Not being chicken

Yesterday was Rum at its worst weather wise.

Winds of over 60mph with gusts exceeding 80mph. You could not open the door without risking it being blown out of your hands, maybe even off the caravan altogether. The roof rattled, the walls shook, we moved things away from the sides of the caravan. The fire roared as the draft coming down the chimney was fierce so we had to keep it under close control. It rained and rained and rained. The doors leak and so do a couple of the windows so we are constantly mopping up puddles and the carpet infront of both doors is sodden.

It was pretty grim. Enough to make you sit and wonder on just what we are doing living like this and whether we actually are properly crazy rather than simply indulgently eccentric as we like to imagine ourselves. Enough to make us question whether our time here is up, whether the ups are worth the downs or not. Whether we should just stop, go back to the days when we never worried about the weather forecast or gave a thought to midges. To the times when we knew what would happen next, life had order and rhythm and other people told us what to do, when to do it and we could ring someone if it all went wrong and they would come and sort it out.

It was with those thoughts from yesterday still whirling round my mind that I headed outside this morning to do some repair work on the fruit cage. Some of the panels had blown loose, the netting had come away in several places and ripped in a couple more. Some of the stakes supporting fruit trees were blown out of place, the cage door was broken and had come off and been wedged back in place on one of Ady’s mercy mission runs outside during the winds.

Today it was blue skies, mostly calm and still, warm and peaceful. I spent some of the time just listening to Rum – the sound of the river running, still swollen from yesterdays rains. The sound of our birds on the croft – the ducks quacking sounds like laughter, the chickens coo and make low noises, the guinea fowl call sounds like they are saying ‘come back, come back, come back’. The turkeys have a sound all of their own, a series of noises not unlike a fax machine, the geese were out of hearing range but I could see them in the distance. Then I turned on some music on my phone and sang along. It was on a random playlist but it seemed to be thought provoking. Mary Hopkins ‘Those Were The Days’

“Remember how we laughed away the hours
Think of all the great things we would do
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same”

While I was stitching the netting back together and onto the panels of the fruit cage Bonnie was herding birds around and around me. We have a lot of birds here on Croft 3 and although Davies and Scarlett claim to know the difference between the various chickens, ducks and geese and say they have names I would not pretend to be able to tell you the difference between one brown hen and another. There are a handful which I do recognise though, in particular one little brown hen with scruffy neck feathers called Calgon. She was one of the Symbolic Chicks from last year that hatched in the repurposed washing machine and escaped the hooded crows and ravens. She then got attacked by the other chickens hence the ruffled feathers which got pecked bald and never grew back properly. She came into the caravan for a few days in a cage and was looked after by us until she was big enough to take her chances out on the croft. She is pretty tame and will often hang out near you if you are working outside.

Calgon managed to find a way into the fruit cage and despite me catching her and posting her back outside again she kept coming back in. This caught the attention of Bonnie who then thought it was a game and started chasing around the outside. Several times I put Calgon back out so she could use the whole of the rest of the world to get away from Bonnie but she kept coming back in again. I’m not sure if she felt safe because I was there, or because it was a cage and Bonnie couldn’t get in, but Calgon is a bird and can fly which she does, often. She had no need to be in the cage.

I laughed at Calgon and called her ‘chicken’ in the style of a child taunting another in the playground, then laughed at myself for calling a chicken ‘a chicken’. When I went to have some lunch she came out of the cage with me and headed off elsewhere on the croft.

fruit cage repairs

Inside that cage it was safe, I could still see the outside world but the bad things couldn’t get me even though I knew they were out there. But I would rather have my freedom, choose to fly even if that means the wind might blow me from the sky, the dog might catch me. A riskier, more daring, more exciting life lived outside the cage is so much more attractive than the one the chicken might choose.

I don’t want to be older but no wiser, singing a song about the dreams I once had and wondering why the singing and dancing stopped and I lost my starry notions on the way.

We appreciate all we have here in our lives but I know that without the storms and reminder of the fragility of life here of yesterday the blue skies and freedom of today would not have meant quite so much. I fixed the cage door this afternoon. The chicken and I are both safely on the outside of it again now.

One thought on “Not being chicken”

  1. I’m new to chicken wrangling and country life, on a completely different scale to you: we didn’t have the nerve to venture that far beyond the M25. But I spent an entire year wondering if we’d made a mistake. New realities can take longer to adjust to than we imagine.

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