The love that dare not speak its name

British farming often seems to be all about reeling from one minor catastrophe to the next. The only thing left to do, after you’ve removed the carcasses from public view and made the bailiffs a cup of tea, is to grade the mishap according to your own personal calamity-scale. Afflictions that sit lightly around your neighbour’s neck may feel like a hefty damn albatross around yours. Nowhere is this principle illustrated so clearly as in the difference between the hubby’s attitude and mine towards impediments to profit. This perhaps has its origins in my fond liking for woolly animals and dislike of the abattoir-concept, but is more likely to rest in fundamentals, like the fact that he is a landowner and partner, and I am landless unpaid sporadic labour, with her own urban job.

For instance, when the end barn caught fire, I was highly excited & spent much time leering hanging around the firemen with my 8 week spaniel puppy. John was strangely indifferent to their uniformed charms, and monstrously pissed off about the insurance claim. Or last week, when one of the six rams in our front field died, and I felt quite sad about it; they are a manly, cantankerous bunch but have always responded well to some cabbage leaves and girlie chat. Hairy hubby was unmoved, except financially, by the demise. Conversely, John was experiencing problems with his sprayer a day ago that left him visibly highly exasperated (his eyebrows, those mighty bulwarks against rain, sun and hail, had moved a fraction closer together) whilst I mourned not a jot. Hubby, aggrieved by my callousness, reminded me of the occasion when his old sprayer, after a week of provoking waywardness, suddenly gave a passable impression of the Angel Falls mid-way down the field. Apparently I laughed uproariously at his misery and anguish, and began to sing ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’.

 Wives… Can’t live with ‘em and not allowed to shoot ‘em. Although, a farming wife does learn pretty early on in courtship that her chap has (whisper it) Two Loves. You do not stand, if you are wise, between your bloke and his other, mechanised, objects of desire. And the love (and hate) between a man and his sprayer is sacrosanct.

 The reason I highlight these issues today? I have received my last paycheque. My paid section of maternity leave is over, and I am now officially a non-earner. John often scrutinises my credit cards bills with a hand churning through his hair as it is; so I must either accustom myself to being utterly poor (I think not) or really get behind the idea that the farm must make a fat thumping profit this year. I am beginning to detect in myself a glimmer of agricultural commercial nous: I have muttered about the price of red diesel. I have paid attention to world harvests (lousy) and grain prices (ergo: good). I have begun to scan the Farmer’s Weekly with far more interest, paying particular attention to the market lamb prices, as we have several hundred heading that way soon enough. With any luck I shall stop short of acquiring a flat cap & a Somersetshire accent, but you never know. These things can be catching.

The late great Henry Brewis.

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Lord help the Mister

I’ve been wrestling with my wretched widgets, and they’ve left me drained. I was still doing battle alternately with wordpress and the flailing, roaring (I’m on my OWN in here Mummy want BOOB want CUDDLES) baby at 1am this morning when hairy hubby lurched cheerfully through the front door, having, as the Irish say, drink taken. The birthday party from which he staggered was one I quite fancied attending myself, but acceptable babysitters were simply not to be had.  So, he wore the dress and I stayed home.

John can no longer tolerate alcohol in the truly riotous quantities he used to consume as a 20-something youth. In fact, he tends to fall asleep after about his 5th pint these days. Last night was bang on form: he settled himself unsteadily on the beanbag and proceeded to drift off in front of the snooker. Easy done. Once upon a time, I would have prodded him mercilessly awake and driven him towards a bed; however, his snores were clearly audible in our bedroom as it was, so I left him to emerge from his stupor in his own time, which turned out to be 5am.

This morning he was clearly suffering, although wise enough not to admit to it. He subsided quietly in front of the TV with Harry, and they were getting on famously together when an interruption in the form of a revolted squeak from myself shattered the calm. Matilda had caught a frog.

Matilda & Co

I have not previously introduced Matilda: a jaunty hen, and the most personable, explorative and nosy of our poultry. She is the only hen to have completed a full circuit of our ground floor; I shooed her out of the front door on that occasion, breathing a sigh of relief that John Had Not Seen, as several hens had already incurred his wrath by trespassing a mere few inches into the doorway. He was Not Amused to later discover, (I fear, with a toe) the hen crap on the kitchen floor.

I was embarrassed, but entirely unsurprised, when the Delightful Doctors told us that the caravan being utilised as a temporary kitchen whilst their extension took place, was Matilda’s preferred lunchtime restaurant. She had apparently learnt to beg, with liquid eyes that would not disgrace my spaniel. In short, a determined, spirited & ingenious hen, unlikely to give up a prize titbit.  So, when I saw her hurtle down the henrun, I had a feeling that it must be in defence of something she did not wish to share… les cuisses de grenouille are not common hen fayre, yet Matilda has shown a decided predilection for these poor creatures once or twice; beak bulging like a panicking boa constrictor who has, this time, bitten off more than it can chew. And so it proved again: unable to consume her godzilla-sized catch, (by now, I hoped & believed, dead) she proceeded to sprint up & down with it, chased by a comet-tail of eager followers.

Hairy Hubby suddenly became a man re-vitalised. Grabbing the camera, he galloped erratically out of the door in unstrapped sandals, and joined in the hot pursuit of Matilda. Trailing last but steadfast, he belted after her in quest of the perfect Hen Eats Frog photo. David Attenborough does have hero status in our house, but nevertheless, I found this a little too much soon after breakfast. I turned my attention to Harry, only to find him happily watching boxing on TV (!) and for once, in no need of Mummy ministrations. Hence, once John had stopped running, I felt conjugally obliged to look at his hen photos. He blamed the new lens for the failure to attain the perfect shot, but nevertheless, he had unmistakably captured the moment.

Wanna see? You do? Or don’t really want to look but can’t help yourself?

Here you go then.

Just another Sunday in the Hairy Farmer household.

Possession & a Cute Little Face are 10/10ths of the law

I told hairy hubby emphatically & tearfully on the day Harry was born: never again. The chafing stitches on my 2nd degree tear may have been a catalyst in this decision, but the sight of his poor little body violated by countless tubes & IV lines immediately sent me to a place I’ve found it hard to come back from. Even though we were fully expecting a premature birth, I can still invoke the horror & shock without really trying too hard. It wasn’t until I saw my counsellor a month or so back (who acquired me for life during my IVF treatment) and talked it through that I realised why I was having such a hard time putting the NICU to bed. I was planning to do it all again.  

Jane Austen was a canny girl. ‘I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people’. And when my friend’s 9 week old daughter cuddled into my neck this afternoon and mewled softly, I finally melted. My periods have re-started & perhaps, deep in my sleepy and lethargic ovaries, an egg stirs? Perhaps, and most likely, not. However, the condom packet, purchased with fervour post-partum, can stay sealed. I officially want another one.

Not but what, a fourth person could certainly Up the Ante in respect of the Zapper Wars. A third protagonist emerged earlier this evening.

Hooray for Flexi-wings

Is it too soon to start mentioning yukky stuff?  I’m so sorry, it’s just that the urge to complain whingily is upon me. I won’t be long. 

This is the 26th day of my period. Count ’em. 26. And I’d been spotting for a fortnight before that. It is, admittedly, the first period I have had since Harry’s birth in August. It is also my own particular brand of luck to be lugging two uteri about instead of the standard-issue one, so both of my good-sized-considering-they’re-a-duo pelvic darlings divest themselves enthusiastically of their carefully hoarded endometrium: together. The fact that they do not always manage to empty entirely in sync, means that I often snort disparagingly when I hear heavy periods discussed amongst other, less wombed-up women. I occasionally even condescend to comment: when you’re packing two of the things, then you may have an opinion, yes? And don’t get me started on the period pain; they must fight like cat & dog in there. No wonder Harry vacated early.

Given that I scorn Tampax Super-Plus as broadly insufficient to satisfy my requirements, (dear God, I’d hate to see the size of the things that could) my sole consolation is that sanitary pads are not the lumpen, inadequate things they were in 1987 when my tsunamis first started. According to my mother, nappies have undergone a similar apotheosis since the mid 1970s, when she was last a regular user. This came to light some months ago when she did not precisely cover herself in glory whilst in charge of Harry’s bottom requirements. After 6 hours of peeking anxiously inside Harry’s togs, she announced ominously that he needed more fluids. Lots more fluids. She’d had a good feel about, she told me, but the nappy was still dry. Upon being invited to hold a fresh nappy, and compare weights with what was now forming Harry’s ludicrously bulging codpiece, she giggled guiltily. Lets hear it for Leak-Guard™ Cores!  

  

Not in my Lady’s chamber. Hah.

I actually won a round in the fight against my poultry today. I emerged victorious. Not unscathed: that would be too much to expect, but undeniably the winner. I had been starting to fear that I had met my intellectual match. It is now supper-time, and Mrs Goose has remained in the field where I shut her this morning for One Entire Day. Yay.

The thing about our poultry, you see, is that… well, firstly, they are MY poultry, according to hairy hubby. I cannot deny that I acquired the hens off my own bat with minimal notice, and then compounded the crime by adopting a pair of geese from next door (where the whole Gaggle social dynamic had turned ugly) without spousal consultation. John is not given over-much to sulking, but there were definitely mutterings.  Especially when it became apparent that he was firmly in the frame for letting out, shutting up, egg collection, feather trimming, stockholm tar applying, red mite annihilation & hen fencing. Still, the guy likes eggs, I rationalised.

The second thing about my poultry is that I rather fancied the idea of the hens being hefted. For non-farming types, I will explain that hefted livestock Know Their Place and stay on their unfenced patch. http://www.cprw.org.uk/pdfs/summer05_ruralskills.pdf And for a while, they obliged me. Problems occurred when they began abandoning our garden scrub in favour of the coiffered lawns next door. Next door are delightful doctors with whom we are bosom, but they own a gardener called Happy, because he never is. Happy is unfond of hens when they are excavating his freshly dug beds. Complaints were tentatively made, and the Hairy Farmer Family rushed to erect proper hen fencing. Which kept the blasted bunch in for, umm, about a day. One by one, they all learnt to squeeze or flap to freedom, leaving my pretty, but distinctly burly, Golden Brahma all on her tod. 

 

I then heard that Happy had threatened to down tools. So, we blocked up the tiny holes. And I thoroughly denuded all my ladies of their flight feathers on one wing. Colonel Mustard, the fine cockerel shown above, had died (quite happily, whilst running to scoff grain) some days previously, and one of next door’s cockerels had quickly spotted the vacancy. I felt a bit diffident about trimming his feathers in case I was required to return him, so left him unravaged. This was an error, as he continued to fly over & parade about the wrong side of the fence clucking pour encourager les autres. One by one, his ladies, by dint of herculean flapping, joined him. Except Mrs Brahma, who’s going nowhere, ever, with that bum on her. Mrs Goose, who had hitherto been nicely ensconced in her field during the day (my original pair produced two goslings monikered Smokey & Bandit; I was meant to despatch said goslings at Christmas but was firstly too soft hearted, then missed the appointment with travelling death squad, then they were so grown up I couldn’t tell ’em all apart, yadda yadda yadda, anyway there’s four of them now) decided that the laying season had come again, and that she had a desperate need to break back into hen Colditz, where her hut is.  

So, 7 hens, assorted geese & an itinerant cockerel were all out & about again. Happy withdrew his labour when, upon being assured by the Delightful Doctors that the problem had been dealt with, he re-commenced his spadework, whereupon all my escapee hens came & stood around his feet, clucking impatiently for worms. The eighth lonely Brahma could be heard squawking disconsolately in the hen enclosure.

Delightful Next Doors appeared the next day with an early anniversary present of a solar panel & politely mentioned electric fencing. Hubby duly electrified the fencing. This restrained every hen except one, who, after 24hrs to (I presume) dig her escape tunnel, made her appearance on the kitchen window during Harry’s lunchtime, much to his fascination & my wrath. 

That evening, John stripped her of virtually every feather she owned. I can’t help but feel it may be a long cold spring for her, but her loss is Happy’s gain, and as I write, the hens have all been imprisoned a whole week without incident. Mrs Goose & partner, however, have continued to escape from their field, managing this so sneakily that we have been unable to find out quite how they do it. The two geese left behind can’t figure it out either. Mrs G’s chosen consort, we fear, is no longer her original partner, but… gulp… her progeny. She has switched allegiance in horrifyingly Greek fashion. She & Bandit have done Bad Things. We are rather taken aback by this Thing That Should Not Be, and feel it needs sharply discouraging. Hence we have firmly ushered the eloping couple back into their field every day this week. And every afternoon. Etc.

Today, though, I saw the escape in progress, and bustled out during one of Harry’s infrequent morning naps to reinforce the guilty section of gate. The fact that I slipped in the mud & lost my dignity & my shoe was, I felt, acceptable collateral damage. I was smug. And I’ve continued self-satisfied all day: the creatures with the tiny tiny brains were finally where I put them. Victory was mine.

Past tense. I paused typing a paragraph back in order to apply child to his cot . I took a look outside when I came back down.

The bugger’s out again.

Young Farmers Do It Early In The Morning

Harry has, I think, read my book on baby sleep problems and decided that he has adequately mastered all the challenging behaviours in the initial chapters. He obviously feels that the time is right to move out of his comfort zone of squalling, grizzling, wriggling, rolling, and move it right on up into thrashing, kicking, and crunching headbanging – how does the child know that his parents’ marriage was the formal amalgamation of two fine collections of heavy metal cds?

Cheated of my intended co-sleeping by virtue of his premature low birthweight maleness (all bad bad baaaad for SIDS) I have compromised by pulling Harry’s cotbed up tight to my side of the bed. There is a low rail between us to prevent breakouts, but I can reach in to stroke & nuzzle him gently, and he can reach out to yank my hair roughly whilst I sleep. So: happy days.

I was nastily awoken twice in the very small hours by a brutal smash next to my ear, and expected to see our baby concussed, bleeding, comatose… or at the very least, taking a monumentally deep breath in order to complain volcanically about his throbbing head. But no. Harry had merely been attempting to roll off his tummy onto his side: this manoeuvre is customarily preceded by a violent head thrust in the direction in which he intends to travel. Upon finding his path blocked by solid wood, our ivory-skulled specimen subsided immediately back into his original position, without breaking slumber. 

Further evidence that he was essentially impervious to collisions was gathered at 3am, when I woke again to the sound of cot bars being xylophoned enthusiastically, nay, dementedly. Upon lifting my head, I was met nose to nose by a beaming cyclops. Harry’s blocked tear duct had glued his one eyelid tightly together in best piratical fashion, but I could clearly see in the dimness that his other eye was sparkling with all the joys of spring & his total delight at Mummy’s advent into this lovely new day. 

Crap. He’s going to take after his father. Up with the blighted lark & bursting with obscene amounts of bounciness. Tiggers may like to bounce, but they have nothing on my bloody family, I tell you. At least this one is a few years away from badgering some poor girl for early morning fun & games. The most I could manage at 3am this morning was a sleepy mumble and a gift of a comforting finger poked through the bars for him to chew himself back to sleep on – it was gratefully taken advantage of, and I duly passed back out into oblivion; I think beating him to it by quite a margin.

Oh boy. I is bleary.

Hello world!

Well, Hello! I have decided to dip an electronic toe into the water. I think I have two reasons for wanting this. Firstly, sheer narcissism. Secondly, I quite fancy keeping a diary, yet the whole business with the blank book & the pens doesn’t sound quite feasible for someone of my engrained untidiness & generalised household negligence. A diary that lives Out There In Cyberspace (my ideas about cyberspace are hazy. I have a vague mental image of a really big computer in a dark basement, with twinkly lights & a busy-sounding hum) may be just the thing. We shall see.

In case I ever acquire A Reader (gasp!) or even more disconcerting, A Reader Who Comments (please say you like me) I shall describe the Hairy Menage.  (I’m pretty sure that menage means Family. If not, then my Reader will promptly (& correctly) conclude that not only am I prone to over-punctuating with brackets, but that I also tend towards using words of which I’m only 90-something percent certain of the meaning. However, I may at some point make a Really Funny Malapropism. Best stick around & keep reading, just in case.) 

Hubby is the Hairy Farmer. A sweet man of equable temperament, hairy chest (and back) and possessed of a medium to large nose. You will doubtless become better acquainted with him as we go forward. Hairy Farmer Family consists of myself & child. Child is a beautiful blue-eyed boy of as yet uncertain temperament, a very small amount of hair indeed, and a button nose of breathtaking cuteness.  Harry is now some 8 months old, although his abrupt entry into the world at 33 weeks gestation, and a whopping 3lb 12oz, means that he is still playing catch-up. I am a woman of mercurial temperament, with strong-willed, thick (Hubby once referred to it as ‘coarse’. Still wounded.) hair in a style that isn’t quite anything. I say nothing of hair I may have elsewhere, except to mention that since marriage, and particularly since birth of child, its removal from my body has become sporadic & haphazard. My nose is bigger than I would ideally like, but not so big as to make me hostile towards it.

So, there you have us. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

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