This weekend was supposed to be all about the chicks.
Last time I said that in any seriousness was back in ’94 at university and if I’m being honest, both my best mate Stephen Hayward and I knew we were most likely going to finish the evening unaccompanied at 3AM, walking home via the 24hr petrol station to buy a jumbo packet of onion-ring flavoured crisps, two Gingster’s pies with dubious meat fillings and 40 Marlboro Lights to chain smoke while wondering if that girl in the bra-top and hot pants really was giving one of us the eye.
Just like those club nights, I didn’t get lucky with the chicks this weekend either. Although this time it wasn’t my awesome tartan pants or podium dancing (big fish, little fish, come on Sheffield!) that sabotaged my plans.
No this time my plans were much more…farmy. I was supposed to be starting a chicken coop for our 3 chicks – Harvey, Custard and Sunshine (said in a gruff London-accent, like a bouncer from a cliched Guy Ritchie film). Harvey was named by me because for some reason he just reminded me of Harvey Keitel. Custard, well, because he was the colour of cold custard. Sunshine because she’s obviously a girl, is really pale and as a name, Norman just didn’t seem fair.
We’d originally agreed not to name these birds or even think of them as anything except a yummy roast dinner sometime around October or for the girls, a handy carry-case for eggs. But unfortunately when only three successfully hatched, Emma was so upset the only thing I could think to do was promise that these three, at least, would be spared the pot. So, Harvey, Custard and Sunshine get life instead and that meant I needed to build a maximum-security detention facility.
Plan A was simple. Dismantle an existing shed, move it 50 yards to our chosen location and reassemble it in a chickeny-fashion. Easy, at least in principle. After all, I’m a handy guy, I know the pointy end of a screwdriver from a hammer. How hard could it be?
Well, I didn’t really get to find out. After emptying the abandoned junk and managing not to asphyxiate on dried coyote dirt inside the shed, I got the door frame off and laid out my tools ready for the big push. The boys were off climbing mud mountains and Emma was strimming the long grass down to make space for the coop. Then I was waylaid with Plan A.
It must be said, like Stallone, my WeedEater has seen better days. It doesn’t so much devour weeds, as need them to be first processed into a mush and spoon fed slowly. Inevitably it stalled, again and again. That meant I had to keep restarting it because obviously pulling on ripcords to start motors is a Job For Men. Stallone kind of Men. Men who wear bandages around their head and can snarl. Oh and I snarled. I think it was something like:
“Shitting, pissing stupid frickin strimmer, piece of crap junk….”
I’ve never quite mastered finding the inner sanctuary of peace so necessary when dealing with uncooperative garden tools. Instead I adopt the “throw it away in a tantrum, scowl, swear and pretend like you got a minor injury” approach. Normally it works a treat. This time it didn’t so I just looked a little foolish.
Like any Man would do, I looked around for the biggest garden tool I could find to reassert my dominance over them and they don’t come much bigger than tractors.
I’ve not had a huge amount of success with mine and to be completely honest, I was beginning to wonder whether I needed to call on the Power of Greyskull to be able to climb on board for a fourth outing. Defeated by the WeedEater, I was reluctant to compound my misery with failure at the unmerciful hand of George The Tractor. As a catch-up for anyone that doesn’t know, my first three attempts were thwarted due to:
1. Dead cell in the battery so it wouldn’t start and a bust alternator that failed to charge it (not my fault!)
2. While taking directions from my 5 year old son and not paying attention to where I was going, embedding it firmly and immovably in 4 feet of swamp mud and requiring my neighbour to bring his huge caterpillar-tracked Bucket to pull me out (ok, my fault)
3. Having the bush-hog set too low and embedding the blades into the uneven ground, bringing everything to a very abrupt stop while making a sound like the death throes of a Transformer
But this time, the sun was shining on me and with Emma’s pep talk ringing in my ears, I climbed aboard, determined not to slink away like a Belgian in a bar fight. The engine fired into life and, it might sound daft, but it all felt suddenly very right. I was confident of what to do and this time, it couldn’t have gone any better. One hour, several acres of tall grasses, bushes and the habitat for a million mosquitos later, my mighty bush-hog had restored my pride.
After that, it was tractor rides for the boys, tents and bad pizza. The chicks and their detention facility forgotten, at least until next weekend.