Naked on a Farm (2) – A Tale of Ducks
I was working naked as usual when Natalia came to see me. She was going through a tough time. A relationship of several years standing had recently come to an end. She was deeply involved with a process called Non Violent Communication (NVC as it is called ) as a way of dealing with her emotions. Nevertheless, she sat down on the step near me and began pouring out her troubles. I carried on with my task but listened with sympathy. I deliberately avoided offering advice sensing that she just wanted to get stuff off her chest. Then she stopped talking, stood up, and immediately burst into tears. Instinctively, I moved toward her. She fell into my arms, burying her head in my chest and sobbing uncontrollably. We were like that together for what seemed like several minutes. Eventually, she calmed down and stepped away. We faced each other. Then she smiled, said, ‘Thank you John’ and walked away.
After that first time it seemed that our meetings quite naturally ended with a hug.
I have wondered if she was comforted by touching the skin of another human. A new born baby is comforted by skin to skin contact with its mum. May be this was a similar example. Who can say?
We were alarmed when, one afternoon, a fox came and took three of our twelve Khaki Campbell ducks, Yes in broad daylight! In keeping with good permaculture practice, the ducks were kept near to our house. We regularly passed their pen. So, we were surprised that the fox was so bold. Aysha asked me to help move the surviving ducks into the fruit orchard that was enclosed by a 3 meter (10 foot) high fence. We figured that would be sufficient to keep out the fox. How wrong we were. There was a large hen house in the orchard already. The remaining ducks would be quite happy in that once I’d built a ramp so they could get in and out comfortably.
‘How are we going to move them then?’, I asked. I didn’t have a plan but I figured Aysha would. ‘Oh, it’s easy she replied. ‘We can walk them round’. Wrong!!! She has a habit of being over optimistic.
It wasn’t far to their new home. No more than 100 yds (about the same in meters) ‘I’ll let them out and you guide them along’, she shouted and she opened the door. Well, as you can imagine they didn’t obediently file out like an infant school crocodile. Oh no, two dashed for a clump of nettles three more went under a nearby hut and the others? Well, I hadn’t a clue. So much for the walking idea! Aysha was helpful though. ‘Go and put your boots and trousers on John or you’ll get stung by those nettles’. That was thoughtful wasn’t it.
We got them all to their new home in the end.
Later, I was off working at a couple of other places including a small holding worked by an old school mate. It was near Glastonbury in Somerset. Rich lived with his wife and three almost adult offspring in an extension to his in-laws bungalow. There was about 4 acres of land. It was mainly pasture for a few sheep with some poly tunnels, fruit trees and veg gardens. There was also a solar heated outdoor swimming pool, Yeh!
I usually offer myself as a carpenter and so Rich or rather Jan, his wife, had me build some steps for them. It was the hottest week of the year so far, the first week in July (see pic Naked on a farm (2) Near Glastonbury). I would not to have been comfortable working naked there so didn’t ask. From that view point I longed to be back at Aysha’s. One consolation, and a big one at that, was the pool. It was blissful after a day in the hot sun. Strangely, it was probably more blissful because I had to work clothed but could then strip off and swim naked. Oh!!! I can feel it again now as I write this and it is wonderful. I was given the 5 o’clock slot and had the pool to myself. A young French couple was working for Rich at the same time as me. I wondered how they swam. I never asked.
My next place was in Staffordshire where it was cold and wet most of the time. It was a lovely place though and very green; presumably because of the amount of rain.
When friends found that I would work for free, I was often asked to help with a job. I had agreed to help Will paint the front of his new house. He and his partner had recently bought an old restaurant. It needed a lot of work but when finished would make a lovely home. Will’s partner was in Bulgaria in their holiday home with the children and Will was at work most of the day. So I worked alone at the painting. I could finish one coat by the end of the morning leaving the afternoon free. Yipeee!!!
The garden had an orchard with peaches, apples and pears. The peaches were ripe so I spent part of the afternoon picking fruit, naked obviously, and the rest of the time laying in the sun. Wonderful!! Sadly, it was around then that Aysha called to say the fox had taken the remaining ducks. She felt guilty because she had left a gate open and that’s how the fox had got in. Presumably.
When I returned to Aysha’s farm she said that I could take over a small caravan which was on its own near the poly tunnels. I spent a few days fitting it out with a small log burning stove ready for when the nights turned cold. There was a spare water butt so I fitted some hose to it so that I could collect rainwater from the roof. I bought a single gas ring stove but we didn’t have a spare gas bottle at the time so that was never finished. I warmed rainwater for a washing by leaving old wine bottles filled with water out in the sun or in one of the poly tunnels. We talked about making a fire bath but never got round to it. I had a go at making a solar heated shower using a coil of black hose, but, lost interest in that when I found that I had chosen irrigation hose by mistake. This stuff is for watering plants so it’s full of holes!
One day Aysha called to me, ‘You’d better get dressed John. We’re going to market!’ We returned with a motley collection of ducks including two drakes and a couple of Aylesbury’s. Lovely as pets but not very productive as egg layers! There was also a dozen hens – they turned out to be good layers and four weaner pigs .
All went well until we had yet another visit from Mr. or more likely Mrs. Fox. Three ducks dead with just one carried away. This time the gate had been closed. The fox had climbed the 10 foot fence avoiding two strands of electrified wire. I spent the rest of the day checking the fence and found that the electrified strands had been shorted out by some overhanging tree branches. Even with this fixed we were not confident in the fence. And so the ducks were confined to their house. After a couple of days I persuaded Aysha that we should let the ducks out for some supervised swimming. Most ducks get depressed if they are prevented from swimming for any length of time. We had arranged a kiddies paddling pool for them. I moved this close to the duck house and enclosed it with a temporary fence. The ducks had fled to their house when the fox came and were still reluctant to come out again. The following day, I had some spare time over the lunch break ,so I went to let them out. I opened the door and then lay down some distance away to see what would happen. There was lots of quacking but none came out. I was in no hurry. It was lovely laying in the sun. Aysha reckoned it may take a few days for them to regain their confidence. I tried again later that afternoon but still they stayed indoors.
The following morning they came out. Not all at once and very tentatively at first. To start with I saw just one little head emerge, have a quick scan around and then go back in. Another one did the same thing. A third put its head out and peered around but the press of those behind prevented it from going back and it came tumbling out down the ramp quacking in panic. It then recognised the paddling pool full of refreshing cool water. It crept towards this still quacking cautiously. After one final check it jumped in and swam stopping to flap and throw water on its back. Once it was clear to the others that all was safe they came out too, line astern. The little paddling pool was soon full of ducks quacking, flapping vigorously and splashing one another in fun. It was a wonderful sight, but, I had to go after half an hour. I got up out of the grass. Once they saw me, they quickly scuttled back to their house where I closed the door behind them.
My next job that day was scything. The purpose of this was to clear some paths of long grass and then to give the cut grass to the cows. We had four cows in a dutch barn that were still being hay fed. The grass would be a welcome change for them. That is an understatement! As soon as I got within 100yards of the barn with my first forkful, they went berserk, bellowing their heads off. They could smell the freshly cut grass you see. While I had the scythe in my hand I also cut some nettles for the goats. Goats love nettles! It was a bit of a challenge barefoot and naked though. Goats prefer food not to be on the ground. For this reason, we always tried to hang the cut nettles on their fence.
At lunch time I went back to my ducks and let them out. This time they filed out and were circling and flapping in their pool before I’d got myself settled in the grass. As the days went by, the ducks were getting more confident. Not only were they keen to come out but it was getting difficult to get them back in. I noticed, however, that they didn’t like helicopters. The farm was about twenty miles away from an airbase. That was one of the things that spoilt the peace; two or three times a week a large ChiNaktiv sitehelicopter would fly low over us. The first time one flew over the ducks, their reaction made me chuckle. They all stopped what they were doing, fixed the aircraft with one eye and tracked it across the sky. As it passed over their heads all tilted as one, just like a performance of ballet! The least confident then began quacking furiously, the rest joined in and they scuttled back into their house.
Naked on a Farm (2) – A Tale of Ducks