AN email to say that your house/farm sitters are not able to come the day before you are ready to go away can produce a momentary feeling of panic. Luckily, the friends we are staying with, have spare kennel room for the dogs and a friend in the village and John’s brother Geoff, will take care of the poultry, geese, sheep, ducks and pheasants. And it means that the cottage pie and apple crumble I had ready for our house sitters can now go into my freezer.

The ducks on our pond seem to be still multiplying in number. With very little rain and local ponds still starved of water, the fact this pond has an underground spring keeping the level of the water high, is a huge attraction to every duck in the vicinity.

To make life easier for my friend who is overseeing the care of the poultry, I cunningly captured each hen as they came into their nest boxes to lay an egg, trimmed one of their wings of most of its flight feathers, closed my ears to the indignant squawks and then put the hen into a secure run.

Instead of having the run of the paddock, garden and a field, my disgruntled poultry now have a netted scratting area and some very cross guinea fowl for neighbours. I have not yet let the guinea fowl keets wander freely as they have a lemming like ability to bunch together and charge onto the middle of our lane when a tractor, car or lorry is approaching.

And with the care of the poultry sorted, we can now stick with our plan to visit our granddaughter Sophie on the way home.

Sophie, who is five, is however more excited about the thought of a sleepover she is having this weekend than us calling to see her. Not particularly on account of the little girlfriend who has invited her, but because her friend has an older brother, a sophisticated seven year old, who apparently sets Sophie’s heart a flutter. Sophie has quite deliberately courted this little friend to gain an entreé into the social circle of her older brother. How scheming is that? I do hope she will not be disappointed if the brother turns out not to be interested in his sister’s friends. But it may well be a lost lesson not to seek friendships purely to gain some sort of social advantage. “As Mamma,” Sophie reminded me when I gently chided her about making friends for personal gain, “I have lots of other friends with big brothers too.”