These days, when everyone's eager to wax lyrical about the rural idyll, or the peasant idyll, or the rural peasant idyll, it's good to remember that the country is one thing and one thing only (most of the time):
Today was, I guess, somewhere in the high twenties with clear skies and a light breeze. It was the perfect day to go for a ride or lie in the hammock or have a picnic. But I was building the ducks an enclosure like the hens' one. I bought three new ducklings at Christmas and they were well and truly ready to meet the world.
I built the frame yesterday, and walked maybe five kms through the forest, and planted some seedlings and watched a movie and then slept, somehow, till ten this morning. Tired? Hmm.
Today I wired up the frame and set the run and house up and swore a lot and moved the ducklings into it, along with my one remaining adult duck. Then I cleaned the room the ducklings had been living in and did all the other things: moving goats and doing washing and watering the seedlings I planted, and on and on.
I was wearing sensible clothes and a hat and glasses, and drank lots of water, but I still got headachey. My hands are a wreck, something stabbed me in the knee while I was crawling around in the dirt pegging in the wire, I have some kind of RSI in my elbows and—miracle of miracles—I only hit my hand with the hammer once.
Yes, I think my drill and hammer and cementing skills are improving and it's satisfying to see the ducklings experience the outdoors for the first time, to splash about in their little pond and have instant ducky rapport with their new duck mum.
But it was exhausting to the point where the prospect of sitting on the deck in the evening sun with a vodka and tonic took on dreamlike proportions. How crisp the bubbles in the tonic would be, how sharp the hint of lime. How very, very cold and refreshing the lumps of ice. I would be cool, I would not be covered, absolutely covered, in grime, I wouldn't be thirsty, I would be still, and above all, I would be sitting down.
Don't be fooled: the "rural idyll" is hard fucking work. Keeping livestock (alive) is demanding. If it doesn't address something deep in your soul, you won't be able to get to the end of a weekend like that and sit, exhausted, on the deck with your vodka and tonic, and smile at the splashing ducklings after all.