A quiet walk

After our chilly visit from Arctic winds, the weather has returned to it's usual mild subduedety
. The countryside is quiet, tastefully dressed in dull greens and drab browns, with the odd natural bauble standing bright against the grey.

I have a new stopping place on my regular walk.

Through the gloom, you might just be able to see some plump little birdy figures behind the fence...

I stood by the gate and clicked at them and after a while they came nodding up, clucking comfortably - all except the one by the laurel bush, who, after some scratching around, suddenly dived into its green depths, and was later heard triumphantly laying an egg with much cackling (I think that's what she was doing, it's the kind of sound I'd make if I had to lay an egg...)

For once my camera wasn't enough: there are only so many snaps you can take. So next time I am going to bring out my sketchbook - I used to love drawing chickens, they are such satisfying shapes. I wished them good day, and headed offroad, across the fields and towards the village, where I found a sad (and fat) little corpse. This shrew was still soft and warm; I wondered if it had been caught as I came over the footpath, and abandoned at my approach? It was a clean and efficient kill, one wound to the stomach.

I'm always interested in dead creatures - it's a chance to get a real look at them and mentally soak up their forms and features, which is often more useful than a barrage of photographs when drawing toys or characterised animals. Aware that this was someone's meal, I left it where I found it - maybe the hunter was impatiently lurking in a bush or perched in a nearby tree, waiting for me to stop interfering and leave it's lunch alone.

I always feel a pang when I come across this kind of thing, but carnivorous wild animals don't have the option of vegetarianism, and the real natural world is not a Disney film. In the cycle of life, and especially in the middle of winter, things must eat other things.


Dana and Daisy said...

I'm a bit squeamish at dead critters, but I do love the winter colors. I used to think winter was so dull. One year I spent a lot of time driving, about 100 miles one way twice a week, and I began to notice the subtle shades and how nature changes so slowly but surely, week by week.

Acornmoon said...

Have a Happy Christmas Gretel,
I have enjoyed visiting your blog so much.

For a moment there I thought we were going to be treated to a recipe for shrew stew!

Libby said...

I miss my chickens :-(

Merry Christmas to you both and I hope you have a lovely restful one too!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy my chickens, and reading your blog.

We raised two table birds this year, along with our layers and it really bought home the cycle of life and death for us.

I hope you have a quiet and peaceful Midwinter period.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your adventure through photographs. What lovely accents of color on a grey day.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Caroline B said...

I'm always mystified by how many times we encounter dead shrews while on dog walks - I wonder just what it is that preys on them (everything?)
Have a lovely Christmas!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Chickens are nice shapes, I do agree, and so full of personality. Thanks for the corner info, I shall put it to good use! Happy Christmas to you and Andy.

tut-tut said...

I'm a chicken fan; hope to see some in various guises next year!

Happy Christmas to you and your family. You are a wonderful portal.

tlchang said...

I'm glad you have some local chickens to visit with (and yes, they have a very distinctive, proud, loud and on-going, cackle when they lay an egg).

With all the snow fall, I've seen small rodent trails in the backyard, along with the bird tracks. It's obviously something small (so not a rat! yay. Or racoon or possom sort of thing), but beyond that I can't decipher. How many types of small rodents come out at night? I wonder if I really want to know!

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

The plump red hen makes me smile. I always find chickens so fun to watch. Don't know why... they're just fun to me.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I find the many varieties of chickens so beautiful! So many colours and featured shapes. There were chickens near us when I was a very little girl, and I would often run off, sometimes sans clothing I am sorry to say, to see them!!

Cat in the Foxgloves said...

I agree with the chicken comments...I've always thought they look as if they're wearing bloomers.
I love going for walks, it's so stimulating and relaxing at the same time.

Amongst The Oaks said...

Thank you for the gift of your blog throughout the year. I enjoy it immensely. Happy Christmas from here Amongst The Oaks.

Kim said...

Aaaw, poor little shrew. He's sooo cute.

We went for a lovely ramble too on Monday. I think it's necessary before Christmas, as it gets rid of the stress.

Thank you so very much for my lovely Christmas card. I'll treasure it :)

Merry Christmas to you all :)

Kim x

Frances said...

Happy Christmas to you PG,

I tried to send a message earlier today, but think that the seasonal spirits must have taken it!

What a lovely walk you have shared with us. I am glad you had your camera along, and next time, if your fingers won't be too cold, do take the sketchbook.

(It's below freezing here in New York and even taking a snap with the camera means taking off gloves, and I just won't do it.)

The single golden globe reminded me of a sight I saw on a winter trip to the UK, from a train, I saw a single red apple hanging from a twiggy tree. I thought it a poem.

The little shrew was a surprise. Of course I knew the word, and knew the Shakespeare connotation, but have never really seen one dead or alive.

Keeping the cold weather at bay indoor here, I have been doing Christmas baking all day. I give lots of cookies (biscuits) as gifts and need to keep topping up my supplies. Lovely to have the apartment scented with buttery sugar!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas! Joy to your world and that of all of us. xo

Willow said...

Have just discovered your blog, via 'Oakmoon'. Your photographs are beautiful, especially the chickens! I only have two little hens, but they make me smile every single day with their antics.

I loved your hand made Christmas cards too, and was intrigued by the little printer you have - I've never seen one before. I'll definitely be returning to look at some of your other posts soon!

Willow xx

Cotswoldgent said...

Have a good one Gretel, I'll raise me glass to you Christmas morning.

Jess said...

I love the shapes of chickens, I must take my sketchbook with me next time I go out, it's a habit I keep on trying to remember but fail miserably every time. I have enough trouble trying to remember what to wear for muddy conditions! Happy christmas Gretel, and thanks so much for the new link :)x

Sarah Laurence said...

You make even a grey day look lovely. I’m looking forward to your chicken sketches. What, no recipe for found shrew? Happy Christmas!

Kristin Nicholas said...

Merry Christmas to you Gretel. It is so lovely to read your blog and dream about a visit back to England one day. I can't wait to see your chicken sketches. My best, Kristin

Dana and Daisy said...

Gretel, what wonders and surprises I have found this past year on your blog and through your published thoughts. Merry Christmas and Blessings Untold in 2009.

Love, Dana

Elizabeth said...

The image of the chicken against the laurel leaves hit me with an almost palpable bump.
Slam back against my childhood.
Really weird - but OK just vivid.
What a plump little dead vole/shew.
I'm not a bit squeamish - I agree a really good chance to observe carefully.

Merisi said...

Dear Gretel,
a quiet walk through live's up and downs, all hidden along the way, and sometimes in plain sight, as you so beautifully documented. A poignant reminder of live's preciousness and the imperative to enjoy every moment, because every moment could be one's last.

A wonderful Christmas holiday to you,
hugged by loved ones and good things to enjoy!

Liza said...

I looked up shrews when my cat brought a dead one in...so cute! Those pinhole eyes! Apparently they die really easily - even at loud noises - and also taste horrible. A bit of a pointless defence mechanism! Maybe this one will be immortalised in felt... Merry Christmas! x x

Mlle Miracle said...

In spanish we call this little creature "musaraña". Thanks to share your walks with us, it's refreshing!
I wish you merry Christmas Gretel!

Deborah Lambson said...

I'm sure the wee mouse would be quite pleased that he had been the source of such a learning experience. ♥ I love to see your part of the country Gretel..what a fun walk that was.

Jackie said...

I thought exactly that when I watched 'Madagascar' at Christmas. We have to be realistic..no matter how much I love animals I still eat them.(Hypocritically)

Kitty said...

Hi there. I was just indulging in a spot of blog-hopping, and landed at your blog. I think that header is one of the loveliest I have seen - just had to say.

I enjoyed looking over your work - will definitely be back.

Happy New Year. :-)

Lynne said...

Love the "free range" chickens! My neighbor keeps chickens and I have a good supply of fresh eggs coming from her.

We have lots of shrews here but unfortunately for them they don't swim well and end up floating in our pool. I'm forever skimming them out. Poor things. We had a dog that used to catch them in the yard. She'd fling them high in the air and catch them, only to fling them again and again.

Happy New Year!

Weeping Sore said...

I nominate "subduedety" as the best new word ever. Your pics are neat, but I'm not sure about the dead mouse - cycle of life and all that - but still. I wish I had such lovely countryside to walk through. Not too many chickens in the suburban ring of hell where I live. Happy '09!

Sarah Laurence said...

Happy New Year, Gretel!

Nan and =^..^= said...

Hi Gretel,
Wishing you a very Happy New Year and may your dreams come true!
I so much appreciate your help with all of my questions about blogging back in October.

Mytutorlist.com said...

Oh! Poor, poor shrew! I love his pink nose!

Sarah said...

Ah chickens! I have five and adore them. They have personality plus!

Came by your blog through a comment left on Rachael's (Rachael Rabbit) blog.

Hugs, Sarah x