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.
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.”