Our neighbours have a dog which they sometimes politely apologise for. They apologise for its barking and the lovely Sharon and I scratch our heads and try to recall hearing it bark at all. It must bark sometimes, as that is what dogs tend to do. But it blends into, and enriches, the sounds around us that we absorb unconsciously.

About a week ago I heard it bark at night. I don’t really know how to explain it but I knew the bark was different; the first hint was probably the fact that I registered it at all. It is a strange link between a dog and man and it is one that goes back thousands of years; a link deeply imbedded in our blood.

The following night I heard it again. The dog was trying to tell us all something and I had a suspicion that I knew what it was. I wanted to pat the dog and tell her that it was ok and I knew, I understood and that we would all keep a watchful eye out. Two days later and my suspicion was confirmed when I arrived home and spotted this:

The sly fox had been on the prowl and had his eyes on the hens. I tried to assure the lovely Sharon that he probably just wanted to say hello to the hens and maybe just give them a cuddle. She didn’t believe me and instead insisted that we reinstate the very strange habit that we have for collecting my pee. This is not a joke and I have heard from several people and read in several books that it is effective. Every couple of days or so I collect my pee in a bottle, and we are led to believe that it only works with male pee, and the bottle is left by the back door. Then it is up to whoever carries out the closing of the gates to add the pouring of the pee around the coop to their nightly chores. We had gotten a little lax with this disturbing duty and this may have given the fox enough courage to investigate further? We cannot be sure.

A different, less potent, mixture was made up today. A mixture of two parts sugar and one part water was made in huge quantities to begin the autumn feeding of the bees. They need the syrup to replace all the honey that we have stolen if they are to have a hope of surviving the winter. Over the coming weeks they will be feed as much syrup as they desire for them to carry into the hive and store in the comb.

Earlier today we ventured into the forest to see if autumn was truly here or not, to see if we are being foolish feeding the bees too early. We are not; the leaves on the trees are already beginning to turn on a few species like the horse chestnut. I wandered through the trees with the little man strapped to my back making strange noises and the lovely Sharon getting a little frustrated by my walking style. She wanted to walk and I wanted to stop and wander off the path and look at all the mushrooms.

We spotted what we believe to be a young puffball

The day had the feel of late September more than late August and the mushrooms had sprung up everywhere due to the cool air and heavy showers. Hints of fairy rings could be found in the dark shadows and we even spotted a mushroom that I always love to see; the fly agaric. It is eye catching and iconic, and I often see it many times in the illustrations of the little man’s books. It appears bright and playful but is of course deadly. It is poisonous. However, this did not deter some brave foolish souls many years ago. Some attempted to eat enough to give hallucinations and not death. If that was not weird enough other people would then consume the pee of those who consumed the mushroom and receive the hallucinations without the toxic chemicals. This practice is believed to be the origin of the practice of people getting ‘pissed’.

The deadly and hallucinogenic fly agaric – the stuff of children’s books