Horses, Gardens and the Hopalong Kid

I haven’t had much to enthuse about in a post whilst my broken leg has been slowly healing.  Our garden and fields are all sloping to a greater or lesser extent, so getting about on crutches – I had to abandon the wheelchair – has been a slow and frustrating process.  And I’m sure you don’t want to read about how my hair has suddenly gone noticeably grey and loss of weight and muscle-tone are instantly ageing.  But lessons have been learned, exercises done and progress made;  I’m down to one crutch and I’ll have to break the habit of a lifetime and learn to trust a hairdresser!

Doing even the smallest things around the horses has been difficult as I wouldn’t be able to skip out of trouble if I get in the way.  Although the beloved has done a sterling job of caring for all three “boys”, it hasn’t stopped me fretting about their welfare.

My greatest concern is my oldest horse, Aly, now 27 and with us since he was six. For many years he has been prone to colics, often very dramatic, and yet with our constant vigilance and care, or the vet’s when in extremis, he’s come back from some seemingly fatal attacks. He has also suffered from emphysema for some years. Dry, dusty weather and pollen peaks, as we have been having for the last few weeks, make poor Aly heave and wheeze. We give him every possible care, nourishment and medicament, but this spring he has lost condition quite noticeably.  Our vet warned us this would come as he becomes less able to withstand his debilitating condition and that we might have to consider whether his deteriorating quality of life makes it was worth continuing to keep him alive. The light in his eye is still there and you can still see the “smile” on his face as he tucks into a clump of spring grass, but will he be alright this summer, will he make it through to his next birthday?


We ate the first of the strawberries, both wild and cultivated last week, much earlier than usual.  The temperature’s been mounting and the promise of rain ever receding;  everything’s coming into flower all at once, but as the grass grew crispier and blooms faded swiftly in the heat last week, we were able to give the garden a treat.  Our (swimming) pool liner perished last year and we put off replacing it until this spring.  It was still half full of untreated rainwater, so we managed to pump most of it out over the garden – and some over the other two horses (Pom and Pie) who were longing for a shower to sluice off the last of their winter coats.

Of course, as soon as you water the garden in exasperation, it’s the signal for the heavens to open and the beginning of May has brought its traditional thunderstorms.  So a good soundtrack for today, as we flick the electric circuits out yet again to avoid damage from lightning surges, has to be the evergreen “Stormy Weather”!

The pyramid orchids, dog roses and a slew of wildflowers are out in the grazing and hedgerows and in the garden some of the loveliest roses are blooming at the same time as the mock orange blossom, ivory-white paeonies and old-fashioned pinks just before the blossom opens on the lime tree.  Tonight I couldn’t resist lurching round the garden just drinking in the lovely scents.  However……

I nearly called this post, “Life, Death and other ‘small’ matters” because this is much on my mind at the moment.  We gardeners seed, we grow, we nurture and we deal with the pests.  There are few gardeners, these days, who wouldn’t rather garden organically than risk using chemicals which might alter the equilibrium of the environment for the worse.

I’m lucky enough to live on a large plot surrounded by woodland in an area where there is very little industry or agriculture,  so wildlife in all its forms flourishes in my garden, the helpers and the hindrances mainly balancing each other out.  Except for the larger “pests”.  Exasperation with the rosebud-nibbling deer and the ground-ploughing wild boar led me to fence around the garden after last year I exhausted all the usual ruses of spreading human hair and sweaty clothes by their entrance points and employing a dressmaker’s dummy in gardener’s clothes as a “pop-up” scarecrow.  (Mostly it’s a mix of temporary fencing, consisting of tree-support pickets and strawberry netting, and electrified wire fence which will serve until hedges I’ve planted grow high enough.)

But there are some pests which multiply out of all proportion and have to be “controlled”.

The petal-decimating “drap mortuaire” or white spotted rose beetle (thanks Michelle for the identification!) or ants which invade the house and kitchen work surfaces …. I just hate to have to deal death to these creatures, but nothing stops them and if I don’t take action, I may as well give up gardening or housekeeping!  Still, ending a life however “insignificant” or small in size – the snail I tread on by accident or the persistent horsefly who won’t leave the horses alone – always goes against the grain.

In the ponds we have lots of frog and toadspawn, tadpoles and baby salamanders and around the house lovelorn smooth snakes are abandoning caution to twine together in their courtship dance.  Most bizarrely I saw red parakeet in the orchard – another immigrant like us!!

The best thing I can say about this spring is that I may have been able to do so much less, but, being restricted to the house and garden, I’ve had the chance to be still and observe and enjoy the sounds, sights and scents even more than usual.

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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