“It’s just like herding chickens.”
Anyone questioning the difficulty factor of this undertaking need only have witnessed The Bean Counter expending a good dollop of time, energy and (let’s face it) dignity last night encouraging the Delias it was time for bed; it ain’t easy. This adage, along with “We’re not Made of Sugar” (shout out to TT racing/truck mechanic/How Britain Worked hero of ours, Guy Martin) and “Every Day’s a School Day” (attributed to River Cottage Australia Paul West’s Dad), is bog standard Homestead lingo and came to our collective notice as a simile for learning the violin. But, like all time tested sayings, it does a pretty good job at summing up living, full stop.
This week on the Homestead is the perfect example.
Spring has pretty much sprung round here: brushing the goats is not as much fun anymore as their winter undercoats have been shed, the garden is starting to get that overcrowded, double parked look, blossoms have made way for tiny fruit and, in the case of our peach tree, chronic leaf curl, and we have once again started dreaming about the wonderful grey water system that would eradicate the need to water the garden forever. On the positive side (for all of us except The Goat Herd), the first gorgeous feijoa blossom was spotted on Friday (her aversion this wonderful fruit knows no bounds) and the berries are just starting to make an appearance. The first strawberry has been guzzled, the red and blackcurrants are slowly building up in the freezer, the raspberries are being plucked by the handfuls, and we are all waiting with bated breath for the latest addition, the karakaberry (a New Zealand blackberry hybrid), to ripen up. Grand plans of jams and preserves are being mooted, some will come to fruition (pardon the pun) but, in all honesty, we’ll probably end up doing what we always do: eating them in plate loads with a sprinkling of icing sugar or a dollop (read mountain) of homemade icecream.
It’s not that we’ve been negligent of our other duties. The Renovator has the latest do-up room gibbed and spends vast amounts of time with sandpaper in hand and plaster dust in eyes, and all milking, feeding, and tending regimes are still followed to the letter. It’s just that the broad beans needed thinning, and carrots and lettuces weeding, and the seedlings in the glasshouse were climbing out of their pots, stumbling up the shingle path, and bashing on the door begging to be planted out. This highlighted the need for more garden space, so manpower was diverted to the front lawn where another bed was hurriedly constructed because that’s the way things roll here on the Homestead. One word: kneejerk (actually, spellchecker tells me that it’s two words, a recommendation I choose to ignore citing literary licence). Do you detect a smidgen of desperate justification in out tone?
That would be because while we were admiring the blossom, picking the fruits, tending the vege, and filling the freezer, the actual subjects of the Homestead idiom we were liberally quoting whilst doing these things had slipped off the radar (we think that one’s a metaphor). Now, we’re not talking the Delias here; all is good in their ‘hood except for those times they overbalance in their daily beam exercise and end up in with the big kids, and even then the outraged squawks, peeps and flying feathers are easily rectified by stategic gumboot placement and an open gate. We’re not even talking Clank, she who rules with an iron claw although she is a good head shorter than the others. It’s the Tinks: somehow they’d just lost their sparkle.
It was a gradual thing. Over the week egg production had dropped little by little so that yesterday only three of us got an egg with our weekly treat fry-up breakfast. If that didn’t call for immediate action, the demon egg pecking rearing its ugly head again, did. We know, we know, we know. Every single item we read tells you that egg pecking is a one way street, that once a hen turns into it, there is no U turn allowed (obviously this analogy works better in cities with infrastructure not compromised by natural disasters) on the fast track to Cull City. It’s just, we have observed than when the girls are happy the eggs don’t get pecked and…oh, please don’t make us do it.
So, HD* that really wasn’t that H because no one likes having to do it, ruled that all stops be pulled out in Operation PamperTinks. Already they seem to have a bit of a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye so I’ll share our game plan, hit and miss though it is, just in case you find yourself in the same position and are total sooks like us:
Of course, extra attention needs to be paid to their normal requirements: the feeder (check them out: www.grandpasfeeders.co.nz – totally awesome and heaps of entertainment watching the newbies sort it out) constantly topped up and water renewed several times a day; all that goes without saying. Then, at night an effort is made to remember to chuck a handful of grit is onto the loose litter floor of the coop to give them a bit of a calcium boost. Our party trick is jellymeat, much to Melody’s and Dave’s (the cats) utter disgust. Our chickens love it so much they will ingest just about anything as long as it is mashed up in it: Apple Cider Vinegar for parasites, natural yoghurt to balance out the digestive bug things (to use their technical name), garlic, and the big gun in our arsenal, Diatomaceous Earth (http://www.denz.co.nz). So far, the Tinks (and Clank because she’s there) have had one helping of plain jellymeat, and one with a garlic clove mashed into it, and their bedding and themselves have been liberally dusted with Diatomaceous Earth. We flung it round the goat bedding, too. Why not? Then we crossed fingers; this is not essential but we have found in the past it doesn’t do any harm and makes us feel better.
We’ll keep you posted.
No doubt, our efforts making up for our inability to herd our metaphorical and actual chickens has resulted in us taking our eye off another area. Another wily chicken looming is Christmas; the season to be jolly and also, as a rule, spend fistfuls of cash. How we deal with the festive season is a story for another day, but our Christmas shopping has officially started. A new watering can – check. This one is for under the Homestead tree.
The grey water system will have to wait another year.
© Copyright Union Homestead, 2014. All Rights Reserved.