It’s true! I did want to be a Farmer when I was younger. I remember it clearly now, when I was seven years old and I was asked the timeless question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered ‘I either want to be a Farmer or a Senior Commercial Analyst.’ Well half of that is true. Anyway, so far it has been enjoyable doing some physical work on the farm here at Hopi Hills.
Also I get to play with the snowmobile. This thing is much heavier than I expected and the speedo goes up to 120 mph, it has some serious power to put down. I take Helena for a ride on the back. I say ‘hold on to me tightly’ and as I pull away slowly she lets out a yelp. Wait until I open up the throttle I think. I open up the throttle of course, and sure enough Helena lets out a full blown scream. I am loving this, but I think she is less so. We go round a corner and sink into the deep snow (do we need a snowmobile with fatter skis Helena?) and we both fall off in slow motion. Helena decides that’s enough fun for one day and gets off.
Liam (the owner) tells me to stick to the track, so in the beginning I do, then I realise I can go off-piste and let rip. Sorry Liam if you’re reading this, but your snow toy is back in the barn in one piece. One of the volunteers is filming me from a drone for a promotional video, so how can I give less than 100% for the performance? I squeeze the throttle on the handlebar to give full power and the snowmobile flies across the field of powder while the drone shoots over my head in the opposite direction. I feel a bit like I’m in a James Bond film. Boys will be boys.
One of the volunteers, Suha, is on a Hopi Hills housework shift with Helena. He tells Helena somewhat abruptly that she’s crap at making beds and asks how does she do it at home. Helena informs him that she has a cleaner who does it for her. He tells her that he’s worked with me and that I’m really good at making beds, and putting on the sheets in the correct fashion. He also commended my technique for cleaning the animal pens and picking up goat poo. This guy is just singing my praises. I don’t think Helena is offended too much being told she can’t make the bed. Helena is a bit miffed that my habit of picking things up quickly doesn’t seem to have halted.
Suha tells us about the animals we have on the farm; boy goats, ponies, alpacas, lady goats, an ostrich, boy rabbits and lady rabbits. This makes us laugh and think of home. Once my Mum told us about her pilot friend “the lady Captain”. Apparently the lady prefix was needed, because the vast majority of pilots (and Captains) are men, so perhaps it’s needed to reiterate the point that women can indeed fly aircraft. Maybe the lady goats have a special skill too beyond just eating hay; so far I have not seen it.
If any of the animals have anything close to a superpower it’s probably the alpacas. They can spit at you from 3 metres and hit you directly in the face. Helena has had this pleasure from both of the deceptively cute creatures. I tell her it’s just a power game and if you stare at them in the eyes, they’ll back down. I tell her this because it did indeed work for me on my first shift. The next day I get spat at in the face and I no longer claim to be an expert in alpaca behaviours.
The animal you probably want to be most worried about here is the ostrich. I’ll admit that even I am a little scared to approach the ostrich, so for someone who has a bird phobia (no names mentioned), this must be terrifying! Helena is on the animal feeding shift in the afternoon and she comes to find me and say ‘Will you be the best boyfriend ever?’. All I have to do is change the ostrich’s water to achieve this accolade, so I agree to the request. She says ‘I did feed it already and I did manage to get the ducks into their house, are you proud of me?. I feel very proud. I google how dangerous ostriches are and it turns out their kicks can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion.
I go and change the water for the big bird, with a little trepidation on my part and I manage to resurface unscathed.
Doing my Duke of Edinburgh Silver award at school I elected to do duck keeping as my skill. I think that some people saw this as a bit of a copout, because we already had ducks at home. So all I had to do was keep them alive and I was one step closer to getting my kudos from Prince Philip. 20 years on and I am putting those duck keeping skills to use again! One thing I can tell you is Japanese ducks are easy to put to bed, unlike their British counterparts. I recall hours spent running round the pond back home with my Dad, waving around garden canes to encourage them into their duck house and not unlike unruly children with a hesitant babysitter, they would just not go to bed. In the end this was to the fox’s benefit, but that’s another story. Forget herding cats, try herding (British) ducks. Once the Japanese ducks here are fed, it’s just a wave of the hand and they are in the duck house ready to lay an egg or two for breakfast…
Today we take the horses out for a ride. I take Ringa, and Helena’s steed is Tyro. There’s a third horse, Moose, who’s sole aim is to get in the way and bite us while we’re trying to tack up. I think about the Western horse riding I’ve done in the past and try to employ some horse whisperer techniques. I approach my horse the right way, I play mind games with Ringa, getting him to believe he’s calling the shots, but actually getting him to do what I want. I have the horses walking to me and I think I’ve nailed this natural horsemanship. Then I take the bridle and try to get the metal bit into the horse’s mouth. Ringa’s teeth are gritted and no matter how much are try, it’s not working. I speak to Liam and he slips on the bridle and bit into Ringa’s mouth in a few seconds. Maybe I won’t be the next horse whisperer in Japan just yet.
Helena is threatening to write a counter blog to mine, where she can take the piss out of me in her own blog. I think this a false threat and I don’t think she’s going to carry it out. She does have some potential comedy material on me though, so I’m watching my step.