You’ve already been introduced to our resident rooster, Ghost Dog. He does a pretty good job of looking after his girls: he points out food that he finds (whereupon he’s winged aside by his female companions), and now that we’re out in the country, he keeps an eye out for trouble.
There was something familiar about him and his harem that nagged at the back of my brain for some time.
From the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland.
Dearest Lovely Wife
The Dog and The Puppy didn’t finish their dinner from last night so I only topped up their bowls for breakfast. I’m a little worried about their lack of appetite but they were still reasonably active. The Boy took them for a walk and there were no complaints (from the dogs) (or the boy). Their food supply shall be adjusted, their behaviour and waistlines closely monitored.
The Kitten doesn’t like her SPCA food. Only minutes earlier, I heard her sullenly chew a single mouthful of it before leaving the house. Another animal to keep an eye on.
There are still ten ex-Laingholm chickens in the Green Zone, plus the inherited guinea fowl and bantam. They seem settled as they hoovered up their food. I hereby dub their chicken house Fowl Aer.
Dave the Chimney Sweep had a look at the reluctant and smoky wood burner this morning. This needs more than a sweep, mate. He said it needed to be removed completely and overhauled: the baffles were buckled and rotted out, the flue had split, and a couple of other things I didn’t hear because my mind was screaming, It’s winter! The nights are cold in winter! Since being without a burner was not an option, he’s due back first thing tomorrow morning to put in a temporary fix that will keep the fire useable for the next few months.
The Boy and I tried a nearby takeaway (‘nearby’ being fifteen minutes drive from the fortress). There was a fetid tinge to the smell of cooking oil in the air that didn’t bode well. Our fish and chips were edible: The Boy give it a 7, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is terrible and 10 is excellent; I gave the food a 4 for being edible and filling.
All warmed by full stomachs, the dogs and I did a perimeter check in the dark. They do like the opportunity to walk and sniff. I’m less apprehensive than the first couple of times I did it. The idea of walking through a forest at night isn’t sound when you think about it. But walking through a forest you’re increasingly familiar with is different — there’s much less likelihood of getting lost or being jumped by ninjas (and if the latter, this being private property, I can walk the perimeter strapped).
From the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland.
Dearest Lovely Wife
I thought a situational report (henceforth sitrep) would be helpful, informative, and an aid to my ailing moment-to-moment memory.
The alarm went off at 0555 and I immediately turned it off. I had purposely set it for 0555 the night before, thinking I-don’t-know-what (yes I do: thinking that farm-type people get up at 0555 or thereabouts [not thinking further that Those People probably go to sleep a lot earlier than the 2330 time I went to bed and set the alarm for the coming morning]). After a few rumbles of paws on the verandah I roused and said hello to The Dog and The Puppy. They were boisterous in their morning greetings — it’s one of the things I love about dogs: every absence, no matter how short or long, is ended by effusive and licky reunions — and I gave them breakfast.
The morning perimeter check commenced soon after, the dogs and I starting with the chicken run (henceforth Green Zone). Yesterday, on the dusk perimeter check, two of the girls — Dumb White Chicken and Not Dottie — had presumably used the decrepit chicken tractor to fly out of the Jerusalem cherry-free Green Zone; Dumb was successfully coaxed back into the safe zone and eventually returned to the chicken house; unfortunately Not Dottie was Not Interested. This morning, the adopted guinea fowl, Giselle, was out of the chicken run completely, and Not Dottie had been joined outside the Green Zone by Dumb White Chicken and Clint. I dragged the chicken tractor into the centre of the Green Zone so that it could no longer provide means of escape.
The nesting boxes have yet to be discovered by the chickens but one egg was on the floor in the hay — at least one of the chickens, it would seem, has settled into their new environs.
As for the rest of the property:
— the horse troughs are all full;
— goddamn there’s a lot of Jerusalem cherry in The Wood awaiting our attentions;
— The Puppy dived and jumped and played in a large puddle of muddy water which strengthens the case for her being part water dog;
— there’s plenty of firewood in The Wood — will need to drag out and place in the woodshed to dry out before cutting with either the skilsaw (currently in Laingholm) or a brand spanking chainsaw (which I shall call “Mother”).
Here ends the first report. Don’t know how regular these will be, but if I can be persistent they should provide some kind of log of things needing doing, and things done (it’s also been a good springboard for my to-do list for the upcoming town trip).
OUR WRITER and his GODDESS stare at a freshly dug grave. Our Writer rapidly blinks away a dust mote.
If we’re this upset over a chicken, imagine when The Dog goes.
The Dog was the first addition to Fortress Mamea in 2003. A family canine was something the adult family members wanted: we’d each had a dog in our childhood, though this time around we had requirements like
no begging at the dinner table,
no sleeping on the bed,
and some actual obedience.
We were largely successful: there’s no begging at mealtimes, The Dog knows not to jump onto our bed (the children’s beds are a different matter), and she returns on command.
She and I have clocked up some serious mileage over the years (not so much for a while), but this year she was retired from the exercise regime. Long gone are the days where she would shadow me as I 1). put on my running shoes, 2). ground through some stretching exercises, and 3). collected her lead and my stopwatch from the Wall Hook of Righteous Agony. In the last few months, she has had to be coaxed more and more: at first to leave her dog bed for the brisk morning air and, later, to leave the fortress altogether.
The Dog is getting old. She’s farting more freely, her snoring is louder and more insistent, and her daily ratio of resting versus all-out-physicality has changed markedly. The Goddess and I have been meaning to get a puppy these past few years, ostensibly to keep The Dog company when we’re not at home, but we haven’t even window-shopped. I suspect, deep down, we know that to begin looking for a puppy would be to acknowledge The Dog’s mortality.
The Kitten could be seen in hindsight as a transitional stage. It is heartening to see The Dog initiate playtime with The Kitten.
THE KITTEN -- fully grown now but always referred to as “The Kitten” -- climbs through her CAT FLAP when --
-- THE DOG leaps as if from nowhere --
-- and lands a paw on the cat’s hindquarters, the dog’s mass and speed spinning the cat 360 degrees until she recovers, back arched and glaring at The Dog:
Step back or die, cur.
The Dog will forever be Fortress Mamea’s first hound. And until it’s time for her to go, we’ll continue to feed her, walk her, and love her.
We don’t have stocktakes or inspection days at Fortress Mamea where the menagerie present themselves front and centre with clean nails and shiny coats.
We do have a standing order of battle: our Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pi*, The Dog, The Goldfish, and The Chickens. I like to keep The Amphibian, The Kaimanawa Pony (Goddess permitting) and The Kitten** in reserve.
At Goodbye My Feleni HQ this phase of operation is not called ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’ – Jenni insists that we call it getting ready to stomp on your shit.
* Pi – Samoan for honeybee (pronounced ‘pee’), rather than the Greek letter and irrational number.
** Yes, an update on the expanded menagerie will follow, complete with pictures for your desktop, laptop and phone wallpapers.
Returning from the screening last Saturday afternoon (by way of the hardware store and a food hall-lunch), we noticed some mini-ghouls out and about in the late afternoon.
Bloody Halloween, I groaned, and The Goddess patted my knee.
I hate trick-or-treaters.
There’s no childhood trauma or such for this hatred. Halloween figured in my childhood only so far as school lessons suddenly turning to jack o’ lanterns and how once upon a time ’twas hallowed evening. I got my scares aplenty with the telly’s Sunday Horrors, thank you very much.
Snapping back to the present – here’s a typical exchange with trick-or-treaters in our fair land:
INT./EXT. DOOR – HALLOWED EVENING – FLASHBACK
WRITER opens the DOOR to be greeted by --
MINI-GHOUL + FAIRY-BARBIE
Trick or treat!
Writer brings out a HAMPER and doles out --
An apple for you, young sir, and an apple for you, young lady.
-- and MINI GHOUL and FAIRY-BARBIE look with some shock as TWO APPLES are placed in their SACKS OF SWEETS.
Fairy-Barbie says nothing.
You’re BOTH welcome.
He closes the door as --
So. After a few years of this kind of exchange – and uneaten apples prominently left at the edge of our property – this year I drafted a sign for those ungrateful toads to stay away.
EXT. GARDEN – HALLOWED EVENING 2009
THE GODDESS admires Her garden, CHICKENS clucking about Her legs.
WRITER shows Her a HAND-MADE SIGN --
Writer looks at his sign: “FUCK OFF”.
It’s not in the spirit of Halloween.
... Okay. How about –
He scribbles on the sign and shows it to Her. She deadpans him a look.
It’s in the spirit.
ANGLE ON amended sign: “FUCK OFF and have a Happy Halloween!”
EXT. GARDEN – MINUTES LATER
Writer approaches The Goddess, sign extended, beaming proudly.
“Happy Halloween – thank you for your visit but we do not do trick or treat.”
May I suggest one tiny thing?
She points to the original “FUCK OFF” which is now ringed with the new wording.
How about putting your excellent new wording on a new sign.