Fowl Freedom

April 6, 2010

It’s been warm enough (just) over Easter for me to let the hens out of their pen. Warm enough for me, I mean, to spend more than a few minutes in the garden until rain stops play. To my delight these girls, instead of shunning humankind which has given them such a raw deal in the battery house for the last twelve months , cluster about my feet and follow me closely around the garden as though they are Israelites and I am Moses. They clucked politely when I showed them the hellebore border …rather a grand name for a raised semi-circle of soil and leaf mould but oh, how exquisite their flowers are, pink, white, crimson, purple, yellow, blotched, speckled and plain, interspersed with blue anemone blanda and pink corydalis Beth Evans and hardy cyclamen …really, though I say it myself it does look pretty …anyway the hens were appreciative. They practically crowed when I showed them the canal we put in four years ago, thirty six feet by ten feet and growing only waterlilies (not showing above the surface yet of course). And they admired with coos and chirps my new crabapple borders …six a side, grown in squares of box all  from seedlings and cuttings, interpsersed with squares of catmint but at this time of year filled with bulbs, pink, cream and purple hyacinthsand anemones which give way to narcissus Icewings (to coincide with the pinky white crab apple blossom but in fact they come out too early) followed byCarnival de Nice, a wonderful red and white striped double tulip together with Uncle Tom a  dark red paeony flowered tulip. All supposed to be  like a ‘flowery mead’  only of course, as is always the case with gardening, the effect does not quite come off until you have made adjustments. The pink hyacinths (Fondant)are a little sickly and, after three years of looking at them and thinking this, I’ve decided that nothing will do but to take them out and replace them with a paler pink, DAMN! Anyway the hens thought the effect lovely and were warm in their praise but their enthusiasm for my horticultural schemes paled to nothing when I began to weed and incidentally dug up worms. They screamed with ecstasy and all five wanted to stand on the spot I was working on. Georgie, my adopted stray with a long black-and-white coat, exactly like a sheepdog but cat-shaped, wanted to terrorise them because HE likes to lie on the plant I am clipping or weeding round. He crawled forward and pounced only to receive a sharp peck on the nose. These maltreated hens have the insoucience and aplomb of  robust tiptop mental health specimens. They are an advertisement for imprisonment and torture.  I see that I should have coralled my children into dank gloomy sheds with straw palliases and naked light bulbs instead of investing heavily in luminous stars, revolving pirate bedside lamps, Ninja Turtle duvet covers and My Little Pony blankets. I should have fed them on stale bread instead of Curlywurlies and alphabet potatoes. Then adulthood could only be a feast of fun and indulgence and delight.