I'm a New Zealander married to a Dutch man. We left Holland in August 2006 with our two little boys to live in Singapore. Two and a half years later we're back in the Netherlands, trying to adjust to life in the Low Lands after loving the tropics. At least life is never dull!
One of the fun things about bunnies is that they are constantly busy, and no matter how domesticated you may think your Flopsy or Coco or Rocco or Dumpling may be, the heart of a wild beast pumps beneath that cute fluffy coat. Spring and Autumn are the busiest seasons as the rabbits instincts kick in to dig a burrow for breeding for the former, or a shelter during the winter in the later. Punky Muffin is a particularly fanatic digger a tthis time of year, takes her projects very seriously. Her first autumn excavation occurred about a month ago; I came home for work to find her crashed out exhausted and filthy on the lawn with what could only be descirbed as a suspiciously satisfied look on her snout. Turns out she'd been digging a tunnel in the sand pit (good bunny, that's why it's there). However after a couple of days of tunneling the tunnel became too deep and long so I filled it in; I didn't want it collapsing on her, or have her get so far down I couldn't get her out again.
Not to be thwarted, she waited until her aching muscles were back to normal then took to one of the borders. It's fascinating thing to watch a rabbit burrowing; this is excavation as an art form, not just digging out dirt in some wild frenzy like, say, a dog would. Being prey animals rabbits seems to hae a built-in instinct to conceal their work. Not a successful strategy in a garden, true, but in the wild it must come in handy.
First the hole is started; frantic digging wth the front feet, and when a small pile has built up between the front legs its flicked out through the back legs to create a long pile behind. Once this pile has started to build up the bunny turns round and uses its front legs to push the pile out flat, spreading the loose dirt in a large fan shape. It repeats this process and keeps spreading the loose dirt out in an increasing radius so the resulting build up is not more than about 3-5 cm deep. I guess in the wild this would make it harder to spot, and it would quickly wash away in rain, disappear into grass and leaves, etc.
Pushing the dirt away with her front feet
As the amount of loose dirt increases, she will alternatively pull dirt towards the edge of the pile with her front feet, and then turn around and push it away and flatten it. Finally, the whole thnig is smoothed down by hopping over it, with those big back feet doing a perfect job.
It's a time consumering process, but if every there was therapy for a rabbit, this must be it. The only problelm is figuring out when it's time to go and piss her off by filling it all in again. Trouble is, I know she'll just go and do the same thing somewhere else until winter arrives...
By the way, one bunny is flat out doing all the work while the other spent most of the time fussing with his hair and 'supervising' - not much equality in the rabbit world!
Dumpling has surprised us all by changing colour, seemingly overnight. When he arrived he looked like a scruffy mix of breeds that had been splashed with white paint. Now he's grown his winter coat, he looks like...a scruffy mix of breeds without the white paint. His formerly short curly white bits are now long soft grey bits, and he's more uniformly camouflage colour than before.
No need to guess who taught him this trick...
Guilty as charged! Punky Muffin demonstrates her startled "guilty as hell" look.
I've just realised I never showed you the photos of the amazing house we stayed in during our second week in Normandy. La Chapelle is a 15th century chapel which was lovingly restored about 5 years ago. I'ts actually the former chapel and priests living accomodation together; the door separating them has been removed.
The original leadlight window is still in place, and there are niches evenly spaced down the walls of the living room - the former chapel- which once would have held statues. Above you can see hubby at the massive wooden table which seats 10 people, checking emails in quite a profound contrast to the ancient surroundings. The stone walls were incredibly thick and that, combined with the stone floor, kept the whole place quite cool.
One of the most amazing features was the vaulted wooden ceiling which went throughout the length of the building. It's obviously been replaced when the restoration was done but they certainly made a great job of it. Even the staircase leading to the upstairs - there are four bedrooms, sleeping 9 people with 2 bathrooms - was handcrafted and held together with wooden pegs rather than nails in keeping with the original style. Despite the age of the building it was fitted out with all the modern equipment you could want, although it was the massive garden the kids loved most. So if you're looking for a fab place to stay in Normandy, we can recommend La Chapelle.
There have been a few changes with our wee scouts recently. Both boys have moved up to the next group: Carl to the Welps (ages 7-9), and Niels to the Land Scouts (10-14). This involved of course a change of uniform, the chaotic ceremonial changeover involving the entire combined Scout group, then the official 'proper' ceremony for each of the chapters where the boys have to say the Scout code and promise to obey the Scout law in front of their leaders and own personal group. All very important stuff. Oh, and don't forget the bit where Mum gets to sew 10 badges by hand onto the new shirts. Have I ever blogged about my sewing skills before? Well, there's a reason for that: I don't have any. Suffice to say there may not have been sweat or tears involved but blood was definitely shed. The top photo shows Niels, pre-ceremony, demonstrating his new salute (3 fingers for Landscouts!) and if ever you needed proof he is growing up, this is surely it.
Niels managed to learn his new Scout code by heart, then promptly forgot most of it in the heat of the moment. The leaders are all quite young and is was amusing for the parents and grandparents gathered around to watch them going red-faced and looking flustered trying to remember the code in front of an audience as well. Above he is shaking hands with the leader of the gruop - Scouts always shake with the left hand as it's closest to the heart (bet you didn't know that!).
Carl was quite nervous about his ceremony, and forgetting that there were 7 kids moving up to the Welps, I saw him looking stricken when 3 boys were called forward to go through the ceremony and he thought he'd been forgotten. We quickly whispered in his ear that he would be one of the next, and his lip stopped trembling and he waited, at full attention with his back ram-rod straight, in tense anticipation until his name was called. After it was all over he allowed him self a little smile, befitting a boy who is "not small any more but medium sized" to quote him.
I've included this last photo of Carl getting his new shirt before the ceremoney as it shows the one essential item apparently no Scout can do without. Never mind the shirt, the tie, the friendship knot or the badges; a grubby pair of blue jeans is apparently an absolute must, and our little Scouts are able to turn a perfectly clean pair of jeans, laundered especially for the ceremony, into something looking like this in the 30 seconds it takes to walk from the car to the club house. Amazing.