Posted in Charity, Fitness challenges

Fitness Challenge March 2021: Step into Spring for Marie Curie

Photo by Mnz on Pexels.com

I usually try to have at least one fitness challenge a year, as an incentive to get fit, as an adventure (see Chesterfield Canal), as something to look forward to… Of course, last year’s ideas of walking Lancaster Canal and climbing Ben Nevis ended up being pipe dreams. Even when my gym was reopened (for a brief period of a few months), I felt too cautious to return and so my fitness has deteriorated over the last year. But enough is enough. My fitness, my weight, my physical health, my mental wellbeing needs a helping hand and so it was that I came across a newspaper story about the charity Marie Curie looking for people willing to take on the Step into Spring Challenge.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Marie Curie cares for terminally ill people and their loved ones. The charity has nurses, hospices, a support line and a bereavement service. Marie Curie says:

We’re here to support everyone in the UK through all aspects of dying, death and bereavement – and to fight for a society where everyone gets to lead the best life they can, right to the end.

Marie Curie

The challenge asks fundraisers to walk 10,000 steps every day during March. This can be in any way, whether walking up and down the stairs or doing a fitness class via Zoom or going for a local walk. It’s a tad trickier during lockdown as we’re not supposed to venture far for a walk. Oh, and then there’s the fact that I work from home at the moment so I can’t even walk to and from work.

So, interesting… I will let you know how it goes! Saying that, there have been various stories about fundraisers using initiative and resourcefulness to raise cash during lockdown, such as the 100-year-old Captain Tom who walked around his garden.

Here are some ideas:

  • Walk the dog
  • Walk to the shops
  • Stepping while on the phone
  • Stepping while watching TV
  • Enjoying a local nature walk
  • Walk with a friend
  • Dance to some music

If anyone would like to sponsor or feels inspired to take part themselves, the web links are below. Maybe you don’t live in the UK or you have a different charity close to your heart, why not make your own Step Challenge for your favourite charity?

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/

https://step-into-spring.blackbaud-sites.com/fundraising/clares-step-into-spring-fundraiser-for-marie

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise/stepintospring

Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.

Posted in Gardens

The littlest sunflower

Flowering!

Once upon a time there were five seeds who each had the potential to grow up to become tall and handsome sunflowers. This was during a pandemic and a time when an entire nation was locked down; its population was getting weary and worried. But these five sunflower seeds had power. They had the golden opportunity to grow … And grow smiles on admirers’ faces.

So beginneth the tale of the Littlest Sunflower.

Back in April 2020, my friend Emma held a sunflower competition via a WhatsApp group called Battle of the Plants. We were all sent five sunflower seeds (I received mine on May 1) and a recording form and we took it from there.

There were ‘spot’ awards throughout the growing period and prizes for the tallest plants. Photographic evidence and vital statistics were needed. There was no entrance fee but a donation to our chosen charity. I met Emma while volunteering at The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall – a charity which would be desperately needing funds at this time – so I donated to them.

Contestants came from all over, Lancashire, Somerset, Devon, Wales, Portsmouth, near Heathrow. Romania was the furthest. There was humorous banter about the judges. Unfortunately Mr Titchmarsh declined the opportunity to join the judging panel but Charlie Dimmock’s brother Charles, along with Monica Don and Tom Attorney, joined the judging panel! πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‚

One contestant started her sunflower’s life in a yogurt pot. Another had a M&S egg carton for hers. Then there was a milk carton, cut in half. I lovingly sowed mine in five colourful pots, trying to make sure I used proper compost so there would be no intruding weeds.

Sunflower pots

The first prize was for a seedling at least four inches tall. Some contestants’ seeds were doing well, with most sprouting. Others were still waiting for their first seedling. Like me.

Tips were given to fellow members such as: “I think mine were a bit dry and cold, have given them extra water and warmth and it seems to have done the trick.”

Some contestants got quite technical – and it paid off. The first spot prize went to “the lady who is using ‘aquaphonics and channelling the power of the super moon”.

There were disasters and near-disasters. Fellow contestant Linda told us: “I had to repot ours as we had a cat disaster. I carry them in from the conservatory at night when it’s chilly and put them on the kitchen window sill. Agatha our cat knocked them all down (on purpose I think). There were shoots everywhere and mud. I managed to find nine shoots from the carnage and repotted”.

And one day, lo and behold, I got seedlings! I happily sent a photo but was told that, alas, those pesky weeds had sneaked in after all and were busy posing as sunflowers. But these imposters were found out – their stems were too weedy to be sunflowers.

It was disappointing but I learnt a tip and that was to move the seeds further up, nearer to the top, so they wouldn’t drown.

But there was one seed which had promise, for this one had become a true sunflower albeit a tiny, feeble one.

All my hopes were on this guy now.

Other contestants boasted of great heights, already! Their seedlings were already growing up and getting moved out into the garden. Mine was a mere baby, still needing to be mollycoddled and even then ….

And even then a major disaster in June – my one hope, my only hope had snapped, breaking in two.

That was me out then. But kind Emma gave me another chance and I received five more sunflower seeds. Will these do any better?

Measuring time

While my five seeds started to sprout and grow, there was drama aplenty with the other flowers.

Some were murdered by slugs (Mr Dimmock recommends broken egg shells, cut hair or coffee grounds), others pelted by rain or blown by the wind. Mine were still indoors, carefully propped up in their pots with mini stakes.

My tallest was now 14cm. Then, like its predecessor, it snapped but its nearest sibling was now at 13cm. The smallest withered away but one continued to grow…

And then one day in the middle of October the little sunflower, the last one remaining of his siblings, woke up and started to flower.

Will it flower?

A late bloomer indeed! Not long after, I received a certificate to celebrate my little sunflower!

A late bloomer!
My certificate!
Posted in Environment, Nature

Rewild Yourself – a book of ‘nature spells’

Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes

When I was a child I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and, for a while after, I was convinced that one day, just one day, I may just pop into a magic wardrobe in MFI, or some other furniture store, and enter a magical world. (The wardrobes at home were disappointing to say the least). Unfortunately I never found this elusive wardrobe, or indeed Narnia. (I never found a way to visit the Care Bears’ Care-a-Lot either, childhood is full of disappointments!)

But a different sort of ‘magic’ truly exists, one that inspires us, thrills us, motivates us, makes us feel happy… Sometimes some of its ‘magical creatures’ may appear to be invisible as unicorns and when we eventually glimpse one of these ‘fantastic beasts’, it feels like a magical experience. So what is this wonder that heals our spirits and minds, that makes us smile?

It’s nature.

Recently, I bought a copy of Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes. Using the allegory of magic and the inspiration of fantasy stories, Simon Barnes explains in 23 chapters (or ‘spells’) how to make nature more visible. It’s a brilliant, easy to read, accessible book that would be perfect for those just getting into nature and inspiring for the well-established nature lovers. Each chapter feels magical – ‘We can make a magical transition from one kind of place to a completely different kind of place and do so, if not instantaneously, then certainly within astonishingly few minutes’.

And then there’s ‘so you can enter another country – the wild country – not through a wardrobe but by means of a Magic Tree. Enter, then, with joy. And after that, you can turn your mind to another spell’.

Tips on how to enter a new world…

Yet along with this magical feel, thanks to Simon Barnes’ eloquent prose, each chapter has a handy practical – and often simple – hint to attract or discover wildlife. Do you have a pair of ‘magic trousers’ or have a ‘magic tree ‘ that attracts butterflies into the garden?

So while as an adult I know there’s little chance of finding a wondrous world at the back of my wardrobe, my garden on the other hand ….

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Creating a Wildlife Pond

The new pond

Last autumn, Simon dug a pond in the newly cleared decking area of the garden.

The old pond, a large black container which was placed in the hens’ garden, had been dug out a few months prior. It was too deep, in an area which was sheltered with overhanging trees, hard to access or even see because of surrounding shrubs, and, perhaps worse of all, the chickens kept insisting on drinking from it!

The water had turned stagnant and smelt dreadful and I do not know what happened to the pond plants I had put in there a few years ago. The cobbles I had once delicately placed around had gradually slipped in over the last two years and there were no life forms living in or around this hostile environment.

So we took the large tub out, dug compost over the hole and relocated the pond – this time using a small (albeit heavy) sink. Duckweed and water plantain were planted in the pond and cobbles decorated the edges. It was all set and ready for wildlife to visit. In fact, a mere five minutes or so after completion, a little robin arrived and perched at the side of the pond as if giving his approval.

The old pond in the chickens’ garden, guarded by Florence

Pond Facts

1. Wildlife loves ponds, whether it’s as a habitat or watering hole. In fact, I’ve heard that one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden is to dig a pond. For example, frogs are dependent on garden ponds as they need water to breed.

2. My first pond was in an awkward place, not helped by overhanging trees. Christine and Michael Lavelle suggest trying ‘to avoid a site that is shared by trees because they will not only cut out light, but their leaves will drop into the water, enriching it with mineral nutrients.’ This attracts algae in the warmer months.

3. There are three types of plants for ponds – oxygenator (for oxygen), deep-water aquatics (shades water from too much sunlight), and marginal/emergent plants (offers shade and cover for animals at the edge of pond. They are also used by dragonflies and nymphs to ‘crawl out’ and pupate).

Information taken from The Illustrated Practical Guide to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle.
Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Morecambe Bay: St Patrick’s Chapel and the Stone Graves

St Patrick’s Chapel and the stone graves

Heysham, near Morecambe, Lancashire, overlooks Morecambe Bay. At first glance it doesn’t appear to be a big place or have much of interest. But explore a little deeper, past the housing and the small village centre. There is the nature reserve where I once learnt about willow weaving. There is the ferry port where Simon and I sailed to the Isle of Man for a holiday. There is the nuclear power station…

But drive on past the ferry port and head to Half Moon Bay (not very well signposted in my opinion). Park opposite the little cafe (operating as a takeaway when we were there because of Covid restrictions), enjoy a hot drink, and then walk towards a modern artwork along the cliff.

Created by artist Anna Gillespie, SHIP is a sculpture of two figures sitting on the bow and stern of a ship. It is a celebration of the landscape and maritime heritage of Morecambe Bay, with one man facing ‘the old’ of St Patrick’s Chapel while the other man looking towards the ‘new’ of Heysham Nuclear Power Station.

Anna Gillespie’s SHIP at Half Moon Bay

But we had no interest in ‘the new ‘ today, so turning our backs away from the power station, we continued along a path towards the ‘old’. This is the fascinating St Patrick’s Chapel, a ruined Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, standing dramatically on the headland. The ruins are believed to date from the 700s or 800s. An excavation dated the site even earlier to the late 500s or early 600s.

St Patrick’s Chapel, Heysham

Author Karen Lloyd, in The Gathering Tide, writes: “There’s a local story that St Patrick, after whom the chapel is named, landed at Heysham bringing the Christian message from Ireland, founding one of the earliest Christian Oratories and communities on the headland.”

An information board about St Patrick’s Chapel

Archaeologists have found graves in the grounds of the Anglo Saxon chapel, these were of a later age and included the remains of a Viking woman, buried in a shroud, along with a decorated bone comb.

St Patrick’s Chapel, Heysham

It is thought that Vikings travelled to Heysham during the 900s, from Ireland and the Isle of Man.

The rock-cut graves atop the headland are a puzzle. Karen Lloyd says they “exude mystery and enigma.” Unfortunately there are no grave goods left and so impossible to identify a date for them. Karen says: “It’s thought they pre-date the first chapel to be built on the site. The 7th to the 11th century was a time of huge flux and change at Heysham that witnessed a mixing of cultures and belief systems”.

Curiously, while researching about the tombs afterwards, I read that they appeared on the cover of The Best of Black Sabbath CD.

The stone graves

According to Wikipedia, when another excavation was held on land below the rock-hewn graves, more than a thousand ancient artefacts were found. It turned out that people lived here 12,000 years ago.

The church of St Peter, again a Grade I listed building, sits behind the ruined chapel. An Anglo-Saxon church was once located here and even earlier back, in the 600s/700s, it’s thought a church was originally founded here. The church’s architecture dates back to various times – including the medieval ages – but was completed in 1864. Unfortunately we were unable to enter, I expect due to the restrictions at the time. It was a shame as I would have liked to have seen the Viking hogback stone (a grave cover dating back to Viking times) but we did have a wander around the graveyard. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric place to be buried, overlooking Morecambe Bay. At the back of the churchyard was a path taking us back to the ruins.

St Peter’s Church, Heysham

It would be a very peaceful place to be buried.

We passed through Morecambe on the way back home. I think this sunset encapsulates the spellbinding splendour of the Bay.

Sunset over Morecambe Bay, as seen from Morecambe Promenade
Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Morecambe Bay: Beware of Quicksand

Morecambe Bay

Morecambe Bay in Lancashire is beautiful. If the weather isn’t great, it can be moody and atmospheric. And on a bright, clear day, it’s even more spectacular when you can see the magnificent Cumbrian mountains in the distance.

But whatever you do, don’t ever walk across the sand without the Queen’s Guide.

I went on a fundraising walk across the Bay in 2012 for a local charity called Galloway’s. There was a group of us following Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands. He had his trusty stick and his vast knowledge of the terrain, having been the Guide for many years. Needless to say, we all got across safely. Tired, wearing dirty boots on our exhausted feet, maybe a little smelly of damp mud, water and sand, but we got back safely.

Morecambe Bay

But one day in August 2020, Simon and I visited Silverdale in Lancashire, overlooking Morecambe Bay. We walked along the beach towards Arnside, a little village located at the southern edge of Cumbria. I showed Simon the town across the bay, and told him that I believed it was Grange-over-Sands. I added that there was no way we could cross over there without the Queen’s Guide because of the danger of quicksand.

We carried on our walk, taking a route away from the beach, towards Arnside Tower, an ancient fortified ruin which deserves its own blog post. After a takeaway drink at a little cafe in Arnside, and a spot of plum picking, we headed back towards Silverdale, this time along the beach.

Curiously, while there had been many people on the beach earlier, these had all disappeared. It felt like we were the only ones, which might sound romantic except for what happened next, which was more reminiscent of a horror film.

Looking back, I remember signs warning of the danger of quicksand but assumed it meant sand further out. Of course, I knew it would be daft to trek across the Bay. I had said the very same thing earlier. But as we were walking very close to the edge of the beach, near the rocks leading away from the seaside towards the path, I thought nothing more about it, even when the sand started getting thicker, wetter and sludgier. The tide was coming in, yes, but it was still far off. No need to panic…

Morecambe Bay

Thank goodness for my new walking shoes!

But new hiking shoes or not, it really was getting harder to actually walk through this diabolical sand. Alarmingly, I also realised that I was slowly sinking in with each step I was taking.

The realisation hit me. This was no ordinary sand, this was quicksand. In my naivety, I had assumed the quicksand was lurking ‘out there’ but actually it was here and I was in it and I could no longer move. I was sinking and I could not move my legs.

Simon was faring no better. Even worse, he was further out than me and carrying a heavy rucksack. Even Simon was in difficulty.

It was time to start panicking.

Morecambe Bay sands

Thank goodness we weren’t too far from the safety of the rocks. Thank goodness Simon had the presence of mind to push me so I could clamber onto the cliff. I had lost one of my new walking shoes in the process but, again, thank goodness Simon found it (thinking it was a floating piece of litter at first) and threw it over to me before it was swallowed up by the mud.

One down, one to go. At first I assumed it would be easier for Simon to get out but he was a little further away and in the time that I had scrambled to safety, he had sunk even more. Despite his strength, he was having difficulty lifting his leg to take a step.

He was stuck.

It was like a horror film with a swamp monster hungrily looking for victims. The scary thing is that there really have been fatalities over the years. Perhaps the most famous case recently is the one of the Chinese cockle pickers in 2004. Tragically, 24 of them died.

Quicksand is a serious and deadly issue.

Treacherous sands

So these thoughts were going through my increasingly hysterical mind while I stood on the rocks. I felt that if I ran off to look for help, Simon would have disappeared under the sand by the time I got back. At one point, I desperately held out my handbag towards him to cling on to as if that would have helped.

Just as well Simon is clearer-headed than I am. Using determination, strength, willpower and sheer focus, he managed to lift one leg out of the muddy sand – and then the other. And again. One leg … at a time…

It was a slow process which felt like longer. But he got there.

Now there were two of us on the rocks, disbelieving as to what had just happened.

Simon told me that if he hadn’t have been able to get out, he would have tried to use his rucksack as leverage to propel him forwards. Watching survival expert Ray Mears on television has its uses!

The picture below shows a very muddy and relieved me.

Muddy clothes and a smile of desperate relief
The treacherous sand

Facts about Quicksand

  1. Quicksand is ‘loose wet sand that sucks in anything resting on it’ (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). It forms in ‘saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated. When water in the sand cannot escape, it creates a liquefied soil that loses strength and cannot support weight’ (Wikipedia).

2. Guides to the Sands have used laurel branches for marking safe routes. They have done this for centuries.

3. These ‘brobs’ are seen in Turner’s paintings of Morecambe Bay.

4. According to Wikipedia, it is impossible for a person to sink ‘entirely into quicksand due to the higher density of the fluid…sinking beyond about waist height is impossible’. However, ‘continued or panicked movement, however, may cause a person to sink further… it can lead to a situation where other factors such as hypothermia etc may harm a trapped person’.

Posted in Thoughts on life and spirituality, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Morecambe Bay: Sunderland Point and Sambo’s Grave

Sunderland Point

Lancashire’s underrated scenery is often ignored in favour of its more popular, more famous, more spectacular neighbour, the Lake District. Lancastrians will often head to the Lakes for a day’s hiking or a weekend away (I am no exception, look at my previous mountain rambles detailed on this blog!) Holidaymakers will drive past the county in their bid to reach Wordsworth’s Paradise of the Lakes and Mountains. Even my Lonely Planet Walking in Britain book features the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District and the Lake District but apparently there are no walks to be had in Lancashire! No scenic beauty!

Wrong.

There are many beauty spots in this very county and one such is Morecambe Bay, a destination crammed with nature, beauty and history.

Sunderland Point

Even in the modern age, there are places of stillness and tranquillity where you feel far, far away from the 21st century – and one such spot is a remote village called Sunderland Point. Author Karen Lloyd describes it as “if a warp in time as well as space had been crossed. Take away the street lights and TV aerials and you could imagine yourself back in the 18th century”. I cannot help but agree, that too was my impression of this unique olde worlde place.

It sits at the southern end of Morecambe Bay, at the end of a tidal causeway – which helps give it an isolated feeling – and overlooks the River Lune.

But behind this serene exterior lies a dark past. This lovely, tiny hamlet of only a few houses, which overlooks such a peaceful scene, actually has a tragic history.

Sambo’s Grave

There is a spot in this remote haven called Sambo’s Grave. Sambo (the name given, no one knows his real name) is believed to have been a black slave boy, possibly the only survivor of a shipwreck off Sunderland Point, although no one really knows his story.

In 1796, this grave was erected by Rev James Watson – about 60 years after the death of ‘Sambo’.

This remote hamlet was once seen as important because of its connection to slavery. In the early 1700s, the village was developed as an outport for the neighbouring city Lancaster, which was heavily involved in the slave trade.

According to Karen Lloyd’s The Gathering Tide, between 1736 and 1807, around 29,000 slaves were carried from West Africa to the West Indies on Lancaster’s ships.

However, Sunderland’s contribution to the slave trade was short-lived. By the end of the 1700s, Sunderland was no longer the go-to port. There were problems with the River Lune silting and competition from new ports – the newly constructed neighbour, Glasson Dock, and the much bigger Liverpool. Sunderland Point had now become ‘Cape Famine’.

It is strange to see a juxtaposition of beauty – the scenery, the tranquility, the wildlife – and the horror of the misery and suffering of slavery.

The grave was erected 60 years after the boy’s death

And yet, have we, the human species, moved on? Perhaps not. There are still atrocious human rights abuses taking place all over the world on a daily basis.

Our species can send astronauts out to space and to the moon, create vaccines and boast about AI and the latest technology, and yet too many humans still don’t know how to treat others with even the most basic levels of compassion and respect. How to treat others in the same way they themselves would like to be treated.

But I still have hope that one day our descendants will have a future where people can live alongside each other in harmony and peace. One can only hope…

Sambo’s Grave

Information about Sunderland Point comes from The Gathering Tide by Karen Lloyd

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

Christmas Greetings

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas from all the residents at Cosy Cottage….

Tom and Tim

.. And all the best for 2021.

It has been a difficult year for many of us and this Christmas may feel very different but I always feel that this time of year is one of hope, both for religious/spiritual (Jesus’ birth) and seasonal reasons (looking ahead to spring). And so I send you my hopes that 2021 will be a better year for us all.

Cosy Cottage will be taking a break from blogging until January 10. See you in the new year. 😊

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets

Tribute to Florence

Florence

Just over three years on from her arrival at Cosy Cottage, Florence crossed over the Rainbow Bridge following a period of ill health.

Florence’s life and death left a bigger impact on me than I thought possible with a hen. It was Florence who really showed me how complex and lovable chickens really were. And what an impact such tiny creatures can have on their human guardians.

She made me smile and worry and feel protective.

She made me laugh, like the time she was brooding and stubbornly insisted on sitting on a plant pot after I closed the coop door.

Broody Flo

She taught me to be more patient and caring during her illness.

And to be less screamish about mealworms!

Flo first arrived with her two sisters Jemima and Dottie in 2017, they were slightly older than her by a couple of weeks. The difference in Florence and her siblings was apparent straight away. While Jemima was quiet and reserved and Dottie was chatty, they were both confident in themselves and about humans. No, they did not want to be picked up, thank you very much, but this was only because it was their personal preference. They were not scared of humans on arrival. Merely tolerated them.

Florence, on the other hand, was terrified. When she saw a human, she flapped her wings and made a big fuss.

“Murder! I’m being murdered!”

It’s hard to believe now but this state of fear was really the case for the first few weeks of Flo’s life here.

Florence

She was a real little scaredy chicken.

Was the sky going to fall in? It was, it was!!!

Oh dear, poor Flo.

Dottie would then helpfully peck her on the top of her head to put her back in her place.

And then, as I wrote in https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/florence/

Florence changed from a frightened Cinders into a confident and charismatic Cinderella.

She became popular with all. When my godchildren came to visit, she proved a big hit with Noah, five at the time. As she was the only hen laying, she was the most amenable for being picked up. Which she was. A lot. But Flo’s patience shone through.

Dad admitted she was his favourite and Mum described her as the “best hen”.

I think it was because of her personality, but the eggs would have helped too.

Of all the chickens, she was the best layer. During spring and summer (except when brooding), she laid eggs nearly every second day. This year there was no brooding so she broke all records for her egg laying.

No mean feat for a little Pekin bantam.

And the eggs were absolutely delicious.

She knew it too. How Flo boasted about her eggs after she laid them! Her egg song proclaimed her eggs were the best of all the world! Not just the world, the universe!

But she also had her broody moments, where she proved very stubborn indeed. She was going to have chicks and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Florence and Jemima

Her broody adventures can be seen here: https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/brooding-buddies/

and here: https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2019/08/17/the-broody-sisters/

Jemima, Dottie and Florence

Flo was very independent, often seen doing her own thing, digging away for worms. Worms was her favourite food. Whenever I held a bag of mealworms, she would be jumping, trying to grab them from my hand. When I started digging, she would be first there, eagerly anticipating tasty creepy crawlies.

She was also demanding. Especially first thing in the morning when she would insist that it was time to be let out of the coop.

Did I say she was popular with everyone?

Hmm, maybe not the neighbours.

There’s a reason why the girls have longer lie-ins these days.

I used to have to run to let them out during the early mornings before a squawking Florence would fly and jump angrily at the coop door.

“Let me out! For **** sake, I’ll be missing the worms!” I could imagine her screeching.

Florence had her ups and downs with her friends. She never had any ‘besties’ and was often on her own, digging away. Although when it was brooding time, she was often seen cuddling up to Jemima, her fellow brooder.

Dottie always seemed to patronise her, pecking her in a “I’m bigger and older than you” sort of way. But it was Mabel who she had a real feud with. A feud that started a year ago when Florence was brooding – in what Mabel perceived as her nesting space.

This summer, Florence had a welcome break from Mabel when her enemy was stuck indoors.

‘Staying at Home’ like a good girl during lockdown? No, she was brooding, waiting for imaginary eggs to hatch. Sometimes – the irony – she would be in what Flo would think was her nesting space and Flo would fuss and grumble until I took Mabel out and left Flo to do her hard work in peace. Eventually Flo realised that there were other levels and other corners in the coop, which could also be used to lay eggs in.

But when Flo was out enjoying herself and saw her broody foe come out of the coop, she would give a loud screech.

“**** off!”

And sometimes she would ‘swear’ for no known reason.

Ava and Florence investigate the wood shavings

Flo always came across as a sweet girl so her reaction to the new kids on the block, Mabel and Ava, was very surprising. The pair came to Cosy Cottage a year after Flo, Dottie and Jemima. Of course, I had heard that chickens could be hostile to newbies to the pecking order but somehow I expected more of Florence.

But no, instead of acting like a good neighbour, when she saw the new ladies, she flew at their coop in a fit of anger.

Towards the end, when I looked after Flo in my house, she proved to be a determined girl as she battled illness. A scratch on her eye developed into an infection. She went to the vet on two occasions, receiving antibiotics, an injection and painkiller. But despite a brief recovery, she took a downturn and never recovered.

On her last day, I thought she had gone but then she half opened her eye … as if to say “goodbye”.

Florence

Goodbye Flo, a golden girl in colour and personality, the garden and coop feel a lot quieter without you.

* For those who don’t know, Rainbow Bridge is a poetic term for the afterlife for animals.