Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chicken or plant?

The first fowl to come into my world was Indiana Jones, so named as a cheeky chick for his adventurous spirit. He was one of a brood of chicks hatched out next door, in Oom Vossie’s yard; they used to wander over into my property and scratch hysterically at the loose soil that was my front garden at the time. Quite quickly (because chickens grow like weeds) Indiana turned out to be a she and developed the most wonderfully berserk hairstyle, so he became Mrs Jones and, before I could quite come to terms with him being a girl, hatched out 12 chicks on the front verandah, so that put paid to any doubt.

Also to my herb garden, which I’d planted artistically between huge concrete slabs on my septic tank, and which was just beginning to not only look bushily pretty but actually yield basil, marjoram, oreganum and other foodie delights.

After enquiries around the village and feedback from those in the know – who all, as one, laughed merrily when asked how I could have both herbs and chickens, and said helpful things like ‘Buy shares in Robertson’s’ – I realised I was up against an unbeatable foe. For those who don’t have chickens, here’s a heads-up: they fly. Also: they can fit through holes that defy belief. So fence in what you like, they’ll find a way over, under or through. The only way to really protect any crop from chickens is to grow it in a closed tunnel or stand next to it with an air rifle.

Neither of which was an option for me, so, after a suitable period for mourning, I abandoned my herb patch.

For several years my ‘garden’, such as it was – big trees, several beloved plants (many in pots) and gazillions of indigenous weeds – flourished in summer and died back in winter. By then Oom Vossie had died (and I still miss him), and I’d inherited many of his chooks, plus various random donations. They lived in a comfortable dog kennel, and all got a good breakfast of grain every day. Everyone was happy.

Then the magicians at Riebeek Valley Garden Centre, Andre Beaurain and Corne Pretorius, designed and planted a new garden for me. I loved every single square millimetre of it (even though taking out 10 trees almost broke my heart) – it was functional and defining, it was water-wise and pretty, it was (largely) chicken-, dog- and cat-proof, it was … it was my first-ever real grownup garden. Andre had wanted me to start clean, from scratch, but there were some things I couldn’t give up: my hawthorne bushes (obviously), the plumbago, the hardy frangipani, my washing line – and the busy lizzie (impatiens) that had been with me for as long as I could remember.

So the busy lizzie stayed, in its pot on the verandah – here (right) it is, where it had always been, very happily, getting plenty of morning sun and protected from the fierce noon heat.

About a week ago, I decided to sleep out on the verandah – it’s been hellishly hot here, and sleeping in a room, usually in a pool of sweat and blanketed with mosquitoes, isn’t a fun way to spend a night. And I was charmed – charmed, I tell you – when I woke up to find Dash (the small black chick, in the bottom right of the pic below) sitting practically on my head. And Dot (the small orange one, perched on the table above Evan the cat) made me coo ‘Aah, cute’. And Goldie, their mom, apparently smelling the flowers of the busy lizzie, was also too delightful for words.

Until, later that afternoon, I realised she hadn’t been smelling the busy lizzie, she had been eating it, the bitch. And even though every time I saw her – and her compatriots, an evil trio of Gertie, Goldie’s only remaining chick from a previous brood; the red hen (peripatetic and disgracefully slutty mom of chicks Cocoa and Butter); and one of the three noisy roosters – attacking the busy lizzie, I came roaring out of the house, screaming and windmilling my arms, I just couldn’t be on duty 24/7. Which is (see above) what you have to be, and with an air rifle, to keep your plants safe from marauding chooks.

With the result that, in four short days (these pics, below, taken two days apart), this is what they’ve reduced my busy lizzie to. 

Andre would probably be pleased. But I’m very fucking irritated, and all I can see at the moment when I look at any of my hens is a nicely roasted chicken with a lemon crammed up its arse.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: