A new addition to the family

The Cold War between us and her-next-door has warmed to tepid. The unintended insult that went with us putting up a fence behind the cherry tree so that I could sit, undisturbed, by the ministrations of our very chatty neighbour has all but been forgotten. When we see each other, we chat. But we don’t go seeking out each other’s company. I value my privacy and my downtime too much to want to have it constantly interrupted, no matter how well-meaning or nice the interrupter is.

She keeps chickens. I’m sure each of them has a name and all of them are well looked after. They roam her garden with abandon and seem to be happy little things. But her garden is brown compared to the luscious green of ours. One particular chicken has taken a shine to Himself, walking up and down the fence on the other side keeping pace with the lawnmower and then peering through to the wire to inspect the finished result, clucking in appreciation if it passes muster.

This same chicken popped over one day and walked through the house, and took a good look around. When she went out onto the terrace, she stopped, laid an egg in the bush at the bottom of the steps, and then went home. A house-warming present with a difference.

Lately though, she’s been popping over more often. She seems to prefer whatever she finds to eat in ours. We have plenty. And we’re happy to share. When her-next-door notices that one of her flock is missing, she lets herself in and takes her truant chicken home. Said chicken has even been lifted and passed back over the fence without a nip or a cluck.

As I was out weeding this morning, she kept me company. We chatted away, her in chicken, me in English with the occasional bit of Hungarian to see if it would get a different response. She’s definitely trilingual. She was doing her thing. I was doing mine. And there was plenty of room for both of us.

Building fences

You shouldn’t have moved to the countryside if you don’t like chickens! No arguing with that except that I don’t have a problem with chickens. I like my eggs and with chickens come eggs. And they’re curious, funny creatures. Quite engaging. Something had gotten lost in translation.

We took delivery of a lovely hammock during the week (thanks MN) and hung it up under one of the cherry trees right by the neighbour’s wire-mesh fence. It’s rather dilapidated, sagging under the weight of years of holding back said chickens. It’s an eye sore but then it’s the countryside and aesthetics come a distant second to practicality. Having just shelled out for new fencing, I know that replacing it wouldn’t be cheap. Offering to replace it could be viewed as relatively rich newbies flashing their cash so we thought to best avoid any potential conflict and shave a few inches off the garden to put up the fence on our land rather than on the border.

Six posts planted – no mean feat in 37-degree weather. The first siding standing straight. And then all hell breaks loose. The neighbour. Ranting and raving about how she doesn’t steal from us. She doesn’t mind what we do. She doesn’t look. She had a great relationship with the previous owner (who was rarely here) and came and went as she pleased. She had keys to the house and access to the fruit in the garden and the kitchen and lord only knows what else. Things are different now. And over the months, her random wandering through has stopped. She still comes and goes but not nearly as often. It’s a little irritating when I’m in the flow to hear her calling out for me to come outside to chat. She doesn’t get the work thing. That’s something that’s done in an office. Which is fair enough. Her’s is a different world. Ignoring her isn’t really an option as tenacity is her middle name.

I tried to explain about the hammock. About wanting to sit in my garden and enjoy the peace without having to look at her yard. About wanting to read and not look at chickens. I want a fence that I can use as a trellis. I want my quiet place and I don’t need her chickens for company. You shouldn’t have moved to the countryside if you don’t like chickens, she said. So much for excuses.

And then the litany of complaints went on. She needed access to the side of her barn in case something went wrong. There’s a gate between the properties on the other side of her barn that she uses. That’s access enough, I said. The branches of our cherry tree are a danger to her barn, she said. They’re nowhere near your barn, but we’ll cut them down anyway. (I cut my first tree branch today, did I mention that it’s 37 degrees!) The shrubbery in our garden is too close to her barn wall. We can cut that back, I said. No problem. But just in case there was something I was missing, I called a friend, the lovely SJ, to speak with her and check that I was getting the message(s) loud and clear.

The big issue, it turns out, is that she can’t understand why we would want privacy. And, in fairness, privacy something that is hard to come by in a village where everyone knows what you’ve had for breakfast by the time you’ve done the washing up. No different to villages anywhere else. ‘Tis the nature of small communities. I was at a loss to explain it. I’d bombed out with the chickens. The reading didn’t work. So I took off my tshirt and started to undo my bra, throwing my head back and looking up at the sun. Enough said.

Just hope word doesn’t get around the village and the closet naturists start dropping by. That would surely put a dint in my privacy bent.