Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Smells Like Team Spirit

We sell our excess eggs which helps to pay for the chicken feed. I was talking to my Dad on the phone the other day, and he was bemused to hear that our roadside stall has an honesty jar for people to leave their payment. I think he thought that in this day and age such an old-fashioned notion was just asking to be exploited. I assured him that not only do people pay up, sometimes they leave more than the asking price, despite us leaving sufficient small change in the jar. Or they leave an IOU and come back in a day or two when they have the cash. And often, they leave a bag with empty egg boxes tied to the gate, so we can reuse them. Dad was absolutely astonished to hear of such - well, community spirit I suppose.

Yesterday, while I was buying milk in the (sole) small shop in our village, a delivery driver came in asking for directions. The girl behind the counter didn't know the address he was looking for, and asked if I knew it, which I didn't. So - in a move that I'm sure would have Dad shaking his head in disbelief again - she said, 'Oh, I'll ask Eleri,' and leaving the shop untended she and the delivery driver walked up and across the road to knock at a neighbouring cottage and ask if the people there knew the address! Having lived here for seven years I have got used to the friendliness and helpfulness of people in this part of the world, but even so I was amazed. I feel very lucky to live here!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Power of Names

It's my own fault. I was asking for it really. Naming our gander after a vampire - what was I thinking?

It started innocently enough - our geese are a traditional Welsh breed called 'Brecon Buff', so it seemed a good pun to name the female half of the duo 'Buffy'. And by logical extension, her mate became 'Angel' (note for anyone reading this not familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: some of the following may be lost on you...).

Spookily enough, Buffy died (got eaten by a fox) and rose from the dead (we erected fox-proof fencing, got a replacement goose, and named her Buffy). She turned out to have many other things in common with her namesake too, being independently minded, strong, loyal and fond of cheese (OK, I made the last one up. But trust me, there are parallels).

And Angel turns out to have much in common with HIS namesake. He's heavy-browed and brooding. He adores Buffy and tries to protect her at all times - even though she's more than capable of handling herself. He'd probably look good in a long, billowing leather coat. But more than anything else - once he's known a moment of 'true happiness' [sic] he turns into a psycho.

Most of the time Angel is a sweetheart. He postures a bit, but basically he's a big softy. But in spring - oh boy! - the breeding season arrives, and our handsome hero is transformed into a vicious, soulless sadist who tortures his innocent victims rather than killing them cleanly (he aims for the fleshy parts of your legs instead of going straight for the throat).

In Witchcraft, much is made of the power of names. And as a witch, I feel I really should have known better. Is it too late to rename him - Riley, perhaps?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Twilight in March

Still in the air
Stars in the branches
Birds sing the day
Down into night

Ice in the wind
Buds in the hedgerow
Spring dances on
As winter bows out

Paganism, permaculture, poultrykeeping and now poetry! What an alarmingly alliterative blog. Perhaps I can procure a portrait to put with the pictures...

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Candles, Cats & Cawl

Well, it's been an eventful few days since my last post.

On Monday, the senior citizens' lunch club that I work with went out to the local pub for cawl, a traditional Welsh broth/casserole of slow cooked beef or lamb with vegetables, served with bread and cheese. It's often eaten at this time of year to celebrate St David's Day (1st March), St David being the patron saint of Wales.

That evening gales were forecast and they arrived with a vengeance, knocking out our electricity supply just as we were about to cook dinner. We are well prepared for such events, so we passed a not uncomfortable evening thanks to candles, torches, a battery-powered low energy light and our woodburning stove with a kettle singing on top of it! I tend to think we are fairly sparing in our use of electricity, yet being without any for the night really highlighted how much we actually do use and take for granted. We couldn't watch TV, videos or DVDs, listen to music or check our emails, (not that we'd do all of those at once, but it's nice to have options!), we couldn't cook the meal we'd planned (we had to change to something we could heat on the woodburner), put on our electric blanket when we went to bed or use the central heating (which is oil-fired, but has an electrical control panel) etc etc. Plus there was concern about the food in the freezer defrosting, and the mains-powered fire alarm kept 'pipp'-ing to tell us the electricity was off. All of this we normally take for granted.

The next morning we were still without power, so we rang the Electricity company. To their credit, they were round within an hour and soon had the fault (power lines shorting out on tree branches) sorted out.

I spent the afternoon clearing stuff away in preparation for the building work we're having done. In the evening I went out for... cawl! This time with the WI, which I joined a couple of months ago as part of my resolution to get properly involved with the local community. I'm not sure the WI is really my 'thang', but for now I'm persevering - and it was a good evening.

This morning I was up at the crack of dawn to get all the animals fed & watered early so I could take our cat Tigger to the vet for an X-ray. She was diagnosed with asthma a while back but has been wheezier than usual just recently and the vet wanted to check her over properly. I stopped on the way home for some shopping, and to my embarrassment when I got back Harry & Andy (who are doing our building work), were waiting on the drive! Most of the rest of the day was spent in a haze of brick-dust, but by the end of the day the good news was that the wall between kitchen & dining room has come down and we are well on the way to our new kitchen-diner!

The bad news was that Tigger has some kind of growth in her chest cavity, most likely a tumour. We should know the full results in a week.

Tonight I'm tired, feeling a bit brain-dead. More building work tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

This is the life!

Last night as I was shutting up the chicken house & the goose shed for the night, I stopped and just breathed for a minute. It was dusk, and a beautiful full moon was just cresting the horizon in a clear sky. Birds were singing what sounded like a thanksgiving at the end of a beautiful day, and a tawny owl was heralding the onset of night with quavering 'hoo-hoo's. Spring was unmistakably in the air.

Sometimes - usually when I'm sliding around in the rain and mud, cleaning out the chicken house or when the slugs have just polished off my entire lettuce crop overnight - I wonder 'Why on earth did I think this was the life I wanted?' But on evenings like the one I have just described, there's no question why.

This evening was a different story. As I went to shut up the chickens & geese it was absolutely pouring with rain and blowing a gale. Despite my raincoat & wellies I was soaked through in minutes, the ground had become treacherously slippery mud, and Angel the gander is getting very stroppy as the breeding season approaches and hence thinks aiming vicious pecks at my legs instead of going peacefully to his shed for the night is a great idea (funny what testosterone can do to a chap). Yet I still paused after shutting them away and thought how lucky I am.

Why on earth did I think this was the life I wanted? Sometimes it's very hard to say exactly why. But I'm in no doubt that it is.