When we moved here I dreamt of children working hard on the land. Cleaning out and feeding the animals, digging the ground and thoroughly immersing themselves in our smallholding. Has this happened? Yes, in most ways. They do take the scraps to the animals, collect the eggs, change the animals’ water and sometimes help with the gardening. In other ways life is not always roses around the door.
Let me share with you an example. For the first year of having chickens, the children took it in turns to clean them out. To start with they did a fantastic job, but over time I noticed the job wasn’t being done quite so well, or with quite the same enthusiasm. I felt that our lady layers deserved a bit more time being spent on them. So I volunteered to be the number one chicken cleaner.
Now I come to the confession. I feel that I’m supposed to be retraining the children to do the job properly, but I don’t want to give the job back! You see every afternoon around 4pm my older children give me a welcome 20 minutes of brain space. They care for their younger siblings and I get ‘chicken therapy’. I spend 20 minutes picking poo out of their hen houses and run and I feed my grateful girls (they’re not even picky eaters 😉). This is often the only quiet time I get all day and I love it. These lovely layers don’t whinge at me, they don’t ask me questions, they don’t tell me they’re bored, they don’t ask what they can eat next and they don’t even complain about their siblings. It’s bliss!
My love for such mundane tasks goes back a long way, to my turbulent teenage years. I remember the day after Mum died, it was right at the beginning of my year 10 summer holidays, and I wondered how I would fill the days ahead of me. My instinctive thought was to work, so I opened up the Yellow Pages (yes I’m that old) and phoned round all the local catteries and kennels, looking for a holiday and weekend job. Thankfully I found someone willing to take on a 14 year old and my cleaning therapy began. As I plodded through my daily tasks I had brain space, time to begin to process all that I was going through. I found the mundane routine entirely comforting, something predictable in a world turned upside down.
Now again, I feel as if life has been turned upside down, I’m sure many others feel the same. For me the memories of losing Mum have been relived as I have lost time with family and connections with those I love. The pain of loss and the uncertainty of the future has once again been brought to the fore. So I return to my animals, to my cleaning, to my mundane silent work. In the silence, my head can think and I can begin to process the changes in the world.
Maybe when lockdown ends and life gets busy again I will retrain my little helpers, but for now I need my daily dose of chicken therapy. A mum in lockdown with 9 children has got to find a way to carve out a moment to herself! ‘I’m cleaning out the chickens’ has become the perfect excuse to have my much needed time and space 😉.