Recently I wrote a post about planets and a reader’s comment about bite-size facts reminded me of how much I too love quirky and fascinating, interesting and informative facts. I was further reminded when I met my friend and godchildren. Noah, eight, presented me with various factsheets about swans, parrots and peregrine falcons. It turned out to be a very educational weekend – for me!
So here are some facts, courtesy of Noah…
All the swans in Britain belong to the Queen.
Swans can live for 25 years.
It is illegal to kill swans in Britain.
Peregrine falcons can reach up to 200mph when diving – they are the fastest animals.
There are only 10,000 blue and gold macaw parrots left in the wild and 1,500 scarlet macaws left. This is due to the pet industry and loss of habitat because of deforestation.
And here are some extra facts, courtesy of me (and The Miles Kelly Book of Life):
There are at least 360,000 types of beetle – they make up about one-third of all animal species.
Most spiders have six or eight eyes.
Spiders sometimes run fast but it won’t be for very long. The Miles Kelly Book of Life states: ‘Their breathing system is not good enough for sustained exertion’. So don’t worry, spiders can’t catch you!
What is the simplest animal? It is the sponge, which has no proper brain, muscles, nerves – or even eyes.
What mysterious animal that’s rarely seen alive and lives in the deep ocean? Answer? The giant squid.
If I am ever stranded on a desert island, please supply me with a good book of facts and I will be quite content!
Thursday morning was just like any other during this long, hot and rainy Summer of 2021. As I got dressed and ready to leave on my walk, the weatherman was detailing our potentially severe weather and projected inch or so of rain for later that afternoon. The dew point and humidity were both at 75 […]
Linda’s duckling story from her blog, Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy, really cheered me, it’s a wonderful animal rescue story but it also highlights the best of humanity and what can be done when people get together to help out. Plus the ducklings are so cute and I love a happy ending (spoiler alert)! 🙂
When the pandemic first hit last year, Britain was already becoming a divided place politically. Of course, there have always been opposing points of view and political parties vying for power but, for the most part, debates were generally good natured. And then the EU referendum happened and the opposing sides were called ‘racists’ and ‘snowflakes’, debate got more and more fiery. When the result to leave – a close result – came in, the temperature became even more heated. There were calls for a second referendum; political parties stood for staying in, another vote or leaving; there were arguments among families and friends. Brexit, as the referendum result was called, dominated the news to the extent that I am not entirely sure what else was going on in the world in those days. On the news in the evenings I could see EU protests behind the newsreader and at times I felt a sense of dread. People were very angry on both sides.
And then Brexit was forgotten about as if by magic. A pandemic hit the world and the news focused on that. And at the start, apart from the toilet paper wars in the supermarkets when shoppers greedily bought up all the remaining toilet rolls, there felt a sense of unity (to me at least). This type of crisis had never happened before in our lifetime and although we were stepping away from each other on our daily walks in case of infection, there still felt a sense of camaraderie. There was a NHS clap on Thursdays, 8pm sharp; Captain Tom with his £30 million fundraising walk around his garden; morale-boosting dances on TikTok; volunteers helping out… We were on the same page at last. Or so it seemed.
Except a darker, more judgemental side to humanity started coming out. From the best of intentions, the NHS clap became an excuse by some ‘clappers’ to judge their non-clapping neighbours. And some of those who didn’t clap couldn’t understand what they saw as the ‘virture signalling’ of the gesture. Lockdowns had many controversies in themselves. Some people wanted to stay locked down until the virus completely went away. Others believed lockdown was unnecessary and wrong from the very beginning. There were bickerings about the lockdown rules themselves.
It became illegal not to wear a mask in certain places (unless people had an exemption). I had no issue wearing one although they did make my glasses steam up! However, some people had genuine reasons for not being able to wear one. I know a man who, when visiting a book shop, was asked if he had asthma attacks when he told the bookseller he had asthma (one of the exemptions). Rather a personal question – needless to say, he didn’t buy anything from that shop.
I came across a Mumsnet forum about masks on the internet. A victim of sexual assault wasn’t able to wear a mask as covering her mouth up brought back horrific memories and gave her panic attacks. This was no excuse for some of the virtuous members of Mumsnet though, who always wore masks to look after others. The sexual assault victim was being selfish of course, at least in their eyes.
The latest bone of contention are the vaccines. I’ve had both so am no anti-vaxxer but believe that people should have a choice as to what goes into their body. But there is talk about vaccine passports (maybe it’s fine for big gatherings, if it’s on a strictly temporary basis – such as during an emergency, and there is an alternative of a test, but what if this isn’t the case?) I am no conspiracy theorist, but I do think that while we may currently accept we’re living in unprecedented times, we should always be aware of potential slippery slopes.
I have a friend who is reluctant to get a certain vaccine because there have been blood clots in her family and there have been reports of vaccine-related clots. She decided to wait until another vaccine became available. A very valid reason but I suspect she too feels judged.
A lot has happened over the past year. Some people have died, have suffered, are still suffering from the illness itself. Some are vulnerable because of health conditions and are frightened of getting Covid. Some haven’t been able to see their loved ones for many months because they live far away, in another country, or maybe they’re in a care home with strict rules. Lockdown isolation and loneliness has damaged some people’s mental health. And then others have lost jobs, businesses, wages, homes… And then there are those who are terrified of us all gradually slipping into a dystopian society. Who would have dreamt two years ago we would have accepted lockdowns? It would have been unheard of!
I read somewhere, we are all in the same storm but we’re in different boats. We all have our fears, but they may be of very different things and unfortunately there seems to be no one-fit-all solution. One person’s answer (lockdown) may feel like a recipe for destitution to another. Another solution which aims to save jobs (ending lockdown) may feel like inviting death.
Like Brexit, it often feels that society is becoming divided into ‘them’ and ‘us’. The non-mask wearers, mask wearers, vaccinated, non-vaccinated, the pro-lockdown, the anti-lockdown, the old, the young … Instead of an intelligent and measured debate, both sides resort to name calling – the sheeple and the covidiots. The lockdown lovers and the granny killers.
Like Brexit, why take part in a reasoned debate when you can call each other names like five-year-old children? When did life become so ‘black and white’ rather than have nuances of grey? I have been guilty of this way of thinking too, judging and making assumptions. I have also changed my mind several times over the last year. Covid has really made me realise how different all our lives, priorities and fears are. Same storm. Different boats.
There is a lot of division, hatred, fear and negativity in the world right now. It doesn’t have to be this way, in fact, in shouldn’t be this way. If humans are supposedly intelligent enough to fly into space, why can’t our species actually talk to each other, listen to each other and work with each other? Imagine what we could do with a little more cooperation and a little less judgement and hypocrisy? End poverty, stop persecution, hatred and wars, solve the climate change crisis, protect our vital natural wild spaces, save endangered animals from extinction..?
Live in a more peaceful and contented world?
Maybe it feels natural to fall back into our tribe mentality, especially when we feel fear, but I don’t think that’s good for our health. Which is ironic during a pandemic.
This spring the chickens have had several day trips to Buttercup Meadow, aka my back garden.
Buttercup Meadow’s main arena is fenced off to avoid escapes but that didn’t deter Dottie who kept insisting she wanted to dig for worms outside. The fact that I may not have wanted holes in that part of the lawn didn’t enter her head.
Mabel somehow managed to sneak out, the grass being greener on the other side, being her motto. In particular the goldenrod she spotted en route …
And Little Ava, a former teacher’s pet, usually so quiet and meek, was surprisingly the worst for squeezing through the hole of the fence. She didn’t like Buttercup Meadow. Oh yes, she loved the delicious food it offered, but not the confines. She was, she said, happier to be on the outside, mooching about the flower beds, nibbling away at the grass. She wouldn’t go far, she promised. And Ava being a good girl, I believed her.
Jemima was often the last one to leave despite being leader. It must have irked her to see her usually good flock doing their own thing and not following her, as always, excellent example.
Once they sampled the delights of Buttercup Meadow on lazy hot summer days, they presumed they would be able to enter this chickens’ theme park at any time of their choosing. They would make their way confidently from their garden, through their gate, towards Buttercup Meadow.
“But ladies,” I would explain, “the grass is wet, it’s been raining, you’ll be covered with mud…”
“It’s alright, we will keep ourselves as clean as we can,” Mabel would cluck distractedly as she would veer away from Buttercup Meadow towards Goldenrod Corner, the tall plants beckoning her over each and every time.
At first it looked like a scratch on the eye and I blamed myself for putting the hay into the guinea pigs’ cage too hastily. Tom would always get in the way, making his way right under the hay for best pickings. I would worry that stray pieces would get into his eyes.
The scratch then seemed to turn into a weird green colour. The pigs had been out on the grass – had a strand of grass got stuck on his eye by some chance?
It wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse. It was time to take him to the vet.
The vet, a very pleasant man who called Tom ‘darling’, peered into Tom’s eyes and stated there was pressure behind them. It was either an infection or a tumour behind the eye. Or it might be glaucoma but that would cause pain and he didn’t appear to be in any pain.
Tom agreed with this last point by greedily and angrily chomping on the cardboard box he was sitting in.
Whatever the problem was, not much could be done, said the vet.
The only long-term solution, continued the vet, was an operation to remove the eye. There were cases of one-eyed guinea pigs who were happily thriving. But there were risks with such an operation due to the animal’s size and there were possible side-effects of anasethia. Also, if it was a tumour, rather than an infection, there would be no point in carrying on.
Hmmm, a big decision. I couldn’t rush into a decision like that. So I opted for the short-term answer – medication. I was given painkiller (Metacam, which is also what Florence and Blaze were given), eye drops and antibiotic. The painkiller was for once a day, the antibiotic was twice a day and eye drops were for three times a day.
Tom received medication every day for the next two weeks and the eye, which was full of pus at the worst point, seemed to start healing. The pus, the weird green colour, the scratch is now gone and from a distance it looks healed although, on closer viewing, the bulge is still there although maybe not as prominent.
Three weeks on, I check on him closely and give him the eye drops daily. He’s still chomping away on hay and joins his friend Tim at regular begging sessions for lettuce and other treats.
From past experiences, I have learnt my lesson of being too positive and optimistic when it comes to small animals, of being convinced they are better before they take a downward spiral, but in this case, I remain hopeful.
My title was going to be Snapshots of my June Garden – then I realised it was actually July. How quickly time flies! I bought a lot of plants earlier this year, planted them, then forgot about them. Until they decided to remind me with their presence…
Grimsargh Wetlands is one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves, having been created by transforming three decommissioned United Utilities reservoirs into a fairly small (it’s a 30-minute one-mile stroll around the reserve) but highly important nature reserve. Back in 2003, it was designated a Biological Heritage Site but it was in 2017 when it was formally handed over to the parish council. Grimsargh Wetlands Trust now runs the site.
We hear much of a housing crisis for people, but there is also a ‘housing crisis’ for nature as humans take away more and more wildlife habitat so when I hear of new nature reserves being formed or current ones being protected, it gladdens my heart. I first heard of Grimsargh Wetlands through a newspaper article this year after the Grimsargh Wetlands Trust, which maintains the reserve, received a £10,000 grant. This inspired me to pay a visit.
It’s only a few miles away from Preston, in the village of Grimsargh but, after parking in a side street, off the main road, we were unable to find the reserve at first. There appeared to be no signs but, strangely, once we left, we kept coming across signage! (Isn’t it always the way?)
Annoyingly, we forgot binoculars but we still saw geese and swans with the naked eye. On the website it says there is a colony of ringlet butterflies and a possibility of hearing the distinctive curlew or glimpsing roe deer through the reeds. Bats have also been spotted here too.
Directions on the internet stated it was at the back of a new housing estate. We found a path and followed, crossing a field. I think we took a wrong turning early on but our encounter with a group of children and their teaching assistants confirmed that we were heading in the right direction – especially when we came across a hide in front of The Island Lake. This is a shallow lake with mudflats. Following the path around, we came across The Fen. The Trust is hoping to create at least three ponds and increase the extent of reed beds in this marshland. There are also plans to grow more wildflowers at the reserve, especially by the viewing platforms.
Our walk took us back to the road and it was now when we noticed signs to the reserve!
We took another turning, away from the main road towards The Mere, another reservoir turned lake. Here we saw volunteers carry wooden boxes – tern nests – to an island on the lake. They were hoping terns would come to live and breed there. Interestingly, one of the volunteers said that Preston Docks – an urban location – has a colony of terns.
The reserve is next to the former Preston/Longridge railway embankment. I learnt that Longridge stone was taken from the quarries in Longridge, a small town near Grimsargh, to be transported to Preston and further afield.
It may not be the largest reserve but its habitat will be of great importance to wetland birds and other wildlife. And it is a very pleasant scenic walk for us humans too.
One day, while on holiday in Norfolk, I came across a book called The Planets (written by Dava Sobel) in a charity shop. It reminded me of the fascination I had about the universe when I was a child. A fascination that has never left me. It’s a great book with a lot of absorbing facts but with no overwhelming details on physics that can bog the reader (i.e me!) down. So here’s five facts I learnt, courtesy of Dava Sobel.
Jupiter, the largest planet and a gas giant, has no solid surface. The features we see is actually weather – the famous great dark spot is a storm for example. Storms can last a very long time, centuries even.
Luckily, the Earth has a magnetic field. This protects it from the sun’s solar wind – a ‘hot exhalation of charged particles’ which ‘keeps up a constant barrage on the planets’. The Earth’s magnetic field deflects most of the solar wind. Particles in small doses ‘trickle into the upper atmosphere near the North and South Poles’, creating the Northern and Southern Lights.
Uranus lies on its side and takes nearly 84 Earth years to rotate. It spends 20 years of its orbit with its south pole facing the sun and then another 20 years when the North pole faces the sun. This results in 20-year ‘days’ and ‘nights’. Can you imagine living in such a place?!
‘No greater extremes of temperature coexist anywhere in the Solar System ‘ but in Mercury, the planet nearest the sun. Some regions get hot enough to ‘melt metals in daylight’ and then ‘chill to hundreds of degrees below freezing at night ‘.
Fancy moving to Venus? It boasts a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit all over the planet. It has 90 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere and its clouds are made up of sulphuric acid, chlorine and fluorine.
Information courtesy of Dava Sobel’s The Planets
P.s The phrase By Jove, used to indicate surprise, comes from the name Jove, the head of the Roman gods, equivalent to Jupiter (where the planet’s name originates from).
I discovered this wonderful selection of wood art in Mason Wood, Preston. I imagine it’s depicting both the wild creatures who live here and the gentle guardians, usually invisible and secretive, who look after the woodland and its inhabitants.
I apologise for the lack of Cosy Cottage updates recently. I got sidetracked but am back again! 🙂
I was looking back at this 2017 post, one of my first ones. The plants in the above picture are no more. My dream of a plant-filled chicken garden hasn’t come to fruition because plants and hens don’t go well together! Although I have managed to plant a few fruit trees which are still uneaten! Mabel and Little Ava have joined the group but Florence (my favourite but don’t tell the others) sadly passed away last year in 2020. And I do still want to rescue ex-battery hens one day.
I wanted to be a heroine and save three lives from certain death, and a previous hellish existence.
Imagine being locked up in tiny A4-size cages with no natural light, no pecking order companions (not unless you count fellow prisoners crammed next to you), no kindliness, no space, not even to flap your cramped wings. You are, essentially, treated and seen as a machine.
Writing the above, makes me feel a sense of guilt, even now.
You see, I didn’t adopt three ex-battery hens.
Instead, I selected three posh bantams – Jemima (white), Dottie (speckled) and Florence (brown barred).
I dithered for two years, unable to choose between hybrids, bantams and ex-bats. Hybrids were given short shrift as, although I heard they were perfect for beginners, I deemed them too large for my garden. If I was going to have full-size chickens, I would adopt three or four, maybe five, former battery hens.
My heart would plead for me to sign up for one of the various rehoming programmes that would occur on a regular basis. Charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust would advertise, and I would be thinking, I’m sure the coop would be ready in a month’s time. Yes, I could sign up today for the rehoming date next month…
But my head would impatiently nudge my heart aside and urge me to look at the facts. Despite my rural smallholding fantasies, I had a small garden in the suburbs. The coop outside area was large enough for two or three full-size hens, just about, but the interior – the bedding quarters, nest boxes, perch – may be a tight squeeze for three.
Although they would probably class it as luxury compared to their previous miserable cell.
Perhaps most importantly, my head sternly reminded me I had zero experience of chickens. What if one was ill or died? It was more likely to happen with girls who had a traumatic beginning in life than youngsters who were born and brought up in the best circumstances. So I went for the ‘easier’ option.
I don’t regret getting the genteel pekin ladies, with their flamboyant bustles, flares and bootees.
But I have not turned my back on the battery girls. Some time in the future, three or four will find a home at Cosy Cottage.
In the meantime, sponsoring a hen for £4 a month is always the next best thing… 🐔🐔🐔
Facts of the Day
1. Do you have a home for ex-battery hens? Call the British Hen Welfare Trust on 01884 860084 or visit http://www.bhwt.org.uk for information.
2. JB of boyband JLS fame has three ex-bats on his farm and the 600,000th rescue hen has found a home at Kensington Gardens no less!
3. If you can’t rehome, why not sponsor a hen for £4 a month? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.