago. Still, I've made good progress with it, and should easily be able to get enough done that I'm ready to do the first hand sewn part at the same time as Novacon, which will be convenient: I can't do long spells of hand sewing any more, but the odd half hour in the bar should be fine.
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Trees and things

♥Nov. 1st, 2015 // 04:14 pm
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This morning, after some mist first thing, we decided to take advantage of the lovely weather (riding in a t-shirt in November!) and walk the boys down the lane and back before we took them in the school. I'm pleased to report that Bugs was only a little nervous, trying to see if there were any cows around. Then we took them in the school for a bit, which went almost entirely well: for reasons best known to himself, on his second canter Bugs decided to throw a couple of bucks and then try to run away with me. They were, as I told Mike, very *smooth* bucks, and my bum never actually left the saddle. I think that it was just high spirits: we've been being quite careful with him, and when we *have* cantered him since his little Moment we've been quite careful to have him very firmly held back. Today, though, I was letting him have his head, and he decided to make use of that! Still, no harm done.

This afternoon, there has been a raking of leaves and a chainsawing of leylandii (Mike did indeed console himself over his loss by buying himself a bigger one). The first one was very tricky, because Mike had to cut his way through to it, but the second and third, which he did today, went much more quickly and were removed in much bigger chunks. Interestingly, two of the three he's got out, and at least the next one along, are completely rotted through the main truck, which does make me wonder if the whole hedge isn't on the verge keeling over anyway.

Given what a lovely sunny day it was, I had planned on taking a nice picture of the house, on the way back from walking Jo, to show the recent changes (and the relatively tiny bit of leylandii hedge that's no longer there!). But then the mist came back down, and indeed kept coming: we moved the electric fence for the first time this evening, and couldn't actually see from one end to the other to check that the line was straight.

So, instead, have a nice picture of his grumpiness that Mike took this morning:

And duck bath-time:

(Which reminds me: I've been steadfastly refusing to upgrade the LJ iPhone app from 1.2.3, because the newer version was so horribly broken the two times that I tried it (and I've seen so many reports of it doing bloody stupid things, like removing all the apostrophes or capitalising the first letter of each word in a post). However, for the past several months I've been unable to upload images to scrapbook using it. Given that's the only thing that I do use it for, does anyone use the current version? How is it, these days?)
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♥Sep. 13th, 2015 // 11:22 am
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We have fake eggs in the ducks' house, to encourage them to lay their rather than out in the garden.

They used to be ceramic ones, until Jodie crunched them up, and now they're rubber. She must have been poking around in there yesterday* while we weren't looking, because when I was cleaning their bed I noticed one of them was outside. I couldn't pick it up at the time, because the ducks were having second breakfast**, and I forgot to remind Mike to get it when he put them to bed, and this morning it's gone.

Presumably some critter has carried it gleefully away for later consumption and then been very disappointed!

* Jodie *loves* eggs, and even though she knows she's not really supposed to go in there she is sometimes overcome by temptation.
** Most days, they wander from the garden back into the yard at about the time when I'm cleaning their bed, because they know I'll give them a handful of corn to keep them from getting underfoot. Today, they were late (I heard Esme trying to chivvy the others through while I was in their stable, but she didn't succeed until after I'd finished and started sweeping the yard), but they started following me around, staring and making hopeful noises, so I went in the barn and got them some corn anyway. Mike says I'm a soft touch, but this is obviously not true: if it was, Jodie would get far more eggs than she does, right?
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Foggy! But then sunny later.

♥Aug. 13th, 2015 // 07:38 pm
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1) Riding lesson this morning, we're both (possibly all four!) a bit knackered now!

2) I interrupted some hot girl-on-girl action in the pool earlier. The duck's pool, that is: Magrat had once again cornered Agnes and climbed on top of her. What is is with us and gay animals?

3) I've got some saffron bulbs coming soon, so this afternoon I started clearing the places where they're going to go: I've got a whole long bed that's going to come out over the winter and be replaced with herbs and things, but the saffron wants to go in now, so today I pulled out some Lady's Mantle, a couple of boring grass/fern type things and a rather pathetic rose (which fought back). I've left a couple of things that I'm going to move to other locations to wait until the winter.
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Now the road's flooded....

♥Aug. 13th, 2015 // 11:40 am
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1) I always complain about the crows in our field: they pick through the boys poo looking for insects, and make it harder to pick up. I should stop, though, because the Summer Pasture has something worse: badgers. They don't bother picking through the poo, they just dig straight through the middle of it to get at the big dung beetles in their little holes. Poor beetles.

2) I found Magrat's nest! Haha! Now to remember to check it a couple of times a day until we find out if the others are using it, and how often. It is, of course, in the roots of a spiky shrub.

3) Poor Jo doesn't like thunder at all. Nor does our electricity supply, apparently, as it went off somewhere else for an hour or so!
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♥Aug. 2nd, 2015 // 04:29 pm
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I've now finished my second week on the ultrasound trial, and don't seem to be having problems as a result of it. Next week, I only have to go twice, which is nice and would be more flexible except that the guy doing it is only there on Monday and Tuesday. Which is when our hay is being delivered. Joy.

I spent a few hours out in the garden yesterday and the day before, taming the fedge (which had indeed pretty much managed six feet in the first year). I've not taken any of the length off it, just moved it around a bit (the fist picture is mid-way through):

(Annoyingly, there are a couple of places where it's not growing so well, because it's competing with other stuff or where the soil is poor. I have tied it in there, but it looks a lot less neat and tidy.)

This morning, Mike was going to use Magrat's giant egg for breakfast. Fortunately, he cracked it into the bowl first....

(It didn't smell, but then we deliberately didn't break the membrane on what I can only call the second yolk. We have no idea at all.)

Edit: Thanks to clanwilliam: it's this, I'm fairly sure.
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♥Jul. 26th, 2015 // 02:42 pm
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It's another chilly, rainy day (we've got the fire lit...), but on the plus side that means I've been able to get on with some sewing: the quilt is finally finished!

Magrat has also been a high-achiever today. I suspect that this explains why we've not had any eggs from her for a few days:
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♥Apr. 20th, 2015 // 05:24 pm
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... I believe that having ones ducks in a row is considered to be a good thing?

We're now fairly sure that Esk is the one with the pink eggs, mostly because we've not had any for a while and Agnes is at near-Esme levels of being a greedy trougher, so she must be laying!

Jodie was displaying all of her own personal signs of Flop Bot last week (mostly chewing her back legs; her bot doesn't actually go flop), so I took her to the vet on Friday to have her bum squeezed. She's still chewing and scratching away now, though, so I've just been to pick up a prescription for steroids. Because they need to be tapered off, the instructions were so long that they didn't all fit on the label and I had to get the nurse to pull them up on screen for me to have a look at: oops. Hopefully that'll fix her, though: the vet wants me to call and let her know on Thursday, so it should be pretty quick.

Today we also had the dentist out to see the boys (well, Baby and Bugface: GB's such an old man now that he only gets done once a year). Bugs was a bit of a silly at first, until he realised that the whirring, vibrating metal pole that had been stuck in his gagged-open mouth wasn't actually going to hurt him (actually, I can see his point when I put it like that) after which he was as good as gold. The dentist was a bit unimpressed with his teeth, which had some nasty sharp points that has left red marks inside his mouth, but they're all sorted now. It's quite likely that having the bit in his mouth has been a bit sore, too, so hopefully he'll be more relaxed when he's working now, too.
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Tasty worms

♥Apr. 12th, 2015 // 04:20 pm
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This morning, I was digging over a bed in the garden (we've taken some big shrubs out of it, so it was full of roots and holes and needed levelling off) when I noticed that Esme and Magrat were edging closer and closer to the end I'd already done.

The next time I found a juicy-looking worm, I threw it over and Esme grabbed it. I threw another one, closer to Magrat, and she scoffed it down with much excited quacking. Esk and Agnes were, by this point, also edging closer (although not as close: they're a lot more used to us now, but are still more timid than the other two). I took careful aim and threw the next worm as close to equidistant as I could manage, and they all dived for it. Esk was quickest, and scurried off around the garden, hotly pursued, until she managed to swallow it down. Esme got the next one, and again they all ran around the garden, and then Magrat got her turn to run away from the others: Agnes just didn't seem to be quick enough, though. And by then I'd finished digging the bed. Poor Agnes.

This afternoon, we had a bonfire and entered the next phase of Operation Ground Elder. We need to buy more weed fabric, and bark chippings, now.

In between, we went up to the woods with Jodie: the anemones are in full swing, and there are just enough bluebells out that you can see a slight blue tint to the green. In the middle of the biggest anemone patch, we could smell something floral. The internet tells me that wood anemone flowers don't have a scent, though, so we're confused about what it might have been.
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Impulse purchases

♥Apr. 7th, 2015 // 05:30 pm
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Last summer, I bought a pineapple sage (on eBay, I think), and it was very pretty and did well, so I thought I'd get a few more for this year: we did take some cuttings, but unfortunately they were the plants that revealed that the conservatory heater wasn't actually working.

Suttons don't have that sage, but they did have some other, pretty looking red salvias. Their pricing system is fairly simple: the bigger the plant, the more you pay. So, if I wanted a couple of them in 6" pots, it would have been about £20. Or I could get 3" pots, or plugs, or... hey, what's this? 500 mixed bedding plants for £30? That sounds like a bargain!

Inevitably, they arrived on Thursday. I put them in the conservatory with some fleece under them and hoped for the best. In fact, they're grown visibly, and today we potted half of them on into bigger containers:

Just got the rest to do, tomorrow. (It turns out that it's quite hard on your back, even sitting down.)

We also planted out some of the veg, into the container with the teeny tiny polytunnel: everything except the aubergines, which have moved from the kitchen to the conservatory to harden them off a bit first. (The first aubergines went out there with everything else as soon as they'd been potted on, and quickly became very sad until they were brought back inside.) We certainly will get more frosts (there was one this morning), but probably only light ground frosts. As the containers are raised up on the patio, we should be ok. And we have spares still inside!

This weekend was, of course, Eastercon: I had a lovely time, other than the fact that / possibly because I pretty much didn't leave the newsletter office: normally I wander off to find people to sit and chat with, but the thought of trying to find a chair was too depressing. So, I didn't talk to as many people as I usually do, which is a shame. I also utterly failed to do diary synchronisation with at least three people, so that'll have to be by email.

On the way home, we picked up Agnes (apricot) and Eskarina (chocolate):

This morning, we discovered that one of them lays pink eggs (and I suspect that the other one lays blue). They're still quite wary of us (and Jodie!), but hopefully that will improve. Slightly alarmingly, none of them came for their corn this afternoon, not even Esme who I'd been worried would eat the lot of it. Hopefully they'll have had it when we weren't around.

It's interesting that Magrat has started going around with the new girls, leaving Esme on her own: that's what always used to happen when we had Gytha, as well. It's not a great shot, but here are the three of them: the new ones are visibly longer and thinner than the old ones.

I'm not sure if that's because the new ones are six months or so older or if it's one of those things that's down to breeder preference, like the difference between show and working versions of the same dog breed.

(I'm utterly bewildered that the sitter, who has been here before and therefore knows that I always say "eat as many eggs as they lay", has left some shop-bought egg shells in the compost bin!)
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Ham ham ham!

♥Mar. 24th, 2015 // 03:54 pm
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Our local(ish) Lidl has 6.5-7.5kg legs of Seranno ham for £44 each. Ordinarily, I'd just be mentioning this as you might like to check your local one but a) they had a good 20 or 30 of them and b) (as it happens) I'll be back nearby tomorrow morning, so if anyone wants me to pick one up for delivery at Eastercon....

I was there, and will be there again tomorrow, because that's where the other bit of our GP surgery is: the local bit is only open in the mornings, which is a bit of a PITA. Having woken up at 3:30 this morning to begin fretting about having to go to see the doctor, I thought I should probably get it over with and, actually, it was ok: she asked me a few questions, all actually relevant to my wrists, agreed that she'd refer me and said she also wanted me to have a blood test to make sure my thyroid was ok. When I told the receptionist that, she went "ooh, might take a while... could you go to the hospital in Folkestone?" but then found a cancellation tomorrow morning (hence, I'll be back there again). So, yes, much better than I'd feared. Now I just hope that the referral actually happens, and is to the right place.

(On the wrist front, sleeping in the splits seems to be reducing the frequency of problems but, I think, the severity is increasing as it progresses: I'm not getting numb fingers at night, but I am getting occasional shooting twinges down my wrists. Fingers crossed for getting it dealt with quickly.)

The girls have just had their spring moult, and Magrat's developed some fetching blue bits at the ends of her wings. We weren't sure if we'd just not noticed them before, but I've checked and they weren't there last year: must be her adult plumage!

(We're still getting pretty much an egg per day, so they've done very well this winter. Need to place an order for a couple more!)
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Note to self

♥Feb. 22nd, 2015 // 09:43 pm
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When you bring the boys in half an hour early because of the imminent arrival of horizontal rain, do not leave the ducks out until their usual time if you've just had a busy weekend that's made you tired and forgetful.

The best-case scenario is that they've already put themselves to bed before the wind gets strong enough to move the breezeblock holding the door open and blows it shut on them, because that way all that happens is you have to scrabble around in the dark and aforementioned horizontal rain collecting their water bucket, feed bowl, and the bolt from the door that keeps coming off ever since your father helpfully fixed the door and in the process unhelpfully screwed in that random sticking-out nail that, it turns out, is what was stopping the bolt from coming off....

We shan't consider hypothetical worst-case scenarios, although I dare say that the foxes have the sense to stay in the dry tonight.
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♥Jan. 29th, 2015 // 11:39 am
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1066154.html]

Our Aga went out the other day. Mike relit it, and it was rather cold before going out again the next morning, after which he couldn't re-light it.

This morning, the Aga man came to have a look and, after telling me off sternly because Mike left the oil on after the last re-lighting attempt, took it apart and reported that there was a dodgy thread that meant the pipe from the oil pipe to the burner was leaking (as well as the burner being full of carbon).

Unfortunately, we have AncientFrankenAga, so the thread and pipe in question are not only imperial but also botched together out of bits of plumbing supplies. He's taken away the pipe and burner: if we're lucky, he'll be able to get a new nut-and-thread bit. If we're unlucky, he'll be able to change the connection on the burner to a metric one and get a new pipe made. If we're really unlucky, it'll be a new burner and pipe.

He's a nice chap, though, and said he hoped to be back tomorrow or early next week. At least we have a service contract, now (complete no-brainer, as it's the same price as an annual service, which is pretty much what he did today while he was here anyway!)

(He did leave the gate open, though, tsk. Before I took Jo out, I had to herd the ducks back from Next Door's field. They were most amusing as they crossed the puddle at the bottom of the drive: too deep to walk, not deep enough to swim, so they had to lie down and scoot themselves along!)

I'm now checking out All The Weather Forecast Sites: I will probably try to bring the boys in before the rain starts, and I certainly want to have them in before it turns to snow. Mike's in London, so this could be fun....

(In other weather-related news that I forgot to mention, the every-seven-years river in the next valley over is merrily flowing again: third year in a row.)
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Orchards and Amazons

♥Jan. 10th, 2015 // 03:29 pm
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I've had a couple of blokes round to quote for digging over the proto-orchard (just waiting for them to send quotes, and for the one who is supposed to be coming tomorrow to confirm and give me a time), some hopefully-suitable ("alluvial deposits over chalk or limestone") wild flower meadow mix is ordered, Mike is busy putting together a list of trees (apples, pears, damsons, maybe apricots, maybe almonds, cherries, plumbs, medlars: we decided against quince because we can't really see much of a use for them for us, and against mulberries because they get a bit too big for the space; suggestions for what we've missed out welcome), and, following a throw-away comment by one of the GQT team, I've ordered some yellow rattle seed to stick in the freezer and cross my fingers about: if it isn't tricked into germinating, it'll just have to wait until the autumn. Orchard is, finally, nearly, go! Must get around to taking the barbed wire off the fence, as well.

When Amazon announced that they were forcibly bundling streaming video in with Prime, which is completely useless for us on account of having shit internet, Mike cancelled the autorenewal. It's just run out, as I discovered when I went to buy some fencing staples (I'm sure there were some left over from making the duck house, but I can't figure out where) so that I could put up the new duck-proof wire that we've got for a) the front garden (there's a stretch of stock netting that Esme can still squeeze herself through if she has a mind to it, which then leads to the pair of them stuck on opposite sides of the fence looking worried; this is at least better than when they could both fit through and then go wandering off) and b) the gate from the stableyard into the field, which we've been having to keep closed lately because the girls keep making a break for the field: the gate's had wooden boards hammered over it (to keep the previous dogs in), which means it's incredibly heavy and, as the weight has pulled the hinges out of true, very hard work to open and close, so I want to get the boards off and put wire on instead.

Anyway. Amazon. £3.99 to post me fencing staples, approx two working days! £7.99 to get them here tomorrow! "Oi," I said, "I thought you said it would be free if I was prepared to wait a few days?" Plus it's going to be dry tomorrow and then wet for the next few days.

We've got Amazon Prime again.

(I do note a new-to-me option: if you deliberately opt for 3-5 day delivery, you get a £1 Kindle credit, which will be worth it some of the time.)
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Unauthorised wildlife

♥Jan. 5th, 2015 // 11:07 am
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1060733.html]

It appears that there's a Something living in GB's stable with him: I keep finding little piles of soil next to the wall that's got an earth bank on the other side of it...

I must set the mouse traps in the house, but I can't find the manky bar of Nutella and don't really want to start a new jar for it. Hmm.

Jo didn't want her breakfast this morning. Hope she's not sickening for something.

The ducks are still laying almost every day, it's most odd: I'm sure that they should have stopped by now.
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♥Nov. 27th, 2014 // 11:11 am
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1055150.html]

(That's annoying: Firefox just crashed, and I've now been logged out of *everything*. Even Amazon doesn't know who I am.)

Yesterday, GB got into the garden: he nipped through the gate as the ducks were going the other way at bed time. He did just walk along the back of the garage and up the steps, before turning around and going back to the stableyard, but he has now seen All That Grass, which is a bit worrying: we'll have to be careful about keeping the gate closed when they're hanging around in there. (Esme, on the other hand, had just had to be removed from the garage and carried back to the garden: she knew it was bed time, and as the gate was blocking her from going the usual way she decided to improvise. I think we might have to put bird netting on that bit of the fence, as they can apparently just about get through the stock netting if they try hard enough.)

The day before that, we went to see Smokey, who was way too forward. I should have realised it wasn't even worth getting on him when we saw how much the woman was holding him back when she rode. New rule: if the rider is obviously holding him back, ask to see all three paces on a long rein. Another one tomorrow, just around the corner as it happens.

The day before *that*, I was coming back from walking Jo and -- wonder of wonders -- found that the stile was mid-repair. Have just sent a thank you email off to the council chap, who must have put a letter in the post the same day as my last email to him for it to have got sorted that quickly.

And before that, we had a lovely visit from S&C&W, who was a bit scared of Jo but then Jo is probably twice her size so it's not so unusual.

(Pedro, in the end, got approved by our instructor provided we didn't pay the full price but then sold (not sure for how much) to the person who was already booked in to come and see him the day after we did (as we didn't actually go with the intention of seeing that horse, it is absolutely right that the other people got priority).)

Our field is in a horrible state, although we're slightly hopeful that we can get them out for a couple of houses this afternoon after we've ridden: a combination of rain and waiting for a Tesco delivery scuppered the chances of riding in the morning. We have had a couple of frosty nights and cold, sunny days, but mostly it's just been moist.
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♥Nov. 11th, 2014 // 07:17 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1053270.html]

In other news, I think I've finally cracked mozzarella, having yesterday made a batch (with raw milk) that looked, tasted and melted like the stuff from the shops. Well, except for the fact that I forgot the salt.

I'm blaming that on the fact that I'm using elements of three different recipes to do it: I'm going to have, I think, one more go with shop milk and then possible one with raw before I (hopefully) declare it done and write out my own set of instructions. Including when to put the salt in....

Magrat laid a terribly blue egg today, which I suspect is a symptom of her going off lay. Esme is looking much happier, although she's still hiccuping a bit: today, they ate all of their (half ration of) pellets, and all of their (full ration of much tastier) corn, which they followed me into the yard to get, and chased a bunny (which is better than Jo managed when I sent her out after it: I think she assumed it must be a squirrel, because she ran straight to the tree as the rabbit scarpered, then looked around in confusion when she couldn't see anything to chase.
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♥Nov. 9th, 2014 // 11:58 am
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We've had a very wet week-or-so, here, and it's all getting rather soggy. The poor boys haven't been going out in the field very regularly (and on Friday we took advantage of the wetness to keep them in all day, after worming them). Today, we gave up and put a temporary fence across the middle of the field, so that they can at least have the top half (well, sixth given the time of year) to wander about in, rather than putting them in the stableyard (puddles of standing water) or out by the school (which we did yesterday). As it was also the day to move the main fence, they've got tasty grass up there so should be happy enough.

I hope that this is going to stop soon, rather than carrying on like it did last winter.

Esme seems better again, today. She's still labouring to breathe, but not nearly so badly as the last couple of days. I do hope she's better soon, if only because it's a pain trying to get them into their house at night when all she wants to do is hide in the shrubbery! Magrat presented us with an egg this morning, but we didn't have any yesterday: I think they'll probably be stopping for the winter, soon.
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♥Nov. 8th, 2014 // 02:40 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1052014.html]

Up in the woods this afternoon, we came across a Machine of some sort. This is presumably related to them doing some work up there: I had a text from not-very-near neighbour, saying that she'd seen signs of life, and Mike managed to find a diagram online that shows them doing some coppicing and felling over the next couple of years in that area. Hopefully, it won't be on the scale of the work that we saw starting in the slightly further off woods, last week: they'd put masses of hardcore in to widen the paths, and had signs saying that bit parts of it were going to be closed for six weeks.

I'm slightly surprised that they're doing anything in our woods, as they do generally seem mostly abandoned by the Forestry Commission.

Esme, having been so much better the day after starting her antibiotics, then had a couple of days where she was worse again (possibly because it was so cold: we had the first proper frost of the season the other day). She does seem a bit better again now, but I'm still quite worried about her. The porridge, now mixed with corn and meal worms, seems to be going entirely on some days and being untouched on others. I'm taking the opportunity to pick Magrat up as well, each evening, and she does seem to be getting more used to it.

Next Doors for dinner this evening. "Can Baby have some of the food?" Err... he's welcome to, I have no idea what babies eat...?
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You didn't actually like the lawn, right?

♥Nov. 5th, 2014 // 04:30 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1051411.html]

This morning, when I filled the bird feeders, I noticed a couple of little scrapes in the grass near to one of the trees. I've seen the girls hanging around there, and thought nothing of it.

This evening, when I went to fill the bird feeders*, however:

I can only assume that there are some tasty grubs living under the cherry tree.

* Last year, I see from the pet sitter notes, we said that the bird feeders might need filling every other day if it was very cold. I have no idea what's going on this year, but it's been every day so far other than today, which was twice.
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♥Nov. 4th, 2014 // 02:14 pm
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Despite not having touched the porridge* overnight, Esme came out of the duck house looking much perkier this morning, and seems to be well on the way to being a good example of 'make sure that you finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you feel better before the end'.

She's still occasionally stopping to pant, but all their breakfast has gone (of course, that may be magpie-related...) and she followed me to the feed bin when I went to get them their corn.

(Didn't actually *eat* it when I put it down, it's progress!)

* In retrospect, I'm not surprised by this: porridge is standard hen comfort food, and I dare say that some kinds of ducks will also like it. Runners seem to be more carnivorous than the norm, though, so now I'm trying to come up with something similar that they might like. Maybe if I put meal worms in the porridge...?
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Country facts

♥Nov. 3rd, 2014 // 05:46 pm
[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1050061.html]

Pilling a duck is a two person job, although I suspect one person could manage it with practice and a towel.
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Soggy, but improving otherwise

♥Nov. 3rd, 2014 // 04:25 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1049810.html]

This morning, we didn't put the boys out in the field because it was too soggy. Instead, they spent the morning in the stableyard, as it rained solidly....

Inevitably, shortly after we'd put them back in their stables it stopped raining (at least for long enough for us to mostly stay dry while we took Jo out for a walk). We've just had a lovely sunset, complete with rainbow over the autumnal woods.

I'm still worried about Esme, although possibly slightly less so than I was yesterday. She didn't lay again, today, and when I picked her up last night she was both noticeably lighter and a lot easier to catch than Magrat (picked up for comparison). On the other hand, today she's been spending a bit more time rootling in the grass, and she did nibble a bit of corn when I carried it over to the tree she was lurking under. The vet, inevitably, hasn't actually called me back as (twice) promised (and I doubt he'll do so in the next couple of hours), but if she's looking better again tomorrow then I'll just put it down to a cold (bird 'flu!) and leave it.

Edit: As I was typing, the vet called. He does think she's got a bit of a respiratory infection, so I'm off to get antibiotics, to mix with some porridge for her!

My shoulder is *much* better, I'm very pleased to say. It's hardly bothering me at all, either during the day or at night, so I'm hopeful that next week will be my last physio session, in which we just make some additions to my Pilates routine and note down a few exercises to keep up with for a while / do if it starts to be bad again. Mike's finger is also a lot better, and healing more cleanly than we'd expected. Remember, kids, don't get distracted while cutting up home-made pancetta....

Jo is now on antihistamines, but they don't (so far) seem to be making much of a difference. We'll keep it up for a week or so and see what happens.
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