Stop This Train

Last week we bought two pretty little hens from Howick pet shop to replace Rosie, my beautiful Rosie, and Hattie who both just up and died and are buried in the orchard. We found Hattie one morning dead on the floor of the hen house with no visible sign of injury. Later that day, Rosie looked decidedly poorly so I dissolved some mild aspirin and syringed it into her mouth which, according to Backyard Chickens is good for pain and fever. Unfortunately, it didn’t cure her and by that evening she too was dead. The next day, concerned about the remaining two chickens, we visited Hopewells (a farm supplies store and one of my favourite shops in Howick) and were advised to put an anti-bacterial powder (Cosumix Plus) in the chickens’ drinking water to treat any bacterial digestive or respiratory diseases. Well, short of doing autopsies, we can’t be sure about what killed Hattie and Rosie but the other two, Ezzie (Esmeralda) and Etta (Henrietta), survived so it could have been bacterial.  

When I told Thandi the names I had chosen for the new additions, Figgy and Missy, she thought I said Fiki (as in Fikile, a Zulu name) and Meisie (Afrikaans for girl), so that’s what they’re now called. Ezzie and Etta have not been very welcoming; in fact they’ve been downright inhospitable. Hopefully it’s just a case of ruffled feathers and things in the hen house will settle down soon!

I often like to sit and commune with my chickens as they cluck and scratch about in their run. I pass them bits of green stuff through the fence, like chickweed and dandelion, and drop in the occasional snail sacrifice, and they love me for it. A Cape gooseberry has grown rather rampant over one side of the fence. They don’t eat the leaves but enjoy the ripe fruit, of which there is plenty at the moment. I often find them sleeping in holes they’ve dug in the ground under the gooseberry branches – their own little forest haven. It reminds me of a picture book my mother used to read to me when I was little. I’ve never known what it was called but in my minds eye I can see the pictures as clear as daylight, little people living in harmony with all the forest creatures, in beautiful miniature houses carved into trees and toadstools. When I was a child I was an avid believer in fairies and elves and would build them houses out of ferns at the bottom of the garden and leave little pieces of bread and bowls of water in the houses for them.

Fiki and Meisie

Fiki and Meisie

chickens under the gooseberry bush

chickens under the gooseberry bush

I’ve only managed to keep a few books from my childhood – treasured copies of The Wind in the Willows, A Child’s Garden of Verses and How the Mole Got His Pockets and I’ve always been curious to know where those pictures in my head of woodland creatures came from. Then, on Saturday, one of the Facebook pages that I follow, Towards Greener Borders, shared this picture and I knew immediately that I had found the author / illustrator of my childhood pictures.

After a Google search I discovered that Erich Heinemann and Fritz Baumgarten wrote and illustrated children’s books in the 1940’s and I just knew that these two created the book my mother used to read to me. So strange how we come across answers to things when we are not looking for them.

I have developed a sore shoulder which the physio diagnosed as a rotator cuff injury. It could just be wear and tear or tendonitis, whatever it is it’s a bloody nuisance. I’ve tried physio, ayurvedic anti-inflammatories, reiki, exercise and essential oil painkillers. It hasn’t got any better but it hasn’t got worse and, on the plus side, I smell quite nice. Still, I hate feeling incapacitated.

My mother was sick a while ago, a head cold and throat infection. She is basically a healthy person, other than being unsteady on her feet, and is seldom ill. She was put on antibiotics and some other medication and it really knocked her for six. She became very lethargic and down in the dumps – facing her frailty is a scary business, for both of us. Until she got sick she was quite capable of taking care of herself but it has become necessary for us to take over preparing her daily main meal, which she likes to eat at midday, as well as doing her laundry. Thandi cleans house for her once a week and does some work in her garden. I knew this day would come and I know it will only become more demanding with time but I’d rather have her here with me than in a nursing home. She so loves her garden, the birds and Buddy, who visits her every day and sleeps under her table. She has already told me that she wants to die in her wee house and I can’t bear to think what circumstances may arise that would necessitate moving her. As it stands, we are all coping quite well.

“So we beat on, boats against the current.”

autumn sunset

autumn sunset

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10 Responses to Stop This Train

  1. Ashley says:

    So pleased you have got two new chickens. Hope Fiki & Meisie settle in quickly & that you shoulder gets better. Looking after sick / aging parents is tough but I am sure your Mom is ever so grateful. Love Ashley

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Ashley, Fiki and Meisie are laying already so that’s good. My mom, fortunately, is quite an undemanding person and she is grateful, I know, for all we do.

  2. jane thornton says:

    Really enjoyed reading that and recognise the pictures as I too, was an avid fairy believer. I’m not sure that I don’t still like to believe a little truth be told!Fairyland was at the bottom of my Grandma’s garden beyond the vegetables.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Jane, I’m thrilled to know someone else who recognises these pictures from their childhood. We couldn’t help but believe in fairies when we were brought up on these kinds of stories.

  3. Chris Ammann says:

    I had a similar experience to you regarding a children’s story. It had haunted me for years and the book had long gone. I searched old book shops – in vain. Then one day on a whim I posted a query on a book site and someone managed to identify it for me. It has however become rather contraversial, PC-wise. But hey, I loved Noddy too …

  4. Mike Hogan says:

    I went through a lot of pain from a rotator cuff injury. Suffered agony surfing (us oldies try and relive our youth!) with each paddle stroke a major effort. Tried physio and ultimately fixed it through a year of dedicated exercises in a gym. Not a problem now but it took a long time. Difficult to describe the exercises but they can be replicated using bands and a small dumbbell. Google was my salvation here!

    As a kid I used to love the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I think it took me away from the tedium of primary school in suburban Durban!

    • Cathy says:

      I’ve got a band and some exercises the physio gave me but I’ve been waiting for the pain / inflammation to go down a bit, which it has done. So your experience has encouraged me to start – today!

      I had the happiest primary school days at Erica Girls’ Primary in Port Elizabeth. It was in a beautiful old building with lots of character, on top of a hill with spectacular views. I used to love it when our std 3 teacher, a Mrs Morris (I think), used to read the Magic Faraway Tree to us while we all sat at her feet and the girls sitting behind me would play with my long hair!

  5. Adam Rice says:

    How sad to lose your 2 hens.
    It seems that shoulder injuries are common. I hurt mine falling off a horse around November. I have spent months visiting the osteopath and doing very similar exercises to you with stretchy bands. It is much better now but I found that it seemed to get better in bursts. Nothing seemed to happen for weeks then I would suddenly notice an improvement. The general advice was do the exercises and expect the recovery to be slow and don’t get despondent.

    My childhood reading favourites were the Enid Blyton adventure series, Wind in the Willows, and Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. I still have the Hans Christian Andersen.

    One of the horses, Pie, at the riding school has just given birth to the sweetest foal. When they bought her, I think from Ireland, no one knew she was pregnant; in fact she arrived with no name and certainly no one knows who the father is. The foal was born early hours of Monday morning.
    It will be wonderful to see it grow and progress….

    • Cathy says:

      So using the band to exercise with and patience is what is required. I think I can do that.

      I had forgotten the fairy tales; the book I had was a collection of the Brothers Grimm (Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin etc.). A bit scary as I recall.

      How often do you ride? It’s going to be such fun watching the foal’s antics, they’re so dear.

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