Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Fencing for begginers

We were both at the point where it wasn’t physically possible to get any wetter without immersing ourselves in the stream that runs across the end of our land. The book on smallholding doesn’t really explain how to erect barbed wire fences, those that do show how it’s done on a level site with all the right gear, which includes wire stretcher thingys, mallets, hammers, wire proof gloves and sleeve protection and staples to hold the wire to the posts. Usually the grainy black and white photos illustrating the art of fencing show a sunny day for the pastime. It was hard to remember that only four days ago we were getting sunburnt as we began the fencing project in the garden pictured above.

As we are smallholders who work full time, time off has to be spent on the jobs that are vital, so wet weather has to be ignored and tasks ticked off the to do list or you find yourself in a spot of bother. Our plants in the green houses now need to be put outside, we can’t do that without making the garden goat proof, feral sheep proof, dog proof, and after seeing the havoc wreaked by a Black Rock in the potato beds, chicken proof as well. So the fencing had to be completed despite the rain, despite the lack of appropriate kit and despite incompetence.

So in the teeth of the current deluge Tracey and I were on a 45 degree dirt bank that is behind the stable and up the slope as high as the roof. Whilst I hung on to the barbed wire with my gardening gloves using my considerable bulk to get some tension on the strand Tracey hammered nails into the posts and bent them over in lieu of staples. This technique seemed to be working quite effectively. Admittedly we wouldn’t win any prizes for our work but it would at least keep the animals off the vegetables. After 25 metres we were nearing completion, the jokes had stopped, event the tried and tested “Ok, when I nod my head you hit it” routine failed to raise a smile from a thoroughly drenched Tracey, and from the look on her face she was tempted to follow my instruction. I kept quiet and pulled on the wire.

Mind you the rain was partly her fault, she had just said “Can’t it rain any harder” and right on cue it began to. As we valiantly continued to cheer ourselves up we tried to remember when we were last so wet. Possibly it was at our son’s, Ben, Sovereigns parade, or maybe when we installed the reservoir in the stream and laid out the water supply piping, no, it was definitely when we were chain sawing and Murphy turned up.

If you go right back to the start of the blog you will find references to the perils of an encounter with Murphy. He is referred to as a character by those of us that live here, a character that you have at one time or another felt like physically harming to stop him talking at you. He just doesn’t stop, a meteorite could crash into the ground next to him and he would say something like, “Oh, I see a meteorite has crashed into the ground right next to me, but anyway, as I was saying….” And so he would continue his monologue about whatever.

Tracey and I had been sawing branches off trees to let some sunlight into the small paddock area at the bottom of Oak Bank and Willow Rise. It was a wet miserable task and after several hours we had had enough. Cold, tired and wet through we started to pick up our gear and as we did we heard those heart stopping words “Oh, I can see you’re busy, but …..” Murphy had arrived.

“Come in and have a cuppa Murph” I said cheerily.

“No I wont stop you, I can see your busy.” He stood and drew breath.

“Murph, we’ve just finished, we were going in for a cuppa, come on in” I was sure he could sense the desperation in my voice.

“No, I won’t trouble you; I can see your busy sawing, that reminds me…”

And so he talked at us, and we stood, getting colder, and colder. Tracey started to exhibit signs of hypothermia, I pleaded with Murphy, please, for God’s sake man come in and have a cup of tea, lets get in the warm, but no, he was adamant, he wasn’t going to stop us, we were busy.

He left an hour and half later. Tracey and I only just reached the sanctuary of Rock HQ before exposure claimed two fledgling smallholders.

Tracey and I battled with the last section of wire when we heard a voice. “Oh, I can see you’re busy, I didn’t think you would be out in the rain.”

A chill went down my spine, I looked at my soaked but still beautiful wife, she shook her head and mouthed the words “Please God, not Murphy”, I thought about crying, or maybe having an accident with the hammer, just a small one that would stop him talking at us.

I pulled back my hood and turned to face the voice.

A stranger!


“You’re not Murphy!” I babbled.

“No, I’m Steve; I’ve brought you a fox trap.”

I felt like kissing him, but as we had only just met that was a bad idea, so I let him talk me through the principles of the fox trap and we set it along the side of the chicken run.

So now we wait.

There is a bet on to see which of the magnificent seven ends up caught in the first; my money is on a beagle.

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