Spouse and I recently spent a few days with our friends on their farm in south-west Scotland and on my return, I realised how I had seen things with fresh eyes, things that I had witnessed for years but had come to take for granted.
My friends are not only country dwellers, born and bred, but also true stewards of the land and the natural world. Not only is their land tended with love and care, but also every living creature around them.
Their cows are pets, nurtured in warm strawed out byres in winter and turned out to green pastures for the summer. Cherished into their old age they depart only when they attain their natural life-span.
A small herd of Shetland ponies roam the home paddock by day and are tucked up, snug and warm, in their strawed pens by night.
Sheep wander up and down the hillside, well-fed on the lush grass, so abundantly available to them.
There is no need for a dog to round the animals up on this farm. They are all so intimately connected with their owners, they come at their call.
For many years three feral cats have been fed in the front garden of the farmhouse. They do not wish to come into the house, but prefer the snug beds provided under shelters that have been made for them outdoors.
The wild birds are fed and even the mice that live in the dry stone wall have breadcrumbs put out for them twice daily. What a joy it is to watch them cautiously peeping out and then like lightning, whisking the bread away.
Best of all is the performing crow. He does an acrobatic act to attract attention when he arrives for his breakfast and supper. Somersaults a-plenty are performed and then a song. Who would not reward such endeavour?
When the first rescued pony came to live with them I commented that he had come to paradise. He had been rescued from the other end of the country where he was living in a dark shed and fed only on carrots. He made the journey home with them in a large dog cage. He would not fit in it now, as he is well grown, sleek and extremely lively.
This farm is a little patch of paradise for all the creatures, however large or lowly who have the privilege to share their lives with my friends.