Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Mist and Thaw

Monday night, and the rain arrived. Warmer , wet Atlantic air came, pushing the freezing east winds backwards and bringing us a thaw.

Still icy fields had lost their shield of snow and the trees dripped. Mists rose from the wet land and the sun hardly showed its face all day, so dark it seemed after the white snow brightness of the days at Christmas.

In the lane, puddles appeared , yet shaded corners still held on to sheet ice and small heaps of melting snow.

Damp coated ponies watched out of the mist.

The trees on Stonechat Hill blurred, almost invisible, into fog and sky.

On the high heath, puddles stayed frozen.......

but lichen, young heather and moss shone out; green survivors from underneath the snow.

Down the puddled lane.....

...feather on a twig......

and a field submerged in mist.

An eye in the lens.....

......... raindrops.......

....and through a window, a lone, hungry rabbit ventured out to feed on soaking grass.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ice and a Boxing Day Birthday

On Boxing Day, ice and snow stayed crisp and harsh, after a night of freezing fog and some of the lowest temperatures of winter.

It was Old Dog`s thirteenth birthday. In the summer, he seemed to grow frailer. We wondered if he would see this birthday, but he has rallied and still enjoys his life, although the walks are shorter and his legs are not as strong as they used to be.

One day last week, a visitor came with her two young daughters, all wrapped up against the cold in coats, boots and woolly hats. Old Dog loves children. He remembers when our grown up boys were young and when he was in his prime. For half an hour, the two little girls played stick with Old Dog, out in the snowy garden. The years dropped away as he ran and played. All his birthdays had come at once that day!

On his Boxing Day birthday, Old Dog followed me around the garden in the snow.........

.......and waited by the icy Indian Bean Tree.

Tree ivy,

and red roses frozen in the bud.

In this image, I seem to see Jack Frost, a stick man climbing through the twigs.

By the edge of the pond.

Field ice and hoof prints......

where the thaw began..........

and fennel seed heads over frozen snow.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve on Frozen Fields

Out in the winter fields, a low winter sun began to slip behind the trees. Time to venture out again, onto frozen snow and sheets of ice beneath. Time to layer on warm clothes and tough boots.

Down in the garden, fox prints criss-cross snowy grass. Follow the prints and they dip through a hollow beneath a fence. A place where the foxes come at night, from the wide, moonlight- white fields, to find food beneath the bird table, or underneath the kitchen window where some scraps are often thrown.

The Ginger Pony waits for supper. If he sees a curtain move, he will neigh his loudest and stare through window into the house. He is round and sleek beneath his rug, but New Forest ponies are always, always hungry!

Long Tailed Tits have a bath. This afternoon I moved the shield of thick ice in the bird bath and replaced it with warmer water from the kitchen tap.

A Goldfinch has a late afternoon feed of Niger Seed.

Out in the fields, the sun is setting.

While I mix their evening feeds and fill wheelbarrows with hay, every move is watched . The Ginger Pony is first in line for supper........

....while the commoners` ponies, outside on the frozen heath, wait by the Forest gate for a handful or two of hay.

Here is the senior mare. She bosses the others around and must always be fed first. She is a notorious old bully. We do not know her real name. We call her The Baggage, because that is what she is!

And so I set off on my rounds, to feed, to scatter piles of hay, to check and to talk to the hungry watchers. Tonight, my friend came unexpectedly so we shared the work together. It was good to have human company as the evening fell and our boots slid and crunched across the frozen land.

Time to go back in, where cats slept in the warm.

I had forgotten to take my camera off the "Sunset" setting, so Lucy bathes in an orange glow.

That`s better. Now you can see the stripes.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

"Caw!" by Walter de la Mare


Ho, ho, ho, ho!
Now old Winter`s winds do blow!
Driving down his flocks of snow.
All the fields where daisies were
He has frozen bleak and bare;
Every bush and hedge he decks
With a myriad shining flakes.
Waiting for the sun to rise,
They stand up like hills of ice;
Glisten, gleam, and flame and burn
Every dazzling hue in turn.
Now the farmer`s boy he goes,
Scarlet ears and redder nose,
Whistling as he shuffles by
A sea of white, a cloudless sky.
Now the hare peeps out to see
What strange wonder this can be;
And the solemn-headed rook,
Perched above his hooded oak,
Hoarsely caws, and shakes the snow
From his sooty wing; and "Caw!"
Cries again: "what have we here,
Neighbours dear!
The Magician, in one night,
Has changed a world that`s green to white!"

by Walter de la Mare

This old poem of rhyming couplets, remembered from childhood, came into my head today as I trudged through the snowy fields with hay. A single crow perched on the top of a boundary tree and cawed into the still air. Often, a pair of crows will watch as I feed the animals and then will fly down to find any scraps or seeds that are left behind. As this freezing weather stays around for day after day, night after night, I feel as numbed by the cold as the shuffling farmers boy. It is a cold which smacks the face with raw ice and which slows the brain.

Back in the warm house, I watch the garden birds, hungry and braver in their need to survive.

A female blackbird waits in the pear tree, before she flies down for seed and grated apple on the kitchen window sill.

A song thrush fluffs up feathers against the cold.

The robin watches for fallen seed......

....and a blue tit pecks for peanuts as the snow still falls.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cats and Christmas Flowers

One afternoon last week, I spent a few relaxing hours "doing the flowers" for the Christmas Dinner of a village group that I have joined. With flowers from the town, some sparkly things and a mass of foliage from garden shrubs and trees, six small arrangements took shape under the watchful eyes of the cats.

Lucy Kitten and the Ginger One inspected and sniffed.......

Lucy threatened to leap, but was scooped up just in time.....

Finished, and kept safe from cats behind closed doors.

After a lovely Christmas meal in a village hall, when everyone dispersed into the freezing night, the flowers went home with some of the villagers who are older and frailer than most, and who may spend much of the Christmas season on their own.