I have just been kissed by an alpaca. At least I think I was. I was leaning over the gate admiring her, scratching her neck when she stretched forward and nuzzled at my face. I didn’t think we were yet on those sort of terms, having only recently been introduced, but it was very nice.
My new best friend is called Buttercup, one of three alpacas owned by a friend who seems to have decided to create a mini farm, so she now also has six chickens, two dogs and two cats. One feels surrounded by animals, an impression entirely created by a single animal, a large Northern Inuit/German Shepherd dog called Balloo. He is young, bouncy, friendly and constantly moving, usually in circles around you, or if you are unlucky, attempting vertical circles over you.
We took the alpacas for a walk on the French country lanes. Doubtless an unusual sight, but it would have been more so if the chickens had come too, on leads. We’d have left an interesting trail; a bit like Hansel and Gretel, but with less bread and more alpaca poo and eggs. The alpacas loved it, so did we and it’s more relaxing than walking a dog.
Not being brought up in the country, things like cuddling a chicken is a strange and remarkable experience for me. I discovered that chickens are very soft. For some reason I felt they might be slightly spiky. There’s no reason to believe that as a feather is spiky at one end, it would also be at the other, like a feathered porcupine, but it took a hands-on chicken experience to discover this.
One of the hens has chicks due on Easter Sunday, which seems very appropriate. Will be even more Eastery if she manages to hatch a bunny: egg with a built in miracle. Although you could argue that any animal hatching is a miracle, as well as astonishing to a city girl. But then I get excited when blossom appears; it doesn’t take much to please my neurones. Collecting eggs from the others felt like stealing, although the chickens didn’t appear to mind. Clearly a marketing opportunity for avian parenting classes.
Carolyn has inherited an abandoned kitten which appeared outside the back door on 2nd January; body tiny, lungs fully developed. Loud as a feline fishwife, or, being in France, poissonfemme. It couldn’t have travelled far on its own, being so small, didn’t belong to the neighbours, so she adopted him. To do this, all you have to do is jump over a broomstick together. Or put down a tin of cat food. Either works.
She was a worried about how Ballou would like him. Internally would be the obvious answer. Yet the kitten immediately became firm friends with Ballou and now lies on his back, legs in the air, waiting to be snorted on, snuffled and growled at. The cat even likes to lie in Balloo’s food bowl, which seems to be pushing his luck a bit too far. I kept expecting to see the end of a tabby tail sticking out of Balloo’s mouth, but perhaps Balloo is sensibly trying to avoid gastric furballs.
I loved this farming earthy experience; even the mud and noise didn’t bother me. I’m just grateful to have escaped without being kissed by a chicken.
Alison Gardiner 2013