17 marzo 2009

The ducks played a little duck joke

The ducks played a little duck joke on us last night. We couldn’t find them at dusk to put them away: they’d just disappeared into thin air. For a fox to have come and taken both of them in broad daylight without leaving any trace seemed almost impossible, especially as both the dogs were around and would surely have barked. We looked all round the garden and in the woods, in the barns and outhouses and all sorts of nooks and crannies but no sign of them.

This morning I looked out of the window hopefully, in case they’d arrived back during the night and were pecking away in their run, but no. Thinking sadly how much we really are the kiss of death for ducks, I went out to feed the rest of the animals. When I was getting Cassie’s hay from the barn I heard a little quacky noise, and then the male duck popped up chirpily from behind a bale of hay. He looked at me with a kind of “Yeah? So what?” look. He and the girl duck must have spent the night in a cosy corridor squeezed between the bales and the wall of the barn.

Very funny, ducks.

In reality, they were being very clever: right at the back of where they’d slept, I found an egg. Her first egg since they stopped laying in December, and proof that she has recovered from her recent near-death experience with the fox.

16 marzo 2009

It was a gorgeous, starlit, warmish evening

It was a gorgeous, starlit, warmish evening, and I was out looking for the dogs when I had this really bizarre, Harry-Potter-like experience: my torch picked out a pair of bright green, glowing, apparently disembodied eyes gazing at me from the walnut tree. I had Maxim on the lead and he wasn’t bothered by it at all so I figured it couldn’t really be an evil witch from the land of the dead come to suck my blood . . . so I continued to stare into the branches of the tree and the eyes stared back, occasionally blinking. It wasn’t scary but it was totally, totally freaky. My first thought was that it was an owl; but an owl would have flown away pretty quickly. What was so odd was that I couldn’t see any form or body around the eyes at all, even when I moved the torch beam. Just the eyes and the tree branches.

I gradually circled down and closer to the tree and the eyes followed me . . . And of course it turned out to be a damn cat — not one of ours — when I got beyond its comfort zone it leapt down and ran away into the night. Ok, that doesn’t sound like much but it was a very weird experience.

Alessio did the illustration for me and it's pretty accurate.

2 marzo 2009

It’s still quite warm

It’s still quite warm and we’ve been able to do some work outside. John has started digging out a space for the big tanks we bought to collect the rainwater from the roof to supplement the tank we already have. The new ones hold 1,000 litres each. We need to line all three tanks up in a row at the same level and connect them all together so that the water only needs to enter the first thank but all the tanks fill up. We should get Filippo with his digger to do it, but John seems to be quite enjoying the challenge. Alessio helped him when we got back on Saturday from what turned out to be an ill-fated chess tournament (his team came seventh out of nine), and he dissipated some of his chess rage via hard physical labour.

While all that was going on I raked the bottom half of Cassie’s paddock, which we’ve separated off, preparatory to sowing grass. It was a nice warm evening and felt quite springlike. Yesterday I sowed the grass seed while Cass looked on in astonishment from the other side of the fence (I had the seed in her feed bucket and she was incensed that I was apparently just chucking her feed away without even consulting her). Today it’s raining lightly which is just perfect.

Had two consecutive clear nights at the weekend without a moon, and I finally saw the comet I’ve been trying to locate for ages. It’s comet Lulin, recently discovered (2007), very faint but you can see it through binoculars. It’s a greyish greenish fuzzy smudge, powering along out there, heading past us and out of our solar system. It won’t come back, if at all, for another thousand years. On Friday night I located it just near the star called Regulus in the constellation of Leo, and the next night it had moved visibly 3cm or so up the sky (a long way in astronomical terms!). It’s an amazing thing and it blows my mind to see it. It’s moving really fast and away from Earth now, so it won’t be visible through binoculars for much longer, and the moon’s light will start to affect it shortly as well. So I might never see it again.