When we got the brush-cutting mower we’ve since nicknamed The Beast, Chareva’s first request was that I clear an area around the chicken coop so she could expand the chicken yard. A day or so later, she put up the electric fence that had previously surrounded Sara’s goats. The idea, of course, is to discourage raccoons or bobcats from treating themselves to any more chicken dinners.
Here’s more of the fence, from the other side of the coop:
I hope it works. If it comes down to a choice between losing chickens or killing a predator, I’ll kill the predator. One chicken produces 250 eggs or more per year. Rocky Racoon killed four of them, so he cost us 1,000 eggs over the next year — and all we got in return was one raccoon-stew dinner. The bobcat cost us another 250 eggs per year. But as several readers mentioned, that bobcat is a beautiful animal, and I’d rather just convince him to go away.
The chickens won’t be wandering the expanded chicken yard until we put some nets over the area. Hawks aren’t impressed by electric fences.
I got home from work on Friday with about two hours to go before sunset, so I released The Beast and tackled the section of the side field you see below:
That gave me more of a workout than I’d expected. It’s difficult to appreciate the slope of these hills unless you’re standing on them, but this picture taken soon after we bought the land should give you an idea:
That was the area I cut on Friday, and I found that my usual method of cutting around the perimeter wasn’t possible. The mower wanted to tilt and turn downhill if I tried cutting across the slope. So my only option was to guide it downhill, make a 180-degree turn, and go straight back up the hill – over and over. The back wheels are powered, but there are no front wheels, which means I have to push down on the handles and keep the front slightly elevated, especially when cutting uphill. It wasn’t quite like pushing a heavy weight uphill each time, but close. So let’s just say I slept amazingly well on Friday night. This is the after picture:
Same area, but looking up from near the bottom of the hill:
That left these two big sections of the side field still to be cut:
I figured I’d tackle those next weekend. I was more interested in clearing the area behind the house, which had grown to look like this:
When I finished my morning coffee on Saturday and starting pulling on my work clothes and boots, it occurred to me that I was actually looking forward to the work.
What the …? Is that my brain getting all happy about a day of manual labor?
Yes, this is your brain.
But the whole two years we rented a house in a suburb, I never even mowed the lawn. Mowing a lawn is drudgery. That’s why I paid a service to do it. Why the heck is this fun all of a sudden?
I don’t know. I’m only a brain. You figure it out.
So I spent two hours pushing The Beast around the area behind the house (only about a third of which is visible in the picture). Now it looks like this:
I planned on calling it a day after that and working on a music project. Then my brain started up again.
You know, you still have plenty of daylight left. You could knock down one of those two sections in the side field.
Why on earth would I do that?
Because you want to. You know you do.
Look, buddy, I do not want to spend the entire day … holy crap, the brain is right. I do want to. Okay, I’ll take down one of those two remaining sections. Then I’m going inside.
So, despite being drenched under my shirt from the afternoon heat, I took down another section. Then I turned The Beast towards the garage.
Hey, remember me? It’s your brain again. You know, that last remaining section really isn’t that big if you think about.
But I’ve already been doing this for nearly four hours, and it’s ninety-some degrees out here and … okay, I’ll get the gas can.
My muscles were tired and I was huffing and puffing at times as I hit the steeper slopes. And yet I had to admit: I was enjoying myself. I don’t know if was endorphins from the work, the pride of accomplishment, or what Charlie Daniels called Dog-Tired Satisfied in one of his songs, but after spending five hours working outside on a hot, humid day, I felt terrific.
It occurred to me that this is one of the unexpected benefits of living on a small farm. I’ve been a software programmer for years. I’m good at it, I like it, and it pays well. But of course, I sit down for that job (and for blogging). The whole time I lived in Chicago and Los Angeles, I didn’t even have a yard. I knew it was important to get some physical exercise, so I took long walks and worked out in a gym. I still do. A good workout in a gym is satisfying, but it’s not like this. It’s not the joy of being Dog-Tired Satisfied. I get that feeling when I spend a day tearing down a briar jungle, or cutting up a pile of wood, or pounding fence posts into the ground.
When we first bought the farm and started cleaning it up, cutting away the rusty barbed wire, digging gardens, reclaiming the jungle, etc., I occasionally grumbled to myself that it seemed the work would never be done.
Silly, silly man, my brain replied when I recalled those complaints as I was falling asleep on Saturday night. Of course the work will never be done. And if it ever is, you should probably buy more land. You’re Dog-Tired Satisfied, and it’s the best kind of tired. Now go to sleep.
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