There are intimations of spring. This morning, I found the very first snowdrops. There were just two tiny clumps, on the rough ground, their buds still tightly furled. But there they were, brave harbingers of life to come. I was so excited that I exclaimed out loud.
The birds are suddenly singing their heads off. The woodpeckers are sending out their rhythmic rattle from the woods. The robins and tits are pairing off, and chasing each other around in a frankly blatant manner.
Even Beryl the Bird, the hen pheasant who visits the horses most mornings, pitched up today with a boyfriend. He is a big cock pheasant of several seasons, and the Horse Talker and I have now got it into our heads that Beryl has run off with a dirty old man. She’s clearly after his money. We are quite shocked. We did not think she was such a wanton.
There was even sunshine today, and the mercury climbed to a dizzying four degrees. We took all the rugs off, to let the equines stretch and bask in the sudden warmth. (We are talking in relatives here. It’s still glove and hat weather, but after so many days of windchill and zero degrees, it feels like the South of France.)
Stanley the Dog catches the new spirit in the air, and plays wild games with his ball. He has a very funny habit of burying balls all over the place. He carefully takes one, makes a little hole, puts the ball in it, and replaces the earth with his nose. Then he has the crazy fun of going about digging them all up again. Once discovered, the ball is thrown in the air, caught, chased, and practically juggled on the end of his nose. He is a one-dog circus act of his very own.
It has been a long, hard winter. It’s not over yet. More snow is forecast for the weekend. But just today, as the sun shines, and the air is gentle, and the frost goes out of the earth, my heart lifts with the thought of spring.
The naughty Blue Tits, flirting their heads off:
The old oaks and beeches:
One of the very few sadnesses about living so far north is that it is almost impossible to keep rosemary alive. It gets done by the ruthless winds, and turns brown overnight, as if someone has gone at it with a flame-thrower. This is the very first one that I have kept going for more than one season. I don’t count chickens yet, but I live in hope:
One of the things we do with the herd is give them a morning haynet. It means the hay lasts longer than if you just put it on the ground, and it keeps the horses occupied, because they have to pull the stuff through the small holes. We are very lucky to have a magnificent farmer who gets us the best stuff, and the girls absolutely love it. It’s one of their favourite parts of the day:
Autumn the Filly:
Myfanwy the Pony:
Red the Mare, with her goofy hay-heaven face on:
And looking a little more demure:
Stanley the Dog, going ball crazy:
Two views of the hill today:
One of the Dear Readers asked if there was a structure on top of the hill. There is indeed. You can see it more clearly on some days than others. It is a perfect cairn, a built pyramid rather than an ad hoc mound, and it was put up by a widow as a memorial to her husband and son. I do not know who they were or how they died, but it’s very touching.