Midwinter is a good time to bond with the animals and birds. With a cohort of three young helpers and a small dog, I’ve been doing the rounds with different forms of nourishment. First stop are the chickens, who have been getting used to their Christmas present, a solar-powered door opener. They cluck appreciatively as we cast handfuls of corn around. Next, it’s down to the pond with all the bread scraps for the geese and ducks. By this time, the ponies know that we’re on the way and career down the hill in anticipation of their hay, and the odd apple.

The sheep don’t mind being patted as long as they get their nuts. Even the tits and robins on the bird feeder bravely come in to take their fill as soon as we’ve topped it up. With breaking the ice on the water troughs and rugging up those who might need it in case of a cold snap, there is a sense that we’re all in this together. Spring and summer are wonderful, but we never feel as close to our menagerie as we do in January.