When my Uncle Bill was still alive, Tuesday mornings at 10:30 was our prearranged time to chat on the phone. He had a bit of an old Western funny bone and frequently would say hello with, “What have you been up to, besides the fence?” He would chuckle.
I might reply, “Well, not much at all but standing here by it telling you stories.” We’d both chuckle. And today as I’m checking off farm chores on my urban plot of land, I’m working on the fence. My girls have pecked their little green lawn nearly into the ground, giving it a haircut that would make the scalp raw. Just outside their space there’s an area of grass that is hard to mow and full of clover plus a scattering of lush dandelions. Since that’s their favorite combination of greens, it’s only fair that I share.
I’m always “rotating crops” by moving the fence to allow or disallow chicken access to various parts of the yard. Raw, scalped sod moves this to the top of Things I get to do today. I think of most farmers/ranchers “making fence” miles from the barn with only the fence line connecting them. Solitary work. But I’m a city farmer, and besides, Gwyneth Poultry keeps me very good company. She comes right up to peck my gloves (safety check, I think), scratches around in the loosened soil to round up all the bugs and then looks adoringly into my face as I kneel to untwist the prickly ends where one length of chicken wire meets another. I imagine that she loves me dearly, but my rational mind tells me she’s probably just checking out my nose hairs to see if they are edible. It is bliss plarking with her along side. Her soft musings and chicken chatter pluck at the strings of my heart. The task goes quickly.
I gather up my work implements, nearly as pleased with the new space as the hens are. I can almost see Uncle Bill leaning against the wire mesh, with one elbow on the post, watching the hens. Don’t really need anything besides the fence.