Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Friend

I dedicate this poem to you, my friend
Before your life began, it reached its end
I didn't know you all that well, yet still
Thinking of you, tears down my cheeks did spill

Bravely you fought this long battle hard
Gave not up even when dealt this harsh card
Your faith remained right until the very end
I've learnt such lessons from you, my friend

To fight even when life gets you low
To carry on, to win the race we know
Such rewards are they that wait on all
Who open their eyes, who hear the Call

Thank you, friend, for your great example
And although your life was but a small sample
Of that which it could well have been
Your battles and victories went not unseen

So I dedicate this poem to you, my friend
Before your life began it reached its end
You'll be remembered and loved forevermore
We'll see you again...that's for sure!

Monday, November 06, 2006

To Farm or Not to Farm Part 2

My mom named the chicken Big Hen because she was so big and to this day we still remember her as Big Hen. The name just stuck.
she gave us eggs quite regularly as long as she was in the mood to lay and we kept her fed fat. Eventually she became very tame.
what did we get out of this? I got the job of feeding and watering her and my sister got a few cracked ribs from her fall. The few eggs weren't quite compensation for the trouble she had but we decided to wipe the slate clean when Big Hen gave us Cheep.

Cheep was the only chick that hatched out of a batch of ten eggs. At first the gg didn't want to break open properly and so we had to help the little chick out of her prison. After which Big Hen decided that it wasn't her baby and why should she look after it? So we had to raise Cheep ourselves. No easy task!

During the day she would snuggle up with whoever got to her first in the mornings. Sometimes she would snuggle deep down inside my rollneck sweater, next to my neck. At nights she would sleep on a hot water bottle inside a box. We had to change the bottle at least once throughout the night. Through the next few months Cheep became a favourite with everyone, including all our other pets and any visitors who popped by. She had a way of behaving more like a cat or a dog than a chicken and most of the time we could forget that she was a chicken.

One day she laid her first egg. What a surprise it was for poor Cheep!
AAAAH! Where did that come from??
Its an egg, silly, you laid it!
Are you sure?
Yes, I'm sure.
Oh, well I guess that's okay then.

After that she just called us to tell us she had laid an egg and it was waiting to be picked up and then she was off on her foraging again.
Two months later she died mysteriously and we really missed her a lot. She was also the last chick that we ever raised....in fact, she was the last chick point.

The reason for this was that we had to get rid of our rooster. His name was Speckles and he turned out to be a complete beast! He took to attacking our animals and even our dogs were cowed by him. He pecked two holes in my lamb's muzzle and it took weeks for that to heal. She lost quite a lot of blood and I was wondering if I was going to have to write an obituary for her soon.
We held a meeting and decided that he just had to go, so my dad pulled out the axe and we gave him the chop. He was certainly a tough old bird...it took Mother over four hours to cook him!!

So we were back to just having old Big Hen around and she got used to being quite spoilt.
And then she did something totally unforgivable. She became so tame that she took to roosting on the kitchen windowsill. You might think that there is nothing wrong with that but you didn't have to clean the wall and veranda every two or three days, nor did you you have to live with the smell of fresh chicken manure. I took to quoting Gerald Durrel's brother Larry every time I had to clean up the mess.
"Look at this! Now we're expected to wade knee deep in guano!!"
I am convinced that, had that been the only unforgivable act she committed, we would have forgiven her soon enough. Instead, she had to take it one step further and every morning after my dad left for work, she would wander into the kitchen and potter around looking for spiders and moths.
It took a while for us to realize what was going on but one morning the truth was knocked into my sister. I don't think she had much luck in those days and I used to feel quite sorry for her.

One morning she dashed into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee before she had to milk (she was running late) and the next thing she was sliding across the tiled floor waving her arms and wobbling all over trying to keep her balance. I'm afraid it didn't help much and two seconds later she landed with a big thud on the floor...and into some more evidence.

From that moment on, Big Hen was banished to the chicken run. The whole family was warned that if they felt sorry for her and let her out, they would have to clean up the mess by themselves!
We had no more trouble from her after that. And she must have felt really bad about the episode because she gave us one egg every day, sometimes we even got two, till the day she died.

To Farm or Not to Farm Part 1

It all started with two dogs, one chicken and one goat. At that stage we had just moved up to the farm and we were loving every minute of it! Everyone just wanted to explore every inch of the farm, the house and every other place in sight. The house was perfect for us, the rooms large and spacious and oh joyous! there were actually two bathrooms. This might not seem like an awesome discovery to you, but to us it was wonderful. Trust me, when there are four women in the house, one bathroom just ain't enough. Especially if three of those women happen to be teenagers, each going through a different phase.

Our dogs were very surprised at all the space. Jock was a Staffy and Lady was a rottweiler cross something or other. The day we moved up to the farm was a real scorcher, so both dogs found a spot in the garden and collapsed. Typically, Lady picked a piece of ground under the massive lemon tree, promptly dug a hole large enough to hold not only herself but three other dogs as well, and then stretched out and slept.
Jock, on the other hand, had discovered the big tank outside the kitchen. He sat under the tap and then when we didn't get the point he scowled, pouted and eventually started howling. We got the point...and turned on the tap. Ice cold water gushed out and poured down his chubby face. He grinned!
Humans, he decided, weren't too stupid after all. It just takes a bit of persuasion and hinting, that's all.

It took ages to move all the boxes and furniture where we wanted them but eventually we had everything unpacked and were nicely settled in.
That is when all the trouble started. After getting settled in, I mean. It always happens with this family. We get settled into a place and then the trouble starts. I suppose this time I can't really call it trouble, at least, not in the strict sense of the word.
It wasn't long before everyone, including all the animals in the vicinity, figured out that we were a bunch of suckers. Obviously, we were the only ones who didn't figure it out until it was too late.

Our neighbor had a lot of chickens that he kept in a big run. Every morning they were let out to scratch and roam around in the fields. One morning, after a night of rain and hail, one of the chickens became adventurous and got into our garden where it calmly proceeded to scratch up the newly planted-only-last-week pansies. This was undoubtedly a disaster of the most grave nature. It had my sister in a terrible rage.
A chicken was in HER flowers!!
I sent up a silent prayer for the chicken, who was still blissfully unaware of the stir it was causing, knowing that there was a chance it just wouldn't survive the next few minutes. I had, however, forgotten all about Mother.
My sister dashed outside and left all the doors open behind her. I heard her yelling insults and abuse at the chicken whilst that adventurous fowl tore around the front lawn looking very much as if it wished it could fly. For one tiny second I saw roast chicken with fresh peas and potatoes and then I ran off to help my sister catch the sinning chicken.

We should have been more careful, we should have known that in a few seconds all would turn to chaos. We, however, were only aware of the chicken and weren't capable of reasoning with Murphy about his very tiresome law.

With a yell that could be heard all the way to the next farm, my sister took a flying leap at the passing chicken. Naturally she missed, lost her balance, slipped on the very wet grass and landed with a terrible thud and a howl of pain and frustration on the grass. For a minute I thought the breath must have been knocked out of her but before I could even get near her she was up with a leap and after that doomed chicken. (I hope you haven't forgotten about Mother...)

Remember the open doors? Well, in all the excitement, we had forgotten them. With a small cackle of triumph that fiendish fowl neatly sidestepped a tackle, ducked under my legs and disappeared into the house. We saw it waddle quickly down the passage and skid around the corner and into my sister's bedroom. Oh boy! That chicken is so roasted now!!

All the doors were carefully shut and then we tried once more to catch that terrible fowl. My sister, still quite upset with said fowl, was prepared to forgive and forget now that she had calmed down slightly, only she forgot all her good intentions when she saw (or rather, smelt) what said bird had done under her bed! For days that room smelt so bad she had to sleep on the couch in the living room.
That's it, I thought, that chicken doesn't have a hope in the world now. Not a prayer, nada.
I had, however, forgotten Mother.

"But sweetheart, just think! Fresh eggs for breakfast (quite clever, Mother, knowing full well my sister's favourite was scrambled eggs), and if we get a rooster we can hatch out some eggs and raise the chicks and then we will have more chickens...yes of course we'll keep them in a run..."

Needless to say, it didn't turn out that way at all.

...to be continued

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pride Comes Before a Fall

Yes, indeed it does! Read on and you'll see what I mean!

I was about fifteen or sixteen, dreadfully vain and with an ego that reached new heights with every compliment I received. I spent long minutes in front of the mirror, brushing my hair, putting on face creams, preening. Pretty pathetic, now that I am older and all things considered. At the time, however, I didn't see anything wrong in it.

I went down to the beach one day and the weather was so wonderful I decided to go for a swim. I grabbed a towel, kicked off my shoes and walked down to where the sand started. When I got there I saw our local rugby (football) team busy practising on the sand. I immediately stood up straighter, sucked in my stomach, flicked my hair over my shoulder and started the short walk onto the sand and to the rocks where I could leave my things whilst swimming. I threw my towel onto the sand, pulled off my shirt and tossed it along with my sarong, next to my towel. And then I darted towards the water, hair flying!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1....OOEMPFF!!! I hit the sand and lay there for a few seconds, completely stunned. This just couldn't be happening to me...only it was, it had and I was now aware that the whole rugby team had stopped playing and were watching me with scarcely controlled mirth. I felt the blush move up along my neck, reach my ears and carry on up. I was burning with embarrassment but the longer I lay there, the worse it was going to get. So up I jumped with a big smile pasted on my face and took off again towards the water.

3, 2, 1....AAARGH!!! KADOEF! Oh woes! I lay there, my mouth filled with sand, my nose all squished up. Could this get any worse? I shouldn't have asked...I heard muffled laughter coming from behind me. Oh the shame, the embarrassment! I closed my eyes and wished the earth could just swallow me up and that this could all just be a bad dream from which I would wake. I tentatively opened one eye but I was still lying in the sand.

Oh well, it could not get any worse so I jumped up again and made a last passionately hopeful attempt at reaching the water before embarrassing myself further...but it just wasn't to be. I hadn't taken more than ten steps before I fell for the third time. I was shattered! I could hear the guys guffawing on the beach and their laughter just made me blush all the more.

I crawled the last few paces to get completely into the water and there I stayed, my back towards the beach. I didn't want to see them, didn't want them to see how red my face was, how embarrassed I was.
And then, treacherous humor! I felt my mouth start to twitch and I could feel the laughter bubbling up inside me. The ridiculousness of the situation struck me in waves and I burst out laughing.

I was still giggling to myself an hour later when (after making sure the guys had all left) I walked out of the surf and went back to my chalet.

That day served to teach me a very valuable lesson: Pride does indeed come before a fall!!