The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Holiday romance

fan tailed goldfish

I’m babysitting a smallholding that belongs to friends. I’m not staying there, just stopping by morning and evening. For half an hour each day I can immerse myself in their world. It’s a beautiful spot.

Set amongst trees, their house was built in the 1930’s, complete with cosy nooks and an old fashioned walk in larder. The door handles in houses from this era are set quite high so when I stretch to open the front door I feel age eight again.

The house is enchanting, filled with animals – pictures, sculptures and the real thing. When I first visited I thought that the tortoise under the dining room table was a model toy until she opened her eyes and strolled sedately across the parquet floor.

The dogs and the tortoise are holidaying elsewhere, along with the white budgies – Blanche and Spartacus. These two are so in love that when Blanche was sold separately by the pet shop she was returned within days because she pined so much for her mate. When our friends discovered this, they bought the pair on the spot. Blanche has a pink spot over her bill and Spartacus a blue spot. Was this where the pink and blue differentiation originated?

Margot the cat, accompanies me on my tropical fish feeding tour. The fish tanks are scattered all over the house. She has a silent step and always surprises me as I drop fish flakes into each small world. In between tanks, she flirts with me, throwing herself on the floor, longing for love and affection. The fish are on the ball too. The little fan tailed goldfish in the photo is one of a pair that are always at the glass wall with mouths open when they see Margot and me approaching their tank. I drop in the food and then it’s a frenzied whirr of fins and tails and wide eyed open mouths. That’s if I look. Generally I’m on the sofa with Margot.

Finally we reach the back door and Margot stretches as I draw back the heavy brass bolt.  We step into the dappled sunshine and the sound of ducks waiting for breakfast to be served. They shriek away as I prepare their feast and top up the water fountains. When I open the duck house door they pound out as one, flat feet drumming across the muddy stretch to their corn.

The hens are waiting too. Buoyant heads on elongated necks peering out through the hen house window. As I ease open the door they are leaping into the run, heading for breakfast in perfect pecking order.

Then it’s off with a lighter bucket to feed the young Aracunas, the four guinea fowl and the ultra elegant pair of Sumatras, Scarlet and Black. Just in front of their capacious palace stand two rabbit hutches where the Cornish Rex rabbits live. Black, velvety and with enormous eyes that watch me fill their water bottles with studied interest. When the moment comes to open the doors and fill their bowls they flick deftly back into their bedrooms. I can see their whiskers moving with anticipation until the doors lock me safely on the other side and they feel confident to glide out and nibble. Gentle soft beasts, they enjoyed the fresh hay bedding as much as their food this morning.

Margot always has the last word. She rushes indoors if she fancies a day in the warm. If she has chosen to stay out for the day, she has vanished without even saying goodbye.

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  1. Really enjoyed reading this post as always. Loved the bit about the rabbits waiting until you were safely locked on the outside before eating!
    Lucky people having you to look after their animals etc. x

  2. Hey there, I have just completed you MeMe tag from last week. I am so slow! So take a look

  3. City Mouse/Country House

    Beautiful post! The house and ground sound just lovely – especially the chickens – especially the g fowl. Truly, a beautifully painted picture. Glad you’re having a good time with it.

  4. The pink and blue thing apparently stems from some kind of passed-down memory gene (pretty interesting stuff) from times of lore, when the men-ape-folk would hunt, and the women-ape-folk would gather. Hunting was always best on bright, clear days = BLUE and praise was heaped upon the females for their delicious, bountiful berries = PINK (well, pinkish/reddish, but I’ll allow myself to still believe in this).
    I can’t remember exactly where I got this from (but you can blame Radio 4 for sure), but it did seem to make romantic sense!
    By the way, stumbled over your blog searching for a cauliflower cheese recipe, but think I’ll go for this one from the beeb:
    Creamy three cheese cauliflower with walnuts from here:

  5. samantha winter

    You make it sound wonderful. \\\\i know the type of doors you are describing

  6. magic cochin

    Aaaah – that was a lovely word portrait. I can just picture Margot! What a typical cat – flirty flirty then off into the wild woods!

    I too am looking after a gaggle of beasties for a friend this week. It was a bit nippy this morning as I bashed back the frozen bolt on the hen-run with a hammer I’d found in the shed and broke the ice on the drinkers. The world was golden and sparkly in the sunshine when I walked home.


  7. I agree cats are flirty beasts! Lovely post

  8. Lovely descriptive post.

  9. Kelly the City Mouse

    What a lovely picture you’ve painted us.

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