Alezane's Diary Archive December 2007
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Clearing the poplars hedgeSaturday 1st December 2007
What to tell you first, today? OK, I’ll show off a little. We are all wearing our new rugs. Well, all except Wicky. This is not size-ist or pony-ist or anything, just the fact that Wick has the thickest, most weatherproof natural coat that one could ever want. He has also got rugs but they were used when he was trimmed which hasn’t happened now since that disastrous episode when we were staying in Normandy (see Archives). But us three horses are walking around in very smart new rugs. It’s all due to the Big Man or, maybe on second thoughts, due to Mims. The Big Man already had one of those ‘two sides of a rectangle’ tears in his rug on his bottom. No one knows  how it got there (or are not saying) but it could have been snagged on a bramble thorn or a piece of barbed wire. However, today, when SHE had come out to join us in the field, as it was such a nice sunny day, Mims to against the way the Big Man was getting more attention than her (or even just any attention at all) and so went and bit the Big Man’s bottom. Unfortunately it was one of her more robust bites and it tore an even bigger hole in his rug. SHE took us all back to the stable and took our rugs off and we were allowed to sunbathe naked for the rest of the afternoon. When we were having supper, THEY came out with these really nice new rugs which HE fitted on us and then SHE adjusted. The only pity was that they covered up all the lovely mud that we had managed to roll in all afternoon. Still, we will now be able to roll in these nice clean rugs and make them the same colour as everything else.

HE had his bonfire today. HE very nearly didn’t however. We all stood at the top of the hill and watched HIM as HE drove down to the poplars with the quad loaded with boxes and paper and a little milk bottle loaded with some paint cleanser. The bonfire was by this time very large but, as it was built of coils of wire netting with brambles embedded, it was not very compact. HE placed the boxes under four corners of the bonfire, poured some paint cleaner on them and then lit a piece of newspaper and lit each pile of boxes in turn. They burned very well with the accelerant on them but unfortunately they were too far from the brambles to catch them alight properly. While the boxes were burning, HE took a couple of photos and then drove back up to the house for a rake. HE met HER and THEY talked for a while and when HE turned to go back, HE noticed that there was no smoke from the fire. HE arrived back to find it had gone out. In desperation, HE took some petrol from the can strapped to the quad but this, apart from being very dangerous, only made some spectacular leaps of flame and then went out also. The idea of the fire was to burn the brambles off the wire so that HE could take this down to the dump so HE went round the bonfire cutting off all the wire that was free or nearly free and this HE loaded on the quad. Then HE compacted the remainder of the bonfire, took the wire back to the house and picked up a horse food sack full of empty horse food sacks and used this to re-light the fire. Happily for HIM this worked and the bulk of the wire is now free for collection and dumping, probably Monday.

The poplar hedge goneSunday 2nd December 2007
Sunday, black Sunday. I know places have a ‘black’ whatever day when they are talking about xmas shopping but this was not like that. This was pouring with rain and gale force winds Sunday when we had to stay in all day. This morning, SHE came and shut us in so that Wicky could have a bucket of food. Her excuse is that, if SHE didn’t shut us in, someone would chase Wick away and would eat the contents of the bucket her Mims self. As if!

As it turned out, SHE went back indoors to HIM and said that she was very worried about Wicky. He didn’t eat the contents of his bucket, even when she placed some short feed in with the lucerne. He wouldn’t eat mints, he wouldn’t eat sugar. In fact, SHE was sure that a vet would be needed and said SHE would check him again in an hour or so. So, while we three horses were getting on with our haylage in our boxes, Wick had a really good sleep standing just inside he stable out of the weather.

After lunch, HE came over to see what was happening and Wick rushed up to HIM as usual when HE arrives and conned some mints out of HIM. Then when HE gave Wick his bucket that he had been ignoring, Wick tucked into it as if he were starving. Having determined that there was nothing wrong with the little old man, HE set about clearing out our boxes and then giving us a handful of short feed (why is it called that? Probably because THEY keep us short!) and then topping up the haylage. Finally, HE opened up our boxes but one look at the weather decided us to stay in after all. Mims came out briefly to see if she could steal anything from Wicky and then she stood in her favourite position, in the corridor outside of her box. She is a funny girl, my daughter, she never has liked being shut in and much prefers to be half in and half out. HE always had to place her feed bucket just outside the field shelter in Ninefields, Dartmoor so she could stand with her body in and er head outside when she ate.

This evening he weather had calmed down a little. The rain had eased up but the wind was still fierce so we decided to stay in again. We don’t mind the rain so much as our rugs protect us but we do hat the wind. Because of the weather, HE wasn’t able to do any work outside and he decided it was god’s way of telling him to do his tax papers that have been hanging about for three weeks now. So now HE feels so virtuous that HE will be all smug with us tomorrow. I thin I must do an extra pooh in my box tonight, for HIM to clear up, just to bring HIM back to earth!

Rainy dayMonday 3rd December 2007
Today the weather was back to normal. In fact, it was better than normal, it was bright and sunny. So, what did we horses do? We stayed indoors nearly all day. HE thought it was all day until HE came over to see if we were alright after lunch. Then HE found me covered, particularly round the neck and head, in thick mud. Then HE knew that we had been out. It must have been one of those times when HE was otherwise engaged and didn’t see us go out.

So, what was HE doing that was so pre-occupying? HE was preparing THEIR xmas card labels. Every year for quite a while now, HE has had a list of xmas card recipients and from this HE prepares sticky labels for the envelopes to save writing them out by hand. It is HIS annual job to edit this list – to add new people, to take off those who have departed, in one sense or another, and to make any address changes etc. This year, it has been an even bigger job as more people from the UK have come off (neighbours who were just that and not really friends) and, at the same time, there is a whole new batch of people that THEY have met here in France to be added on. An added difficulty is that as it is only a once a year job, HE always has to remember how to use the software to make the labels. Still, it is done now and all that remains is for HER to make this year’s card.

While HE was feeding us tonight, there was the sound of a camion (lorry) pulling up. HE went out of the stable to look and it was Didier with the load of post for the fence in our new field. HE finished with us and then got into the lorry and they drove off down the field and placed the start and end posts ready for Olivier when he comes tomorrow. Also they offloaded the rest of the posts in a central position for Oliver to take as he needs them. We are all crossing our hooves that we my be able to get into the new field by Thursday, if the weather holds. But then, it is France. Let’s wait and see!

sunriseTuesday 4th December 2007
The weather was good after an overcast start and Olivier came with Didier on time. We watched, rather in amazement, when he just left his van and just walked out over the field with what looked like a couple of sticks in his hands. I know HE was itching to go and see how he was getting on but held HIMSELF back in case it looked like HE was checking up on him.

However, when noon came and Olivier came back from the field and drove off for lunch, then HE got on the quad bike to go and have a look at the progress. When HE had gone out in the field yesterday with Didier, they had put the start and end posts in place for the two strips of fencing that needed doing. To HIS horror when HE go to the bottom of the field, HE found that Olivier had put all the line of posts in from the start of one strip of intended fence to the end of the other strip of fence, virtually cutting off about an eighth of the field. HE then wished that HE had gone along much earlier, as much for Olivier as for THEM. HE got in the car and rushed off to find Didier and tell him what had happened but, being lunch time, he was nowhere to be found. HE went out again at the end of lunchtime and found Didier in his shop. HE already knew of the problem because Olivier had realised that something was wrong himself and had gone and told him.

Olivier came back with a helper in the afternoon and again HE waited until he came back. It was time then for our supper so HE did that and then, just as HE finished and it was getting pretty dark, HE saw Mims looking out at the field and Olivier and friend were walking back. HE met then and greeted them and asked if it was all OK and Olivier said No! Apparently the neighbour whose bit of the field the short fence ran along said that the line was wrong. HE walked back with Olivier, met the neighbours and saw that it made very little difference to us and agreed to alter the line. The problem was that this is now the second set of fence posts that Olivier has put up and must now do all over again. HE told him that he will pay him and Olivier seemed happy with this. With luck things will go smoother tomorrow.


Wednesday 5th December 2007
Oh dear, I’m quite out of breath. Not the girl I used to be, I’m afraid. But, who cares, it’s ours! We’ve got our new big field.

This morning, we watched as Olivier’s van arrived and him and his friend Guillaume got out and started to put on their overalls. Then they picked up several tools and rolls of wire and marched off over the field. Once we lost sight of them, there was nothing much left to do except to follow our normal routine of standing around and dozing followed by sessions eating haylage in the morning and trips out over our old field in the afternoon. We watched THEM get in the car and drive away at lunchtime, presumably on the way to Celine’s Bar for lunch. By this time the weather had turned from grey and miserable to light rain but that didn’t botheralli and X us.

However, later in the afternoon the heavens opened and it really poured down. Olivier and his friend were still over the bottom of the new field so I don’t know what they did.There are a lot of trees down there so maybe they found some shelter although at this time of the year the trees have no leaves on. We all came in and sheltered in the stable. It was quite near to feed time by them anyway. Then, a bit later, when the rain had just become a steady fall, we saw Olivier and Guillaume coming back over the brow of the field. Guillaume went to the van and Olivier went and knocked on the French window. HE came out with his coat on and they both went off down the field again. About fifteen minutes later, they returned, went into the house and then Olivier went to his van and drove off.

Next thing, HE arrived to give us our supper. It was a bit early but e didn’t complain. While we were eating HE went and closed up the gap in the fence into the garden. Then HE went over to the house and spoke to HER. By the time we had finished, SHE was over with us and HE disappeared for a moment. Then HE came back and put a rope around Mims’ neck and lead her off. I followed, of course and saw HIM take her through the gap in the fence between our old and new fields and let her go. I rushed out to follow. Then HE went back for the Big Man and then Wicky. And we were off. You have never seen such a sight as the three of us horses galloping round the perimeter of the field. Wick called out to us and started to canter to catch up but as he did, we were gone again for another circuit. We did eventually stop, out of breath but deliriously happy. We have looked at this field for months and months over the fence and now it is ours. I’m off now to join Wick and the others to see how much grass we can eat tonight. We should be very tired but full in the morning.


pruned treeThursday 6th December 2007
And when HE came to make our breakfast this morning, where were we? Only the Big Man was in his box, the rest of us were nowhere to be seen. HE didn’t worry, in fact HE was quite pleased because it allowed HIM to get on with getting the buckets ready without interruption. HE shut the Big Man’s gate and noted also that all the boxes were clean and that no haylage had been eaten so it was obvious that we had been out all night.

The first surprise HE had was when the chickens all flocked round HIM asking for food. It took him a minute to realise that, as HE hadn’t gone and let them out yet, HE must have forgotten to shut the hen house door last night. Fortunately, the fox didn’t know this so they were all alright. HE then noticed that there was already an egg in the hay under the stairs that the hens now use as a nest box.

Before HE made the buckets up, HE took a handful of lucerne along to the Big Man and also put handfuls in each of the other boxes. Then the buckets were finished and HE was just putting them in our boxes when SHE arrived. SHE told HIM that we were just standing along the fence now so while SHE kept an eye on things, HE came along and brought us in, first me and then, after a lot of fuss, Mims.

But where was Wicky? Nowhere to be seen, HE started to get worried. Although Olivier had made a really good job of our fences, HE had noticed that one of the others, belonging to a neighbour, had some sections where the wire was a bit sagging. Had Wick got through (as he has done before with the electric fence) and gone off down the road? HE left HER in charge of us and went and got the quad bike out. It was still too dark to see anything so HE drove around the field edges with the headlights on, several times turning the bike to the fence to look over into the other fields or gardens. By the time HE had gone all round the perimeter, it was obvious that Wick was not there. Finally, in a bit of a panic, HE drove across to the centre of the field and there, in the blackness, was Wicky calmly eating grass. Wick ignored HIM when spoken to so HE drove back to the stable and told HER that Wick was OK.

A little while after, there was a whinny and Wick came walking calmly round the corner. He not only gave us all a fright but then he held all of us up while he tucked into his bucket. We had finished long ago but at least we all got extra mints and sugar while waiting for him to finish!

sheepFriday 7th December 2007
What a day and after a terrible night as well. The main problem was the wind which kept up a steady fierce blow and then gusted up to 55kph at times. Then, on top of that, we got heavy rain as well. So, what did we do? Stay inside all day? No, we stayed in our lovely new field.

Again, when HE turned up this morning, only the Big Man was in the stable. But this time we were organised so by the time HE had our buckets ready, we turned the corner and went into our boxes. And then, after we had eaten, instead of standing around all sleepy, we went out again. Wicky started it. It’s as if he has a duty to clear this new field of grass and he has to get back to work as soon as he can. We watched him for a while and then decided to join him. I think it is possible that the weather sounds worse from inside THEIR house with the wind whistling down the air vents and the rain beating against the windows. Out in the middle of the field it is just bracing. It made Mims and the Big Man want to have a canter about and later we all had a nice muddy roll. I think the Big Man must have found a muddier place than us for, while Mims and I have rugs that are a pale mauve on top and brown below, Big X’s rug is all one colour – muddy brown.

Not much else to tell about us. HE had one good thing happen. After the green car broke down last week, HE had left it to have it’s legal CT Test (for cars over four years old). They had told him to come back on Tuesday, and then Wednesday and then yesterday. The test failed at first as the car needed two new tyres and French headlights to replace the English ones. The delay seemed to have something to do with the paperwork, probably because it doesn’t have French registration yet. Anyway, THEY decided to go shopping first and then call in on the garage on the way back and, the car was ready at last. HIS final job is to get a “Certificate of Conformity” from the manufacturers representatives and then HE can apply for French registration. Well, it makes a change from strimming the poplar field which HE can’t do anyway as it is full of water at the moment.

Oh, I nearly forgot. THEY got the first two xmas cards today.

WickedSaturday 8th December 2007
Which has prompted THEM to get THEIR xmas cards ready too. Back on Dartmoor THEY used to make some of their cards for family and special friends and the rest were bought. They did this last year also because, although we were in France for Xmas, THEY prepared and sent them while still in England as it combined xmas greetings and change of address information. The cards that SHE made were quite elaborate affairs with photos pasted on specially purchased blanks. This year, THEY decided to make all the cards (apart from those for the grandchildren, as it would be silly to send the same card several times to the same address) and so they had to be of a more simple construction, just a sheet of A4 glossy photo paper printed on both sides and cut in half. Then last night and this morning, it was a question of writing them, putting in envelopes and posting them. All but the neighbours. THEY are not sure yet what the custom is here so THEY are waiting for the first card from a neighbour to arrive before sending them, so as not to appear ‘pushy’.

One custom here became quite apparent this evening and had Mims and I hardly able to eat our supper. We weren’t in our boxes when HE came to make up our buckets but, as the day had been rain, rain, rain, we were all standing about on the concrete hard standing in front of the stable. Now, our stable faces towards all of our neighbours’ houses. We can’t see them all as the road curves and also some are on the other side of the road. But, we can, of course, see next door and we can see the neighbour after that (now that the trees have shed their leaves) as they live on the first floor and enter in the side of the building facing us.

We hadn’t noticed anything while we were waiting for HIM as it was still reasonably light. But when we were in our boxes and then turned round to face the front for the half apple that HE usually gives us, we saw it! The whole side of the building was alight with red, green, yellow, you name it flashing bulbs. I’ve never been to Times Square but from what I’ve heard, this is what it looks like. Back in Devon I used to have one string of lights, not flashing, along the front of my stable at xmas. My goodness, the French certainly have a taste for the bright lights!

cowsSunday 9th December 2007
First the weather. It started grey but then brightened up to a sunny morning. As I will tell you in a minute, we were not in the mood to go out, even in the sunshine. This may have been a mistake because, by lunch time, it clouded over and by the afternoon and evening it turned really horrible again with wind and icy cold rain. HE has told me that the local weather forecast (which is notoriously unreliable) is predicting night time temperatures of minus two and snowfalls for the middle of next week. This has happened before and then the next day the prediction (prevision) changes so we are not getting our head collars in a twist just yet. Lets wait and see. Incidentally, we horses quite enjoy the snow. It’s really good for rolling in and the first fall is always exciting and good for a canter round the field.

It was the Big Man’s turn to be the silly one this morning. When HE got there to do our buckets, there was no one there. After checking that there was no clearing up needed (we had obviously been out all night), HE started getting our buckets ready. Next thing HE heard the gate to Mims’ box going clang and, on looking up, HE saw Wick standing there. To keep Wick occupied while HE carried on with the buckets, HE gave him a handful of lucerne just inside the doorway out of the drizzle. Then Mims and I arrived on the scene. HE came out with the lead rope and put it round first my neck and then Mims’ to lead us into our boxes. Then HE had to look outside for the Big Man. There he was, standing like a lemon in the exact same spot that Mims had stood yesterday. HE had to get the lead rope again and bring him in and, by waving HIS finger, HE stopped me giving the Big Man a well deserved bite on the bum for holding up our buckets.

Mind you, I don’t know what was so important about our buckets. We had all eaten so much ion the new field that it was all we could do to get anywhere near finishing our breakfast. When I say ‘we’ I mean us horses. Wick always takes the opportunity to come and clean up anything we leave in our boxes anyway. So, after breakfast we all just stood around stuffed while the sun shone and all was good with the world.

This evening was quite another story. Everyone was in and waiting for our supper although I will admit more for the break in the monotony than for the food. THEY had been out to Jo and James in Livaie for lunch and THEY came home quite full and wanting to doze so HE was pleased that we were all so docile and well behaved tonight. THEY were pleased that Sophie has got on with developing her website and, while THEY were there, she organised her domain name and web hosting so pretty soon I should be able to give you a link to her site.

poplarsMonday 10th December 2007
I don’t know quite how to put this. We were either very worried about Wicky today (twice) or we had some good fun. I think the answer is both,

The morning passed normally. We had breakfast and the sun came up. We hung about feeling a bit full and dozy and, by the time we felt like going out, the rain had started again. Still, we have our rugs on so it doesn’t matter much, so out we went. THEY were watching us out of the French window while THEY had lunch and noticed that first we three were together on the horizon (our new field dips down towards the back) and then the Big Man was up near the electricity post that is only about seventy five metres away from the stable, while Mims and I were in much the same place as when THEY first saw us. THEY couldn’t see Wick but THEY assumed that it was because of the dip and his lack of stature.

After lunch, SHE noticed that us three horses were back in the stable (to be more precise, on the concrete apron outside). But SHE couldn’t see Wicky. Added to that, I was obviously agitated and was calling at the top of my voice (which due to a larynx problem is more like a whisper). SHE gathered that I was calling for Wicky and, fearing that he might have run away or worse, that something might have happened to him, HE got quickly suited up in rainproofs and got the quad bike out. When HE had driven halfway into the field, HE spotted Wick, quietly munching away on the grass. Relieved, HE turned back and saw that I had followed out into the field. HE called me and I started to run to HIM. Then Mims followed and it turned into a gallop. When we saw Wicky, I was so relieved that I ran round him bucking for joy. The three of us cantered back to the stable with Mims and I slowing down to allow for Wick’s little legs.

When suppertime came, the Big Man was in the stable and soon afterwards Mims and I appeared around the corner. But no Wick. How unusual for him to miss a meal. HE locked us in and then went around the side of the stable to see what was the problem now. And Wick was just standing there, in the field, next to the fence. HE called him and went back to make up the buckets. When Wick still hadn’t appeared, HE went back and Wick was standing round the back of the stable. HE held out a couple of mints but Wick wouldn’t eat them. HE was worried at this un-Wick like behaviour but HE had to carry on making up the buckets. HE had just finished when Wick appeared in the stable. But when HE put Wick’s bucket down, he didn’t move. HE gave us all our buckets and then stood watching Wick. Slowly, he started eating but without his usual enthusiasm. Eventually, he got a bit faster. All HE can think is that Wick had stuffed himself with grass during the day and just didn’t have any more room. However, THEY will keep an eye on him.

One last thing. HE bought a CD of French xmas songs today and THEY were playing them when SHE noticed that the Big Man was looking and listening intently. And he stayed that way for about half an hour. THEY think that either he likes music or he was just pleased to hear French spoken (well, sung) again!

Mims restingTuesday 11th December 2007
We didn’t see HER this morning as SHE had to go for a blood test and therefore couldn’t have anything to eat or drink before the test. There didn’t seem much point in getting up if she couldn’t have even a cup of tea so SHE had a lie in. HE was relieved that Wick was back to his normal greedy self and we all behaved ourselves this morning. The Big Man wasn’t in but, as HE saw him just outside the fence, HE just got on with making our buckets. HE had just taken Mims’ bucket in when Extreme walked round the corner and into his box.

After THEY had come back from the blood laboratory, via the feed shop to buy our lucerne and then the vegetable shop to get our carrots and apples, HE went out again to get more of our short feed. HE had to make two journeys because the little green car will only hold so much. HE was back and unloading by about eleven fifteen and noticed that, as it was a nice, fresh but dry sunny day, the hens had laid four eggs in the stable. Hens are supposed to go off laying when the light goes but, at this rate, the days will start getting longer again and they wont have had any break at all. Possibly it is because they are very free range and are let out quite early (seven fifteen) in the morning and just put themselves to bed when they feel like it.

As I said, it was a lovely day today. The Big Man had a couple of rolls and we three horses had some high jinx cantering about and bucking for the joy of it. I say cantering but often, the Big Man just trots and he can still out pace us. He may be a pain in the fetlocks sometimes but I have to admire his racing ability!

house and stable through the treesWednesday 12th December 2007
A bitter cold morning (HIS weather forecast said minus four degrees Celsius) so I was in when HE came to make breakfast. So was Wicky but the other two were having their usual battle or, to be more honest, Mims was telling the Big Man that if he thought he was going in for breakfast, he had better think again. Which, even I will admit, was a pretty cruel thing to say. Not the keeping him out of the stable but rather the ‘think’ bit. Not something that the Big Man is particularly good at. Eventually, HE got them both in and then made up the buckets.

I cant remember if I have told you this before but part of our meal consists of sugar beet remains (after the sugar has been extracted). This comes in dry extruded pellet form and has to be soaked in water before it is edible for horses. I gather other farm animals can eat it just as it is as they have different stomach mechanisms to us. When we were in England, THEY were able to buy something called ‘Speedi-Beet’ which only needed about ten minutes soaking. HE would put it in warm water while HE was measuring out the short feed and mixing in the vegetables and, by the time HE had finished, it would be ready. Here, the only kind THEY can get requires soaking for 24 hours so HE always puts the next lot in soak as HE uses a prepared one. Why am I telling you all this. Well, the sugar beet that HE gave us this morning had been in soak all day yesterday and all night as well. Being largely water it had taken on the temperature of the outside world. It had not frozen because it was inside the feed room and so a bit protected but it was still very cold. When HE soaks it, HE puts enough for all four of us in a big bucket and then, when it is time for us to eat it, HE allocates it to each of our buckets in handfuls. This morning, when HE left us eating to open up the chickens, HE could hardly feel his fingers for the cold and HE was wondering how we could eat it. But then, we eat the grass with the frost on it. We are just marvellous animals and that’s that!

After bucket-fast, we stood around and the sun pretty soon came out. And it turned into the most glorious day, bright sunshine all day, still a bit cool but, there again, with our naturally high temperatures and our rugs on as well, we were not affected in the slightest. SHE noticed this morning that both Mims and I had frost on the rump of our rugs and SHE remembered that when THEY lived in Devon, originally THEIR house had no frost on the roof while those of THEIR neighbour’s had. After the loft was insulated, THEY no longer lost the heat through the roof and so the frost on THEIR house didn’t melt either. Based on this SHE thinks that our new rugs must be doing a great job of insulation for us.

THEY started to put the xmas decorations up today. HE was going to put some lights on a small silver birch tree in the front garden but the wire wasn’t long enough and also, trying to accommodate the English plug on the transformer with the French electric system and keep everything dry outside meant that HE had to drop everything and take a trip to the town supermarket to buy new lights and longer cable. This will mean that, given another nice day like today, the lights will get finished tomorrow. Indoors will have to wait a bit longer as SHE wants to use the Holly and Mistletoe from our trees and wants them fresh as possible for xmas.

Alli getting upThursday 13th December 2007
The Christmas tree is finished. Actually, it’s not a Christmas tree in the sense of the traditional conifer. THEIRS is the silver birch which grows in the front garden. It is not very big as silver birch tree go. THEY think it must be quite young. But, it is a nice shape and just right for putting the xmas lights on. It gave us all a bit of fun when HE was doing it because HE started to put up some new lights that HE bought yesterday. But, although the tree is not too big, the new lights were far too small for it. So, leaving the aluminium steps, that HE was using to reach the top of the tree, up against the trunk, HE went in to find some more lights. About that time, the sun came out quite strongly and reflected on the steps, making them stand out very brightly. It was then that Mims came round the corner and saw them. I don’t know if they frightened her at first or if she was just in the mood for a lark anyway, but she went crazy. She cantered about, chased the big man and bucked and kicked. That set him off as well and we had the two of them behaving like foals. Then HE came out and took the steps away and replaced them with a ladder and the game was over. HE had found some coloured lights that we had in Devon and, with the aid of the ladder, HE wound them round and round the tree. HE only had one mishap and that was when HE was pulling one tall branch down to attach the lights and it broke off in HIS hand. Still, it was lucky that HE wasn’t supporting HIMSELF with it.

I have to admit that we are eating rather a lot lately. Given clear, starry nights, we spend all night in the new field grazing. So, when HE comes along with the buckets, it is all we can do to be bothered to come in and eat. I think you know that when we are fed, we three horses eat in our boxes while Wick has his bucket on the concrete apron outside. Although THEY organised him a space in the corridor outside the Big Man’s box, the trouble is that it is too easy for the Big Man to lean over and give him a nip. So, Wick eats outside and is happy to do so. Usually, when we have finished and go back out to the field, Wick then visits each of our boxes in turn and does his housework by clearing up anything we have left. Since we have been in the new field, we are tending to just pick out our vegetables, play with a bit of food and leave the rest on the floor. And we are so full up these days that even Wick leaves it and just comes outside with us.

HE was saying to HER the other day that HE hadn’t seen any of us laying down for ages and ages. Then, yesterday, THEY looked out and saw Wicky having a snooze. Today, HE looked out and Wicky and I were standing guard while Mims had a lay down right next to the fence. Then, when HE looked again, it was my turn. Isn’t coincidence a funny thing? I think what it is really is that THEIR French windows overlook the new field and so THEY see a lot more of our activities than when we were round the corner, out of sight.

Canabis and SunnyFriday 14th December 2007
I was about to start by saying it is a year today that we have been here in France. Then, of course, I realised that this is not quite strictly true. It is a year today that THEY left the UK for France. Even then, THEY didn’t arrive at the first stopping place, Livaie in Normandy, until one in the morning of the next day, Looking back in the archives, you will see that because of bad weather in the sea, us horses didn’t arrive until a couple of days later. THEY left us in our field on Dartmoor fully expecting us to be picked up that night and follow them over. Luckily we didn’t starve to death because a good friend of THEIRS came and fed us and supervised our loading when the transport did turn up. Still, today is still memorable as a complete change of life for everyone.

We have been waiting for Wally the builder to turn up and start work on the final bit of fencing round the stable but THEY haven’t bothered to chase him as it is not really urgent, just a loose end. HE did leave a phone call today just to let Wally know that we are ready when he is.

It has been a bitterly cold day today. As I have said many times before, this doesn’t worry us horses but it did stop HIM coming out to do various small jobs around the stable. I think past of the problem was that the sun didn’t make an appearance either which made HIM prefer to buy a paper and stay in reading it most of the day. One thing HE has done is to cut down our rations, at least the amount of sugar beet we are getting. Coincidentally. Again looking in the archives, this time last year was when THEY introduced sugar beet into our buckets for the winter. I think we have been spoilt here because it has taken THEM time to adapt to the different horse feeds available here.




troupeauSaturday 15th December 2007
We had visitors today. We were right over the back of the new field (I must get a new name for this as it wont remain new much longer) when we heard HER calling out ‘Alli, Alli, Alli’ as THEY do when THEY want us. I thought it was a bit early for supper but started out right away followed by all the others. We ran and lined up along the fence between the field and THEIR back garden and then we saw a little girl that I recognised. It was Julia with her father, one of the two little girls who came along in the summer and that we gave rides to. Her father, Cedric, had a backpack and, when he took it off, it contained some baguettes which he gave to Julia to feed to us. Even Wicky, with his lack of teeth, managed to break off and chew some. The bread was nice and stale which you humans wouldn’t like but which was just nice and crisp and how we like it. Surprisingly, Big X stood at the fence next to Mims and there was now trouble or bickering at all. After a while, HE took Julia off to get some eggs from the feed room and they had to feel under one of the hens who was still sitting there. They also brought with them their dog, Satan (pronounced sat un) who was a lovely black Bill Sykes dog type. Morgan next door came out to see us with his two dogs and they all got on well through the fence. A very pleasant surprise visit.

Earlier in the day, Mims and the Big Man were playing their games again. If you didn’t know, you might think that Mims was just tormenting him and chasing him away but, if you watched carefully, you would see that it was just one big game. He would stand there, eating and pretending not to notice and Mims would gently come up beside him. Then, all of a sudden, she would buck and kick, he would trot away and she would follow him for a few strides. He would get about four lengths away from her and then also stop and his head would drop to eat. And then it would start all over again. Finally, Mims got bored and came over to me and watched out for me while I had a roll. Sometimes it is really nice to have a daughter.

And finally just a word on the weather again. Bitterly cold because of a strongish breeze but not cold enough for a frost this morning. So, instead of hanging around after breakfast, we all went out fairly quickly and got down to grazing again. This evening, rather like this morning, only Wick went in for his bucket, the rest of us just stood along the fence. However, unlike this morning when HE had to come out and bring us in, one by one, HE just came out and took Big X in. Well, I’ve never seen Mims move so fast in her haste to get in before him. She didn’t make it though because I got in front of her so, for once, she was the last in her box and not the big fellow!

fairy lightsSunday 16th December 2007
This evening, at 7.40 pm last year, we arrived at La Chauniere, Livaie in Orne, Normandy. One year ago to this very night. When I say we, I mean, of course, Mims, Wicky and me. THEY had been there for a couple of days and Big X wasn’t even heard of then. We spent three and a half months there and had some good adventures. Initially, we were going to be kept to the orchard but after my galloping through the fence out into the next field, we slowly widened our territory so that we had the run of several fields and many, many hectares. We also had several flocks of sheep as companions, a real stream to cross and a month of heavy snow to roll in. There was an old ram who would steal our food from our buckets and a pair of sheepdog collies, one of whom used to try and herd us up, particularly Mims, if I recall. And then there was Arnie. One day, when we came back to our barn, the gate was closed and there was another horse (well, a double pony to be precise) standing inside. We warily made our introductions, the gate was opened and, as Arnie came out, we all galloped off for a fine old ‘getting to know each other’ game. I think at first, Wick didn’t take to him. Something to do with Wick thinking that he has to protect our herd from intruders. But then Wick realised that Mims had turned her rather bullying attentions away from him and devoted her time to keeping Arnie in his place – somewhere else!

You may gather from my reminiscing that nothing much happened today. And you would be correct. It has been a bitter cold day, the temperature not rising above freezing all day with a nasty breeze. However the sun shone in a cloudless sky. Apart from getting the bread and replacing the xmas lights on the tree as the wind had blown down the fragile branch that they were on, HE did nothing just ate, read and dozed.

I looked back in the archives and this day in my diary, both two and three years ago, were devoted to Wicky and my dearest friend Tregony. In 2005, Treg was telling a xmas story (which bore a vague likeness to A Christmas Carol’. The year before that, Treg was getting ready for a pantomime. I don’t know where you come from but I gather that the English pantomime is unknown in France. I must find out from HIM (who will ask his friend in the USA) if they know of it there. Roughly, pantomimes in the UK consist of a set of traditional stories e.g. Aladdin, Cinderella, Peter Pan, etc. which always have baddies and goodies playing for laughs with a lot of topical and local references and a lot of audience participation. They are played out around xmas and new year as family entertainment, the children maybe enjoying it for the first time and the adults enjoying it as referring back to the times when they didn’t have jobs, families and mortgages to worry about.

I notice from the diary archives that the entries were much more fun a while ago. I know a lot of this has been the turmoil and upheaval concerned with moving to a new life in a new country. However, I feel the fun really went out of things when Tregony died. Yes, he was a figure of fun but only in the most loved and treasured way. I miss him so much and I know that THEY do as well. When it comes time for new year resolutions, maybe I can get HIM to try and introduce more fun and less boring facts into my diary for the year to come. After all, we are virtually settled in now!

Alli and MimsMonday 17th December 2007
“I was saying, Mims, that we used to each tell a story before xmas when we were in Dartmoor. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to start it again?”
“Ooh yes, mum. I love stories. Just the thing when we are sheltering behind the hedge on a night like this. It will help to make the time pass until breakfast.”
“Aye lassie, we used to have some bonnie times wi’ auld Treg telling stories. How aboot ye, Big Man? D’ye know any xmas stories?”
“Mais oui, Wicky, but I would like to ‘ear an Anglais one first. Per’aps Madame Alli would like to start?”
“Alright then. Let me see what I can remember…..”

The wind was whistling across the frozen field. It was early night but very dark with no moon or stars in the sky. It was too early for the bats or owls to start flying and the rooks and buzzards had all gone to roost. The hens were tucked up for the night in their chicken shed and the cows, sheep and horses were all standing, sheltering from the wind, with their backs to the nearest hedge. Each blade of grass glistened with frost making it look like a shining silver sword. And the wind just blew and blew.

Sourine, the field mouse, fluffed up her fur as she snuggled down in the nest that she shared with her parents and her baby brother. They had all spent the day gathering berries to decorate the nest with, ready for the xmas festival. Little Ouris was getting really excited as he ran around looking at the shiny red, yellow and green globes strung up with storks of hay. ‘And shall we get presents, and what will mine be and how long is it to wait and when will papa get home?’, he panted as his little legs took him from one end of the nest to the other. Sourine smiled but said nothing as she knew that his mind had already raced on to something else.

Mother field mouse, whose name was Serene, moved about giving the final touches to the decorations and humming to herself. ‘And what would you like Pere Noel to bring you, Ouris?’, she asked her son. He jumped up and down. ‘I would like, I would like …’ ‘How about a great big gobbly snake?’, asked Sourine. ‘Or a really cruel kestrel’, added his mother. ‘Ooooh, no. Don’t tease me. Something nice, I want something nice. And then, something else nice as well’. Ouris’ problem was that he had never seen xmas before so he had no idea of what presents really were. He had only heard his family talking about them and so guessed that they must be something nice.

‘When’s daddy coming home?’ asked Sourine, ‘he’s been out a long time. ‘He should have been home by now, dear’, said her mother, I’m beginning to get a bit anxious for him. Could you just pop upstairs and have a look out for him?’

Sourine went along to the end of the nest where there was a sharp corner and then along a short passage leading to a straw stalk ladder. She could feel the cold coming down from the field above and fluffed her fur out for protection as she scampered up. With no moonlight above it was difficult for her to tell the inside of the tunnel from the opening at the top. But the bitterly cold wind soon told her that she had arrived. She just sat perfectly still, letting her eyes adjust to the new surroundings. But really, it wasn’t her eyes that she was using but her ears. Slowly she turned her head around, listening to the sounds reflected from the field. From the hedge came the shuffling of hooves as the horses that were sheltered there moved about to get comfortable, taking the weight of one foot at a time. Past them, she heard, with a shiver, the first sounds of the owls preparing for their nightly food gathering journeys. Daddy better be home before they set out, she thought. From the house she could see some light shining and listened very carefully for sounds of the cat door signalling the emergence of that black and white hunter cat. All the mice in the neighbourhood knew that noise and many had lost family and friends to her. But no, all was quiet in that direction.

Finally, her head turned towards the stable where she expected her father might have gone. The stable was a wonderful hunting ground for items of food, dropped from the horses’ buckets and too small for them to pick up. Much of it, of course, was eaten by the chickens but there was still plenty left for all the mice around. There was a sound, a small, scratchy sort of sound. Was that daddy coming out of the stable. She strained her eyes which had now got accustomed to what little light there was but could see nothing. Then there was a thud and a plaintive squeak. And then silence!

“And that will have to be that for this evening, my dears”, said Alli. “I will finish it tomorrow, I’m a bit tired now. I think I’ll have a little doze.”

Tom and SunnyTuesday 18th December 2007
“Well dears, what shall we do tonight?”
“You said you would finish the story, didn’t she Wicky?”
“Mmmmmouais, she did, Mademoiselle”
“Did I ask you? Is your name Wicky? You speak when you are spoken to Big X”.
“Leave him alone, lassie. Why must you always pick on him?”
“Quiet you lot, if you want the rest of the story. Now, where was I…..?”

Sourine jumped, her little heart pounding. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good. Although she was small, Sourine was a brave little mouse. Once over the initial shock, she determined to go and check that her father was alright. She carefully eased herself out of the nest entrance and quietly made her way across the field towards the stable, hiding behind clumps of frost covered grass every so often and listening intently. She soon found herself hiding behind one of the fence posts just outside the concrete apron of the barn. Since that first, heart rending sound she had heard nothing. She reasoned that if a predator had got her father she would have heard sounds of him being carried away or worse, being eate…… Oooh, she couldn’t bear to think of it.

Having waited and listened for a good five minutes and hearing absolutely nothing, Sourine made a dash for the shadow behind the barn door. She peered around. Still nothing. At least she was out of the wind now. In front of her were three horse boxes and, to her left, the opening to the feed store. Knowing her father, he wouldn’t have wasted his time in the boxes unless he was desperate, so she tiptoed round the corner and to the feed store entrance. And then she heard it! Oooohoooohow. And again. Oooohoooohow. Eeee! The sound made Sourine shiver worse than the biting wind had. Surely no living creature made such a sound. Shaking, she eased herself round the corner and hid behind the base of the stairs. She had a different view from here. She looked up, over the metal feed bin, to the back wall of the barn. Slowly the wall changed from darkness to a glimmer and then a bright light. And then it was gone. No noise, just light. And no strange smells either. Sourine had been in the feed room before and knew what it smelt like and there was nothing she could associate with the sounds or the light.

She had heard the stories that the older mice told each other about spirits and evil pixies and the like. She had never thought to believe that they were anything more than stories. Until now. And where was daddy? Had the spirits taken him? Would she never see him again? Despite her fluffed up fur, she felt frozen to her bones. She would have to go back and tell her mother. No more thoughts of xmas now. Little Ouris would grow up fatherless and she would have now to be the breadwinner.

‘Oooohoooohow’. There it was again. And yet, this time, not quite, not quite the same. ‘Oohooowlala’. She knew that voice. She looked wildly around. She ran into the centre of the room, heedless of her own safety now. ‘Ohlalalala’, came a groan from under the rack of shelves against the back wall. Sourine ran over and looked down. Sitting woefully rubbing his head, on which there was a rather large bump, was her father. Next to him on the floor was a tube of Mintos mint sweets. It too had evidence of a collision, a small dent in one end.

‘Tell me again, daddy, what happened, what happened?’ Little Ouris was fascinated with the bump on his father’s head. ‘Let this be a lesson, young man’, his father said. ‘Never climb up shelves and grab onto a tube for support, you will fall and it will fall and knock you unconscious. Still, I’ve brought you a really nice xmas present. How would you like a great big white minty sweet, I’ve got lots of them?’

“And that’s it mum? That all.”
“Aye lassie, what was all that aboot bright lights and aw?”
“Haven’t you seen the stable light up at night when a car goes past? That’s all. And now Big Man. I’ve decided that it will be your turn tomorrow night. I hope you know of a good christmassy story for us?”

Iced WickyWednesday 19th December 2007
“Zis is an histoire that I used to ‘ear when I was young at Noel.”

In the area to the north of Alencon, there is a vast, la forêt d’Ecouvres. Long, long ago, when all kinds of creatures, including horses, wandered free in this forest, there was one animal who claimed to be king and expected all the other creatures to pay homage to him. You would think he would be un grand, imposing creature, whose very appearance made the others feel inferior. Or, you might think that, although there were others bigger in size to him, he would be the most ferocious and fearsome of all beasts. But, you would be wrong on three counts. First, he was not very big and certainly not imposing. Secondly, he did not appear in the slightest as being fierce or scary. And the third, I hear you ask? Thirdly he was not a ‘he’, but a female animal. What distinguished her was not her size of her big claws and teeth. It was her temper!

It was because of her temper that she insisted on being called ‘king’ and not ‘queen’, as it was generally held among the animals that the king was the most powerful. Now, you might wonder why the other animals let King Mumbles lord it over them. But then, you have never experienced such a temper. She lived in a part of the forest which had a little clearing of good pasture next to a shady, natural ‘stable’ of trees and bushes. Naturally, she had a court of other horses that she allowed to stand around and admire and flatter her. And she would receive other passing animals and be gracious and aloof to them before getting her courtiers to usher them on their way.

In the year of our story, the winter was a particularly harsh one. It was not yet Noel and yet all the water was frozen and the ground was hard, under a dense white blanket of snow. In this period, towards the end of decembre (we French do not capitalise our months) there were very few visitors to see the king. Most of the animals in the forest were either much too busy getting ready for the fetes or they were just trying to keep warm by staying in whatever shelter they could find. However just as King Mumbles was dozing off one morning (not a pretty sight, I might add), one of her courtiers, a grubby sort of off white Shetland cross, came waddling into her presence to announce an arrival.
‘Who is it and what do they want?’, grumbles the king, irritated at being woken up by this intruder.
‘It’s a, it’s a sort of, well, it’s a sort of small green triangle with two poppy eyes and a very wide grin. I think it said it was a fog or a fig or something’.
‘And what does this frig want with me, ma petit cochon?’
‘It said, excuse me your majesty, it said that it was the real king of this forest.’
The courtier backed away and ducked swiftly as he said this. If anything as likely to inflame her majesty, it was this.
‘WHAT! What did you say? The real king? NO!’

“And that’s about it for tonight. I’ll finish the story tomorrow.”
“Er, Big Man. I’m beginning to get a funny feeling about this. Are you sure that this is an old traditional story?”
“Of course, M.Wicked. As I remember it.”
“Look, X. You better be careful, that’s all. Some of those names and descriptions … well…”
“M’elle Mims, I don’t know what you mean.”
“Hmmm? What do you think mum?”
“Just wait and see, dear. I think it sounds quite a nice story so far. Let’s wait and see how it turns out.

Thursday 20th December 2007
“So, I shall continue my story. We had just go…. “
“Wait a minute, Extreme. I’ve got a bit of news to tell everyone. Bad news, I’m afraid, for THEM. HE went out on the quad to get a few more logs to saw up for Xmas and HE was just about to come back when HE thought HE would go and have a look at the holly, so that HE could pick the best bush for cutting. And, do you know what? HE drove round the edges of both fields and not a single holly bush had any berries. Two weeks ago they were covered in bright red lush berries and now, nothing! We have a lot of fat birds though.”
“So what will THEY do, mum?”
“HE did notice a few rose bushes with bright red rose hips so SHE said SHE will wind them in with the holly boughs. It shouldn’t look too bad. And now, Big Man, let’s hear the rest of your story.”

The courtier was sent out to bring in this affronting visitor. He returned with the small green triangle sitting on his rather grubby back. Knowing what the king could be like when angered, he deposited theHen laying in barn frog on a fence next to the king and made a hasty retreat.
‘Bon Journee, my queen’, said the frog, his great wide mouth splitting his face in two.
King Mumbles quivered, flattened her ears and waved a back leg in the air, menacingly.
‘You will address me as your King or Majesty or preferably not at all. What is it you want before I trample you into the mud?’
‘You are so lovely when you are angry, my dear. Do not worry, I will make you ze ‘appiest lady in the whole of the foret.’
‘I don’t see how you could do that. You cant even talk properly. Now come on, you have one last chance to make your point or I will get the little cochon to eat you. He eats anything.’
‘You ‘ave to admit that I am ‘andsome, no? With my large popping eyes and my great big smile. And you should see me jump. I bet you couldn’t jump five times your own height. No wonder the animals of the forest have made me king.’
‘Will you stop that. Of course they haven’t. Look at you. There’s nothing of you. Why, even the little pig is much bigger than you are. Come to think of it you smell about the same. If Queen Mother A saw you she would just laugh. Now, get on with you. There are no vacancies for a jester here, we already have one. You are lucky I am in a good mood today as it is nearly xmas.’
‘And you are going to get a wonderful xmas present. From me. I promise you.’
‘Hmmm? And what would that be, little fog?”
‘Frog, mademoiselle, grenouille, si’l vous plait. Now listen. What is it that you want most in the whole wide world? What would you like for the best xmas present ever?’
‘Mind your own business, grenou wheel. That’s for me to know and you to …, well, never know.’
‘But I do know, mademoiselle, I do know. And I can give it to you. All you have to do is one little thing, that’s all, just one thing.’
King Mumbles was intrigued by this, despite herself. She had gone from being bored to being angry, then mildly amused and now … Could this frog really give her, her heart’s desire?
‘What is this little thing I would have to do, little green and slimy?’
‘A kiss, that’s all. Just give me one tiny little kiss and your dreams will come true.’
She was revolted. The thought of kissing this ugly, green and probably clammy creature made her feel sick. For a moment. Then another thought. Her dreams come true? She had done worse. Maybe think of it as trying to pick out a speck of food from the little cochon’s bucket. Nothing could be that bad.
‘You may approach me, frog. And shut your great big poppy eyes. And, if this is a trick, you die!’
King mumbles just couldn’t bear to look herself as she bent down and, with a shudder, planted a tiny kiss on that great wide slash of a mouth. She stood there shivering and then, when she felt no different, she forced herself to open her eyes.
And, in front of her stood the tallest, most handsome, male chestnut horse that she had ever seen. He smiled.
‘I am King Extreme d’Ecouvres, mademoiselle. Will you do me the honour of becoming my Queen and giving me several fine colts and fillys, so that we can live happily ever after?’
And she finally saw sense - and she did!

nb the conversation that followed next, in the herd, is not printable

Burst pipesFriday 21st December 2007
It was going to be Mims’ turn to tell a story tonight but, after the Big Man’s thinly veiled parody of her yesterday, she needs a day to get her thoughts together. He maintains it was just a bit of fun and I have to admit that I thought it was too. But then he had nothing bad to say about me (I didn’t mind the ‘queen mother’ reference one bit. I think it rather suits me). Even Wicky who was entitled to be offended by the ‘cochon’ and scruffy/smelly references, didn’t really mind. First of all, he has heard them all before, and secondly, I think he takes them as a sort of compliment. You know, it proves he is one of the boys sort of thing.

I am not sure if Mims is going to get back at the Big Man in her story or if she is just going to ignore it, as beneath her dignity. We will find out tomorrow. I keep telling her that he did present himself in a bad light with the big gappy mouth and popping eyes ut she says that she thinks that he doesn’t even realise that ‘frog’ is an English euphemism for Frenchman. She’s probably right there as he may be a big fellow but not in the brain department. Reminds me so much of my dear sweet Tregony. Oh, and that reminds me, we’ve not seen anything of him lately. I hope he pops bye to spend some time with us at Christmas.

So, what news today?  Because of the stories, I’ve not had a chance to tell you about the burst water pipes, have I? Since we have had the big freeze up for over a week now, our drinkers have been icing over. The outside one had about six inches (15 centimetres) of ice on top and HE broke it up and shovelled the ice out so that we could get to the water. When this froze over, we were able to break a hole in the thinner ice with our noses. However, this meant that, by today, we had emptied the drinker of water and it was not being topped up because the pipes were frozen.

Inside, HE also had to break the ice on our drinkers which was alright for the first few days, then HE noticed that the flexible hose into Wicky’s drinker had burst and was pouring water. HE went and bought a new hose and came into the stable and changed it. When HE went to turn the mains tap back on, HE saw that the joint on the other side of the tap had burst open. He got more tools and after thawing what water was in the pipes and draining it, HE re-fixed the joint again. He then turned the mains tap on and discovered that, now that the water had thawed, there were two very large bursts in the pipe that supplies the water to Mims’ drinker and mine. We had two fountains, one in each box.

HE spent today, shopping for plumbing parts and then mending the burst pipes. HE first filled the outside drinker by carrying twelve big container loads of water from the driveway. HE had got the hose and thawed it out but it would only reach the driveway, about half of the distance. Then HE filled our indoor drinkers in case his repairs didn’t work (HE is not a plumber). After he had cut out the burst parts of the pipe and replaced them and found that, with only a small dribble of a leak at the mains tap, everything was OK, HE then pulled the small remorque along by hand and got rid of all the old haylage that we had dropped on the floor, emptied the racks and replace all with new haylage.

So, when we came in for supper, we had water, haylage and clean floors. We must see what we can do to make it all look like home again before too long.

The Big ManSaturday 22nd December 2007 (HER Birthday)
“Mims, dear, are you going to tell us all a xmas story?”
“Of course mother, why do you ask?”
“Because …, oh well, good. I’m sure we are all waiting to hear it then, aren’t we, troupeau?”
“Mais oui”, “Och aye, lassie”.
“OK then, let me see … “

All the animals in the forest were assembled in a clearing. The little vole, the deer, the kestrel, badger, horse, cat, owl, sheep, cow, fox, bat, cricket, in fact, everyone was there. All the animosities were forgotten. No one was hungry or, if they were, they had vowed to stay vegetarian for the night. The whole atmosphere was one of goodwill and expectation. For it was Christmas eve and they were all together for a concert of xmas songs. Well, not so much a concert. They were not going to watch or listen to other people, they were going to do the singing themselves – in concert – so maybe it was. Who know?

There might appear to be a few problems here. First, for the human readers of this story, there is the problem of trying to imagine say, a toad singing. Or a badger. What kind of voices do they have? What xmas carols or songs do they know? Then, there are the problems that you, my family and friends, might have with this situation. And that is precisely because you DO know what kind of voices toads, badgers and others have. And, I will admit that it has the possibility of being horrendous. BUT, it is xmas, so I have to ask you all to suspend your dis-belief, put your incredulity on hold (you didn’t know I knew big words like that, did you mum?) and just sit back and enjoy the story.

The time for the start of the concert was eight o’clock in the evening. Many of the animals had protested about this, saying it was far too late. But this was countered by some, saying that any earlier would be discriminatory to the moths and bats and owls and others. The time had been chosen to be all inclusive and there it was! Actually, no-one minded really. For the early birds, it was a thrill to stay up late and for the night hawks and other nocturnals, the novelty of getting up so early was sure to be healthy for them.

All awaited the conductor (or conducteur, as my Big OS friend would say). Everyone was in conversation with their neighbour – about the weather, the fetes, the family or any other festive subject. Some, the more loquacious (another one, mum) or Gallic, had quite forgotten about the concert and were just enjoying the crack. And then, in the midst of all the conviviality, there was a blinding light, a roll of drums and standing in the centre of the stage (did I mention the stage?) was …..

A fairly small, off (very off) white, hairy (very hairy) and sme .. oh no, it’s xmas, … stood in the middle of the stage waving a baton in his teeth (tooth) and saying…

‘Welcome to the verrry fust, all creaturrre, Christmas carol and song concert, the noo!”

A great clapping, hooving, antenaeing, wingingin, etc followed this and then the petit coch … on no, xmas,  … conductor raised his baton and said ..

‘Our fust carol is all aboot a load o’ no guid sheep herdsmaen who gi’s up aw pretens o’ lookin’ after …’
The audience was getting restive at this point. Not only could they not understand a word he was saying but they were sick to death of his false Scot’s accent and all they wanted to do was to get on with the carol singing. All at once, spontaneously, as a creature, they burst into a hearty rendition of ‘Entre le boeuf et l'âne gris’. No reason for the choice of carol really, except to make one of my friends feel really at home.

“I’m afraid it will have to pause there, dear. Can you continue with your delightful story tomorrow?”
“OK mama, that’s it for now.”

FrostSunday 23rd December 2007
“For those of you who are not bye-lingua, like me, le boeuf is a beef and l'âne gris is a greased donkey (I think?) therefore the name of the carol was something to do with a greased donkey bringing in the beef for xmas dinner. No I know most of you humans are more used to turk …”
“Excuse me, Mademoiselle Mims, but I think you will find it was ze Ox and ze grey donkey and ‘entre’ is between and not ‘entry’.”
“You have had your turn Big Man. This is my story, if you don’t mind.”
“Désolé, M’elle, please to carry on.”

And the singing was really beautiful. Like a heavenly choir with all the forest lit up with an aura of companionship and love. At the end, everyone was spellbound. There was not a murmur. And then a cricket started rubbing his legs together. He was joined by a rabbit thumping his feet on the ground and, one by one, the whole assembly joined in – clapping, cheering, banging – showing there approval in whatever way they could.

The conductor raised his baton for silence and slowly the noise came to an end. ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, monsieurs ‘dames, I would like you all to join in the horses carol. I hope you all know it- Il est Neigh or, for the donkeys among you – Il est Bray.

“Pardon, Mademoiselle Mims, but I know this. It is a French carol and it is – Il est né. It means ‘he is born’.”
“I’ve warned you Big Man. Just but out and listen.”

However, at this point, a feeling of unease had started spreading in the crowd. If the horses could have their own carol, why not them? Why not ‘The Owly and the Ivy’ or ‘Silent Gnat’? And what about ‘Away in a Manger’? Whose carol is that – the cows, the sheep, another horse one? A muttering and whispering started to take over the once perfectly united assembly. The volume grew louder and louder until it seemed a riot was about to break out. Then, over all the noise, a beautiful voice could be heard. The whispering stopped, heads turned, all looking for the source of the angelic singing.

It was a carol no-one had heard before and yet everyone instinctively knew or felt that they did. Everyone heard it in their own language and the melody was perfectly suited to the range, pitch and expectation of each individual species. It would take forever to translate the words from all the thousands of languages and, anyway, the individual words were not important. Not like some carols where some words dominate or distract or just don’t seem appropriate. No, it was not the words but the message that mattered. And the message was of the complete harmony and perfection of nature and its creatures and that this festival was to remind us of that as the world turns the winter solstice and starts to enter a new yearly cycle.

As all the creatures wended their ways home, each could be heard telling of the wonderful creature that they had seen, emerging into moonlight from behind a cloud and how that creature was of their own species, only pure and perfect. Each had inside them a warm glow of peace and comradeship, knowing that it was one of their kind that had brought the wonderful message. And they all entered their burrow, nest, barn, stable and settled down for a perfect night’s sleep before awaking to the delights of xmas day.

“How was that, Big Man?”

The FloristMonday 24th December 2007
“Christmas Eve. Our second in France but our first real one, as we had only just arrived last year and were still getting over the trauma of moving. It has been a very short year or so it seems. A year of learning, working and expecting. Expecting what, I don’t really know. It just seemed that whatever we wanted or needed was just around the corner and it was a question of waiting until all was achieved and we could just get down to living, whatever that is. Looking back, maybe what was happening (or not happening) was actually what we were waiting for all along. Whatever, 2008 is going to be the year that we all, humans and equines, just live and enjoy life as it is, whatever happens.

My story is not very long. But I hope that all my herd – Wicked, Mimms and Extreme – join with me in celebrating this wonderful, annual festival.”

The night was dark. Pitch black. Or, it would have been if it weren’t for the moon. What had been, only a few days before, an imperfect, edge nibbled sphere, was now a bright circle of reflection of the hidden sun and, as such, made all the buildings and hedgerows visible around the white, glistening, frost covered ground.

If you were standing by the stable and looking towards the back of the field, you would have been able to make out three rug covered backs, only imperceptibly moving in concert with a small, white frost covered pony. If you were listening, you could have heard dogs barking in the distance – one starting and then being answered by another and then another away into the distance. You would have heard an owl calling and then another answering – or was it the same one using a different voice? And under the apparent calm of the night a thousand tiny sounds and movements were happening. Moles, voles, insects and the larger mammals, all were going about their nightly travail apparently not aware of the importance humans placed on this night. Or, were they?

Each tiny creature was carrying some sort of gift for their loved ones. Some had berries, some flowers, others, sadly for some, carried their prey, hard won in the frozen ground. None were aware of the story that humans told at this time of year but all knew that this night was important in the balance of the year. It was a time of renewal of love and remembrance of things and times loved that have past. It was also a time of pure hope for the future, for peace and for joy.

And as the herd quietly grazed amongst all this activity, the moon appeared to grow larger and, with this growth, came a greater luminosity. What had been dimly visible became clear as a summer’s day. And the barely perceptible sounds of the night creatures turned into such sweet singing that the herd just stopped grazing and stood and listened.

Mims turned to the Big Man, with tears in her eyes and gave him a little nudge of her nose. Wicky felt moved to move next to me and rub his face on my neck. We all moved together feeling a wonderful stillness and togetherness. Whatever petty jealousies and irritations that had been just evaporated. For one long, joyous moment each member of the herd was aware of our oneness, our interdependence.

And then, suddenly, the light was back to moon light and all was as before. Except that, in us, there was a great surge of joy. Wicky broke first, galloping across the field. Mims followed with a high buck and the Big Man moved into his best fast trot. Happiness at just being together, being in our field and, most of all, just being, surged through us. And we ran and we ran and we ran …..

….. until it was Christmas day!

The PharmacyTuesday 25th December 2007
The change came overnight. We had been having hard frosts which only melted for a time during the middle of the day in those places in full reach of the sun. But last night, the frost didn’t return. There was not actually a thaw in the sense that those places which had now melted in the sun did not melt now. But the places that had melted did not freeze up again. Instead the whole land was immersed in fog. By the morning, it was not possible to see more than a third of our field. However, this did not change Mims’ behaviour. She has taken to staying outside the fence in the field, often trying to keep the Big Man out of the stable but, even if, as today, he has managed to slip by her and gone in, she still waits out there which means that I can’t settle until she is in and so HE has to go out and lead her in.

Apart from the fog this morning, we were in for a surprise when our buckets arrived. Previously we have been eating a mix of  floconné (grains ans pellets), dry lucerne and soaked sugar beet pulp. Into this is added our cut up apples and carrots. SHE has been doing HER sums with regard to our correct dietary needs so this morning we just had the flocconé and vegetables. More of the grain, of course to make up for the lack of sugar beet and lucerne. The only exception is Wicky who must not have so much protein who is now on the same but a reduced amount ration. In fact, Wick will be on a much reduced ration because while we used to leave quite a bit of the other stuff which Wick would mop up, we are now much more inclined to empty our buckets so he will have nothing to steal except the hen food which is sprinkled on the concrete for them.

We actually left quite a lot of the contents of our buckets tonight as just after HE had given them to us, we heard a noise which made us turn and face the doorway. Then there was a flash and a series of bangs and first Mims, then me and finally the Big Man lost all interest in eating. Our next door but one neighbours had started to let off some fireworks, no doubt to celebrate xmas day. HE saw that it was hopeless to try and keep us in as all of us were starting to mess the boxes so HE unlocked the doors and all of us, including Wick, shot out of the gate and down the field to look over the neighbour’s fence.

The fog finally went away in the late evening and we had some heavy rain instead. HE said that either rain or snow was forecast so we will have to see what happens by morning.

One final lovely thing happened today that I will save to tell you about another day when HE is not so full of xmas pudding and so tired of typing. My beloved Tregony came and spent the day with us. He said he would and he never lets us down. We all had a lovely time and I do sense that he and the Big Man could become really good friends. As I said, I’ll tell you another time.

The Baker'sWednesday 26th December 2007
I think I told you yesterday about the change in our food rations. Well, I am afraid to say that things are not going as well as was expected and, even worse, it is because it is just too much – we cant eat it all. I say ‘we’ very loosely meaning us three horses. It would appear that our little pony friend still has the capacity to finish off what we are leaving and, for that reason, our rations are going to be cut again. THEY say it is nothing to do with the waste or the expense but rather fear that Wicky will eat himself into a case of laminitis. It is thought that where THEY have gone wrong is in taking into account the amount of grass we are still managing to find in our fields, particularly the new one. So, when we come in for our buckets, we are not really hungry. I tell you, if the Big Man, who was so undernourished when he came to us, is now just leaving his food on the floor, there must be something wrong somehow. I understand the plan is to gradually reduce the amount in our buckets until we are no longer leaving any. I’ll keep you posted.

Waking up on xmas morning was like getting the best present ever. We had all been dozing in the middle of the field with the fog all swirling around us. And then we heard …

“’allo, there. ‘appy xmas everyone.”
For a minute, no one spoke, trying to clear our heads and wonder what was going on.
“Wassamatter? Your memories cant be that bad. I just come along to wish you all the greetin’s of the season.”
It was Tregony. Of course it was. Everyone woke up and recognised him. Even the Big Man who had not known him that long.
“Happy xmas Treg dear.”
“Hello Tregony, lovely to see you.”
“Monsieur T. Bonjour. Joyeux Noel mon ami.”
“Hello laddie. Here, let me bite your knees you auld rascal.”
We all crowded round him, giving little nips of affection or rubbing noses.
“How are things with you, Treg?”
“Good. Really good. I’ve got a new job now. They looked up my record as hossifer in the Human Watch and asked if I would like to take part in the xmas nipper evaluation. Well, that’s what I call it. The real name is the DWGP (deciding who gets presents).”
“What do you have to do Treg?”
“There’s a whole crowd of us. We all get allocated fifty kids to keep an eye on throughout the year. Then, about a month before xmas we have to make a report about their behaviour. Depends if they get a good report on what, if any, presents they get.”
“Gosh, that’s quite a job. I’d hate to be the one responsible for some kid not getting anything t xmas.”
“So would I, Mims. All mine do though.”
“You mean you’ve been allocated fifty really good children?”
“Nah. There’s no such thing, is there. But I’ve got fifty children who all get good reports.”
“You dinna cheat, d’ye laddie? You could get chucked oot o’ there for that.”
“Oh no Wick. You see, I just get the kids to cooperate. Easy really. And it’s such a nice job. You know, I always liked kids, got it from you Alli.”

And so the conversation went on until it was time for buckets. Of course, Treg couldn’t let himself be seen by THEM so he just waited down the hill, in the fog until we came back. I asked him to tell us a story for xmas and he told us one about one of ‘his’ children that he had to watch. I’m not sure if it as true or not, you cant tell with Treg, but we all enjoyed it and his company for the rest of the day. When I get a spare moment, I tell it to you as far as I can remember it, but we are out of time now, I’m afraid.

FogThursday 27th December 2007
‘Once upon a long time ago, the world was covered in ice. Only a few places were partly clear, allowing a few scrubby bits of green to show through. One of these places was in England, in the south west, in what is now called Dartmoor but then was known as Highrocks because that was mostly what it was. You would have thought that nothing could live in such a wild, cold and stony place. But you would have been wrong.

Circling high above the rocks were ravens and buzzards. Now they couldn’t exist without food and so you could tell that there must be some tiny mammals living there as well. Those mammals had also to eat so, scattered between the rocks and under the frost were various forms of vegetation. What wasn’t to be expected though, was the herd of wild ponies that lived in the place. I say ponies but they were not any recognisable breed, just ponies as defined today as equines of under a certain height. Not only would you not recognise the breed but you may not even have recognised them as equines of any kind. This was largely because of their coats which were very long and made them look more like the highland cattle of today. All that was missing was the horns.

Their leader was a ferocious stallion whose name in human terms sounded something like Flickrrr. He had led his herd for about ten years now, having taken over from the previous leader after a fierce battle, when he seen that the herd was being lead into certain danger and possibly extinction. Since that time, his reign had been unchallenged. There has been equines in this place for as long as the herd memory existed. As the climate had changed and the ice had advanced, they had been forced to retreat higher and higher up into the heights. They had developed into a very hardy and resourceful group able to scrape a living from the meagre vegetation by crushing it with their hooves. The good thing was that their natural predators had failed to acclimatise and had, one by one, died out. All but one!

This animal had managed to survive in much the same way as the herd had except that she was on her own. No other member of her species was now living. She was the last of her kind. And, the most deadly. She didn’t have a personal name as she would have needed to have if there were others. But she was known by all the members of Flickrrr’s herd as The Mimbles or, more usually, The Dreaded Mimbles. Whereas the herd’s other predators had hunted them to eat them, The Mimbles just hunted them for ‘le sport’ as she liked to say. No one was safe. They would be quietly grazing when, all of a sudden, ears down, this mad creature would swoop and someone would be left wondering why they had been born. All except Flickrrr, strangely enough. It was not that she was scared of him. Rather , in a funny sort of way, she liked to think of him as more of a mascot. They had never actually met close up although they had watched each other, carefully, from a safe distance.

Of course, it had to happen. One day when …. ‘

“Sorry Treg, we’re out of time. Can you finish your story tomorrow?”
“I’ll just look in my appointments book, Alli. Hmm. Yes. Ok, I’ll come back and finish it later although you may have to tell it for me again as the DWGP is keeping me pretty busy. Planning for next you, you know.”
“OK Treg. And thank you.”

ShadowsFriday 28th December 2007
One day when Flickrrr was taking some time off from his leadership duties and had left his second in command to keep guard, he had wandered quite a way from the herd just following the grazing as it appeared from under the rocks. Without realising it, he had worked his way around one of the big outcrops of granite and was now hidden from the herd. Sensing rather than hearing anything, he looked up sharply and found himself face to face with The Mimbles. Both stared at each other. Neither batted an eyelid. Neither looked away. Flickrrr could feel the hackles on his neck rising in anticipation. And then The Mimbles spoke.

‘Do you ever get lonely, leading the herd all the time?’
He continued to stare at her, trying to find the reason behind the question.
‘Don’t you ever get lonely, being out here all by yourself?’
Both stared harder and then broke into smiles.
‘You’re not so terrifying. I wonder why they call you that.’
‘Call me what?’
‘The Dreadful Mimbles’.
‘The Dreadfu …. Well, you know what the trouble is, don’t you? You make them feel too secure so that when something out of the ordinary happens it takes them by surprise. It frightens them.’
‘And you don’t do it on purpose then? Frighten them?’
The Mimbles just smiled. ‘I didn’t say that.’

As they chatted, both relaxed more and soon they forgot the time and just enjoyed each other’s company. When Flickrrr looked up at the sun, he realised how long he had been away from the herd. He knew he ought to return but he was reluctant to leave. The Mimbles had noticed his upward glance and understood what was in his mind.

‘You don’t have to go, you know. The herd will get along fine with your second in charge. In fact, he has been a bit impatient to take our place for some time now. Why not come with me? Unless, of course, you are frightened?’

Flickrrr looked back at the herd and then at The Mimbles. Suddenly, he knew that his heart was not his anymore. Whatever she was, The Mimbles had bewitched him and he had no choice. There was no need to go back to the herd and make his explanations. They would just think that he had perished and carry on as before with their new leader. One thing they did notice though, as time went by. There were no more attacks from The Mimbles after that day. And long, long after that day, the herd came into contact, for the first time, with another herd, wandering about on the high moors. And when they got talking, they discovered that at some point back in both herd’s history, the same two names kept occurring, almost as if they shared a common ancestry.’

“And that was Tregs xmas story with all the h’s added. Just before I go, I have one bit of news for you from today. One of THEIR neighbours came along to the house today to tell them that Wicky had got through the new fence and was grazing on their land. When HE got on the quad bike to investigate, HE found that the lower wire had mysteriously got snapped and Wick had presumably just walked under. Now I wonder who did that? HE was ever so pleased to spend HIS afternoon fence mending.”

SapinSaturday 29th December 2007
But nearly as pleased as HE was to spend all day, virtually, today putting up a new mesh fence to stop Wick doing it again. This morning, after THEIR breakfast, HE decided that the temporary repairs that HE had made yesterday were not good enough to last over the new year week end. HE thought that if HE went to the local shop in the village to get some wire netting, they wouldn’t have the kind and size that he wanted and they would say that they could order it which would make a further delay of unknown length. HE therefore decided that HE would have to go to the store where HE went yesterday to buy some more flexible water pipes to mend yet another leak in the stable, this time to the Big Man’s drinker.
HE had had an interesting time yesterday and had learned the meaning of yet another French word. It was a word that HE had thought that HE already knew the meaning of but no. HE learned to HIS cost that it didn’t mean what HE had thought, at all. On his way to the town which has the really good building material store, HE passed first a road sign laying on its face and then, a kilometre further on, a sign saying ‘gendarmes’. Not knowing what to expect, HE cut HIS speed and, sure enough, he came upon a group of policemen, one of whom was waving him down. THEY had been stopped once before in France by a police road block and had to produce THEIR documentation so HE was getting ready to do this when the policeman changed his hand signals from stop to proceed. Breathing a sigh of relief, HE did so and saw that their had been some sort of road accident and a great big lorry was stuck down a field at the side of the road.

Having made HIS purchases, HE was on the way home when HE saw that there were ‘route barre’ signs up at the entrance to the road. Knowing that it was just a lorry off the road, HE decided to be a Frenchman and ignore the sign. However, when HE got to the accident site, the route was indeed barred by a great big cran which was lifting the lorry back on to the road. There was, however, a sign ‘deviation’ just before the hold up. Thinking that this sign meant ‘detour’ HE set of down the route indicated. However, that was the very last emergency sign that he found. HE did eventually find HIS way back home but decided that the French word ‘deviation’ is just the French policeman’s word meaning (politely) ‘go away’.

That was yesterday. Today HE had no problem getting to the store, buying 100 metres of ‘grillage pour moutons’ and bringing it back home. HE remarked that it was a shame that they didn’t stock ‘grillage pour les petits cochons’ as THEIR plumber calls Wicky but sheep fencing would have to do. HE then spent the next three and a half hours, first stripping out yesterday’s temporary wire and electric tape repairs and putting in a new unbroken bottom wire strand and then putting up seventy metres of sheep fencing on the posts between our field and our neighbour’s. We all went to inspect what HE was doing at first but HE was too busy to spend time with us so we lost interest. It was nearly time for our supper when HE finished. HE just had time for a late lunch and then HE was back working for us. I bet HE sleeps well tonight.

Canabis and SunnySunday 30th December 2007
The first thing Wicky did was to go and look at the new fence. There is just no way now that he can put his head through, let alone his whole body, to get at the uneaten grass on the other side. I noticed him later just standing in the middle of the field. Not eating, not doing anything, just standing. And, I am sure, sulking.

We continue to make life difficult for HIM by not coming in for our meals. Basically, Mims and the Big Man seem to take it in turns to just stand outside the fence waiting for HIM to come an fetch them. Me, I am easy. I stay with Mims until she comes in or is led in. Then I just follow on and go into my box. There have been several times when I have felt sorry for HIM and have come in on my own. But, as soon as HE closes my gate, I just panic. I can eat my food and just stand at the gate calling for Mims. HE never brings me in now or bothers to box me until HE has Mims in her box. This leaves HIM with the decision. Does HE bring the Big Man in and hope it will inflame Mims enough to make her follow on or does HE bring her in, knowing that I will follow but that HE will probably have to go out again and get the big fellow? HIS decision is made worse these days since the thaw and the following rain as now the entrance to the field is just one big mud bath filled with holes where our hooves have been. HE said to HER that maybe it would be a different story if we were hungry. Probably.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Where has that year gone?





SkylineMonday 31st December 2007
Where has the year gone? Well, it went something like this…..

January: 1. Wick had a bad foot and needed ‘bed rest’. 9. THEY saw this house and made an offer. 15. Tom to vets and boiler packed up. 18. Farmer agreed to sell field behind house. 20 THEY signed the ‘Compromis’ papers. 24 Snow. 29 New farrier 31 Mims skin problems.

February: 2 Our English horse food ran out. 9 Estimate from ferroniere for stable grills 10 Soiree with house vendors. 13 Ceiling leak and computer blow up. Also Wick had coat trimmed. 24 Arnold turned up.

March: 1 Quad bike ordered. 4 PC had to be put down. 6  Our teeth rasped with electric machine. 17 Arnie injured his leg. 19 Snow again. 26 Tom to vet again. 30th THEY signed the Acte de Vente and bought house. 31 THEY moved most of THEIR stuff.

April: 2 Moving day. Cat flap disappears. 3 We horses get loose. THEIR stored furniture arrives. Quad bike and large remorque are delivered. 5 Mims runs away to Solide. 10 We need our fly masks on. 11 The geometre measures our proposed new field. 15 Olive tree planted. 19 Alli had a swelling. 21 Gladys is hired. 23 Tom to vets for third time. 24 Met Wally the builder.

May: 2 We give rides to children next door. 3 Alli’s birthday 4 TV fixed 5 Mims’ birthday. 8 THEY decide to get Wick a companion. 9 Wicky loses half of his hoof. 15 THEY buy a Sat Nav machine to stop getting lost. 21 Wally starts on stable. 26 THEY learn of Extreme needing a home. 30 THEY get the new Kia Ceed car. 31 Our field is topped.

June: 1 Extreme arrives. 7 We are visited by Solide and Nougatine. 11 The plumber starts work. 15 Concrete is delivered for stable apron. 16 THEY buy small remorque. 18 Chicken house delivered. THEY see photo of Sonny. 19 Sonny turns out to Sunny when she arrives. Bookcases and wardrobes arrive. 20 Lawnmower arrives. Hens arrive and THEY get the first egg. 24 HE starts to paint living room 30 THEY give first of two soirees for neighbours and friends.

July: It was a hot month with flies. 4 Stable doors fitted. 7 Secord soiree for rest of friends and neighbours. 10 Stable floor tiles delivered – fitted by 17th August. 11. Morgan found viper in garden, 12th Wally finished the stable. 16 Sunny’s first mouse. 20 We horses got out into THEIR garden. 26 Ragwort clearing started. 30 We had a fight and broke the stable wall.

August: 3 Post and rail fencing broke. 4 Wally came back to mend and strengthen the stable wall. 10 Brian meds the broken post and rail.  Abbie, Steve and Rachel come for a brief visit. 12. The corn is cut in the field behind the house. 20 THEY found Mims and I shivering. 23 Sunny went for her operation early due top precociousness. 26 We all had baths.

September: 1 Big X breaks the hose for a laugh. 3 The box grills are fixed. 10 THEY cant find the septic tank. 12 I am diagnosed with jawbone arthritis. 19 Grass seed is sewn in the field behind the house.  24 HE gets a ride on mower and fencing for around the terrace. 28 Tom gets a tail injury

October: 4 I was accidentally locked in all day. 7 Mrs lopsided the chicken was bitten by a dog whilst in the neighbour’s garden. 9 The septic tank was found and emptied. 12 THEY send note to neighbour offering to repair fence to stop the hens getting in. 18 I hurt my face on the grill whilst trying to bite Big X. 19 Abbie, Steve, Ben and Rachel visit. 20 The hens start to lay in the barn. 21 First frost. Poppy seeds planted round field. 23 THEY bought the field behind the house. 26 My face swells up badly and the vet gives anti biotics. 29 The new field is topped and the brambles round the poplars cleared. Our winter haylage was delivered. 31 The new field and half the old field are limed.

November: 2 The fence and hedge separating the poplars was removed. 5 All remaining fruit trees pruned and sprayed. 10 We were allowed out in part of the new field for the first time. 14 Wicky breaks through electric fence to get at better grass (twice). 19 Kitchen cupboards installed. 24 We were let into THEIR garden again for a treat.

December: 2 A memorable day – Wicky wouldn’t eat. 4/5 Oliver erects new fences in new field. 10 Wicky stuffs himself in the new field and couldn’t eat again. 13 Christmas lights erected. 17 We start telling Xmas stories. 20 We have six burst water pipes in the stable. 28 Wicky breaks into the neighbour’s garden for better grass and snaps wire.

A bit brief but you can read the detail in the archives if you want more. A happy New Year to you all. Let’s make 2008 a wonderful year!

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