25 May 2012


What absolutely amazing weather. Surely it can't last? This morning at 8.30am, the moor was shrouded in a thick mist; still retaining yesterday's heat, but by 10.00ish it had cleared and we're having another stunning day. Bit hot and muggy for my taste but I'm not really complaining. Snippet and I went down to the river so that he could cool off before the return journey. Not a pony in sight but we did almost crash into a male broad bodied dragonfly and saw the pair of grey wagtails that hang around the stream here. There are a pair of yellow wagtails too and for ages I wasn't sure which were which. Short term memory issues.....

As I watched the buzzards soaring, I ground my teeth in annoyance at the news yesterday that DEFRA are planning to destroy their nests in favour of pheasant preservation. Here's a link to the RSPB website with a more informative article than I might produce!

Talking of birds, twenty minutes of crouching with a leafy beech twig on my head has at last produced an almost acceptable picture of a nuthatch on the nest box:

They are the most beautiful little things and I was clearly wrong about the young fledging; I think the parents were just avoiding me. The chicks are making a huge amount of noise and there are lots of trips in and out with insects. This morning, in the mist I also saw a snipe. I often disturb it in a little patch of bog and feel terribly guilty - I never see it as its camouflage is brilliant and it gives me a terrible shock every time. 

On Tuesday, Trigger had his feet trimmed and the separation that was there last time is growing out nicely. I'm really relieved as when I first got him, there were months of packing holes and fissures. Here he is looking lovely and calm. Five minutes earlier he nearly jumped out of his skin at a bird in the hedge. 

On the way up to where he lives is a fantastic section on hedge consisting almost entirely of ferns and welsh poppies. This picture doesn't really do it justice but you get the idea. 

Yesterday I took a plant round to my kind neighbour who gave me lots of hers the other week, and she showed me the newts in their pond. I have never seen so many in one place. The water was beautifully clear so you could see them whizzing around and laying their eggs. I tried to get some good pictures of them but the water was a problem. This was the best I managed. There must be hundreds in there. 

Another week of the dry rot nightmare is over. The treatment has been done (not a good smell) and the kitchen is starting to be put back together. It looks out over the garden and I'm really missing just standing there at the sink admiring the dry shade border. Time to get some work done before my son gets home from school and starts consuming the contents of the cupboards. Here are some pictures from  yesterday and today down at the river. Have a lovely weekend.

Snippet after rabbits

Heat exhaustion

Very lucky dog

21 May 2012


What a stunning day. The skylarks are singing and buzzards wheeling overhead. The beech leaves are that fresh green that only lasts a few weeks but speaks of summer.

The air is full of St Marks flies who seem to have no sense of direction and just crash into you. They only live for about a week and are supposed to emerge around St Mark's day at the end of April. 

We have a flock of sparrows that live in the nooks and crannies of the houses and they are being very noisy today. Happy with the weather and taking dust baths in our vegetable patch. Given their recent decline in numbers, it's lovely to see so many around.

Today I decided to go the opposite from the usual pony-searching direction for my walk. Now Betty has had her foal, I feel I can have a day off and go the way I feel. She is definitely a filly and I'm calling her Lizzy. Here she is in the cold mist yesterday.

So today I headed off into the wilderness where the ever invading gorse is less present and the reptiles more prevalent; a common lizard scuttling under a rock today. I wasn't expecting to see any ponies but suddenly caught sight of a whole group of young males hassling the two mares who are slightly outside the main herd. They are the mothers of foals numbers six and seven. They were being extremely annoying, galloping up the them and bucking and biting. The mares saw them off so they went for a drink together at the stream before careering away to annoy some other unsuspecting ponies no doubt. Very funny to watch and interesting to see such laddish behaviour in a big group; there must have been eight or nine of them. Not great pictures I'm afraid as I couldn't get too close.

Yesterday we managed to buy the printer in Exeter and nearly have it set up. First signs are good and even a copy of the sleeping foals on normal paper is looking excellent. Colour reproduction is very true and it's picking up the detailed pencil strokes and varying line pressure. Very exciting and I may yet get the shop open before summer!

Trigger is looking really good all of a sudden. I feed him a supplement with seaweed, brewer's yeast and linseed which, in my forced absence, he was not getting. A couple of months back on it and his coat is looking great and he's filling out beautifully, but not fatly....hoof trimming tomorrow and a walk with Snippet if there's time. 

I found the elusive four coloured hedgerow over the weekend which is a good place to stop. I have a pile of ironing that needs doing and have been avoiding it too long.

Stitchwort, Red Campion, Buttercups and Bluebells in the hedgerow on Saturday

The Waterhole up close today once the boys had left

18 May 2012


I've just got back from a walk that started with a heavy heart. Apart from everything else that's happened this week, I hadn't seen Betty for three or four days and was getting worried she'd strayed further than I'm able to trek in an hour. There she was, looking beautiful with the most enchanting foal so far, in my heavily biased opinion; it even has a little white sock like her's. A bit shaky on its legs still but quite big compared with some of the others. I've had a smile on my face ever since I saw her.

Last weekend was lovely and sunny and I went to Totnes with a friend and her daughter. I haven't been there for years. Some very strange things in the market including this fox. We also saw the train on the Dartmouth Steam Railway which was beautiful. Always meant to go on it but never have.

Bizarre stuffed Fox at Totnes market

Dartmouth Steam Railway

After the nice weekend, the week started to go downhill as the small amount of dry rot we had discovered in our kitchen escalated to a large amount of dry rot, running under the floor and up into one of the window frames. We now have half a kitchen and half a building site. No sink, no cooker and half the units out. The entire downstairs is coated in a thick film of dust. Open plan living has its disadvantages! Tuesday was my 48th birthday and I wasn't feeling too festive. Nice lunch with my mum but back to the chaos afterwards. Wednesday I was at Torbay hospital to see a specialist about my shoulder, which is very painful with limited movement. Went in expecting to be offered a steroid injection and came out three hours later on the waiting list for an operation under a general anaesthetic to try and free up a classic frozen shoulder. Am seriously feeling my age! On a more positive note, the beech hedging is all starting to come out.....slowly, and there are another couple of foals out there; numbers six and seven. I think Betty's had better have a name but I'm waiting to see if it's a boy or a girl.

Foal number six

Foal number seven

I haven't had time to any drawing at all, which is very frustrating. Also frustrating was the call from the printer company to tell me the printer I had ordered for the purpose of reproduction, was not available until June 22nd. Grrrr. It seems the Canon factory in Japan is still suffering from the floods so I can't really complain. It does seem like Canon ones are the ones most recommended for what I need it do. 

Apologies for moaning today. I think I should probably stop now and reflect on how lovely Betty's foal is. I saw a pair of Stonechats this morning which was lovely. I normally see the males shouting away on their own and I'm not sure would have recognised the female without him. Also, to finish, today I found this flower nestled in a grassy tussock, way off the beaten paths. I haven't seen it before and having scoured the wild flower books, I think it might be Lousewort. Opinions gratefully received!

Lousewort? In Germany, apparently, believed to give lice and liverworms to cattle.....nice. 

Foals one and four sleeping earlier this week

Early morning sheep sleeping on the rocks

Happy dog in the sun last weekend

11 May 2012


Fifth foal

At last, a plain coloured foal! Today is the first day it hasn't rained for some time and it has lifted my spirits, which were a bit low. I haven't been able to find the ponies for some time due to a mixture of thick mist and a herd of grass munching, invading cows. I found them today; Betty looks well and this little one looks pretty new. It was such a relief to find them all, if rather further away than I would like. At the beginning of the week, I took this picture of foals one and three, who have really bonded. It's lovely to see them galloping about together.

Foals one and three

The moor is like a big wet sponge, squelching underfoot. No amount of waterproof spray can stop it getting into my boots and wellies are so uncomfortable to walk in. Also, this winter's sock selection are of the slipping down variety. Very inconvenient yesterday in a high wind, trying to take off the wellies to pull them up and nearly taking off myself thanks to the MC hammer trousers. Luckily, no one else was silly enough to be out there in the rain and see me. I rushed off to my hydrotherapy appointment in Exeter (an hour's drive), paid for the parking, only to find that it had been cancelled and no one had thought to let me know. Very cross and very sore after two hours of driving with no nice warm water to break the journey. 

Looking better

Trigger is looking much better after weeks of hard feed. He seemed very perky this morning and I'm really looking forward to some dry walking soon, weather permitting. He's not a huge fan of rain and wind but then who is? Snippet had a good play with his lady friends too.

Stick envy

The garden is looking much better thanks to generous donations from my kind neighbour. The grass is full of dandelions overnight, threatening to seed, so the mower will be out over the weekend. One of my favourite geraniums is out and, to my great surprise, is doing well in the plant killing dry shade border.

Geranium Lavender Pinwheel

All the hedgerows round here are full of Jack-by-the-hedge (garlic mustard) but will soon be that beautiful combination of red, white, blue and yellow: Red Campion, Stitchwort, bluebells and buttercups. Having said that, I can see myself trawling the lanes with a camera to try and find the four together, and failing. Talking of elusive pictures, I took one of a nuthatch which I'm almost too ashamed to put in as, quite frankly, it could be a bit of old plastic I've stuck to a twig. I promise it was there.....honestly.

It really is a nuthatch

Last weekend, my partner found a tiny dead common lizard and brought it home so we could have a really close look at it. Normally they're scuttling off under a rock when we see them so there's no chance to get a decent view. I took these pictures because it's just so beautiful. Its tail has obviously been eaten by something but the rest is intact.

Common Lizard

And finally, this morning I noticed that one of the beech in our hedge is coming out.....just the one, but that's better than nothing. You never know, by the time the last one is out, we may get a couple of months before they go brown!

Snoozing ponies and happy sheep today

4 May 2012


A passable day with no rain yet. Whilst out walking, I heard the first cuckoo of the year. I usually hear it in April but everything seems to be late. Haven't see it yet, and when I do, I will mistake it for a kestrel or sparrow-hawk initially. If you've never seen one, they flap their wings in a very bird of  prey-ish way. Yesterday, walking in the mist, the whole moor was covered in black slugs but today there are none to be seen. Easier to spot the ponies though and Betty is getting bigger. I saw something moving in her tummy and am beginning to feel like an expectant grandmother. No other new foals yet but I think there are five or six mares to go.

Big Betty

I was busy drawing foal number two yesterday (see top right) and am getting increasingly frustrated with our lack of progress scanning and printing them. I had hoped to get my Etsy shop open by now, but the delicacy of coloured pencil drawings is proving extremely difficult to reproduce. The subtlety within one pencil stroke is being lost in the process and I don't want to sell anything that doesn't look exactly like the original. We'll get there eventually but apologies to those people who have enquired. Here's a picture of one of those delightful black slugs instead.

Where are they all now?

Finally, we planted a mixed native hedge last year which, quite frankly, has looked like a line of dead twigs all winter thanks to high winds blowing all the beech leaves off. The hornbeam, guelder rose, hazel and blackthorn are all springing to life but the beech is looking like we're going to be waiting until June for any sign of leaf! We planted another hedge around our wood-chopping area in February, which I wanted to be stripy, so it's alternate alder and purple beech trees. Same problem - the alder is out but the beech is definitely not. Most of the beech at lower altitude is forging ahead but not ours. I just never learn. Next beech. 

Second foal today

1 May 2012


Snippet in a cloud

How it's possible for there to be a drought in the South West, I do not know. Two days ago we were living in a cloud. Today has been the first passable one for what seems like a very long time although there is till water pouring off the moor into the streams and onto the road through any little channel it can find. 

Water still pouring out everywhere

The sun is actually out today and the skylarks are singing again. They seem to just sit sulking on bushes when it's raining. Three Goldfinches in the garden this morning. I'm not even going to mention photography. Talking of the garden, I have one border in which to plant anything which, sadly, faces north, is in deep shade from a five foot granite wall and can be bone dry thanks to overhanging trees. Not exactly ideal growing conditions for anything much. When we first moved here, it was unlike any garden I've had before in that there was pretty well nothing here other than a ubiquitous pink hardy geranium, nettles, ground elder and two snowdrops. Lots of rubble, old plastic and sticks too. Last year, after another three of slowly clearing and getting downhearted about lack of progress, we started to get somewhere and I dug the border. Many, many garden waste bags later I planted it with things I thought might work. Some have and some certainly haven't. My Narcissus bulbs are only just coming out and the slugs are eating them as soon as they appear. Iris bulbs never flowered at all. My lovely dusky cranesbill, which I thought would grow anywhere is not happy at all. Forget me not and other hardy geraniums are doing well, as are the Solomon's Seal and Foxgloves. Any suggestions gratefully received! My poorly son, still at home, made me this lovely daisy chain today. What a sweetheart.

Daisy chain

The fourth foal, yet another skewbald from a bay mare, arrived about four days ago in the rain. It's been playing with foal number one but I've yet to catch them at it. I can see this going the way of the nuthatches. I hadn't seen Betty since last Friday but I saw her in the far distance today; definitely no foal yet. Here are some pictures of the new foal and a great one of foal number one at speed......photographic fluke given the digital camera delay. 

Foal number 4 Following Mum 

Foal number 4 staring me out

Foal number 1 growing up

I saw the first cows out on the moor today so spring must be here. Test prints are being done today of a few of my drawings so I should be able to get the shop up and running soon. Very frustrating but I'll get there in the end. Thanks so much to Danielle for directing so many people here over the weekend by the way!