Hard Pounding

Jim Goldstein photography

One of the fixed tasks of the day is that of letting out the chickens and ducks, once egg laying duties have been performed, releasing the ducklings into their wired enclosure and opening the outer door of the sheep pen under the gaze of its ruminating occupants.

No problem here….it is dry and sunny, the water and food bowls can be cleaned out, fresh bedding laid, the ducks’ drinking water, full of wasted maize flour, fed to the tilapia and a return to the house for a cup of tea.

Another point of the day is far from fixed in the rainy season.
The point of feeding and banging up for the night all those enumerated above.

The sheep are no problem at all…..they will return to base bawling for food at a quarter to three on the dot as that is the hour when Danilo brings down swathes of sugar cane and camaroon – a tall red grass – and passes it all through the cane cutter.
On Sundays, Danilo’s day off, this is my job.

I am distinctly wary of that cane cutter….it sucks in sugar cane that seems as hard as bars of iron and spits it out in grated fashion into the trough.
Having no wish to turn myself into mince I switch it on, its roar echoing off the valley walls, and feed it the stems from a distance…being careful not to have any catching my hands or arms…and turn it off only when there is clear ground between me and it.

Rake the minced grass down the length of the trough, shut the outer door and leave the sheep feeding greedily.
Easy peasy.

Later I will return with a bucket of sliced bananas, at which point they will climb up me to get at the bucket while I’m trying to close the inner door and there will be an unseemly jostling for position around the two tubs during which I will make my escape.
With the sheep, you’re only the belle of the ball while you have the bananas.
When they have the bananas you are Cinderella at one minute past midnight.
I know people like this, but the sheep are less hypocritical about it.

So where is the problem?

More like what is the problem.

This is the rainy season. You can be reading on the balcony, the sun shining, soft breezes playing about you and then it will start.
The sky will begin to cloud over….this is when to put down your book and head for the feed supplies which you have laid down in the morning.

If you are lucky, you will return from the sheep pen just as the first drops start to fall and a curtain of cloud makes the valley invisible. You can hear the main force of the rain hitting the hill across the stream…just time to leg it to safety.
If not lucky, you will be imprisoned as a lightning bolt hits the field next door, thunder rolls overhead, and the rain does not just pour…it pounds down on the tin roof.

You can see it running down the drive in torrents…the drain from the house gutters filling the area between you and your base with water well over ankle height…

You can be an interested spectator as a gust sends coconuts flying from the tree onto the roof of the house, rousing the dogs to howling fury….

You can wonder if your husband has remembered to turn off the computer…

You can be assaulted by indignant sheep as the tubs are emptied of bananas…

The neighbour’s dog will sprint past you heading for your house….and, inevitably, the sofa. He resembles a drowned rat.

And that’s just the sheep.

The chickens will generally be hanging about if it is dark…they like to be inside and tucked up on their perches in less than clement conditions…but the ducks are something else.

First the ducklings.
You have left it as long as you could, hoping that the rain will stop, or at least become less intense…but the moment has come.
Up to the enclosure carrying food in one hand and bearing an umbrella in the other.
Ducklings object to umbrella and scoot round to the back of the enclosure under the passion flower vine in which you entangle your umbrella and roar expletives.
This attracts mother duck who has spent the day outside the enclosure and now wishes to return to protect her offspring – or, more likely, get more of the food than she would among the other adult ducks.
From the outside, she leads them round past the back of their house…where you cannot follow.
They sit, ten pairs of beady eyes watching you rave.
You go outside the enclosure and shoo them out of their lair with a stick rattled through the wire.
Mother attacks you….if you’re not wearing wellies you’ll have a purple mark for days as ducks have a sort of hook under the top part of the beak which gives rise to a sensation for which the word peck is totally inadequate.

Now for the ducks, most of whom are disporting themselves in the tilapia ponds among the flowering water hyacinths.
Down the steps, umbrella in hand, to find the spring at the bottom in full action and nothing but waterlogged ground between you and your prey.
You advance in a flanking movement to avoid the brutes legging it further down the garden and then doubling back up the hill through the rice.
You turn, you advance on them and get very wet as you use the umbrella as a sort of reverse bullfighter’s cape to encourage them to retreat from you up the steps while dashing forward to prevent the black one from making a jink to the side and disappearing into the papyrus.
From the papyrus no duck extraction is possible.

You get them up the steps…and find them huddled in the doorway of the duck house.
The broody has chosen this moment to manifest itself, leaving its nest to eat and, puffed up and hissing, is refusing to let any other duck pass her.
You leave the open umbrella in the gangway to prevent the ducks returning the way they came, seize the broody and cast her forth, while guiding the others in with your foot.
You shut the door.
You retrieve the umbrella.
The broody, furious, flies up to her nest above the door and voids her bowels.
Depending on your timing you are
A. Unscathed.
B. The umbrella gets it.
C. You do.

in any case you head for the shower.

So the race between yourself and the rain could be described as Wellington described Waterloo….
‘A damned nice thing – the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’.

On a daily basis. For six months of the year.


53 thoughts on “Hard Pounding”

  1. That beats dealing with a recalcitrant feline which will not leave the suitcase while I am trying to pack…

  2. Good luck with your enforced move…as you say, with proper notice you might have been able to arrange something more exciting.
    I’m not sure what cats do in the rainy season…hide in suitcases, perhaps!

  3. Thanks for the laugh – you sound like a Costa Rican Mary Poppins on a farm ๐Ÿ™‚ Your description of the rainy season reminded me of my times in Tahiti, and particularly the three weeks of uninterrupted pounding rain!

  4. Oh my goodness! And I thought rounding up the dogs was difficult. You paint a very clear picture of your daily chore and I shouldn’t laugh but you do make it seem amusing. I bet you’re glad when you finally hit the shower.

  5. Oh that did make me laugh.
    Of course I was concerned for your safety while laughing…..
    especially with the ducks!

    1. Still think your railway cutting is dull?
      You just be thankful!
      I’ve missed my foot before now and ended up to the knees in a tilapia pond….ducks most amused.

      1. I can honestly say I am not laughing at you up to your knees in a pand, really I’m not, really….

  6. Brilliant post, Helen – it conjured up the best mental pictures! I read it to The Better Half, and we chortled sympathetically (BH was in Malaya, as it was, at the end of the emergency there in the early 50s, and has vivid memories of rainy seasons). And I have memories of being ‘bombed’ by pigeons in St Mark’s Square in Venice in 1969 – not pleasant (but fortunately I had a hat on, unlike my friend), and ducks are bigger!! But 6 months of it – no wonder Costa Rica has such lush vegetation!

  7. Loved this Helen, was with you every word of the way and it gave me real reasons not to have poultry! Doesn’t matter we don’t have a rainy season lol

    1. From the changeable weather you’ve been having rain would be the last straw I imagine.
      Ducks, while looking so harmless are distinctly offensive.
      Seize one who is threatening the others, tuck it under your arm Alice in Wonderland flamingo style and it will immediately cover you in liquid crap unless you make sure you hold it crosswise with the tail end hanging out at a distance from your body.

  8. Wonderful description of your life there which did make me laugh. The only thing I have to deal with in a storm is the odd drowned-looking cat exuding offense.

  9. Blimey Helen, I’m knackered just reading about getting the animals all sorted! You can’t be put off by torrential rain – all that training you had in the old country?

  10. Fantastic! So true… it happens so fast that any plan is mush. This rainy season is surprising me compared to last, tho… it’s at any time of the day! Last year was between 11 and 1… yesterday it started at 7:30 am! This morning it looks like an afternoon rendition… but, you’re right.. it’s warm.. and that means alot to me as well!

  11. Phew! Goodness me, Helen! What a wonderful description – I was with you all the way, even ducking the …ducky stuff…and that last dash back to the shower. We had guttering put up just after we moved in…it hasn’t rained since. Might be worth a try unless you already have guttering – in which case, it’ll all be over in six months time – and then, how you’ll laugh!

    1. We have gutters on the house and on the sheep shed….doesn’t seem to have done much to stop the rainy season!

      It’s better than the winters in France though….sliding down the icy slope to the poultry houses, all insulated with bales of straw, breaking the ice on the water…and climbing back up again hanging on for dear life to the handrail while the feet shot from under…give me rain anytime….

  12. Ha ha! Wonderful post. Laughed my socks off at your descriptions.That sounds like the kind of rain we had in Kenya – proper rain, none of that tedious English pitter patter. Please could we have a video of you leaping and ducking and sploshing and swiping with your brolly?

    1. If I can persuade anyone to come out in the rain with umbrella and camera, your wish is my command…but it’s not a pretty sight.
      And no sound track. At all.

  13. Sounds like fun but yes that cane cutter sounds like it is well worth taking great care! Similar I would guess to our chaff cutter that we had at the stables.

    The rain sounds a bit like African rain, a sudden build up in the evening and you are drenched before you know it. The times I went out on my bike to a blue sky and came home soaked through!!

    Take care. Diane

    1. That cane cutter petrifies me. I make sure I’m standing on level ground to use it.
      At this time of year I go nowhere without a brolly, as you say you can be soaked through!

    1. “They sit, ten pairs of beady eyes watching you rave”

      I could just imagine that scene of open defiance – them daring you to make your next move ๐Ÿ˜†

  14. I thought chickens were bad enough when they put their minds to it, but they’re mere beginners compared to your ducks. To think they look so tame and serene paddling on the pond. ๐Ÿ™‚ Marvellous comic writing – I could see the scene so vividly.

    1. We’ve had recalcitrant chickens in our time…and don’t mention guinea fowl…but ducks are something else.
      I daren’t leave them out with all the predators about but there are times I wonder why I bother….. then the breakfast egg provides the answer.

  15. I loved this one, Helen. So descriptive and accurate of the rainy season. The main reason we installed rain gutters– I hate rain running down the nape of my beck when trying to get into the house and out of the weather. Sheep. Youโ€ฆ um, eat them? I love lamb and it is so bloody expensive in Costa Rica.

    1. I think you can get New Zealand lamb at Belco…but probably for a kings’ ransom as the stuff I saw in Automercado was at 10,000 colones a kilo…whether for breast or leg…and the leg looked like a cross between a surgical stocking and an emaciated rabbit.

      1. You got *that* straight. We did find a local who has mutton that wasn’t too bad. We had to buy the entire carcass, hang it (a trick in the tropics involving an up-ended long ice chest and a lot of ice), and butcher it. I was good, thoughโ€ฆ and only cost 30,000 colones. I told my husband, Hell, if it’s no good we’ll use it for dog food. But, yeah, the store bought lamb is exorbitant.

  16. I’ve always wanted to have ducks – now I’m not quite so sure. Maybbe it’s a good thing that the decision was taken out of my hands by the dog’s liking for duck too.

  17. I’m home now and catching up with blogs(and chores!) and must say I had to chuckle…so much of it familiar from the slightly loony days of goats, chickens,wayward livestock from up the road…
    Looking back, I can laugh, but that’s never easy when sat on your arse in mud, is it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. I sometimes wonder if there was ever a time when I was not trying to bang up some recalcitrant entity….there must have been….but it feels as if a whole life has been spent in what my mother refers to darkly as duckfuddling.

  18. Gosh I feel so dull after reading that! I’ve only spent the day at THE HAMPTON COURT FLOWER SHOW in the heat.

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