Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

We were in London a couple of weeks back, and so we decided to go to the zoo. Goodness me, the zoo is expensive! Fortunately we used some supermarket coupons, and so instead of costing us £75, it cost us £15-worth of supermarket vouchers. Excellent!

I hadn’t been to the zoo in years. It has changed a lot since I was little, mainly because the animal enclosures have been hugely improved. We didn’t see the tigers this time; they were hiding – not something that was an option for them when I was little. You’d see the poor beasts pacing up and down in front of the glass. And I remember being upset by the polar bear, as even as a child I could see that the poor creature was going mad. So, no polar bear, big tiger enclosure, huge gorilla enclosure, the old elephant enclosure now has small bearded pigs and the elephants (and rhino and hippos) are living it up at Whipsnade. There’s a new penguinarium (that’s what I call them, it’s not a proper word, although it should be) – the old one is now Grade 1 listed so they can’t demolish it, or even get rid of the sign.

Would you like to see some pictures?

The new penguinarium:

Rather huge beastie in the Butterfly house:

Pelicans at feeding time. I am fond of pelicans.

They had an enclosure with free-range squirrel monkeys. They were super cute and the kids loved them.

A lioness briefly woke from her nap to gaze disapprovingly at us.

This is Zaire, the matriarch gorilla. She’s splendid. She was lounging about, picking her teeth with a stick in a marvellously louche manner.

We love giraffes Chez S&S. So we had to go and see them.

Littlest S&S liked the aquarium best – I didn’t take any pictures but it was great. By the way, did you know that ‘aquarium’ was a word coined by London Zoo for their aquarium? Before that, the name was ‘aquatic vivarium’.

All in all, a lovely day, although I think the children will get even more from it when they’re a bit older. We’ll keep saving those supermarket vouchers.

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Weekword: Bird

I chose this one on the spur of the moment, as I hadn’t realised I’d been tagged until Emma kindly gave me a boot up the bum.

I love birds – obviously we have our share of domestic fowl, with chickens and ducks – and we enjoy watching the antics on the birdtable during the winter. I’m also a bit of a sucker for bird motifs (especially owls). Birds do seem to be pretty ubiquitous these days (if in doubt, stick a bird on it) and I’m happily buying birdy things so that I can enjoy them when they’ve gone out of fashion, which I’m sure they will.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since I did any drawing – I’m not a natural artist by any means but I do like doing little cartoon-style pictures from time to time. My preferred drawing implement is the Sharpie marker, probably because thick lines are very forgiving when you’re slightly inept.

Anyway, here’s today’s little bird doodle – my attempt at a bluebird of happiness!

Check out the other Weekword posts this week:


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Lots going on here – I’ll update properly soon – but for now here are our newest additions.


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Mary chose another great word this week. The puzzle we’re grappling with at the moment isn’t one with a conjectural answer, but is intricate and difficult.

It is this. What do we name our new guinea pig? Our elderly pig, Mallow, died while we were away on holiday, so I asked the animal rescue lady for a new female to keep Maisie company. She said she had a ‘young female’ looking for a home, so I went to get her – and young she certainly is! Look:

She just fits inside my cupped hands. She’s very sweet, if a little timid; we’ve just about convinced her that we don’t want to eat her. She has long fur with only one rosette, on her head. I love the big white eyebrows!

Our previous pigs all have had names beginning with M. There’s no real reason for this and we won’t reject the right name if it starts with another letter. So, before you pop off to Mary’s place to see the other weekworders, leave me a comment and tell me, what do you think we should call her?

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I have been on holiday. I went to Dance Camp Wales again. You may remember that I posted about it last year and so I was really looking forward to going again. And it was wonderful. As well as the exhilaration of the camp and the dancing, I also had the added joy of meeting my friends from last year (and making new ones). I took it a bit easier on the dancing this year (although I still did plenty) and spent some time in the Creative area, and in my camping circle, and in the creche with the kids. The (slightly) slower pace was just what I needed to get myself together and start to recharge. I’ve mentioned several times recently that my energy and creativity have been at a bit of a low ebb for the last few months. I’m still not sure why it happened but I think things are starting to hit an upswing now. I came back from camp with the start of a cold, to find that our beloved pet duck had disappeared, one of our guinea pigs had died, and our dog had weed all over the floor, but the feeling of positivity remains. I shall post more about camp later – and show you some things that have been bubbling away. Fingers crossed that normal blogging service may just be resumed…

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Three snapshots

I found my camera. It was one of those occasions where you find something and suddenly remember clearly putting it there. So, my son was unfairly maligned.

And it was a good thing I found it, because yesterday was a good day to have a camera with me. First of all, I saw some beautiful crocuses in the local park.

Then I went to Ludlow for the day. I’ve never been to Ludlow before, and it was lovely. Some very nice shops and an interesting Wednesday market. I bought some crafty bits which I’m not sure what to do with. I also visited the beautiful church, which, as well as some stunning stained glass windows, contained one of the very best funerary monuments I’ve ever seen. This is Dame Mary Eure. Isn’t she wonderful? Look at her, propped up on her elbow, as if to say, ‘Ready when you are, Paradise!’. I love her. The didn’t have postcards of her, but kindly allowed me to take pictures.

And finally, in the evening, we all settled down in front of the fire. Including Mws and Lucy.

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In the absence of my camera, there’s no handwritten list this week. So today, I shall tell you about the chickens.

We have eleven chickens, all extremely free range. We originally got them so we’d have a supply of eggs, but they are such wonderful characters that the eggs are almost a side-benefit. We name our chickens and they all have very distinct personalities. When I find the camera I shall add pictures.

1. Josephine is a Speckeldy (grey with black speckles) hen. She’s the last of our original girls, and we’ve had her three years. We were very unlucky and lost two of our original hens over the winter. Josephine goes broody a lot but the one time she hatched a chick she kicked it out of the nest.

2. Audrey – or Audrey The Superhen – was a battery hen. She’s brown – we don’t know her breed. She was sold off for a pound when she was apparently past her ‘useful’ days as an egg layer. That was three years ago and she still lays like a champion. She was attacked by a friend’s Jack Russell and ripped open down one side – Mr S&S sewed her up on the kitchen table with sewing thread, and despite the odds, she pulled through. She reared a clutch of chicks and took over the ones abandoned by the other mothers. She’s almost tame and likes to wander into the kitchen to say hello.

3. Ada is a white Amberstar. She’s friendly enough with occasional neurotic moments.

4. Pauline is a Bluebell. She’s silvery grey and extremely beautiful. She is also incredibly stupid (and no chicken is a rival to Socrates, let’s face it). She forgets how to go to bed if the other chickens aren’t there to follow.

5. Alison is another Speckeldy. She’s quite friendly and is usually one of the first to come when food’s in the offing.

6. Dolly is our new girl. She came to live with us last week, as her previous owner couldn’t keep her. She’s a Light Sussex (white with a black head and neck) and seems to be settling in. She was quite timid at first but is starting to hold her own.

7. & 8. We have two Rhode Island Reds, Jocelyn and Dot (dark reddish brown). Dot is totally bonkers and has a tendency to pick a fight. Mr S&S calls her ‘Mad Eyes’. Jocelyn is much less temperamental.

9. 10. & 11. We also have three part Buff Orpingtons, who we hatched last summer. Or rather, Audrey and Ada hatched them. They don’t have names yet as they are still too similar for us to tell them apart. They are provisionally ‘Charlotte, Emily and Anne‘ and known collectively as ‘The Brontes’.

This is one of our old chickens, Ruby, who was one of the girls we lost over the winter:

Did you make a list today?

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Sunday lunch

Well. Today I cooked Sunday lunch – and this one was different. Last summer, we hatched some chicks under our broody hens. They were very cute and fluffy. Sadly, of the nine, six were cockerels, and they got bigger… and bigger… and by January we realised that we had to do something. Six huge cockerels makes for a lot of noise. And very unhappy hens. So the cockerels were dispatched and today we had one for our lunch. I made coq au vin with garlic, onions, shallots, mushrooms, piles of fresh thyme and a whole bottle of red wine. We had new potatoes and broccoli with it, and very nice it was too.

I have to say, there was something very satisfying about eating meat from a bird we’d reared. I knew that the bird had had a happy life, I knew it had been well fed, and had been free to wander at will. And I knew that it had a quick, stress-free death. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll do this again, but I am glad I’ve had the experience. It’s impossible to be detached from the realities of eating meat when you’ve a pile of dead birds on your kitchen floor, and when the cooking process involves pulling tendons out of the legs!

As today was a birthday for one of our guests, I made a lemon drizzle cake. What a perfect cake for a spring lunchtime – especially when decorated with snowdrops and a silver candle!

I served it with creme fraiche, which I sweetened with a touch of icing sugar and a gurgle of limoncello – a wholly successful experiment which I shall be sure to repeat.

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Well, our broody hens finally produced some chicks. We don’t keep a cockerel so we got some eggs from someone who did, and put them under the hens. Of the three, two are wonderful mothers. Ada, the white hen, is a bit vicious to the chicks that aren’t hers, but very loving of her own. Audrey, the brown hen, is gorgeous and wants to be mother to every single chick. Josephine, the speckledy, hatched one chick and promptly kicked it out of the nest. And then swanned off as though nothing had happened. I suppose even in other species there are those who wouldn’t opt for motherhood… The poorly chick is under a heat lamp in the kitchen, and seems to be doing well, apart from having a bad leg. We hope to persuade Audrey to foster it in due course.

Anyway, Mr SowandSew spent the weekend building the Hilton of henhouses, and the two mums and their broods have moved in. But enough of that – I know you’ll want to see pictures!

Here’s Ada with her babies:

And Audrey with hers:

And here’s Mr SowandSew holding two of the little fluffballs:

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This week we had our sheep sheared. It has been so warm lately that I’ve felt sorry for them in their big heavy coats. Even so, we’re among the first round here to shear.

First, they needed to be rounded up into a little holding pen:

Then is was shearing time, which involves rather a lot of manhandling:

and some quite undigified positions:

But it must be quite a relief to be in summer fashions at last:

And here’s the pile of fleece – all this wool from thirteen sheep!

We’ll split the fleece with our co-flock owners, so half of that will be mine, and I still have three fleeces from last year’s shearing, so it’s getting to the point where I really need to start doing something with it.

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