If you’ve ever been to Hen Corner, you will have met our lovely cat. He leaves such an impression that he is often highlighted in our Tripadvisor reviews!
Ten years ago we adopted him as a beautiful, loving, playful kitten and we named him Cocoa due to the glossy dark chocolate colours of his fur. He had been hand reared as his mother was feral and shortly after having her kittens (under a caravan if I recall correctly), they were collected for re-homing. So from a very young kitten, he had looked to his foster parents for everything that he needed and due to their faithful love and care, he has consistently had the most gentle character with a confidence that commands full attention from everyone who visits the house.
Whilst Cocoa has been our only cat in recent years, he is far from our only pet as we have turned our Brentford home into an Urban Smallholding complete with 24 hens and 3 colonies of honey bees. As a business, we welcome around 400 visitors a year to our home and Cocoa is the first to greet our guests in the hope of a stroke, nothing phases him – even a whole class of school children – he is in his element! So much does he love it, that he has been found sneaking into the chicken coop when I am running a course, so that guests find him in the nest box instead of a chicken, allowing him, once again, to be centre of attention.
With such a lovely temperament, I was quite keen to see if Cocoa could train up a new younger cat to follow in his footsteps, an apprentice if you like. We’ve been looking for a couple of years and have discovered that, for one reason or another, none of the cats or kittens were right for us. Until, on a chance phone call, we discovered that a black kitten wasn’t settling in her new home and was being taken to stay at the vets whilst they found a longer term solution. ‘Why not bring her straight to us?’ I said, wondering what my family would say about me agreeing to a kitten that I hadn’t even seen, she arrived the first day and, as any other visitor to our home, was welcomed warmly by Cocoa just as we’d hoped.
Our new little girl absolutely loves her new big brother and follows him around the house. Ironically, apart from the little white tuft under her chin, she is an exact miniature of him and the perfect addition to the family – this is probably why we had to wait for her.
She hasn’t been allowed outside to meet the chickens yet, but is very excited to watch them from the garden door and I’m sure her mentor will train her well as she continues to grow and discover the world around her.
And her new name? Well if he is Cocoa, then she has to be Chanel… Though with her kitten characteristics, I tend to call her Squirrel!
Whilst our Feline Apprenticeship Programme is going well, I’m pleased to be continuing my support in mentoring Kina Mama as their new food business develops off the back of the Together Cookbook that they produced as a community surviving the Grenfell Fire encouraged by Meghan Sussex.
We are also looking forward to running another Business Start Up Course, Become A Bread Angel – Start Your Own Micro Bakery, on the 17th & 24th March. This small group will spend two days developing both their baking skills and new business ideas, with homework in between, and I’ll be mentoring them throughout their first year as we support them in establishing new businesses of their own. We still have a few spaces on this course if you’d like to join us?
- I’ve been appointed as the bee keeper for a new residential home with London Cyrenian Housing for adults with learning difficulties
- Our conservatory has been pulled down and rebuilt as a lovely new garden room
- After 15 years on the waiting list – I’VE BEEN GIVEN AN ALLOTMENT!!!!
Jobs for the week:
- Pack up a couple of hens for a photoshoot – if they behave themselves, they could be cover girls on a magazine!
- Get out my hammer to make 30 new brood frames for the bee hives and their annual shook swarm/spring clean
- Cook breakfast for the homeless at our local Shelter Project
It’s lovely to see the spring flowers blooming in the garden, hopefully the weather will warm up soon giving us some good opportunities to get back in the garden after the recent storms and cold snaps, enjoy the sunshine!