Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Catching Up

I apologise to everyone reading this for the long silence. Our change in circumstance frightened me and I lost my voice for a while. Well, my own voice. I was saying a lot of things in my head that were dark and bitter, but that were not me. And those thoughts definitely didn't need sharing.

So was does an American - even the ex-pat, overseas variety - do when her mind turns against her? Exactly.


I believe you all know my therapist, Dr. Kitty?

It's impossible to explain the healing properties of a long, quiet plod around the villages on horseback. Even the smell of horse, the warmth on the inside of your calves where they rest on her sides, especially on a cold day, along with the rocking motion in the saddle is quite possibly the key to my overall mental health. Well, that and lots of dog cuddles. 

So, instead of telling Mike that I'm off to ride Kitty, it's now common parlance in our house to say "I'm going to see my therapist." Technically that means "I'm going to see my therapist - if I'm not back in 3 hours could you come and check that I don't need scraping off the road" and I give him a rough map of my intended route. Group therapy is of course riding, or "going for a hack", with others. What a friend's husband refers too as going for a yak. You can probably work that one out for yourself.

Anyhoo, I feel heaps better and ready to embrace change. It might take a few posts to find my voice again, but at least I've got the confidence to get back on this particular horse and start blogging again.

That said, how about a quick round up of life at M&T to bring you all up to date? I will put it in categories so you can read about your favourites, and skip what doesn't interest you. This post might ramble a bit from topic to topic, I hope you can plod along for the ride.

Filming on Far from the Madding Crowd is finished, and the estate is back to its normal anachronistic state. I did one day as an extra in the market scene. To arrive in makeup and wardrobe for 6am, I had to do all my chores by torchlight. A quick wash and change, and I arrived on set to be laced into a corset and layered in calico and wool. I was then sent to makeup where the artists rubbed makeup "dirt" all over my hands and face (Lady, I could have saved you that step...), and pinned a huge bonnet to my head. I had to drive my Land Rover and box of chickens to the market area where they were filming a mile or so away, which in a wide-brimmed bonnet and tight corset presents its own set of challenges. If you watch the film look out for a chicken seller in a blue bonnet - that's me. In film, as in life, I am typecast.

It was an absolute hoot and I would certainly do animal film work again. Goat minder, toad wrangler (I keep forgetting to tell you the tale of Kevin the toad), and chicken seller are all going on my resume under 'special skills'.

Thanksgiving was quiet. It was just Mike, underkeeper Ian, and me. The turkey turned out delicious, very tender. Perhaps because of the special basting it received from Dakota.

Christmas was equally relaxed. I cut down a tree from our small plantation, and Pip helped me string popcorn decorations. Well, "helped" when I wasn't looking anyway -

One of them climbed on the armchair to reach the tree, and ate the lowest strand of popcorn string.

All the working dogs are well, too: heathy, well muscled, and better behaved than the house dogs.

The sheep are fine and the lambs are well-grown, if wet and muddy from winter rains. Pumpkin is still with us. I returned him to the flock when he started waking me up before daylight shouting for his bottle. He's been weaned now and though he's part of the flock, Pumpkin hangs out on his own a lot. He's a bit of a lone wolf - in sheep's clothing. He's runty and about the ugliest lamb I've ever seen -

He's tough though, and pushes his way into the feeder between his much bigger siblings -

No points for guessing who's got the tiny hiney.

He's so small he can push under a ewe and stand between their legs, and steal food from their feeder. He may be slow to make weight, but you can't beat him for entertainment value. Grumpy's spring ram lamb is headed for ice camp this Friday. The rest of the flock will come with us to our new job, including Pumpkin.

The long dark nights and bad weather have been great for pheasant shooting, but make other aspects of life difficult. Deer have been on the agenda this month. 

This one appears to have a dog growing out of its neck. (You would never think a dog with hips as bad as hers could be a "counter surfer".)

The stalkers are harvesting roe and fallow deer, and I've been doing my best to keep up with butchering these for our freezer and the estate (once I sent the dogs outside). I want to have a ready supply of venison when we move. It will take me some time to settle in, to get to know our new piece of ground and deer movements there. 

I just about finished the butchering backlog, and Mike and I had just sat down to dinner, when there was a knock at the door. Someone picked up a road casualty sika hind (female deer). These cases are reported to the police, then usually dealt with by the local gamekeeper. It wasn't quite dead, so I quickly despatched it. Head trauma but no body damage. I gralloched it in the dim light of the truck's highbeams, groping around semi-blind inside the animal with a knife -

We hung it in the chiller, and I tidied up my gralloching job.

As you can see, our chiller is pretty full. By the way, it's not best practice to mix fur and feather, but sometimes needs must.

We also had this unwanted visitor in our garden a few days ago -

I pulled into the drive after a trip to the feed store, and I heard a chicken in distress -the kind of cry that means something has its teeth in the chicken. The fox had been in my hen house in broad daylight, killed one of my layers and was dragging a hefty meat chicken into the hedge to store for later. That fox was so bold, it was trying to walk past me to get back in the hen house! 

I didn't have time to get a gun, and I needed to secure all four hen houses right now. Old Dakota came out of retirement for one more job. I threw open the back door and Dakota chased that fox out of the garden and down the entire length of the big house drive, which gave me time to shut the other chickens away. 

She's not as fast as she used to be, but she hasn't lost her bloodlust.

Not half an hour later I saw that old fox in the road, dragging my now-departed meat chicken away! He dropped his prize when he saw me and scuttled off. I collected the dead hen and used her to bait the fox cage we were setting in the garden. He was in there before I finished my evening chores. That fox had a very large last meal, but my chickens had their revenge.

If I've missed anything out, and anyone would like the update (and possibly a photo) let me know in the comment sections. I also have to say thanks for the kind comments and emails over the long silence. I wouldn't have a voice if there weren't good readers cheering me on to speak. So, hey, really....You know? (That's a New Englander being emotional.)

I'm truly grateful you're out there.


Virginia said...

I'm glad your back! Sounds like you have an excellent therapist. May your new adventures be grand ones. I can't wait to read about them.

Sara Rall said...

so glad to see you posting again; it's a highlight of the day for me. Best of luck with the move; I'm sure things will be easier once you're settled in the new place and not under (quite) so much stress. I look forward to hearing about it. While you were busy I was lurking in your old posts, like re-reading a favorite book. I really appreciate what you do.

Christine said...

It's good to hear you're moving on, have a full freezer, and dispatched an intruder. These make for great news! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Keep your chin held high...good things come to those who wait and it is your turn. Prayers for your continuing plans.

Frogdancer said...

I've been quiet on my blog too, but because I've been mulling over what to aim for in the year/s ahead. Now we're in the middle of a heatwave where we're experiencing 40C+ temperatures for 5 straight days and I think I can barely raise the energy to hit the computer keys.
We've only had one fox here - they can run along the tops of paling fences. Even in Autsralian suburbia they can wreak havock!

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, I don't normally comment on people's blogs who don't know me from Adam, but I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have read every post over the last 6 months or so. It is great to hear you are 'back in the saddle' (pun intended!) and please know that I am yet another of the appreciative ears out there who enjoy your skills with the keyboard. Best of luck with move prep. Funny how sometimes the most trying times in life turn out to be the biggest blessings.
-Eliza from Washington (State)

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Welcome back! What the hell is gralloching?

I think more of us need a therapist we can pay in hay.

Jennifer Montero said...

Gralloching (pronounced GRA - lock-ing) is a Scottish/Gaelic(?) word for cutting open your deer and removing all the guts. Sounds fancier and less serial-killerish that way.

Pam said...

Yay!!!! You're back!!! I've missed your posts so much. You may (or may not) remember that we live in Virginia, but are in England for 7 weeks. In West Sussex now, then to Essex for a few days business, then to the Cotswolds where we pretend that our rental cottage is really ours. Had a great pub dinner tonight and the owner's 2 spaniels and 1 pointer lined up by our table and never took their eyes off us. They must have known we were gullible American tourists and it worked-they got good quantities of our beef and Guinness pies. Can't wait to read your further adventures. Spring will be springing soon and great new things will be in order!

Jill said...

Love your blog! We all have the dark days, the great thing is that they do end and spring is on it's way! Cheers, from the Colonies:)

Anonymous said...

Very happy to see your newest post today. The recent quiet was worrying. (Will she come back? Is it all going ok?) Then again, I remind myself you're BUSY. Having recently moved myself I've got a tiny bit of perspective. Hurrah for Therapist Kitty. Be well.
~Kate from Washington (State)

Anonymous said...

Very happy to see your newest post today. The recent quiet was worrying. (Will she come back? Is it all going ok?) Then again, I remind myself you're BUSY. Having recently moved myself I've got a tiny bit of perspective. Hurrah for Therapist Kitty. Be well.
~Kate from Washington (State)

Hazel said...

Glad the therapy is working.

My dad was the village Bobby (policeman) when I was growing up in the 70's. I have memories of people coming to tell him they'd hit a deer and bringing the deer with them to the little office attached to our house.
We didn't eat them- hope they went to somebody who did...

Janice Bendixen said...

Send my thanks to Dr. Kitty for her good care of you. I figured the quiet was move-related. I hate change so can completely empathisize w the stress of moving ALL you have to move. And in less-than-kind circumstances. You, Mike and all attendant God's Beings will be better for it. And I am SO stealing the grollacking (sp?) term. My family hunters use a far less elegant word which now has been replaced in my head. Thanks for that and thanks for being w us.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back...I check your blog each day and was happy to see a new story. Good luck on you upcoming move. May things turn out even better than you hope. We have a cold, snowy winter here in Colorado looking forward to spring.

a reader of both your blogs said...

Tamar, if you ever manage to bag a deer, you will find out...

seafordwoman said...

Whopee ! So pleased you are back, completely understand the darker thoughts in the circumstances and then the need to be quiet and re-find your voice and your mojo etc.Do want to let you know how much I have missed your blog and how much I am looking forward to your future writings.
I am in the midst of trying to move too so know a little of what you must be going through- hang tough!

Anonymous said...

love hearing about your daily activities - very glad you are back - keep smilin'

number2 said...

Welcome back!

Barb said...

Glad to hear news from M and T. I, like many others enjoy your posts and your unique point of view.
As one who has recently been 'made redundant' at work, I too, am enjoying what we call 'pony therapy'. I did see a poster about all the ways that riding is good for you, and one of them was that 'your horse is a quiet non-judgmental friend'. So true.
Please know that there are many of us our here in blogland supporting you and cheering you on!

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back. And I hope your therapist gets an extra measure of oats. I know the feeling well and miss my own gelding like crazy, even after seven years.

Chris T. said...

Welcome back! Thanks for the comprehensive update, and sounds like Kitty Therapy is just what the doctor ordered. Here's hoping for more sunshine in the weeks and months ahead.

Kris said...

Yay for Dr. Kitty! This winter here in Ohio has been so long, so cold, so snowy, so windy... well, you get the picture. I wish Dr. Kitty had a call-in talk show. I'm sure I'd be on the phone every day! Glad you are working through your big change. Sure would be sad to lose such a nice internet voice.....!

Sondra said...

Wishing for you strength and fortitude as you go through the steps to resettle. We had to do the same about 4 years ago, and I understand the strength-sapping process. Keep looking doggedly to you new place and the rays of sunshine; you'll get there!