Presence, absence and processing

Life is different, but the ‘old normal’ shows no sign of returning yet. A steady flow of visitors has been arriving, staying and departing since last Tuesday. 12 days now. We’re not currently offering camping, B&B or the big house.

There’s more space between bookings. Which is just as well – we are a smaller team and the whole changeover between guests takes longer. There are more processes and safeguards in place. And we’re slowly getting used to the new system.

Two of the smalls just asked to feed the fish and we all noticed that the eco pond cleaner has stopped working. Once again, the water is green and gloomy. Also, someone has donated two small yellow plastic bath ducks to the pond. It’s a little mystery.

There’s been lots of outside activity. A newer yard tipi has been put up. An ugly old farmyard wall is now white. After a couple of weeks of lifting, carrying, climbing and lifting again the husband has hurt his back. Earlier, he took a couple of anti-inflammatory tablets and went for a brief siesta.

While he was resting, a neighbour came to tell me about ragwort – evil poisonous stuff – which has popped up uninvited in one of the fields we use for the donkeys. I immediately went and pulled out what I could. But there was still some left, deep-rooted and resistant to my feeble tugging. Reinforcements arrived in the form of a young male volunteer and the loan of a very conveniently located small fork. The husband emerged just as we’d finished and has now removed all the ragwort we’ve collected. All’s safe in the donkey field for now.

Earlier today I was reading that it’s the first anniversary of Mr Johnson as Prime Minister. The headline, I think, was – ‘Twelve months at the helm of government.’ I’m not sure that’s strictly accurate .

Ragwort – a poisonous weed.

The donkeys have a visitor

The farrier has been. We cancelled the last visit because it was too early into lockdown. But, by this week, it had become a necessity. As with sheep shearers, you cannot know an exact arrival time. Even if the farrier is a regular visitor, (so with no chance of getting lost), there are the unknowns about his previous calls. His day had started at 5.30 a.m. and we were fourth on his list.

I was ready early. We’d run out of both carrots and apples but there was no shortage of donkey nuts. The farrier was of course delayed, arriving at 10.15 rather than the estimated 9.30. In anticipation, I had put on both donks’ head collars. However, since this is generally a precursor to leading them out, they smelt a rat. Or quite simply realised that something was afoot.

They are, for all their bickering, inseparable. The larger donkey is Top Donk – first to be led in and out of the stable, expecting also that we will approach her first with a head collar and a feed bucket. She is first in the queue for a pedicure also. We have tried to mix it up occasionally, to give the other smaller donk the option of being first. But the natural order is one they are comfortable with. And it always prevails.

Top Donk was just about co-operative with the farrier, compliant provided that a non-stop supply of food was available as bribery. Her companion is less food-driven and far more intelligent. She had plenty of time to view the proceedings and to decide no-thank-you-very-much-and-if-it’s-all-the-same-to-you-I’d-rather-not. Second Donk is more than capable of refusing point-blank to fit in with human schedules. If the opportunity had presented itself for her to hoof it, she would have done. One very strong small donkey did have her toenails trimmed eventually but she made her displeasure obvious.

When the farrier left, the floor of the stable was sprinkled with hoof parings – grubby potato peelings on the outside with a touch of silvery grey iridescence on the inside.

There are limited distractions for children right now, so the whole proceedings were watched in rapt silence by the four smalls. All at a safe distance from the rear end of feisty Second Donk.