A weekend at home in the snow – embracing “hygge”

The Danish concept of “hygge” roughly translates – according to the lovely article all about it I came across on an appropriately cosy and wintry Friday night in – as “cosiness” if anything, but really so much  more than that. Lacking an English equivalent, it describes this time of year and encompasses all the warmth and comfort of these January days when they’re spent indoors, maybe with some friends, family or pets, taking solace from the weather outside and enjoying the company, the food and the warming mugs of the indoors on a cold day.

Hygge seems to me to be something I could get on board with – looking to January not just as we so often do here to be a time for new year’s resolutions and healthy eating, but instead also for taking life at an easy pace and focusing on the comfort of the best things in life. This weekend, we did live in a very hygge-ish manner, just by the nature of it. We woke on Saturday morning to a snowy world, so after I’d been along to the farm to let Charmer out to play in it, his nose covered in a moustache of snow and ears pricked forwards, enjoying the new games; I came back home and had a cosy warming breakfast and mainly indoors day.



Winnie has been on medicine in the last couple of days as his old age is really catching up with him  now, and seemed to be very much enjoying 4-hourly spoonfuls of sugary medicine and lots of extra cuddles  out in a blanket, finding his weekend particularly full of comfort food and snuggling up!


The other boys and Rosie too have enjoyed us being around the house plenty this weekend, and it’s been lovely to boil the kettle more times than we can count, read books, watch the snow from the window and just settle in.

We did make a wrapped-up wander along to family on Saturday afternoon, and it was absolutely lovely to be in there too out of the blowing blizzards and waving trees with our much-loved family collie on the couch between us all, enjoying our time together so much.


It’s February tomorrow and though I am very much looking forward to lighter mornings and nights, being able to see the horse in daylight and all the other lovely things the beginnings of Spring bring; as long as winter lasts I’d happily enjoy a little more snow, steaming coffees and long days in with cuddly pets – here’s to Hygge. X

Sheltering from the storm, in our little stable 

When I awoke this morning, it was to the howl of the wind against the window-pane, lashing rain, and a tinny voice from the little radio beside the bed telling incessant tales of travel disruption, storm damage and the anticipated driving snow. Down in the kitchen, making a much-needed warming coffee, chattering to the boys and Rosie in their cages and layering up my jumper and scarf, getting ready to brave the outdoors; the little security light above our back door flickeringly revealed near-horizontal rain and the gardens beaten by the billowing wind.

Along at the farm, my little pony – generally a firmly outdoor type by nature – took no persuading to come out from his vantage point under the overhang of the trees at the top of his field and make our little walk, heads down against the elements, into the stable, happily watching me while I made his breakfast, laid down some hay, set out his toys and settled him in for what seemed to be a much-appreciated duvet day.



Tonight, working day (and week!) complete, I made my way back to the stable and found a much cosier and fluffier looking boy waiting for me, happily munching hay and rolling his treat ball around the stable. It was the loveliest of evenings, fingers woven tightly round my travel mug of hot chocolate, gathering with the others to gaze out at the increasing winter wonderland around us and burrow down deeper into our jackets. Later, just me and Charmer, took some time for grooming, standing beside him for extra warmth, quietly centred, with the bangs and clatters outside seeming so far away.


  
Today, the howling of the wind and the rattling of the sliding door are unmistakable, and this is certainly the place we both want to be. There have been so many other days too though, over the years, that I have come here to shelter from storms of all types – here, where the lights glow a reassuring orange and the warm brown eyes of my little pony seem to understand perfectly and wisely whatever it is I’m glad to find some solace from.


Standing shoulder to shoulder with him, safe and warm in the barn, watching the snow fall or the rain whip, is my favourite place to be in all the weathers and storms of life. Tonight, in these last days of January, as we batten down the hatches against the gusts and look with hope to the brightening days of February just around the corner – with light creeping into our mornings and nights, and the promise of spring in the milder air – I was glad to savour what may be some of the last of these winter nights, for this year at least, and enjoy the unique and cosy calm they bring.

Have a safe and wrapped-up weekend all. X

Home Sweet Home – The pets’ cages & set-ups!

I always love to read blogs and browse Pinterest pins of lovely cosy animal homes, getting ideas for new ways to arrange the set-ups and ring the changes; so decided to write a little post just about some of the cages we’ve had for our little ones over the years, how we’ve found them, and some of their favourite comfy beds too.

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Cages & Set Ups

Savic Freddy 2

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This was our first rat cage and the one we’ve used mainly over the years – generally for 2 or 3 rats, and once recently for Chae, Win, Harvey and Ty. It’s a good size, very sturdy, and easy to take apart to clean, and have always really liked it. I’ve read recommendations in the past for this cage as for up to 4 rats, but although it was fine when Harvey and Ty were younger, and is a great cage for them being able to climb and being able to fill with hammocks and ladders, I did think it felt a bit small for them all by the time it was 4 big boys in it before they moved to the Mamble. I do love the height, and one of the things all our rats, boys and girls, have loved most have been cardboard boxes to chew, modify, climb on, sleep under and make their own, so plenty of room for them!

Ferplast Mary

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Generally our hamster cage and a potential rat retirement cage. Most of our hamsters have lived in this, and have found it a great cage for them. Rosie is in this at the moment and loves it – it gives her plenty of room, but at all one level is fairly safe (though she does take to some upside-down bar hanging now and then!) and is also surprisingly big enough to fit a 12″ Silent Spinner wheel which was handy when we had our very active Syrian girl Grace who was very committed to her excercise regime! It would also be a potential safe cage for a couple of oldies if needed for the rats at some point as has plenty floorspace but nowhere to tumble.

Little Friends Mamble

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Our current rat cage. This was originally bought for Pipkin after it became clear he wasn’t going to go in with Chae and Winnie and he was very at home in it. It was excellent value and although it’s not maybe as sturdy as the Freddy just due to the way it assembles from folded, it’s come in very handy having the two big doors for access – there is plenty of height for different hammocks and shelves too and is only 20cm longer than the Freddy but seems to make a big difference to floorspace. Our three boys are in this now and there are lots of options for adding in new toys and beds.

Beds

Beds in the hamster cages generally stand the test of time, and all our hamsters have happily lived in little houses they have taken care to furnish neatly and devoted hours to the upkeep of as demonstrated by Darcy, Grace and Rosie below…

The rats, in sharp contrast, have destroyed with increasing speed every comfy bed bestowed upon them, and each and every one has been a short lived joy!! Beds have been made up of everything from old scarves and teatowels to fluffy lined pet beds and have always included a raggy collection of hammocks in various stages of destruction! Although I’ve tried to keep them all as cost-effective as possible, one type of bed that’s definitely worth investing in is the small dog & cat type we’ve had a few of in the past – all of the boys have just loved these and they are an ideal place for them all to curl up together..

 

For more lasting beds, obviously without as much comfort but still often chosen by our brood, there are the plastic options with the wonderful benefit of being easy to clean! A baby Harvey below models the Sputnik hanging from the roof – when Harv and Ty were only around 12 weeks they consistently slept 3 in a Sputnik and on at least one occasion a slightly uncomfortable looking bundle were squeezed in with four squashed noses peeking out..

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The hamster ball (open at both ends) has always been a firm favourite too, and one of the boys’ favourite pastimes is filling it with shredded paper and lining it comfily..

Hammocks and hanging beds are always very well-recieved too, and great to be able to layer in the cage to let everyone choose their favourite place to be.

Regardless of the options on offer however, there is no predicting where the boys will adopt as their next “favourite spot”.. and as Winnie demonstrates so ably below…. rats sleep anywhere!!

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Love to see anyone else’s set ups and especially ideas for comfy and lasting beds – would love to upgrade to an Explorer-type cage at some point when we’ve a bit more space, or a DIY converted bookshelf or cabinet for a real project- and learning to make my own fleece hammocks is on my to-do list!! Have a lovely evening all.

My pottery old rat Winnie

My husband is working away this week and evenings in our little home are quiet, just me and the pets. Last night, although Ty and Harvey were out too – building dens and hiding behind bookshelves, as is their way – I spent most of my time with my little old man, Winnie.

He has seemed even older than he has done up to now in the last little while, and his free ranging consists of cuddling in as close as he can (usually on my shoulder!) and bruxing and boggling away, or settling in a sleeve and being happy to stay there even if I come and go, one handedly making cups of tea and stirring soup with the other providing his chosen carry spot for the night.

Winston is nearly 2 years and 4 months old now and is quite a wee inspiration – he’s had so many health problems in his life and we’ve spent many a Saturday morning driving up and down to the vets – at first all planned out in the travel cage and laterally just cuddled in a hoodie pocket as relaxed as you like. Most of his ailments have been chronic, and he’s struggled with respy problems and abscesses on and off, but he’s never let any of them stop him enjoying life and has always been so enthusiastic about life in the cage and out.

Now, he seems to actually enjoy everything more than ever, the slower pace suited to the natural inclination he’s always had to take things easy, and times enjoying soaked easy-to-eat food seeming to be the highlight of his day, although loving long hours squished between Harvey and Ty in their bed too.

One of the main drawbacks of keeping rats is that they seem to reach old age so soon – but the joy of all the phases of their little lives are so worthwhile, and after the curiosity and exuberance of his kittenhood, the middle times reclining with his brother Chae and teaching Harvey and Ty a thing or two when they were just young things, it’s so lovely to enjoy Winnie’s pottery old age with him too.

   

Sunday walks 

Enjoyed Sunday the best possible way yesterday, taking ourselves out for breakfast first thing and a long wandering walk afterwards on a light and airy day. Enjoyed seeing whole sections of the undergrowth given over to being nature priority areas, and all around us wildlife-friendly rambling bushes and trees, ducks swimming happily on the water and birds swooping overhead.



  
 

Night fell early as is January’s way, but for all the world as I stepped out the back just as dusk was falling, it could have been 10pm on a Summer’s night, so mild and breezy.

Spent some time in the brightly lit barn with the pony, and home to the boys (in a very boisterous tumbling mood!) to end the day, let the weekend draw to a close and prepare for a whole new week.
    

Saturday in the winter sun

This morning dawned bright and sunny for January, in dazzling contrast to the snow we woke to last weekend, beautiful in an entirely different way, and the lingering mists and rains that have dominated most of the month so far.

My day started early, with an 8am field stop to bring Charmer in for a farrier visit, standing quietly in the sleepy yard to the clanging of metal and the sounds of seagulls over the water, on a morning that only got more beautiful as the sun rose.



This afternoon, we joined friends for a little hack along our usual tracks, an hour of easy chatter and the clop of hooves on the winding road. Taking riding a day at a time with Charmer just now as he definitely seems to be adjusting to some changes in his eyesight now and is starting to be less keen to go to certain places. Really glad though to see him still enjoying our weekend walks and looking forward to working to find the best ways to let him keep doing that.

Back home now, after a hot chocolate in the barn while the boy enjoyed his dinner, chatting away and absent-mindedly stroking the friendliest of farm cats, and just enjoying some time just ourselves and with the pets.

Had lots of lovely times with the rats – and with Ty particularly in the last few cosy winter nights, who has always been a lovely boy, just a bit less keen on interacting with us when free-ranging than Win and Harvey – but has just recently really been much more engaging with us as well as his furry comrades, which is so nice to see.


Rosie too has been very active in the last little while – at nearly 2 years old now and with cataracts over both eyes we keep thinking she will slow down, but quite the contrary, she continues to be as devoted as always to her routines, her food gathering, bed building, tunnelling and exercise on her wheel as always. She is so peaceful just to watch – there seems so much wisdom in how a hamster goes about its little life, happily organising and arranging everything.

As Saturday draws now to a close, I am happily tired after a full and busy day, glad to be cosy and very grateful for a quiet evening with our mischief. Happy weekend all! ❤️

Through My Horse’s Ears: My favourite view on life

My little Fell pony Charmer is – and has been for many years now – one of the biggest blessings of my life. Long happy adventuring hacks out with him are some of my favourite memories from both my childhood and my adulthood – just the gentle pace, his steady footfall and his trusting presence as we explore.

Over the years, from between his fluffy black ears, I have gazed at so many incredible views – watching deer running by, waves lapping in, sunrises set the sky alight and jumps grow steadily closer with every stride. So many times too our quiet walks have been some much-needed thinking space, taking steadying breaths and finding the confidence, step by step, to contemplate some of the biggest and most life-defining moments.

There have been wild gallops and long trails with friends, peaceful ambles at the end of a long day, and bright and sparkling holiday morning strides out – in sunshine; in snow; chin buried in a scarf in the whipping wind; trotting home, his neck arched, against a sudden pummelling of rain.


In the almost two decades our friendship has now spanned, there have been so many little everyday moments too numerous to count – not just the days there’s been the time, weather and inclination for riding, but as well all those quiet moments in the stable of a winters’ night, the sound of chomping hay and the warm lights of the barn, or daybreak in springtime out in the field under golden skies.

Now, Charmer is almost 20, and although in great health and enjoying life, we have new challenges before us, his slightly poorer eyesight in the last few months one that is starting to keep us these days to the more familiar of our wandering routes. Whatever the future holds for us though, I’ll always be glad of all the adventures we’ve had over the years so far, and will look forward just as much to walking into all those we have still to come together, whether riding or on foot. ❤

  

Our Rat Story So Far….

Our rat-keeping adventure, which enters its sixth year this year, began back in August 2010. I was living alone at the time, and had just returned home after a love-and-animal-filled break at my parents’. Feeling the emptiness of my little flat by comparison I decided, somewhat impulsively, to take myself to Pets at Home and have “just a little look” for a potential new roommate. Little did I know then I was about to start a journey of love and learning that would be more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I will always remember walking shyly and with my heart pounding round the cages, and then being completely captivated by a small black and white rat, just as captivated by me and staring straight at me, so curious and intrigued. I had kept rats when I was younger, and remembered them as such wonderful pets of my childhood. Looking straight into the eyes of this bright little animal, who would become my Peatie, there was no going back.

That day I took home Smokie, a beautiful roan, and Peatie, and I couldn’t have been happier.
I didn’t know quite how much learning was before me, and as it turned out I learned a lot very fast, starting with a crash course in identifying mis-sexed babies on realising (a good few weeks in!!) that my two beloved “boys” were in fact girls. Back then I had no idea about the intracasies of the care of rats, but over the coming months I really enjoyed learning from all the new experiences the rats brought every day.
In 2011, we moved into our new house together with and my now husband and his lion lop Simba, and all our lives entered a new phase.

Smokie was very affectionate and always game for an adventure, coming for long walks with me tucked in a collar and always interested in everything; Peatie was a force to be reckoned with, always up to something in her younger days, getting into scrapes on more than a couple of occasions and keeping us on our toes, although settling to be a very contented lady as she got older.

Smokie was plagued by some of the health problems I know now are so common to pet shop rodent-farmed pets, and in her little life she taught us a lot about rat health and care through necessity as we journeyed backwards and forwards to the vet. She had various eye problems and tumours, and with two successful operations she led the longest and happiest life she could, but at just under 2 years old she became the first of the rats we have loved and lost.

Nothing quite prepared me for that, and that first blow was a really hard one. It almost made me immediately want to say not again, the characters were too vibrant and wonderful to deal with lifespans so short, but our Peatie was clearly lonely and still in good strong health, and so, a few weeks later, we went to the SPCA rescue centre to look for some friends for her, and there found “Chloe” and “Nibbles”, two beautiful ladies who were around a year old and needing a new home.

 

Chloe, who would become our Sylvie, was a beauitful silky dumbo rex, utterly gentle from the moment we laid eyes on her, and Nibbles, a brown capped dumbo, who would quickly shed her telling name and become our Lizzie, sealed the deal on coming home with us with a strong bite to my finger and an immediate retreat to the back of her cage in what I would come to know (but thankfully see less and less and her time with as went on) as her most afraid expression. I had been reticent about “replacing” Smokie and was only doing it for Peatie’s sake until that point, but in that minute I knew Lizzie was so afraid and needed us, and (after a swing by the hospital for a tetanus shot!) we got them home and settled.

Introducing Sylvie and Lizzie to Peatie was our first experience of introductions and was a nerve-wracking experience. Reading on blogs and forums we tried to learn as much as we could, but when we finally let Sylvie, Lizzie and Peatie meet it was so rewarding. Lizzie, ever shy, was content just to make friends and be there, and Sylvie and Peatie did engage in a fairly dignified tussle over who would call the shots, but, thankfully for Pea, Sylve eventually conceded defeat and Peatie got to live the rest of her days – a lovely long six months or so, happily accompanied by her two new friends and even more happily ruling the roost.

In their own right, both our new girls were wonderful pets. Sylvie was the sort of rat you’d hope for a child to have the joy of owning, not that we were complaining about having that ourselves, gentle, kind and especially as she got older in love with a quiet seat on a knee of an evening; and Lizzie, one of the two biggest “project rats” we’ve had, going through such a transformation as time went on – never really losing her shyness and never really taking to free-ranging far, but adorably warming to time with me and especially my husband, looking to us always for her security in a way that melted our hearts, happy to sit all night by our sides – and within just a few weeks of coming home, leaving her terrified biting behind her forever. Sylvie and Lizzie, who we think in their pre-rescue days may have been breeder rats rather than pet shop, their build and health so worlds apart from Smokie and Peat’s, lived long and happy lives, losing Lizzie towards the end of 2013 and Sylvie in early 2014.

This brought to an end the first phase of our rat-keeping and, thrown again by the sadness of the losses of our girls, I thought perhaps the end of a lovely chapter. However, it was only a week or two before the lack of rats in the house, even though we had Simba and our little hamster Darcy at that time, was overwhelming. There’s something about engaging with the rats that keeps you ever busy, and so in love, and this hole in our home combined with the local news story about a huge rat rescue group all needing homes led to the arrival of Chae and Winston, the first of our boys.

At 16 weeks when they came to us, they were the youngest rats we’d had in a long time and we had a lot to learn from them too in their different behaviours to the girls and their youthful fun. They were both wonderful characters, Chae full of an unbelievable energy for full-pelt darts around the living room, and Winston at first much shyer, choosing to hang in his cage in his first weeks with us, usually out of the door with one foot ready to step out and a comical look of indecision on his face. (This is hard to imagine now, having spent last night celebrating the second anniversary of Winston’s arrival home with us with his little face pressed tightly into my neck, as it has been every night in the last few weeks, not only all nervousness left behind him years ago but now the cuddliest old man you could ever hope to meet).

In October 2014, having settled into life with Chae and Winnie, we decided to get another companion for them to ensure one was not left without the other, and revisited the rescue centre again where we were found a single rat who had actually been part of the boys’ original litter in the large rescue, still at the centre and looking for a home. Pipkin, the beautiful but petrified boy we took home that day, was like no other. He was at least partially blind, had quite bad breathing problems, had two raggedy ears as a result of fights with other rats, after which he’d been kept alone, and more than any other rat he needed so much help and support to come out of his shell and relax into being the lovely soul he was.

The original plan did not quite work out, with Pipkin never making it in with his brothers, being incredibly nervous and aggressive whenever he met them and getting himself into too much of a state to keep trying. On his own, however, I fully believe Pipkin led a happy life. He spent much of his time out of his cage and just with us wherever we were and enjoyed being next to the boys in the other cage without being in with them. He became relaxed and happy, and was a really special soul. Pipkin lived to just over 2 years old, and made our home such a happy place by being in it.

In the meantime, we did eventually succeed in finding companions for Chae and Winnie, this time not through a rescue but through a local breeder, where we found Harvey and Ty in February 2015. At 6 weeks old when we first met them, they were impossibly tiny and absolutely gorgeous.

They lived alone together for a few weeks as they grew and eventually in spring were successfully intro’d to Chae and Winnie, another tense but wonderful to watch period of introductions. In a four, their characters found new ways to blossom, Chae such a sweet and submissive wee soul, Winnie and Harvey vying for top dog but with good natures about it, and Ty tentatively finding his place in the group.

We lost Chae just a few weeks ago in December 2015, and his loss was felt not just by us but by the whole group, re-adjusting to their shared life without him. Now, Winnie is the dodderiest of old men, though still fairly well, enjoying soft food and lots of cuddles, and is well looked-after in the cage by his sleeping companions Harvey and Ty, both of whom are also finding their feet in their nightly explores and becoming more “people rats” with every passing day.

Our little mischief has taken us on a rollercoaster of a journey over the last years, with many challenges, lots of lessons learned, some periods of heartache – but over-ridingly so much love and joy. In this blog I hope just to capture some of the little moments of everyday life with the pets that make up this wonderful experience so rewarding. Thanks so much for stopping by. x