Where we live there are still lots of Praying Mantis around even though we are in November.

Did you know, these very exotic looking insects have triangular heads which can turn 180 degrees, like humans, large eyes AND they can fly!

Here’s another interesting fact – they only have one ear, and you will never guess where it is. It is on the underside of their belly in front of its back legs. The ear detects ultrasound, which is the sound that bats make, this is very handy since bats are predators of mantis and try and catch them in flight.

They got the name praying mantis because when they are waiting for their prey they hold their front legs like they are saying their prayers – but beware they are not!

They are normally green but we have also seen sandy and brown coloured ones at Fantasy Farm.

They eat other insects and catch them with their front legs which have spikes on them. The spikes close in such a way as to enable the mantis to get a very firm grip on their prey whilst they eat them alive!

For those of you with a strong stomach, this rather gory video shows a praying mantis catching flies.

Toby was very worried when he saw this one as a puppy.

The mantis was sitting on the underside of our tractor and gave my husband a nip when he ‘rescued’ it. You can find out more about the praying mantis encounter in the first Toby’s Tails book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tobys-Tails-Fantasy-Farm-Tales-ebook/dp/B00ZG6O874/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1510160886&sr=8-3&keywords=toby%27s+tails 

The male praying mantis attracts the female with a courtship dance.

Even so, sometimes the female really does eat him after they have mated.

The female lays her eggs in a protective case which looks like brown foam.

The cases are called ootheca and contain between 20 – 400 young mantis, so watch out if you bring them in doors you could be overrun with tiny mantis! If you want to see them hatch, perhaps it would be better to watch this YouTube video instead.

You can find out about all kinds of wild animals, birds, and creatures, as well as enjoy the adventures of Toby and friends in the Toby’s Tails series of children’s books on the home page http://www.tobys-tails.com/


Bye for now Susan and Toby


This weekend was very social one for Toby, he met up with his his canine friends old and new, and this made me think about the importance of socialising your puppy.

It is very important to socialise your puppy, although you should only do so with other dogs which you know are in good health, have up to date vaccinations, and the meeting should be at your home or a place where strange dogs haven’t been, because your puppy will be very vulnerable to diseases until itsfinal set of jabs.

Friends and family will want to see your new puppy, however you mustn’t let it become overcrowded and scared, this could affect it for life. If young children are present they should be taught to be quiet and gentle when they approach and play with the puppy. Young children can unintentionally be rough to dogs without realising it, and it is your, and the parents responsibility to ensure both parties find the experience a nice one.

We were lucky that our Toby was brought up on a farm and was used to cats, sheep, goats, chickens etc., and so when he arrived at Fantasy Farm he took in his stride all the animals we have here. Even if you live in the town, it is a good idea to get your pet used to livestock when it is small and can be held in your arms and easily controlled. There are sometimes reports of dogs chasing livestock and scaring them, whereas this may well be avoided with a little training early on. Incidentally, being a Border Collie is no excuse for chasing things, our Toby was taught very early on the ‘leave’ command and I think it is a very important command. Leave is very simple to teach as it applies not only to joggers, cyclists, animals etc., but also to food and articles. It can easily be taught by dropping something on the floor you don’t want them to have, and saying (not shouting) ‘leave’ very soon your dog will know not to pursue an interest with anything you have said ‘leave’ to.

This year has been very exciting because my daughter Michelle and her partner decided to get a Border Collie puppy called Tom who is nearly 6 months old now. Toby and Tom met when Tom was about 16 weeks and so are firm friends now.

There is Tom and Toby at 16 weeks

Now he is about 6 months and a lot bigger, he’s nearly caught up with Toby!


Then he met the latest edition to our family my niece Abbie’s 11 week old Border Collie puppy Tilly. Toby was the first dog that Tilly had met outside her birth family so we were careful not to let Toby’s exuberant nature worry her, however it wasn’t many minutes before the two were playing happily together.

And of course, no holiday to the UK would be complete without a visit to nanny and granddad’s where he got to play with his friend Pickles the Lassa Apsa.

Socialisation is very important for all young animals and helps prepare them for their life ahead, just remember EVERYTHING is new to them, and they will look to you for protection. The added bonus to this is that in looking to you you will also be strengthening the bond between you.

Wishing you all the close bond of friendship Toby and I have.


Susan and Toby

What a difference a year makes!

It doesn’t seem possible that the wonderful young cat who now shares our life here at Fantasy Farm was once a tiny scared kitten, his transformation has been a joy to see.

When we came back off of a short break and decided to sit outside on the patio that September evening last year, we were really surprised to see a tiny black and white kitten crawl out from a crack under a window further down the building, and peer hesitatingly at us.


From the other cats distainful behaviour it was obvious that this little mite would have to stand his ground, and so he has.

Quickly taken under the wing by the eternal dog Father, Toby, Domino, as the kitten is known as, quickly decided he was a dog, after all the colouring is the same and Toby acted as his mentor, and general source of cuddles.

Eventually our ‘little street fighter’ learnt to stand his ground, and under the protection of his Dog Father he was soon languishing in front of the fire last winter, and rewarding our cuddles with deep throaty purrs.

As the winter gave way to spring and then summer, his naturally inquisitive nature and love of a good cuddle has made him a very special member of our family.

It is hard to imagine who could ever have abandoned him at our house, but one thing is for sure – it is their loss, he has found his forever home and repays our love for him in so many wonderful ways.


Bye for now






Since they arrived in the late spring the air around our house has been full of swallows swooping around desperate to catch enough bugs and flying insects to feed themselves and their young. The adult swallows have to feed their youngsters up to 400 times a day!

Their nests have been in the barn for many years, well a long time before mum and dad moved here!  It’s amazing to me that they can find their way back here each spring after migrating the autumn before to spend their winter in the warmer weather of Africa, south of the Sahara.


We love watching them as the youngsters join their parents and zoom around feeding, and we will be sorry to see them go.

This is their song.


I was worried that they might be thirsty on their long journey home but I heard mum and dad talking and they said that to get water they simply skim the surface of lakes, streams etc whist they are in flight, how clever is that!

Well I suppose at least they won’t have to fight the cats for a place in front of the wood burner this winter like I will.


Bye for now…



As readers of our blog will know, we have some lovely chickens at Fantasy Farm, and they lay delicious eggs, so I thought it would be nice to share with you some fun facts about them.

Did you know? 

Healthy Chickens lay about 265 eggs a year, AND they lay the eggs whether or not there is a cockerel (male) in the run with them.

The colour of the eggs is not the same as the colour of the hen, although some brown hens lay brown eggs, black hens like our Jessica and Rebecca, who are a breed called Marans, lay brown eggs too.

Chickens eat anything, plants, bugs, leftovers, which is very handy.

Chickens are the nearest relatives to DINOSAURS, yes they are! Researches have proven that they are living dinosaurs – how cool is that!

Mummy chickens talk to their babies when they are still in their shell, you can hear them clucking to them, if you listen.

Oh, and anyone who has chickens will know that they cluck after they have laid an egg.

It is quite normal for chickens to swallow small stones, they help with the digestion if their food.

Chickens like to run, jump, play and sunbathe like humans, this is why it is so cruel to keep them indoors in small cages.

Most chickens live 5 to 8 years.

Chickens have been kept by humans for over 7,000 years, they were first kept by people in India and China.

Keeping chickens as pets and for eggs is becoming very popular, even in towns.

Chickens have a very large vocabulary, they make lots of different noises and are very entertaining to watch and listen to.

In Japan, people eat fried chicken and strawberry shortcake on Christmas Eve!


There is so much more to chickens that people realise, they are very intelligent, and are real characters. as you will know from reading our books. However, they do need help from me as a guardian sometimes, as you can read about in the second Toby’s Tails book, Toby’s Tails: The Chicken Patrol https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tobys-Tails-Chicken-Patrol-Fantasy/dp/1517129451/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Our chickens feature in all of the Toby’s Tails books, and there is even one in the new book which will be out soon – oops – I let that slip out – well I am sure Mum won’t mind.


Bye for now…


Hi everyone,

So what is the trouble with duckweed? The trouble is that it looks like grass!!!!

Those of you who have read Toby’s Tails – Still Wagging, will remember that when I was only 6 months old I ran straight into a pond covered with Duckweed because I thought it was grass, and last Sunday, 8 years later, I did the same thing again.

There I am, happily bumbling down the tow path enjoying the sunshine at La Suze Sur Sarthe.

Then would you believe it, seconds after this photo was taken I turned around and trotted back a bit, then went down cobbled bank to have a nice cool drink, or so I thought, at the end of the grass, in the reeds…

Well you’ve guessed it, it wasn’t grass, it was duckweed, and what made matters worse was that I was going flat out and so had to swim in a circle to get out, Mum was so worried!

Luckily I had a good shake and managed to get a lot of the duckweed out of my coat, but the car was very smelly, and Mum and Dad both blamed me, they even said that the cow manure on the fields smelt better than I did!

Never mind, I dried off quite quickly, but I won’t be caught out again, a little bit later we stopped at Solesmes and they tried to convince me that the boat ramp was made of concrete, but I wasn’t going to be tricked again!

You can’t always trust what you think you see.


Bye for now…



The other day we were out for a drive when mum pulled over and said “Look, there’s a baby hedgehog!”

Sure enough, there was a hedgehog rooting through the leaves looking for food. Hedgehogs eat frogs, insects, worms, snails, mice, and grubs.

Hedgehog is a strange name. Have you ever wondered why it is called that?

Well, the name hedgehog started being used a long time ago in about 1450. The name came about because it can quite often be found rooting about under the ‘hedges’ and it has a nose like a pig, or hog – hence hedgehog.

Hedgehog are mammals which means that they give birth to live young and the babies suckle the mothers milk. They are born with very soft spines. The spines are not poisonous, and as the hedgehog grows the spines fall out and are replaced by others, this is called quilling.

Their spikes are used as a defence mechanism, they have two long muscles in their back which enable them to roll up into a ball if they are scared. This protects their head, feet and tummy, which are not spiky.

They are mainly nocturnal sometimes they can be seen out and about feeding during the day.

Hedgehogs in Europe normally hibernate, which means they find somewhere safe to hide around October/November time, under some stones, wood or under some dried grass for example. Then they drop their body temperature really low and slow their metabolism down and go to sleep, this allows them to energy and helps them survive the winter.  They normally come out of hibernation in March/April, but if the weather is mild they come out sooner, like the little one today.

This is the picture mum took of the young hedgehog.

Did you know:

Hedgehogs can live between 4 to 7 years.

The name for a group of hedgehogs is an ‘array.’

Hedgehogs have about 5,000 to 6,500 spines!

A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet.



In Toby’s Tails (Book 1) I met my first hedgehog, whose name was Horace, in the wood. He was getting ready to hibernate, and mum tells me the importance of making sure that bonfires are checked in case hedgehogs have settled down to sleep in them. If you want to know more about my adventures in my first year of puppy-hood you can read them here  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tobys-Tails-Fantasy-Farm-Tales/dp/1514838168/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1488908290&sr=8-1 





I hope you have enjoyed learning about hedgehogs, they are very interesting – if a little prickly!

Bye for now…


Hi everyone,

On Saint Valentines Day I would like to write a little post (with Mum’s help of course) about love.

Sometimes there is a lot of bad press about animals disliking one another, both the same species and different. However when you look around you in the word there are also wonderful examples of animals helping others, protecting them, and bringing up animals and birds which traditionally they are supposed to hate.

It is often said that dogs and cats do not like each other, and sometimes they don’t, but my life has changed since a little black and white kitten arrived at our house last August.

Domino, as he is now called has adopted me as his dad, and follows me everywhere, sits beside me all the day. He plays with me and waits next to mum when she is cooking, like I do, and watches wistfully when I go out in the car with mum leaving him behind, which makes me very sad.

So, when people talk about hate, just remember that there is an awful lot of love in this world, between all sorts of animals both human and otherwise.

Happy St Valentines Day from me, and my brother from a different mother.






I am offering all my award winning children’s books FREE in celebration of National Multicultural Children’s Book day which is this Friday,  27th January. The links shown are for Amazon.com however the books are free on all Amazon sites worldwide, and the links below, should give you the option of downloading from the Amazon site of your choice.

The books will be FREE on Kindle on 26th, 27th and 28th of January – they are for children who love animals aged 4-9 years and I have grouped them below so you can download the books together if you or your children are learning a language. They have been professionally translated, in French by Emilie Baudrez, and in Spanish by Jose Luis Cortes

I would appreciate a review please, however brief, if you can spare the time, after reading my books.

Toby’s Tails (Book 1)



Toby’s Tails – The Chicken Patrol   English










Toby et Campagnie – Le Mystere du Poulailler  – French












La Patrulla de las Gallinas – Spanish




Toby’s Tails – Billy and Daisy’s Big Adventure (Book 3) -English


Toby’s Tails – Still Wagging (Book 4) – English


Toby et Compagnie – Ca bouge toujours! – French


Toby’s Tails – The Christmas Kittens (Book 5) – English



Toby et compagnie ? Les chatons de Noel – French


Las adventuras de Toby ? Los Gatitos de Navidad – Spanish



Toby’s Tails – Saying Goodbye to Lucky (Book 6) – English



Toby’s Tails – Easter at Fantasy Farm (Book 7) – English




Toby’s Tails –  Toby Visits Chats du Quercy (Book 8) – English













Toby et Compagnie – Toby rend visite – Chats du Quercy (Book 8) – French



Susan Keefe

Author of the Toby’s Tails series of children’s books


I am offering all my award winning children’s books FREE in celebration of National Multicultural Children’s Book day which is this Friday,  27th January. The links shown are for Amazon.co.uk however the books are free on all Amazon sites worldwide, and the links below, should give you the option of downloading from the Amazon site of your choice.

The books will be FREE on Kindle on 26th, 27th and 28th of January – they are for children who love animals aged 4-9 years and I have grouped them below so you can download the books together if you or your children are learning a language. They have been professionally translated, in French by Emilie Baudrez, and in Spanish by Jose Luis Cortes

I would appreciate a review please, however brief, if you can spare the time, after reading my books.


Toby’s Tails (Book 1)




Toby’s Tails – The Chicken Patrol   English












Toby et Campagnie – Le Mystere du Poulailler  – French















La Patrulla de las Gallinas – Spanish





Toby’s Tails – Billy and Daisy’s Big Adventure (Book 3) -English




Toby’s Tails – Still Wagging (Book 4) – English



Toby et Compagnie – Ca bouge toujours! – French




Toby’s Tails – The Christmas Kittens (Book 5) – English


Toby et compagnie ? Les chatons de Noel – French


Las adventuras de Toby ? Los Gatitos de Navidad – Spanish



Toby’s Tails – Saying Goodbye to Lucky (Book 6) – English




Toby’s Tails – Easter at Fantasy Farm (Book 7) – English





Toby’s Tails –  Toby Visits Chats du Quercy (Book 8) – English













Toby et Compagnie – Toby rend visite – Chats du Quercy (Book 8) – French



Susan Keefe

Author of the Toby’s Tails series of children’s books

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