November 2011

If I had and sense then I should have snapped her neck then and there.  For a while now we have had six chickens and a maximum of only five eggs a day.  As the time to lay an egg is only twenty five hours for these chickens, we should have had six eggs at some stage.  Combined with the fact that we knew one of the chickens had been eating the eggs, this means that one of them is back to her old tricks.  It was only a week ago that I actually caught her in the act of eating her egg and I am kicking myself that I did not dispatch her then and there.  Now I have to go to the hassle of isolating her to ensure that I don’t kill the wrong chicken.  I can’t just lift her and end her now as they all look the same to me.  At this point I feel compelled to mention that some of my best friends are chickens, even though this is untrue.


I suspect she is the chicken that always hangs back from the rest.  She is the one that spends more time in the shed than outside in the run.  She is the chicken that will not rest on her perch with the others, instead she sits on the floor even after I have put her on the perch.


This evening, as the light faded through the gusts and rain, I repaired the old coop.  It now stands ready to take the prisoner.  Once I recogniser her by her ‘jizz’, a term used by birdwatchers to describe the overall impression or appearance of a bird garnered from such features as shape, posture, flying style or other habitual movements.  Then I will isolate her in this prison and wait for the proof.  If she produces no eggs, by eating them, then death will swiftly follow.  There is no point to feeding it when does not produce.  They are not pets.  We do not cuddle them or call them by any kind of name.  This said, other than fish or insects, I do not think I have ever killed a thing.  I know I will not enjoy the moment at all.  However, this morning I collected the eggs and found some dried yolk on the outside of one.  It was more evidence and refueled my desire to end it for one poor misguided chicken.

It’s dark outside and the rain is coming down a little sideways. It has been a terrible weekend in ways I cannot describe. Tonight we all needed a few distractions and they came in festive forms. The little man’s grandparents looked after him for a day over the weekend and they left an early Christmas present. I did not know such a thing was possible but they had a little story to justify it all and everyone was happy. No reason is really needed where presents are concerned. Tonight he coaxed the lovely Sharon into opening the boxes containing his big digger and big dumper truck. Then he unfolded the cardboard and played with it. The big digger eventually captured his attention when he realised he could load his wooden blocks in it, then unload, then reload, then unload, ad infinitum.

The little man’s early presents prompted the santa discussion between us. After some very deep debating we came up with a plan. We aim to keep santa very low key, neither confirming or denying until the day he asks us directly if santa is real. At that point we will ask him to clarify if he means ‘real’ in the physical sense or ‘real’ as a manifestation of our collective culture*. Of course we won’t shatter his world by telling him the truth as we are not cruel. I think no child could accept the truth that santa and his reindeer is based on shamanism and the use of the Amanita muscaria mushroom as a psychedelic drug. That truth is simply too disturbing to accept for any of us.

We did get into the festive spirit in some way tonight. We went to the back of the cupboard and wiped the dust off a bottle of brandy. A teaspoon each reminded us that it is too much for our throats and instead stirred it into a mixing bowl. All kinds of dried fruit were weighed and chopped to add a wonderful smell in the cottage kitchen. It is the beginnings of the Christmas cakes. All the hard work will begin tomorrow night but it will all be worth it in a month’s time, when santa visits (allegedly).

*of course we do realise that in a few years santa will be a necessity. I am sure we will call upon his naughty list as a necessary threat and a useful tool.

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The other five eggs are all large eggs.  I feel sorry for the chicken.

The world began with a woman,
shawl-happed, stooped under a creel,
whose slow step you recognise
from troubled dreams. You feel

obliged to help bear her burden
from hill or kelp-strewn shore,
but she passes by unseeing
thirled to her private chore.

It’s not sea birds or peats she’s carrying,
not fleece, nor the herring bright
but her fear that if ever she put it down
the world would go out like a light.

The Creel by Kathleen Jamie

I’m somewhere near the end of ‘Pip Pip: A Sideways Look At Time’. It is a sobering book that is revealing to me things that I had never seen or thought of before. I have read Jay Griffiths’ other book: ‘Wild’ and I found her writing beautiful but very rich. Her writing seems to take time to read and leaves me full of thoughts and ponderings. ‘Pip Pip’ is about time, how we relate to it and how it relates to us.

A week ago I caught sight of the oldest of timekeepers rising through the winter trees at the cottage. Recordings of the moon’s cycle are some of our oldest examples of carvings. I find it much easier to keep an eye on the phases of the moon in the winter months. I try and keep a mental note of its character as it waxes and wanes. Last week an asteroid passed close to the earth, closer than the moon. This sparked a little thought in my mind. Some may lose sleep at the thought of an asteroid arriving from space, but what if it hit the moon? What if our tides suddenly waned and never waxed back. I imagine it would be just as devastating for us and the ecosystem that we often forget we are tethered to.

the moon, wanning from full, through the cottage trees

Inspired by the book on time I found myself caught by the moon. I had just put the little man into his bed. I had just fed him his milk and we had read through Peekaboo Farm many times. He began drifting into sleep as I buried my nose into his head and smelt him, as he sliped into the land of nod. The most amazing smell in the world. The little man seems to adore the smell of his comfort blankie a little more than his mum or dad, but that does not stop me burying my nose into what little hair he has and loving the comforting smell as he drifts off to sleep. After putting him to bed I walked down the narrow stairs in the cottage and caught a glimpse of the moon through the roof window. I don’t really know how long I stood at the window and stared at the moon, and I am glad I don’t know how long. I stood and watched it as the winter winds tore under and around it and I thought about a few things. I would like to think that there were probably a few moments, in un-clocked time, where I did not think at all.

I wonder if there was any point to shifting back to Greenwich Mean Time.  The nights are darker and growing more dark every day.  The mornings had a boost of extra light for a while but it seems a pointless thing so far north.  Can it be safer for children going to school if the first week of the extra light is the school holiday?  It will be dark now in the mornings and dark in the evenings.  Today’s full moon adds a cold uplifting winter light to the darkness.  It has a name; the Celtic name for this particular moon is The Dark Moon.

dark moon by Bruce Stokes

This is the time for the murmurations.  Sophie Windsor Clive had a unique and spectacular encounter…….

In our experiments with making preserves we decided to try some crab apple jelly. We have a crab apple tree in the garden that produces a large crop of apples. The only problem is there size. I strapped the little man to my back and we all went out to strip the tree. A massive 2kg of crab apples were gathered.

I then spent an hour or so de-stalking them and chopping them. The apples were then stewed and then hung to allow all the juices to strain out overnight. This is where the problem arose. Even though I estimate that I chopped about six hundred ridiculously tiny apples, we only got three small jars of jelly. Something went wrong somewhere, and I don’t know where.