Thursday, September 8
Many of you will not need reminding of our lamentable history with rabbit breeding. Despite three years of diligent indulgence, no kittens produced have survived long enough to make it to the pot. Our last great hope took hold back in August and only now can I face writing about it. Our youngest hope fell pregnant and, somewhat surprisingly, went on to give birth to 10 little ones, becoming a doting mother and candidate for cutie calendar photo of the year. As you can guess, this tranquil Beatrix Potter scene was short lived because a rather more sinister author took control of events.
On returning from a shopping trip, Martyn (rabbit specialist) looked down on the chicken terrace to see the door to Lulu’s hutch swinging gently in the wind. This type of happening is not unusual here. It is due, I am reliably informed, to faulty hinges, screws, wood and so on. On further investigation, it was noted that there was no sign of the four-day-old kittens, no fur, no blood, nada! Running around under the hutches were some rather self-satisfied chickens and, very slowly, the hideous truth began to dawn.
Although somewhat jarred by the gruesome events, Martyn and I, now accomplished at finding the positives in horrific situations, contented ourselves with the fact that Lulu was still okay. She had proved herself to be a good mother and with better animal husbandry on our part should go on to raise lots more kittens. Within days, Lulu contracted a fatal illness and was finally put to rest a week later.
It is with this history outlined above, that I walked up from the pig terrace earlier today to see Martyn swinging a rabbit into an upside down position and examining its underside. Assuming another corpse was on the way, I returned to the house for the carrier bag, ready to do the honours.
When Martyn returned to the house, I was surprised to learn that no death had occurred, merely a little confusion. The breeding programme has resumed with gusto but, unfortunately, our one surviving female seems to enjoy the baby-making process yet produces no offspring. Thinking it may be a problem with the buck, Martyn removed him and introduced a new buck, Thumper, one from the old days (we have male rabbits all over the place). Martyn watched the act take place and was just about to leave them to it when they reversed roles and the female then mounted Thumper and returned the compliment.
It was after witnessing several episodes of this liberated role reversal that Martyn became suspicious and removed the female to examine her bits. He then discovered she was in fact a male. Martyn assures me that this was a one off error and is not at all related to a long line of non pregnancies. I do wonder if I hadn’t happened upon the gynaecological inspection, whether I would have heard anything about it…
Sunday, September 18
On the pig terrace, mother and piglets, now one month old, are doing very well. The similarity between piglets and puppies is uncanny – the killing is going to be a very unsavoury affair indeed. All the piglets are now eating an enormous amount of food and growing very quickly. Their playfulness knows no bounds as they dash up and down their terrace, jumping in and out of puddles. Everything possible is explored, particularly shoes, which they will happily chew away on if I stand still too long.
Our plan is to keep two or three for fattening up and try to sell the rest at three months. If we have no firm buyers soon, we will need to kill some off as leitões (suckling pigs). It is all quite sad but a fact of life nonetheless.
Thursday, September 29…
… and still the sun shines! This month I have transplanted many of the winter crops in the hope of a little rain. The weather seems to be getting warmer rather than cooler and a great deal of our time is still spent watering. Tomato production has slowed down considerably, but we are still getting a reliable crop of aubergines, peppers, onions and okra. We are fortunate enough to have a spring and a well that are still giving a plentiful supply of water. The river at the bottom of our land, which serves the well, usually runs all summer long. This year, it has been dry since May, but somehow the well still fills up. Like everyone else, we are desperate for a few weeks of heavy rain.
Friday, September 30
You see some unusual sights living in the countryside and the solitude can lead to some unusual thoughts. While walking the dogs this evening, as always, I found my mind wandering before finally settling on Christmas. Before I knew it, I was planning my Christmas decorations and a possible arrangement for lights outside the house. This is particularly worrying for me as, over the years, I have helplessly witnessed my parents’ house regress from tasteful traditional Christmas to outrageous illuminated tinsel wonderland. I was contemplating whether we all eventually turn into our parents, when I became distracted by a talking tree. On closer inspection, I saw my 80-year-old neighbour balanced precariously 10 feet up a spindly olive tree, picking olives while having a conversation on a mobile phone. A quick boa tarde and I was on my way.