The Return of the Rascally Rabbit

We’re now over a year into turning our front lawn into a fruit and vegetable garden, and have been enjoying harvesting our goodies very much. So, alas, has the local rabbit. We came back after a week away in the summer to find said bunny sitting in the middle of the pathway, fat and bold (and fluffy and cute, it has to be said…), munching on the last of my kale. It had troughed an entire 2 x 4 foot raised bed of kale and broccoli. The minxes barely repressed their glee at the sight of the decimated leaves and cheered loudly, while I chased that pesky varmint away. It dashed into the back garden while I huffed and puffed and abandoned the chase in favour of unloading the car.

The next day I waddled round to the compost bins at the back of the house to get rid of some of lunchtime’s veg peelings. I heard an ominous rustle behind the bins, so squeezed past to investigate. Last night’s rabbit was trapped between 2 slats in the fence! It had scraped a pile of dirt away with its back paws and rubbed all the fur off its sides. There was no blood, but it didn’t exactly look too comfortable. It must have been there since we’d arrived home and I’d chased it.

Now, I have to confess to considering roast rabbit for dinner that night, and went back to the kitchen for a big sharp knife. En-route, though, I thought about how scared it must have felt for those 14 hours and felt a rush of pity for it. Instead of fetching the knife, I put on 2 pairs of rubber gloves, went back out and tried to gently guide its back legs through the fence slats. No chance – its behind was too fat on my greens. So I gripped it over its haunches and middle and pulled. It slid right out then let out a scream like a banshee meets a scalded cat. I mean, I wasn’t expecting gratitude or anything, and I’m no “manky Scots git”, but I didn’t expect to be confronted with those long brown teeth.

(Oh come on, you can’t expect me to tell you a tale about a rabbit without a single Monty Python reference!)

Anyway, it jumped down, scampered off, and I forgot about it. Until I discovered that it had also munched all 10 of the carnations I’d cossetted and pampered and planted along the edge of the little fence I’d put up to shield the mess of my Steptoe’s Yard of a veg garden from the rest of the neighbourhood. Right down to the ground. I regretted my knife / gloves exchange, but got over it.

Our marauder wasn't as cute as these Photo: PDSA

Our marauder wasn’t as cute as these Photo: PDSA

Time passed. Killer Cat was a little more successful at keeping the wild rabbit away from the rest of my vegetables and the kale and lettuces grew back. The carnations and broccoli didn’t. Last weekend, the minxes came in from playing with tales of a rabbit that had lost an eye. I was quite dismissive (“Really? That’s nice, dear…”) as they guessed that it had been in a fight with a cat or dog. Then yesterday, I found a big fat rabbit right in the middle of the lawn.

“Shoo!” I hissed. It ignored me and hopped once in the general direction of my kale.

“Move along!” I chided, and walked right up to it. It just sat there, ignoring me. It did indeed look like it had lost one or both eyes. I was in a rush to get Midi The Animal Lover home from school for lunch, so stalked off in exasperation.

On our return, the rabbit was still there. Midi identified it as the rabbit the kids had been talking about over the weekend. I had a closer look at it. It was a very manky and unhappy little thing. I admitted to Midi that if I had any backbone and/or thought I knew how to do it without causing it further distress and pain, I’d kill it to stop its obvious suffering. As I didn’t, sadly we’d just let it get on with it. Midi had a long think about my attitude while she munched her lunch. Presently, she announced her judgement:

“Phone the SSPCA, Mum”, she said, “They’ll take care of it”.

Nooooo, they’re for things like baby squirrels and rescuing pets suffering cruelty and… and… well, they’ll not be coming out to wild rabbits with myxomatosis. Midi insisted I was wrong, and that the SSPCA representatives who’d visited the school last year had been clear that they would help any animal that needed it. She looked at me with her big, owly eyes full of compassion. So I called (03000 999 999 in the UK).

I spoke to a brisk and helpful lady who assured me that it wasn’t right to let the animal suffer any more, and talked me through finding something to put over the rabbit to immobilise, comfort and calm it (a big laundry crate). Five minutes later, my local SSPCA called to say they were on their way. Twenty minutes later, a very kind chap turned up in the van. He looked at the rabbit and agreed that it had myxomatosis and was suffering badly. He thanked me for the call, was happy at my admission that it was Midi’s idea from a school visit, and said he’d take it away and euthanize it gently with an overdose of anaesthetic.

Now, I can’t afford to pay vet’s fees to have called one out to come pick up and deal with the rabbit. And as I said, I’ve neither the skills nor the moral fibre to deal with it myself. Although the SSPCA are a charity, I’m sure the staff don’t work for free, the anaesthetic wouldn’t have been cheap and the man didn’t arrive on a broomstick: fuel costs a fair bit nowadays. So I’ll be making a donation to cover as much of that as I can.

Poor bunny. I guess I won’t have to be defending my greens against it or its burrow-mates now – I imagine they’ll be equally afflicted. And how did Midi react?:

“Poor Charlie-Felix Rabbit. I hope it rests in peace”, she said sadly. Then took a breath, and said brightly: “Oh wow, Mum, does this count as this week’s Good Deed for Cubs? Excellent!”

The Price of Blaeberries

One of my fellow Little Trekkers Ambassadors posted a drool-worthy photo of ripe blaeberries (bilberries) yesterday, and noted that they were particularly abundant this year. So although the forecast was for murky drizzle and rain, we decided to brave the mental driving* over the Cairn o’ Mount road and go back to an old haunt at the foot of Clachnaben, in Glen Dye, to go foraging.

*’Mental driving’: expect to encounter slow-moving cyclists round every corner, and oncoming speeding 4×4’s overtaking them on blind bends. I’ve yet to drive this road without swearing loudly at oncoming traffic.

I think the whole of Aberdeenshire had the same idea: the wee car park was full, the overspill layby was full, cars were parked along the side of the narrow road and in the slowly-dripping-downhill bog opposite. One white car blocking a forestry path nearby had already been written on with blue marker pen. So we kept driving on to try out Scolty Hill near Banchory. Well, we quickly abandoned that, too, because we were 5p short of the £1 minimum parking charge. The Boss agreed to see whether he could ask another motorist at the ticket machine for the missing 5p, but came back muttering darkly that we were to give up and go home.

Ever the optimist, and determined not to have a long drive in vain (it was now 1pm), I stopped again at the Glen Dye car park. And found a space! Within a minute, we were out, covered in waterproofs and off down that forest path.

blaeberriesThe best blaeberries are only about 100 – 200 yards from the car park, so we didn’t have far to go at all. As usual, we reminded the kids not to strip a bush bare, not to be too greedy (one Treasure Jar = 500g of fruit (ish) = plenty), and not to trample the ground. And oh my stars, they certainly are / were abundant! There were very, very few under-ripe ones, so I should think they’ll be gone by the end of the week.

tick baitAfter about 3 minutes of picking, the midges found us. I giggled through a long-winded explanation of what ‘Character Building’ meant to the minxes and how midges crawling over them would do just that. They didn’t appreciate it, and went from being irritated to angry to howling with rage within another 5 minutes. Midi started to get a bit distressed at the midges, so I looked up. It was quite a swarm around us! So we split up and headed in 5 different directions to try to lessen the swarm. Nah – they just called all their friends to come feast on the foragers. midge foodAnother 5 minutes later and The Boss called a halt to the foraging – his sensitive skin comes up in big weals with midge-bites and the poor man was beginning to look like Lizard. We ran away bravely to the car, where I keep a first aid kit containing a packet of loratadine antihistamine tablets. Luckily I’d got the one you can give to children over 30kg – poor Midi Minx obviously inherited her Daddy’s skin, whilst the other pair are a bit more midge-resistant like me.

jelly contentWhen we got home, we immediately displayed our fundamental priorities: I started weighing and washing the blaeberries to make jelly, Maxi turned on the Tour de France on the TV, her sisters got out their My Little Ponies, and The Boss checked his bare legs for ticks. He found 3 immediately. Screeeeeeech to a halt! The minxes were told to drop everything, strip off their lower clothing and line up on the white bedspread for a tick check. Midi found 2 crawling on the sheet, Mini had been bitten by 2 and had another on her. Bleurgh! I’m not overly concerned about the risks of Lyme disease (I caught it myself in 2005) because they were off so quickly, but I’ll obviously keep a wee eye out for bulls-eye rashes on her or flu-like symptoms over the next 3 weeks.

I think you can see by the photo of Mini way up there ^^ that those bare ankles were enough to attract them. Even though we weren’t near bracken, it’s obviously tick-heaven in Glen Dye right now. We’ll go back in a day or 2 for more berries, but next time will remember to tuck long trousers/leggings INTO socks, do buddy-buddy tick checks after being out, and I’ll buy another of my favourite tick hooks at the vet’s – I gave the one I keep in my purse to my mother-in-law and forgot to replace it because The Boss has one too. You can’t have too many O Tom tick twister hooks, in my view!

I’ll let you know how the jelly turns out. How would you use a glut of blaeberries yourself?

Today’s the Day!

I’m bashing this out on my phone, so I’m sorry if it’s not got pretty links and photos (see my GrumpyOldTrout Facebook feed for those!) I just wanted to remind you that the MuTu System programme’s annual big discount of a whopping 45% is TODAY only!

See my last post for full details, or go straight via this link. You don’t need a code, the discount is automatic https://pz138.isrefer.com/go/homepage/GrumpyOldTrout

Stronger, Fitter, Leaner

Morning! I’ve been AWOL for a few weeks (12…) because the time I used to carve aside every day to write blogposts has been filled with something else – exercise and looking after myself. Was it time well spent? Well, check out the before and after pics and judge for yourself.


After 12 weeks of mild exercise, daily walks, drinking lots more water every day (ok, most days), a little relaxation, and I genuinely feel like a new woman. With a body and brain that function. Even though I kept up my cake habit (hey, one quick squizz at my Instagram feed proves that continued vice beyond doubt!).

So where’s the hard evidence of any change? Where are the numbers? Well, I lost 1% body fat. (Do I really have to admit how bad it was? Ouch – OK. I was 35% fat, according to my scales. That’s unhealthy levels of fat. Still is). I lost a couple of pounds (so now just under 11 st), and 2″ off my waist (now 34″ and fitting my jeans better). That’s all well and good. Plenty of the ladies who I connected with online in a self-help group lost way loads more, and as I say, I do have a cake and wine o’clock habit. But it’s the teeny unseen things that are making the biggest difference to me: under my cushy outer layer my abdominal muscles are now so strong I can actually start our draw-cord lawn-mower easily by myself, for the first time in 9 years (!! I did say the teeny things…) Now I’m able to lift the 3 minxes back into bed without straining or leaking. I can dig out raised beds without hurting myself, and shift huge tubs of the resulting very heavy garden waste into the car-boot and down to the dump myself. I can FUNCTION! Properly. I’m now as strong as I was when I was 30 and at my fittest. Oh, and I’ve developed little shoulder muscles and hamstrings that you can actually see. But no way am I posting naked pics of this carcass on the internet! Just take my word for it. The Boss certainly noticed.

Why am I honking on about this? Normally I just talk about the programme I followed to my friends who’ve noticed my newly-flatter tummy and asked. But on 6 July (this week – in 5 days!) there’s going to be a humongous 45% discount on the cost of the programme I follow. It’s the only discount you can get on it, on one day every year, so if you were ever thinking about buying it, then that’s the day to do it. Not today, or on 5th July, or 7th July. No need for codes or anything – it’s an automatic discount on digital and physical copies of the programme.

It’s called MuTu System (‘MuTu’ as in Mummy Tummy, because it’s targeted at women whose bodies didn’t spring back after childbirth, like they do in myths). Over 12 weeks of daily, gentle exercise and advice, it gets your core muscles back together and functioning. I had a 2 finger diastasis* from 6″ above my navel to my pubic bone. It’s now totally gone and the ‘tummy porridge‘ I felt when I poked into that diastasis* is now healed – there’s resistance. Finally! 10 years after the minx who caused it was born. I loved that the programme isn’t specific solely to your core muscles: it gets your whole body all working together (because funny old thing, we are complete bodies, not just disembodied abs, or glutes). There’s no diet to follow, though there’s plenty, credible, good healthy eating advice. You don’t need special equipment – I’m tight-fisted skint thrifty, so I got by using a little cushion, 2 cartons of 1-litre UHT milk as weights, a pair of tights and the edge of the sofa. Though I *did* upgrade to sand-filled bubble mix bottles and some therabands a couple of weeks ago…

*PS here’s advice and a video on how to check whether you have a diastasis recti and how big it is.

Why am I linking to a programme for sale? What’s in it for me? Well, I was so deeply impressed with the visible and invisible changes in me (so’s The Boss😀 ), and how much better my life got (melodramatic? Actually, no. Being able to just trundle along being as active as I want without thinking about it is a really big deal) that I asked whether I could be an affiliate. So that means that I get no money at all for advertising it (no need! I’m happy to rave about something like this), but if you do end up buying it, and you do so through one of the links above, then I get a little payment. But I won’t hold it against you if you don’t – I’ll just be delighted for you, regardless.

I really ought to tell you all the benefits of the programme, but do you know what? You’re better clicking through and reading it yourself and seeing what you think. Here are some testimonials from ladies who aren’t slackers like me, and some FAQs.

Will I be keeping this up? Oh yes! You automatically have lifetime access. Which is pretty good, because I bought it 5 or 6 years ago, did 3 weeks, stopped, forgot, remembered, did 3 weeks, stopped, etc. etc. until February this year when I was so horrified at my weak core that I actually committed to taking time to look after myself better. I’ll be doing the core exercises permanently. And when I look at the 2″ lost around my waist and feel my increased vitality and strength, I wonder what I’d look like now had I given up the cake habit! D’you know, I might just do that… I’ll also check in with my continued progress in another 12 weeks – I followed the 12 week MuTu System programme; if you just wish to tone up and don’t need to lose any weight, then have a look into the 8 week MuTu Focus (it’s exactly like the 12 week programme but without the additional get-sweaty Intensive exercises).

Quick Visit Back To Our Old Stomping Ground: Day 2

Saturday 9 April, Day 8 of the Easter Holidays

I didn’t enjoy my sea-induced sleep for long: Maxi woke me at 2am, crying because she needed to go to the toilet ages ago and couldn’t hold it in much longer.

You know, once you’re actually out your warm sleeping bag, stumbled into wellies and struggled into your big down jacket, it’s not so bad being up at Silly O’Clock. There’s something about a silent campsite that makes me feel a bit like a kid sneaking around on Christmas Eve. Maxi felt it, too. We strolled / waddled / giggled over to the toilet block, torch-light making the rabbits dance around us. They were as big as cats! We gawped at the bright Milky Way above us as we plodded on, and promised to stop and look for meteors on the way back. However, in a short few minutes the clouds lapped over the stars and, just as we reached the tent, the first raindrops fell. How lucky were we?! The pattering of rain on the taut roof, hissing waves and Mini’s piglet-snores in my ear sent me back to sleep. Normally I fight sleep, only closing my eyes when I can’t keep them open any longer, frustrated at the ‘waste’ of time. But the comforting sounds, wrapped around my most-loved 4 people, in my favourite place, relaxed me for the first time in months. Years!

Jammies TailThe Boss earned yet another ironed shirt from me by getting the coffee ready for us as soon as we woke up, then poured hot porridge into the kids. I promise I told him about his jammies tail before too many people saw him…

breakfastWe unleashed the kids on the brilliant onsite playground to burn off some energy while The Boss packed everything away (he doesn’t trust my packing: he takes the gentle origami approach, whilst I favour the stuff-and-hammer-it-down method). Midi taught Mini how to hurtle down a zip-slide without rapid death ensuing. All sorted and car shifted by 10am, The Boss announced that it time to hit the beach.

Oh, I love that beach! I got immediate flashbacks to a walk The Boss and I had taken along it almost exactly 6 years earlier with a baby Mini on my chest and still high on painkillers. It was probably all the lemon primroses and the cave with the ever-present discarded Buckfast bottles in it that prized that memory out…

The minxes and I settled into our usual beach routine – climb anything not moving / draw lovehearts with ‘Mummy’ in it to earn an extra massive hug / build a big beach collage / turn over every rock to find a starfish – while The Boss had a clamber around sites of near-epic bike crashes in his past life.

By the time the tide came in and shepherded us back to the main bay, it was about time to sort out a treat lunch: Scribbles Pizza Restaurant, scene of many a minx disaster and wonder and our favourite place to eat in Elgin. Although the inside has been completely renovated since we last visited 3 years ago, they still make my favourite beef chilli melts (I craved them throughout my last trimesters when I was expecting Midi and Mini) and the coffee and walnut cake was just as delicious as I’d remembered.

Cummingston gorse - if only that scent could be bottled!

Cummingston gorse – if only that scent could be bottled!

With sunshine fighting back against the drizzle and our little bubble of nostalgia unburst, we drove back again to one of our favourite beaches: Cummingston. At this time of year, the gorse is incredible: a coconut sunscreen scent hangs over the whole area when it’s hit by sunlight. All 3 girls love the looooong slide at the playpark because it feels scary. As does dodging the nesting seagulls dive-bombing people who get too close to the cliffs, but today we wanted to look for cowrie shells and sea-glass so headed for the beach on the far right initially.

Although we could have happily stayed for many more hours, eventually we realised that at 6pm it really was time to reluctantly head for home. We only winkled the minxes back into the car by promising to come back to the area the very next weekend that we could. It was an easy promise to make, and personally I can’t wait!

 

Quick Visit Back to Our Old Stomping Ground: Day 1

Friday 8 April, Day 7 of the Easter Holidays

We all felt sad about not getting out camping and were getting fed up rattling around the house – the week had started well with visits around and about but the weather forecast was miserable for the entire weekend. In occasional bouts of nostalgia and wistfulness, I sometimes check the forecast for the area where we used to live. This weekend it would be mild and dry there. A quick Google showed me I could get a nearby campsite place for under £15 for Friday night. It didn’t take me long to convince the rest of the family that we should go.

We loaded the car on the Thursday night and set off for Elgin before mid-morning. With that Historic Scotland membership still shiny and new and with the sun splitting the heavens, we made a bee-line for Elgin’s ruined cathedral. Despite Elgin being our nearest large town for 6 years, we’d never explored or even looked twice at the cathedral. Within 5 minutes of entering, I was regretting leaving our visit for so long! Elgin Cathedral made an even bigger impression on us than Melrose Abbey the week before, which is why I’ve written a separate post about it (I’ll amend this to add a link).

30 seconds before the tent was up and ready

30 seconds before the tent was up and ready

tent home

The nerd tent: bigger on the inside than the outside.

A quick packed lunch in the car and an emergency outgrown waterproofs purchase (Maxi and Midi are growing like weeds), and it was time to drive to Silver Sands campsite just outside Lossiemouth. As it’s mostly laid out for static and touring caravans, there’s only a little grass area set aside for tents. There was plenty of space, though: not many campers fancy pitching a tent in sub-5degC weather. We didn’t hang about: our little Vango Halo was up in a couple of minutes, every tent peg we owned holding it into the sandy ground against the wind! The minxes were delegated the job of jigsawing together the foam floor and placing roll-mats, sleeping bags and pillows. I tried hard to ignore the wails and screams that constituted kids negotiating who slept farthest from whom and closest to “Squashy Mummy”… Camp struck, we hopped into the car and nipped off down the back road to see whether the fish and chip van still visited our old village on a Friday evening.

We were so overwhelmed at seeing the fish van and some old friends in the queue that it took us a wee while to notice that the land it was parked on had been substantially prettified: beautiful plant beds and borders and decorations. Colourful, beautiful and a visual testament to great community spirit – the villagers had done the work themselves.

fish and chips by the seaWe strolled round the corner to the sea front to gaze out over the Moray Firth towards Cromarty while we ate our chips and creamy fish. All 5 of us sat silently, 3 minxes on one bench, us crumblies on the other, happily munching and smiling and reminiscing. Ahhhh, despite the chill, life just doesn’t get any better than this!

climbing wallTummies full, we walked back towards the car with a quick detour via the brilliant climbing wall along the side of the school. We should have driven back to the campsite then, but only got a few feet before all agreeing that we had to stop for a quick play at our old swing-park.

zip wireI think that was our mistake – by the time light was fading and we had to leave, we had 3 sad little faces in the back seat. Mini burst into tears and declared that she never wanted to hear the name of our old village again. “Never say that word again!” she sobbed. Amongst the family, she wanted us to rename it “The-village-where-we-used-to-live”. I think a lot of the tears and emotion were down to being so very tired out. However, I didn’t feel too even myself. I’d have loved to have said hello to our old friends, but I couldn’t really face walking up our old street and it would have been rude and too much of a surprise to just drop by unannounced.

Mummy's 'special' water bottle

Mummy’s ‘special’ water bottle

Back at the campsite, we quickly got sorted out. We could have been very distracted by the tvs in the wall of the bathrooms, but were too tired to linger over teeth-brushing. The girls sleeping-bagged up and collapsed in a big huddle. There were snores almost immediately. The Boss and I just about managed to stay awake to enjoy a shared bottle of Tiger beer (I volunteered to have my half in a water bottle – classy) before we squeezed into the huddle, too. For once, I enjoyed a little bit of insomnia, lying there listening to the wind rattling guy-ropes, the scree of the oystercatchers and the insistent swoosh of the waves, idly NOT planning the next day’s fun.

Putting Up A Pesky Fence With A Pesky Cold

Thursday 7 April, Day 6 of the Easter Holidays

In spare 15 minutes here and there, I’ve been turning some of our front lawn into a fruit and veg garden. I have a 5 year plan that I’m working towards. I find it frustrating not to have it all dug into raised beds YESTERDAY, but there’s only me doing it, and I have a lot on. As a result, it sometimes resembles Steptoe’s Yard. I persuaded The Boss that a nice little low picket fence would be just what we needed to hide the veg garden behind: discreet and distracting. And it would make an awesome windbreak for tall vegetables, like broad beans and my lovely brussels sprouts.

Well, I’ve been waiting since September to get The Boss to help me get it in the ground, along with a load of plants I’d bought. They’ve been clinging to uncertain life in too-small containers all winter while I’ve waited on the fence’s erection. The arrival by post of 2 big carnation plants was the last straw.

Finally, today, I coaxed him into life with the promise of saws, drills and other power tools. It’s been too cold, wet and windy for the girls to have much interesting in helping, so I helped. I sneezed whilst I held fence and spirit level, and coughed while he wielded the mallet. And… It’s up, it’s straight and I like it – it’s pretty inconspicuous. Satisfyingly I also got 10 dianthus and 40 gladioli bulbs planted along it, and a line of snapdragons planted behind it: the idea is that the fence will be softened by the flowers. Now I just need a big arch at each end of the fence. I’ve given The Boss my strict directions and told him to Make It So. Maybe before the end of 2017…?

Glasses Go Gishhhh

Aside

designophy_com_f2_1000000113_102

Porca Miseria Hanging Lamp by Ingo Maurer. Photo from http://www.designophy.com 

Must be a High Gravity day here at Garrison Grumpy – my Trout underlings are smashing glassware like a Greek tourist dinner party. I spent most of this evening hugging a sobbing Midi, who lurched from one disaster to another; Mini precariously balanced bowls on the final micron of the edge of the table for others to look at the wrong way and send plummeting to their fate; then The Boss did his usual smash-it-all-into-the-dishwasher so it would only wash whatever survived.

On the bright side, the floor’s now swept spotlessly clean.