On getting muddy

The up and down weather we’ve been having lately is making the time I spend with Mole and Hedgehog a constant dilemma as to whether we stay in all day, or chance a walk to the swings when the snow / wind / rain parts for a minute to reveal some sun rays. Today for example, is an arctic endurance test every time I step outside, but just three days ago, I considered getting the sunglasses out for a freak spell of sunshine.

My default setting always was to ‘make the most of the sunshine’, a trait I probably inherited from Granny Purple Hair, but lately, perhaps because of Mole and Hedgehog, I feel a greater responsibility to make sure this happens. It’s about wanting to be close to nature, I think.

The allotment is becoming the focal point for a lot of our trips outdoors this month. The path to the allotment takes us past the church (where they sometimes have tea and cake, but as Mole and Hedgehog have no concept of the days of the week yet, they make me check the church door every time we pass it, on the off chance that it might be open and they might get cake), and past the swings, so that we can easily spend an entire afternoon on an expedition to the allotment, walking at a Mole and Hedgehog pace (which is the pace of a snail), pushing their buggies and stopping to look at a daisy every five seconds.

Mole is getting very good at walking now, she can get across the village and back without complaining, under her own steam. Hedgehog starts out very enthusiastic, chasing Mole and charging with her buggy in a haphazard way, threatening to career into the ditch at every moment, before suddenly going on strike about 100 yards before we get there. There is no moving her when she goes on strike. She stands in the middle of the path, legs planted, staring dead ahead, and when you approach her she stretches her arms up to you in her familiar expectant way, and you end up doing some weight lifting training with her on one arm, and her buggy on the other arm.

The bike is a quicker way of getting there, so last Monday, undeterred from the mud and constant drizzle, I cycled down there with a cheerful Mole and Hedgehog, and spent five hours pottering about, doing this and that, digging, building a wheel barrow, sticking fence poles in the ground, and generally getting muddy.

I turned around at one point to find Mole taking a dump in the hedge, mooning the cars that were just meters from her behind, and Hedgehog, unconcerned with her mud and snot smeared face, watching her. They are my feral little helpers.

I got them to help me with the digging, but it quickly descended into both of them standing directly in the way of my spade, repeating “Mummy, can you find another WORM?”. Mole took Hedgehog off for a ‘walk’ at one point, on some sort of mixed up fairy story involving red riding hood and the three bears. I watched Mole marching in her determind way along the pathways between the plots in the distance, with Hedgehog scampering behind her.

It got so muddy that the three of us had to strip off from the waist down when we got home. Hedgehog was the most impressively muddy of course, she had it all over her face too.

A few days later, directly after work, I went down there and creosoted the shed in the evening light. It was the most peaceful and satisfying part of the day, after cuddling in bed with Mole and Hedgehog of course.

Today, (after taking a shortcut into the allotment through the stream, a bit of an unorthodox entry point that I won’t retry as Mole and Hedgehog got quite nervous about the steep ditch), the arctic winds got the better of us after about three hours. Mole tried to drop hints, like going off to ‘play in the hot sandy desert’, but when that didn’t work she asked me to shut them both in the shed so that they could warm up. After I’d hammered the chicken house together I admitted defeat and we toddled home. Hedgehog was on strike for the return journey so my bicep muscles are now very well defined.

Perhaps in some strange way I’m trying to harden up Mole and Hedgehog to the cold winds, in much the same way as the chickens? in the belief they will be tougher as adults? Who knows.

Our activities indoors are getting more inventive. I’ve started cutting Mole and Hedgehog’s hair, for example. Last week, Mole’s punk style haircut that she performed on herself last year had sufficiently grown out for me to straighten it off. So I did a simple bob with fringe, admired by the in-laws who came over on the weekend. Encouraged by my new found hairdresser skills, I followed up with a small chop on myself a couple of days later, but I’m unsure how the back turned out, being unable to see it. Mr M&H didn’t even notice when he got home, which I took as a good sign.

I’ve started cleaning the house with distilled vinegar and lemon juice. It makes the place smell a bit like a chip shop, but we quite like that. Basically, I’ve decided to clean my home in the most natural and frugal way possible, which I probably also get from Granny Purple Hair.

I moved the chicks out to the garden shed yesterday. I can tell they are not impressed with this, but after a month of them living under our dining table, getting bigger and bigger, poohing more and more, I’m relieved to get them out of the house. I thought they might run all over the grass in great excitement of their new found freedom when I released them into the garden, but they were much more shocked with the sudden change in climate. They huddled together under the garden bench, totally freaked out by the massive space they’d been plunged into. Then they started tapping on the French windows with their beaks, as if asking to be let back inside.

I have to resist the urge to cuddle them in my jumper and raise them as indoor chickens. I think about them, out there in the cold dark shed, their feathers fluffed up, shivering and cheeping at me, and I worry about them. What am I going to be like when they are at the allotment, on the other side of the village?. Growing veg is one thing, but raising livestock is another. Mole and Hedgehog love them, Mole especially is great at handing them, which I’m very pleased and proud about.

This evening, after shutting the chickens in the shed for the night, leaving them there and coming back into our nice warm house, I enjoyed some rare alone time with Mole, as Hedgehog had conked out on the sofa at five, so we decided to put her straight to bed, and Mr M&H conked out in bed too. So Mole and I had our spaghetti bolognaise together, we tidied up the living room together, had a very civilised and chatty bedtime, in which Mole told me about what she wants her next birthday party to be like, before settling down into her top bunk, and saying “night night mummy” in her angelic voice.

It was so easy.

Hedgehog is the hard one right now, with her walking strikes, her temper tantrums and her shout of “NO!” in response to practically anything, but we have to remember that she is two.

Mole asks important questions like: “Mum, do chickens eat porridge?”, while Hedgehog says things like: “Mummy, you have lovely ears”. I already know she likes my ears because she is constantly fiddling with them.

Then this morning Mole pipes up with “Daddy, I like your willy”.


I’ll add that to the list of things NOT to say to your dad.