With fewer guests around at this time of year and the garden preparing for its winter sleep, I spend more time playing Dr Dolittle. For me animals bring Brook Farm to life - inside and out. However pleasing a scene is in our garden, if a cat or a chicken saunters into view it becomes even more so. Picture the old orchard on the hill - misshapen old apple and damson trees, a few wildflowers and some grass. A lovely country scene in itself, but add a couple of donkeys watching you quietly as they chew messily on an apple, the juice pouring out of their mouths and it becomes a real delight - well it does to me anyway.
In summer, a walk around the garden will find a scattering of sunbathing cats in various lazy poses, decorating the sunnier spots and looking as good as any expensive piece of sculpture to me.
And heading off into the woods for a walk in the morning wouldn't be the same without the dogs bounding ahead sweetly delighted with the same route every day thanks to the delicious smells laid by various wild creatures overnight.
At the beginning of November I bring the donkeys into the big barn overnight. It means more work for me, but I love having them here next to the house looking all cuddly and cosy in their straw bed. This year for the first time they are having to share with my new chickens. Neither species was particularly pleased about the arrangement for the first couple of days and I nearly had a squashed chicken or two as the donk Queenie chased them around the barn trying to hit them with her front feet. Several barn cats enjoyed the show from the safety of the hayloft - I'm sure they were grinning.
Willy says I'd have the whole menagerie in the house if he wasn't here and he could be right. I still have a childish love of seeing outside animals indoors and didn't rush to shoo out the hens when they came exploring the hall and the sitting room the other day. When I was about twelve I used to ride a neighbour's pony called Snowy. One day, when my parents were out, my friend and I thought it would be a good idea to take Snowy indoors. It was summer so he was quite clean but unfortunately as we took him through the sitting room he lifted his tail and started to produce an enormous poo. Being twelve year old girls we shrieked and giggled and were generally useless and I grabbed the nearest thing I could find in the kitchen which happened to be the cake tin and caught most of the pile of steaming dung in it. The rest of it went on a very pale rug. We obviously thought it was hilarious and I got away with it for years.....well til now actually. Sorry Mum!
So if you fancy snuggling by a roaring fire with or without a furry animal at your feet - whether you want to come and sightsee the area, go for bracing walks or simply Do Little, Brook Farm has a warm welcome, a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake waiting for you. (I have a brand spanking new cake tin honest.)