Friday, 30 April 2010

Another Guinea Pig Dilemma

Back in November 09, I wrote about one of my grandson's guinea pigs (his guinea pigs live with us as he is allergic to them). Gemma needed an operation to remove a bladder stone...the total vets bill came to just over £500!! She is now fully recovered and as you can see by her shiny coat is doing very well...

...however, now Gemma's son, Ginger, has also been diagnosed with a bladder stone (the problem can run in families). My first reaction was that we couldn't afford another £500 but then again why shouldn't Ginger have the same chance of a healthy life as Gemma. Also if it had been one of my dogs or cats I wouldn't have given it a second thought but just because they are small creatures they aren't really any less important.
Above all else I actually really love little Ginger. He was a surprise arrival shortly after we bought the guinea pigs for Jack's birthday so he has been with us from the word go. There is no way I could have him put to sleep when I know I could do something about it... added to which my grandson has promised all his pocket money towards the op, which obviously I won't accept, but it shows how important Ginger is to him decision made.
I am sure lots of people will think I am nuts spending around £1000 in 6 months on two guinea pigs but that is the way I am. I hope this will be the finish of vets bills for a while though or I will end up having to go back to work:-)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Dawn Chorus...of Cars.

This morning I decided that it was time to properly enjoy the wonders of the dawn chorus so at 5am I dragged hubby out of bed and we set off to the ponies with a breakfast of currant buns and coffee in the backpack.

To me it felt very early and the birds were singing with great gusto but unfortunately it was just the start of another day for a lot people who were off to work and car after car drowned out the magical, joyful bird song. It was very disappointing and although I should have really felt sorry for people who have to leave for work so early in the morning, at the time I felt really resentful

It was a bit quieter by the time we got to the ponies as it is further away from the road but by then the best of the dawn chorus was over. It was still good to be out at that time in the morning and we enjoyed our picnic breakfast. Of course inquisitive Tavey wanted to know what was going on and had to check out my walking pole to see if it was edible...

...and then he wanted to know if I had saved him any currant bun (which I hadn't).

In retrospect, despite the car noise, it was a nice start to the day and I feel so lucky that at 5am I could be walking across beautiful countryside, spotting wild flowers, rabbits, foxes and deer and two happy little ponies, instead of having to drive to some boring job in a stuffy office...I've been there, done that and never want to do it again:-)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Feeling Sheepy

The Old Surrey Downs Project have returned the sheep to the Tatsfield site so we are back to stock checking them again as well as the ponies. The area where they are grazing is on the side of the North Downs and there are beautiful far reaching views. Unlike before, our visits now benefit from the warmth of the sun as it is a very much a sun trap. The top fields are now bordered by masses of Violets and Primroses and rabbits, making the most of the better weather, scuttle back to their underground world as we walk down through the fields. It is such a pleasure.

As a reward for our work, all the stock checkers were invited to the farm to see the lambing in progress. It is good to see this new life knowing that these lambs are not be going to be eaten but will live, for as long as their health allows, as conservation grazers. Some of the older sheep are now in their teens:-) The following day we were back on the downs to help with the back breaking job of hoof trimming. All very enjoyable.

Today it is our day for checking the ponies. When we walk to them we pass the SSSI land that was cleared last year using heavy machinary and still hasn't been grazed. It will be interesting to see how the two sites develop as they are virtually side by side. At the moment they have mostly the same flowers coming through, although, the machine cleared area has far more Violets and an area of Coltsfoot.

The pony area has more Cuckoo Pint but that is probably because it is a more sheltered site with more trees but if Rufus has anything to do with it they will all be eaten. I think he is coming up to two so is probably teething and likes to chew on something hard.

Sadly although the volcanic ash has grounded most flights in the country there still seems to be flights going in and out of Biggin Hill Airport so we can't enjoy the peace and quiet but it does help a bit not having the constant buzz of planes stacking for the major London Airports. One day I would like to move to a place where I can't hear any planes or traffic...that's if such a place exists in this country.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Early Morning Moment

My family and friends wonder why I get up so early when I don't have to but it is simply to revel in early mornings like today. When I opened the curtains at around 6am the lightening sky was clear with the hint of blue that promises a beautiful day; a soft mist lingered just above the field; the birds, mostly still in their roosts were greeting the dawn with happy songs; there was not a breath of wind... a picture of still serenity...apart from two young deer who were cavorting round and round, up and down, full of the joys of spring. What a lovely way to start the day and I wouldn't miss it for anything.

The past few sunny warm days have brought everything racing forward. The Violets in the pony field have been joined by Wood Anemones, Primroses and Celandine.

My Lavender seeds are sprouting well in the greenhouse along with all the others seeds we've sown and the sowing continues. Everywhere I look there are seed trays including the kitchen table. Unfortunately a lot of the perennial weeds are also sprouting well and it looks like I will be fighting quite a few battles this year especially with Cleavers which seem to be coming up all over the place. The battle with the weeds is one, I know from experience, I won't win (unless I use chemicals) so it doesn't bother me anymore I just pull up what I can so they don't completely take over and try to appreciate that they too are part of nature...even though those horrid stinging nettles have already got me twice...grrrr

I had a peep under the weed suppressant sheet that we put on the top of the bank several years ago in the hope of making it a sitting area (as it has beautiful views) and sure enough the slow worms were out in force enjoying the warmth after surviving such a cold winter. It is a shame we can't use our sitting area but its a small price to pay when we have inadvertently created a habitat for these funny little creatures who are multiplying up there at a tremendous rate year after year.

I have always loved nature but have never really found out how to study it properly so at the age of 55 I thought it was about time I did something about it, so I have just sent my application in for an Open University Course on the subject. I am very excited and can't wait to get going on it:-)

Friday, 2 April 2010


The first flowers to show themselves on the SSSI land grazed by the ponies are Violets and lots of them.

My Granny loved Violets. She said they had saved her life when, as a little girl, living in Windsor Great Park, where her father was a game keeper, she had been given them because she was desperately ill with a bad chest. She apparently quickly made a complete recovery. I don't know if it was in gratitude but my mother's middle name is Violet.

My granny also used to tell me a tale of King Frost who wanted a wife to warm his heart and was sent Violet whom he adored, but Violet was sad that she could no longer be with her own kind, so as King Frost loved her very much, he allowed her to return home during the months of March and April and that is why all the Violets come out to greet and party with her during those months:-)

She was always telling me little stories which I used to listen to intently but she also had a wicked sense of humour so frequently I believed everything she was saying only to find out it was a big joke.

Another thing that has reminded me of my Granny just lately is the sight of a Starling in the garden. We very rarely get them here anymore for some reason (although they are in other areas of Biggin Hill) but I can remember my Granny, who was crippled with Rheumatoid Arthritis, waving her walking stick at the masses that used to congregate in her garden. She used to hate the way they would stop the other garden birds from eating the bread she put out. I think she would be very surprised now to find I get excited if I see just one in my garden and I think she would also be very sad to know that in some areas birds like Sparrows and Starlings are having a hard time.

Having been brought up in Windsor Great Park she had a lot of wildlife on her door step and loved all aspects of it. She used to tell me that her Father (the game keeper) often said that everything in nature must be balanced for everything to survive and it concerned her in her later years that, because of human activity, things were becoming unbalanced. She would be very pleased to know that areas of special natural interest are now being conserved and of course she would have loved Tavey and Rufus.