CUCKOO. Cuckoo. Doubtless others have already heard their first cuckoo of spring, but it was the first one we have heard this year. We were in the wood repairing a pheasant release pen. It will be a while yet before any of those birds come, but it was a thrill to hear the cuckoo singing to properly herald that summer will soon be here.

I have been away for a few days this week looking after Sophie, my five-year-old granddaughter. She had erupted in spots while staying with us the previous week. Chicken pox, but no connection to our poultry. Rather a birthday party where apparently most of the little revellers have shared the infection.

It seems that in the short space of time since I left home, and it was only for a few days, that buds on trees have opened up, bulbs have bloomed but the magnolia tree, which was in bloom, has lost all of its flowers already.

Fortuitously, as John has bought more sheep and lambs from market, the grass has started to grow too. There had been a lot of sheep for sale as many farmers are short of grazing because the weather has been so cold.

Fizz, our sheepdog is very taken with these new charges. The lambs we have kept over winter are sublimely indifferent to her and almost insolent in their lack of fear. Whereas these sheep, who have lambs to protect, stamp their hooves when Fizz appears and demonstrate a very satisfying level of respect.

Excitingly Fizz is soon to have a fresh charge to boss around. We shall, in a few weeks, we hope, have a new spaniel puppy. It is several years since we lost Holly, our last spaniel, and well over a year since Pip, our Labrador died. John has felt the loss of a gun dog when he is out shooting very keenly.

So as not to overwhelm the puppy with boisterous and bossy Fizz and Millie our Jack Russel, John has made the puppy a secure outside run that is attached to an outhouse in the yard.

We have already trialled its suitability as a kennel with Fizz and Millie, and in fact they snuggled down into the dog bed and instantly fell asleep curled up next to each other. They looked so comfortable I wonder if we are doing the right thing planning the outhouse as a new home for the puppy, and should instead let them have it and sleep the puppy in the porch in their dog beds. We shall see. Doubtless the dogs will sort it out amongst themselves.