I had never put everyone together in a field before. Never had the need. Until now.
I spent a day making the chicken field as safe as I possibly could, removing anything that wasn’t nailed down. By the time I’d finished it looked rather smart, certainly neater than it had in years.
First thing the following morning I took the horses Georgie and Alfie, the goats, the sheep, the chickens, ducks, geese, my dog, and of his own volition probably because he felt he’d be missing out otherwise, Niko the cat, and put them all in the one field together.
I’d kind of expected them to check each other out, to argue and generally misbehave, but what I hadn’t expected was how loud they’d be. It sounded like an orchestra tuning up, with loads of independent and unconnected sounds battling to be heard above the rest.
The geese screeched, the horses neighed through their noses, the cockerels crowed, the goats yelled, the ducks whacked, my dog barked, the cat fled and the sheep went for a lay down. And walking through the middle of them all was me, shushing.
Quite what I thought I was doing I have no idea. They didn’t pay me any attention anyway. But I’d become determined in my shushing. I was the boss of the field, I was in control. They should respect my shushing.
So I started yelling it, shushing at the top of my lungs. They didn’t go quiet, they just saw me a competition and got louder. Well two can play at that game. Just as we reached our crescendo, two trucks bumped down the path, parked up and disgorged men armed with chainsaws.
We all fell quiet and I leaned against a gate post, a vision of cool. If I’d had a piece of straw, I’d have chewed on it.
Several of the hedges around some of the other fields had sprouted trees big enough to threaten the electricity cable that ran above them, and they needed cutting back. These were the guys to take care of it. Four chainsaws started in unison – I could hardly hear the RAF jet flying overhead.
In our field we all kind of looked at each other, and with a collective understanding, thought no, we can’t compete with that noise. The ducks and geese wandered off to perform their morning ablutions in the stream, the horses found their hay, the goats went in search of something they shouldn’t eat, my dog found something smelly to roll in, and the chickens went off to lay an egg each.
The only one without anything to do was me. So I went and sat down. I knew I should be doing things, there was plenty to keep me busy. But somehow it’s hard to get motivated when there are others around you working. I kept telling myself that my little smallholding was only big enough for so much hard work, and that these guys were using it all up. There was no room left for anymore. So I sat there, sipping coffee from a flask and reading.
It was quite nice actually.
By midmorning I knew I was getting dangerously close to feeling sleepy. I’d done nothing more energetic than some enthusiastic shushing, but my eyes were feeling heavy and I couldn’t stop yawning.
By sheer force of will, I managed to stay awake until all the hedges were neatly trimmed, the chainsaws put away and the guys had left. Then I slumped down in some hay and fell fast asleep, not waking up until a chicken walked across my face.