Farm Ireland

Friday 21 October 2016

Why I am treading warily around my own backyard

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

Is there a word for the opposite of stepping-stone? Well, if there isn't, there should be.

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Here's why.

After dropping the girls to school in Abbeyleix, I usually go for a walk. But, and there is no nicer way to say this, the footpaths in the town are peppered with dog poo, oodles of it, fresh every day.

What makes it even worse is, if someone has had the misfortune to get there before you and the poo has already been spread, it's much harder to avoid. It's got to the stage with my walking group that, whenever one of us sees a poo, we gently touch the arm of whoever is on its path to alert them to the menace, without breaking conversation or stride.

Of course, the pragmatist would say I should just look where I am going but the whole point of going for a walk is for a bit of freedom. Where's the liberty in walking with your eyes stuck to the ground?

As if avoiding dog poo wasn't enough, for the past number of weeks, I also have to contend with hen poo, right on my back doorstep.

We have a hen-run which used to have a henhouse at one end but it got blown to smithereens during Storm Desmond.

Anyway, luckily for the hens, no-one was home at the time.

We moved them to a stable, of which we have a number. When we got married nearly 14 years ago, we had the notion of breeding thoroughbreds.

After a few years we had three broodmares. Things were booming at the time and we kept the progeny sold as foals. Unfortunately, our bloodlines were not top drawer so when the downturn struck we would have been hit hard.

Then, as luck would have it, mare number two kicked mare number one in the head, fracturing her skull and, just a few months later, mare number two herself died from poisoning.

At the time, we were obviously saddened and disappointed. As for mare number three, who was the best bred, she did have two foals but unfortunately they were four years apart.

It's a sad state of affairs when the one who bred least was, if not the most profitable, then, at least, the least unprofitable. But I digress.

So the hens, five in all, are in a stable by night and, by day, let to roam where they will

Actually, I love to see them out about; with their bright colours, scratching and picking through the flower beds, clucking as they go.

There is a rise in the yard from the stables to house and I love the sight of how, every now and then, one of them will take off at speed up the hill towards the gateway into the garden, wings stuck out, like a hormone-pumped sprinter dipping for the line.

But they don't half poo. And, whether it's my imagination or not, it seems to be concentrated on the concrete path between the house and the lawn.

Though it probably isn't my imagination. Because Timmy the dog is fed just outside the back door and the hens are just as happy to eat his food as anything else they might come across.

My husband Robin brought up the yard brush to tackle the problem but spread hen poo walked into the carpet smells every bit as bad as previously unspread hen poo.

It's not too bad when you are travelling empty handed. But, last week, himself and myself were carrying a table along the said path and an image sprung to mind of the Laurel and Hardy sketch about delivering a piano.

"OK, you follow me," he said. It's easier said than done at a lapse of six feet. "I'm going left now," he then said. "But I still need to go straight." A few steps later "now, right; careful where you poo-t your foot." Ha Ha. You get the gist. Another fine mess we got ourselves into.

So if stepping stones mean something like particular spots for stepping on to get you safely where you want to go, then the opposite would refer to spots to avoid stepping on ….I suppose one possible antonym to stepping-stone is minefield but it's a word I would be loath to use.

I did consult my Stone Age thesaurus, without success.

Then Professor Google yielded a couple of funny but otherwise unhelpful suggestions in Pooh Stone, a device which apparently trains dogs to poo in a particular site and Poop Field, the theory about how dogs tend to poop on the North-South axis.

What I came up with myself is "dumping dome" or "stinkeroo".

But there must be better ones...

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