The Heartbreaks of Country Life: Foxes and Myxomatosis
Sue Hubbell writes in her book, A Country Year, that people who find life hard in town, find it far harder in the country.
Well, we’ve lived in the Oxfordshire countryside for a year. Harder? Perhaps! Better? Without a doubt (or without many).
Country traumas. The fox that seized our friendly brown hen, who allowed herself to be petted and carried, and entered the house in search of the above, reducing her to a heap of brown feathers. Twice the same (or different) foxes have seized our ducks, once by the leg–lame duck is no longer a metaphor–once by the shoulder. Each time, we have rescued them, but is the writing on the wall. How long can we outwit cunning Mr. Fox? Any suggestions?
Fox fleas gave our baby rabbit, who I really did love myxomatosis. A terrible death. The vet suggested giving her five days. We only survived 2.5 of watching her eyes water and swell and suppurate with pus, her fur drop off, her breathing become laboured and painful, before we gave in, and the vet let her sleep the sleep of the just.
The children want to know if there are rabbits in heaven. There must be. Heaven wouldn’t be perfectly heavenly without them. Or without dogs.
Another day we cut down the hedge separating two lawns, and find 4 blue robin eggs in a nest. One hatched. We return in 10 minutes, and see what I never expected to: a robin baby actually emerge small, ugly and defenceless from the egg. They wriggle and pant and almost visibly grow as we watch. Or do we imagine that?
We go the next morning, the nest is there, but no eggs, no baby robins. Evil Mr. Fox, or a cat, or a magpie. Irene thinks I’m joking. Life is raw in the country.
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