Pony diaries: Ambling into autumn 🍂

The last few weeks have been good ones for my fluffball pony, who looks forward every year to the change of season between summer and autumn. Charmer has actually had a really good summer – he has kept his weight well, enjoyed his time both out and in and not suffered too much with the midges – and he does love the great array of grass that summertime brings!!; but between the heat, the flies and his sweet itch, it’s never his comfiest time; and it’s always a total joy when the temperature breaks, the nights draw in, that furry winter coat starts growing and he can relax into the most contented of days.

We’ve not been doing any riding the past few months – partly because he’s been a bit stiffer and partly because I’ve put on a bit of weight myself and would like to lose some before I get back on (I’m always quite near the top end of what’s probably ok for him at his age so definitely don’t want to add any pressure to those old legs!), but the last few weeks we have been enjoying a lot of little walks on his rope.

I had actually been walking him just in and out of the barn the shortest way for a few weeks back in August, having noticed that he was moving a bit less easily and wanting to keep everything as easy as possible for him, but after a few weeks of this he voted with his feet and started dragging me the long way round, where there is lots more to see and he loves just to feel like he’s on an adventure – and, as it turns out, he’s moving all the better for stretching his legs and having his wee brain busier again. One day we even found a little free library just at a cottage on the edge of the farm, and he always likes to stop for a munch of grass and a watch of the horses in the fields across the track especially his old hacking buddies.

I also took him a bit of a longer walk last week to see how he got on, and he absolutely loved it. In October, my lovely friend who works for the ambulance service is organising a fund raiser at the yard for the Scottish Air Ambulance Charity, with a lot of the girls and horses at the yard embarking on a month of long hacks racking up the miles. Every mile counts and can be added to their running total so we thought we would join in where we’re at just now, and went for a mile-long walk in-hand last week to test the ground. We found that it was the perfect distance for Charmer who absolutely loved every second, so we will do that wee loop every few days whenever he’s up for it and see how many we can count up in the month! – (and will maybe help me shed some pounds too, maybe by the end of the month I could be doing an amble on him!)

We’ve also been enjoying a bit of messing around and watching the leaves fall in the little sand school behind our barn, which seems to be a start to the day both of us love. ❤️

… and on the rainier days, it’s just breakfast on the barn and a shelter with a huge pile of hay.

It’s getting darker and darker every night at the moment, and at the weekend after work I had both my girls with me for a just-before-bedtime torchlight visit to the field which the horses and children loved – and I did too, always enjoying so much those first nights in the bright lights of the barn with the rain hammering and the dark fields outside.

I’m really pleased with how well Charmer seems to be doing and looking forward to our month of little walks for a good cause, and to the drawing in of winter. ❤️

Hope you all have a good week. Xx

Book Review: Stepping Up ~ Sarah Turner

Have to start by saying the biggest thank you to Random House UK / Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity I was very grateful for to read an advance review copy of this absolute treasure of a book.

I have loved Sarah Turner’s writing as The Unmumsy Mum in her books and blogs for years, her ever-brilliant stories always shared with the right balance of humour, honesty and tenderness, and I couldn’t have been more excited about the idea of her first novel, which – despite the high expectations! – met them and more.

Following 31-year-old Beth as she finds herself thrown into the role of guardian of her teenage niece and toddler nephew in the wake of a family tragedy; it is a beautiful and sensitive exploration of the family relationships and friendships that provide a much-needed lift and pull through both the journey of grief and the challenges of everyday life.

There are so many wonderful characters in these pages, and all are drawn with understanding and relatability – from 3-year-old Ted (so often both the light relief and, even simultaneously, an inspiration to the others) to elderly neighbour Albert (whose fresh perspective, wonderful book club choices and text messages that made me laugh out loud brought so much to the story).

This book has everything I love in an involving and memorable story – it is full of such perfectly-drawn moments (a pre-school nativity play, a hospital waiting room, a bonfire-lit garden, all brought to startlingly-recognisable life so expertly); deals with some difficult topics addressed with the right mix of depth and lighter touches; and does justice to all of its characters and storylines, not just those of Beth herself.

Stepping Up is poignant, funny and ultimately so uplifting, and I truly loved it and cannot recommend this wonderfully-written debut novel highly enough. 💚

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X

Happy (half) birthday to our wee Sandy… and big love for all the littlest ones ❤️

Our little Sandy hamster turned 2 and a half on Friday, and we decided to make a proper little fuss of him and give him a wee day of celebration! I think it’s quite hard to judge but have seen some hamster to human years “conversions” showing around 2 and a half creeping up to a very good age maybe even around 100 equivalent, and we are absolutely delighted to have little Sandy still with us and in very good health.

We brought him home at 4 months old from a lovely little hamster and small animal rescue not far from us in Fife where a couple of volunteers work tirelessly to help wee ones find their forever homes, and we’ve been lucky to have over two years of his company and counting. He’s a pottery wee soul these days, sometimes a little wobbly on his feet when he first wakes up, but he’s just doing away, enjoying life in his cage and some explores out and about with us too and he’s actually holding his weight really well which is great. He has been completely and utterly unfazed by the arrival of two curious kittens into his life who like nothing more than to watch him going about his business, and regards them with interest but no fear whatsoever, getting on with his important work of moving food around and now and then doing a wee bed reshuffle.

The kids loved making him some decorations and giving him a treat stick which he got straight to work on and is still very much enjoying a few days on!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the small pets in our lives the last few weeks as it was August eleven years ago, just as the back to school feeling was around us and the change of autumn in the air, that I decided to really start our little animal family. I’d already had a lovely wee companion for a couple of years while at uni, briefly back home, and then in my first flat of my own, in the form of my very first hamster, little Annabelle, who I’d always so enjoyed the company of. She had died a few months before and I had really missed her. I always remember so clearly the day in August 2010 I came back from a weekend at home with my family and all our assorted animal companions (always a full house ❤️) to my empty flat and realised that I wanted so much to have a pet again. That led to me bringing home Smokie and Peatie, my first rats, two such wonderful wee characters – and never having been without pets since.

Smokie, Peatie and Simba, our original wee team ❤️

I knew so little about small pets then (Annabelle never having caused me any trouble, we’d never even seen a vet!) that it took me a few weeks to realise the boys I took home (originally Smokey and Petey) were actually girls. They taught me my first lessons early on and from that day on I’ve loved and lived and learned so much with my tiny companions. Within six months Smokie and Peatie and I had moved in with my husband and his house rabbit Simba and since then we’ve had a total of 14 pet rats, 5 hamsters and the rabbit (and also two Giant African Land Snails who were more my husband’s charges, I still know very little about them!) – mostly rescued or given their second home with us and all of them bringing so much joy to our home.

The rats: Smokie, Peatie, Sylvie, Lizzie, Chae, Winston, Pipkin, Harvey, Ty, Reuben, Perry, Marley, Jasper and Jet

Keeping small animals has been so incredibly rewarding for me. The rats in particular always taught me so much, there were so many health issues to learn about and absolutely fascinating behaviour to study and interactions to be had. Our hamsters too, Annabelle, Grace, Darcy, Rosie* and Sandy, have been such amazing characters. I always hear of people complaining of grumpy bitey hamsters but the five I’ve been blessed to share my home with have been such lovely wee souls.

The hamsters: Annabelle, Grace, Darcy, Rosie and Sandy

As the kittens keep us busy with new lessons to be learned (back on the back foot again after almost always knowing what the vet would say before I took the rats with a few years of experience under my belt, suddenly I realise how little we know about our new pets and I am googling and researching cat information at every turn!); and Charmer – as he has for over twenty-one years now – fills my animal world; I’m so so glad too for all the space taken up in our home and hearts then and now by the tiniest of our pets – and love having wee Sandy around so much.

Happy birthday little gent 🧡.

Hope you all have a lovely start to the week. X

*yes we have now had so many pets that we are repeating names! Little Rosie-ham who we brought home back in 2014 was our first Rosie, named for her pinky-red eyes and bright wee face, but when our oldest daughter was determined to call our girl cat Rosie from the moment the idea of getting a cat was floated we went with it, she can be Rosie-cat for long! My husband’s second snail was also called Sandy so it’s not even our first offence… But when Sandy hamster arrived to us so perfectly coloured and so in love with his sand bath he couldn’t be anything but…. ❤️