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You've heard of the 'Good' life, this is the 'Real' life - first, some background.

 

Having never known a life without some kind of animals around the place, I feel a 'brief' resume is needed before starting the blog proper.  I grew up by the side of a big main road that cut through farmland and countryside in a fairly rural part of Sussex.  My Grandfather worked on the nearby farm, and in his day the road was just a dusty cart track, not a busy duel carriageway!  Without this road we would have been in the middle of nowhere, so beware if buying a new property that appears to be isolated - a motorway could be on the horizon.

 

As far back as I can remember there were chickens and rabbits in the back garden.  We shared a pig with the neighbours and also the orchard adjoining their cottage was for our use.  It contained probably 20 apple and pear trees, including varieties no longer around.  The windfalls were used to make as many pies and puddings as possible (if you've never tasted steamed apple pudd, you simply haven't lived).  The main crop was picked and lovingly rolled in newspaper and placed on wooden slats in what had once been part of an old dairy next door.  Before my time the next door neighbours had been in charge of the adjacent 33 acres which was run as a small dairy farm by the local Estate who owned our properties, which had originally been tied cottages.  All through the coming year it was my job to inspect and turn these apples, discarding any that had gone bad.  It kept me out of mischief as there were an awful lot of apples!  Apart from that I took my little wheelbarrow and collected fallen wood from the copse at the bottom of the garden for the kitchen range.  My Dad brought back the big branches and sawed them up into logs, and taught me how to split some of them into kindling with a billhook.  Health and safety would have had a hissy fit!  I was all of 5 when I started doing this and never cut myself once.  I must have had a good teacher. 

 

We didn't have any pets as such until I was in my teens, but there was a succession of black and white tom cats next door, all called Timmy!  I think most of them fell victim to the fast traffic on the road, but as they kept being replaced, and I was too young to really understand, in the end they all seemed to become one entity.  Their purpose during their short lives was to keep the rats down, and as a reward they got a plate of bread and milk and any scraps from the table but there weren’t many of those when I was growing up!

 

So we lived with eggs a'plenty, roast and stewed chicken, rabbit, pork and of course our own veggies.  Now and again we'd barter something we had for something someone else had, and there was the occasional input from the local poacher, who was a friend.  He would arrive at the pub with his big poacher's coat on, the pockets of which held a variety of game.  A good person to get on with. I went on a walk with him once, just on dusk and watched him bring pheasants out of the trees where they were roosting with his catapult.  He rarely used a gun, except to kill pigeons and rabbits, which was legal, as they were vermin, not game, and as long as he had permission to be on the land he could take as many as he could shoot.  He allegedly caught hare by walking close to the form where it was lying during the day and throwing his jacket over it.  I never saw this, but as a hare is very reluctant to flee until the very last minute, and relies on its amazing speed to escape predators, it is a possibility.  He was a canny man, and the hare he caught never had any shot in them, so who knows.

 

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