Columnist Margot Darling on embracing her latest creature comforts


- Credit: Archant

From city living to country farmstead – Margot is fully embracing her latest creature comforts

With the bleating of lambs and clucking of hens to be heard at all hours in the garden, it appears, dear Reader that overnight Margot and Jerry HQ has become a smallholding of sorts. Since we bundled two cats and a puppy in the back of the car alongside our girls at the start of our countryside adventure, there have been feathered newcomers and woolly additions - and now house and garden are in danger of resembling a rescue home for all things farmyard.

You can imagine that Jerry has been none too impressed with the fact that he never knows what he’ll be coming home to when he trundles up the driveway after a day in the Big Smoke. Animals just seem to have a habit of appearing on the doorstep looking for a home, and I couldn’t possibly turn them away could I?

It all started with talk of pigs. One night, over a glass of wine after a parish meeting, I mentioned that I had always liked the idea of keeping pigs and fattening them up for slaughter. Think of all that delicious roast pork to be had and parma hams drying in the shed. As everyone knows, the only bit of a pig that you can’t eat is the squeak. However, after much consternation, it was obvious that the locals weren’t up for the idea of pigs in the village. Poor little porkers, I’ve always thought them rather sweet. But it was decided that they were far too smelly and untidy for our little corner of rural Hampshire. It has already been universally agreed by most in the village that I’m completely mad - all efforts to try and dissuade me from keeping livestock being completely futile.

In the course of the discussion I miraculously managed to convince a lovely couple in the village that if pigs weren’t a goer, maybe a joint enterprise with a couple of lambs would be the next best thing? So when the telephone rang and it was the local farmer looking to offload a couple of orphan lambs, I jumped at the chance and bundled all three into the back of Jerry’s Land Rover.

Honestly, I thought that I had really done him a favour upping the farming ‘street cred’ of his so-called rural vehicle but oh no, Jerry hasn’t stopped going on about the fact that he can’t rid his beloved Lanny of the stench of incontinent travelling lambs.

Still, that aside, I must admit he has been remarkably patient. Considering that we’ve spent the last few months bottle feeding at all hours, turning Jerry’s shed into a makeshift sheep shelter, dealing with hens deciding not to lay and installing a poorly lamb in luxury accommodation (a cardboard box with fluffy towels) by the new Everhot for a night or two, I’d say that with all the creature kerfuffle Jerry really ought to be polishing his husbandly halo about now.

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“You’ll never eat these ones,” said a local sheep farmer, when I was spied talking to the lambs as they followed me round the field. “Don’t let Jerry hear you say that,” I joked back. “He’s rather looking forward to a good lamb bhuna when the time comes.” Shaking his head, he chuckled and said “You’re too soft for farming.”

With our woolly lawnmowers steadily gaining weight and broody hens recovering, we skipped off for a day in the New Forest, picnicking with ponies in glorious summer sunshine.

On the journey home, mulling over what a lovely day we’d all had, I wondered for a moment whether maybe, just maybe, there was room at home for a donkey...