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U3A Writing: Fred And Bella Try Farming

Fred and Bella have a romantic view of farming and decide to give it a try, as Jean Marr reveals. But then “We were awakened in the dead of night by a horrendous noise in the henhouse. Our dog did not seem too keen to investigate, so we thought best wait until daylight….’’

We had grown up in the same mid Victorian city and went to the same school. As the years passed we joined the same sporting clubs and had a lot in common. We discovered we were in love, so we set the date and had a lovely wedding. We settled down to the humdrum life of city living. We both had jobs and talked of the day we would own our own house. We did not mind travelling on public transport as we saved to buy a car. At last the day arrived when we went off to the second hand dealer to select our "dream machine." It was a beautiful green mini van.

By this time we also had a boisterous dog called Whisky. He was black and white, hence the name. He loved to ride in the back of the mini van with us as we went on trips. When we paused by the road side to view the wonderful scenery, Whisky would prance around and bark at the birds, He was not very well behaved. We didn't mind as we thought he loved us dearly and could maybe be trained to do our bidding, if ever we needed him to.

We were delighted when friends invited us to visit them on their farm. It seemed to be such a heavenly existence. They had horses, sheep, a nanny goat, hens, turkeys and a kelpie sheep dog. It was amazing to watch their dog skelter off around the sheep, a short whistle and a few words like "fetch 'em up" and "get away back" and the sheep were herded through the gate and into a pen. "How easy is that?" we said to each other. We particularly loved the black and white hens scratching in the orchard, and the joy of gathering fresh eggs every day. Our couple of days of enjoyment soon came to an end and we drove back home.

All we could talk about was the wonderful life that can be achieved with so little effort. Why don't we acquire our own little piece of paradise just out of the city and still continue to work? After all we had our own energetic dog, so we would begin our experiment with 10 sheep and 10 white hens. We found the ideal spot and with much gusto we set up our "farm."
We had been to a local farm auction and had purchased a riding saddle. No matter that we did not have a horse, that could come later, perhaps at another auction nearby. We took delivery of the sheep and the hens and all we had to do was put into practice what we had observed on our friends’ farm. The sheep grazed happily in the field and the hens settled down to their task of laying eggs.

We were awakened in the dead of night by a horrendous noise in the henhouse. Our dog did not seem too keen to investigate, so we thought best wait until daylight. We were to discover that our lovely white hens had been taken by foxes. They do not stop at taking just one, they seem to like to store some for leaner times. We thought long and hard how to thwart them next time they got hungry. We came up with the wonderful idea of buying black hens so that the foxes would not be able to see them in the dark. Alas we did not know that foxes hunt by smell, the black hens also provided them with another tasty meal. We decided to leave the egg experiment until we sought some advice about management.

Now lets concentrate on the sheep. We opened the gate to the pen and walked down the field to where the sheep were happily grazing on the lush green grass. We had our trusty dog scampering along beside us and we had remembered the right words and had managed a sort of whistle. The sheep stood to attention when they saw us approaching, so we thought 'here's our chance to show what quick learners we are.' We shouted to Whiskey 'get away back,' He pricked his ears and looked at us as if we were from another planet. Suddenly he took off at full speed and the sheep took fright and raced in all directions, crashing through the flimsy fences and away into the distance. All our shouting and whistling was in vain. Our dog had suddenly become deaf. Some time later he came back exhausted. He trotted over to us wagging his tail and expecting a pat on the head and plenty of praise. We were amazed that something so simple could go so wrong.
Oh well, we still had the saddle, so why not start with the basics and get a horse and learn to ride. That looked easy enough when we watched our farming friends. Off we went to the auction again. A smart little filly took our attention, so we purchased her and had her delivered. She seemed a friendly type, so we put the saddle on and Fred put his foot in the stirrup and took his seat. Well, you would think he had switched on a hurdy-gurdy. The little filly put on such a display with poor Fred bouncing about like a jack-in-a-box, but not for very long. He flew through the air and landed at me feet. He was not badly hurt, but his ego was badly dented.

We wandered off home to have a cup of tea and discuss where we went wrong. It had seemed so easy and natural when we had spent those few days on our friends' farm.

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