Last night I felt like I'd been "rode hard and put away wet." I was one tired old dog, but what a satisfying day it had been. Helper Dude is the fifteen-year-old nephew of one of my milk customers, out of school for the summer and needing something to do. The list of tasks that needed four hands or more strength than I have was getting longer, so it seemed a perfect fit at the perfect time, and I hired Helper Dude for the day. The kid ran me ragged! I set him to cleaning out the dog run and putting boards around the base so the pullets would be safe in their transition home, plugging holes around the Silkies' pen, and mentioned that the last pile of brush in the front yard could be moved over to the burn pile. I figured even one of those jobs would keep him busy without supervision for the hour and a half I'd be down in the barn. Yeah, well. Dude had all three done and did an excellent job on each, even raking up the twiggy stuff under the bigger branches of the brush pile without being asked. We moved the chicklets over to their new pen, then stood and watched as they dithered and clustered in the cages, afraid and unaccustomed to freedom. Dumping out the last of the scaredy-cats, they started doing the leap-and-flutter dance and then began taking dust baths. That must be pure instinct, as they'd never touched dirt before. I think it speaks well of a fifteen-year-old who could take pleasure from watching a bunch of chickens, laughing at their antics in their new world.
After a lunch break, we tackled the board fence around the front pasture, supporting broken posts and nailing back fallen boards. By this time, we were working in direct sun and it was hot. My farmer's tan moved quite a way up my arms. It was me who cried uncle and needed to take breaks. Dude raised a good-sized blister on his city-boy hand, accepted a Band-Aid, and neither quit nor whimpered. It took nearly three hours to finish the fence, and that walk back up the hill got longer every time. The last task of the day was getting a hose reel put back on the barn wall, one of those seemingly small jobs, but one I really needed so I could get the hose out of the weeds.
By the time Dude's uncle came to pick him up, he had more than earned every penny of his pay. Sweaty and dirty, I'd have supposed he'd be glad to brush off the dust of Farview and see the last of us, but he said in parting that he hoped he'd be able to come back soon. He was a hard-working, easy companion, and I hope so, too.
My day was not yet finished. The pullets, reveling in their new-found freedom, had no idea they needed to go into the dog crate for the night. The pen is only four feet high and covered with chicken wire, so I had to go in, bent like a pretzel, catch those fast-moving little boogers, and stuff them one at a time into the crate. I hope they catch on to the routine quickly. Dusk was falling rapidly and I moved on to the Silkie pen. Good luck with that. For whatever reason, not one of them wanted to go to bed. The door to the Taj is a drop down, so I can't close it behind one while I catch another. Five would go in and three would come out...over and over again. It was one of those Keystone Komedy moments. Laugh, cry, or cuss...take your pick. I still had the big hens to tuck in and then go down to the goats. Now the stalls were dark, so, of course, they all balked. Shutting the last door on the last critter, I made my way up that long hill and into the house, where I dropped like a rock...I was one whupped puppy.
So much was accomplished...it was a good day.