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Raining cats and dogs on our troubled turkey patch.

Byline: By Liz Shankland

Our smallholder columnist has been watching the storm clouds and praying for drier weather

HAVE you ever been so wet that you thought you would never, ever dry out again? I'm sure some of you might know what I'm talking about; that terrible, freezing cold wetness that seems to seep through clothes, skin, bones and almost to your soul.

We've had quite a few days like that since taking on our smallholding. Far too many, if the truth be known. Last week, we chalked up another one. The weather on Monday was fantastic - one of those perfect, mild autumn mornings when the sun shines, making everything seem a whole lot better than it really is. It was one of those mornings when you feel like you can tackle the most difficult jobs in the world, and come out on top.

The only trouble was, because of work commitments, both myself and Gerry were desk-bound; I was chained to the computer all day, while he was imprisoned in meeting after meeting.

The pressing thing we both had on our minds was moving the turkeys from a muddy field onto some nice, clean, fresh pasture. It had to be done - and quickly.

Every time we start digging here, we manage to disrupt a whole series of underground springs, and the latest excavation managed to flood the areas fenced off for our poultry.

Gerry and I compared our diaries and settled on Tuesday as the only day when we could both take the day off to move the birds. And then it rained. It really rained. First thing in the morning we were both optimistic it would clear up. Gerry was convinced all would be well.

As a regular on Radio Wales, he often ends up sharing a studio with Derek the weather man, and seems convinced meteorological skills can be absorbed by osmosis.

He looked up into the sky and said, 'Yes, it's definitely blowing over from the west. It'll be gone by lunchtime'. Wrong. Four hours later, we were still standing in the driving rain, trying to fix a roll of security fencing, without being able to see the posts we were supposed to be attaching it to.

At least I was head-to-toe in waterproofs. Despite my gentle suggestions about what to wear, Gerry had insisted that just a thin fleece would do. When the monsoon came, he just had to look tough and indifferent; it was a good attempt.

When we finally got the galvanised fencing done, there was the small matter of the electric poultry netting to contend with. A different type of electric fencing for us, a new energiser that had just been delivered the day before and, for the first time, we were attempting to connect to a car battery instead of to a 6V lantern battery.

Not surprisingly, it didn't work. We spent hour after hour cleaning terminals, fiddling with crocodile clips and adjusting the netting to make sure it wasn't hanging too low and shorting on the grass. In the end, with darkness falling, we had to opt for Plan B and resort to our old 6V battery energiser as a stop-gap solution.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of getting the turkeys to their new home. I was all for sticking half-a-dozen at a time into the back of the Land Rover and driving them across to the next field, but Gerry had other ideas. He persuaded me that the best way was to follow the example of the drovers, and walk them down in a great big flock.

We took our positions each side and, armed with a plastic electric fencing support, we guided them down to their new home. On went the electric fencing, and I just kept my fingers crossed that it would keep the foxes out.

I had to trust to luck that night. Josh had to be at the dentist for a long-awaited appointment, so I dragged myself back to the house, peeled off my saturated clothes, and pulled on anything that was warm and dry. When we got to the surgery, my hair was soaked and my skin had that red-raw look we used to get at school when our games mistress made us play hockey in torrential rain. A sudden rumble of my stomach reminded me I hadn't eaten all day, and I began to feel weak and faint.

As we took our seats, the receptionist said, 'Wet out there, innit? I got soaked to the skin going for chips.' Josh gave me a warning glare. I smiled - too tired to retaliate - and said nothing.

Write to Liz Shankland c/o Western Mail, Blue Street, Carmarthen SA31 3LQ. Enclose an SAE for a reply. Or e-mail lizshankland@hotmail.com
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 15, 2005
Words:798
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