I don't mind feeding the cats or walking the dogs, but looking after the poultry takes about two hours a day.
The geese are mostly wandering about the property somewhere but usually appear as soon as dinner is in the offing. The ducks and hens are around the back of the house and rush up as soon as someone appears with the feed.
But my sister has constructed an elaborate complex of outbuildings to contain the roosters (because of complaints from a neighbour), the pullets and the invalids who aren't ready to stand on their own two feet yet. I weaved in and out of the sheds and cages, doling out the prescribed amounts of feed and locking or unlocking gates as instructed.
Julie had pointed out the spots to watch and to my surprise I gathered up ten eggs on the first day.
The final stop was to wade the creek and take the horse food over to the shed on the far side of the property. Shadow, a massive ex-racehorse, is waiting for me nearby; if I take too long, he gives an impatient whinny.
Saj the mastiff follows me across the creek and up the hill, patiently waiting for a chance to steal one of Shadow's carrots.
I dish out his feed then while he eats I walk around him, looking for cuts, scrapes or wounds of any kind. It's not a good idea to get too close, since if he is startled and puts his head up without warning he could easily knock me down.
After completing this, I make my way back to the house. The cats wander about mewing at me while I extract my feet from the gumboots before feeding the dogs.
When some people go away for a weekend, they ask you to feed their canary or their goldfish. Julie left that stage behind a long time ago.
Two of Julie's five cats live at my house. Normally that's not a difficulty: there are two bedrooms and two cats, no problem.
The first night Julie was away, Paco came into my bedroom and saw Jezebel curled up on my bed; he turned around and left. A few minutes later Jezebel jumped off. So instead of one cat or two cats I had none. I shrugged and went to sleep.
The second night Jezebel stayed on my bed and Paco joined us during the night. I woke up and they were both curled up on the bed with me. Jezebel was unhappy when I got up during the night -- she is accustomed to Julie staying absolutely still while asleep so as not to disturb her. That part is beyond me, I'm afraid.
The skies were so clear last month that I did more stargazing than I can remember.
Venus and Jupiter were bright and clear near the moon and low on the horizon I could easily pick out Mars. I don't know why they call it the red planet, it looks like a very pale orange to me.
Saturn was visible that week, but it didn't rise till almost dawn. I wasn't getting up at that time of the morning just so I could say I'd seen four planets on the same day.
I even saw several shooting stars, the first ones I've seen in quite a while.
There were some advantage to that spell of windy weather - at least it blew the clouds away.
I gave Kay a lift to the supermarket the other day and when she got to the check-out it cost a little more than she expected.
It wasn't likely but I gave it a try: "You bought 50 blank video tapes in the sale last week, do you really need another 30? If you put one five-pack of them back, you'd be in the clear."
She looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign tongue and started digging through her pockets for small change.
I guess it all depends where your priorities lie.
I'm girding my loins as the end of October approaches, because November brings with it NaNoWriMo.
"What??" you ask.
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Many meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and -- when the thing is done -- the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2004, we had over 42,000 participants. Nearly 6000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, but I wasn't game to try it last year. After having twelve months to nerve myself up, I figured I might give it a try this year.
I know I can write 1700 words in a day. Whether I can do it every day for a month... well, that will be interesting to try.
At the very least it will give me discipline, something I've never been very good at.
Ask me again in a couple of months and I'll let you know.
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