Last night, my window being wide open and some hen houses within a child’s stone throw, I heard a determined scratching on the wooden doors. “Aha! Mr Fox,” thought I. “ You may scratch but you’ll not get in.” I heard her say last night that she had closed up every hole with slates and bricks. And I dosed off in secure peace regarding the hens. This morning at breakfast, I casually mentioned the scratching, “ but I didn’t waken you, for, of course, they would be safely shut in.”
An uncertain look came into the mother’s face. Perhaps she had better look round, in case…. And in an outhouse, a woeful sight met her eyes. Four fine young hens, mangled and half eaten! Picture to yourselves the sad plucking; the scores of eggs in various states of development; listen to the wailings and the prophecies of no winter egg-basket.
This is a trotting day, for customers come at all hours for butter and eggs and one cannot be certain of half an hour undisturbed. Snatch an hour for lying in the sun in a wild place near the house. I should not like to live where there were no delightful waste places. This is full of jutting limestone rocks and unpruned trees of thorn, elder and guelder. In spring the loveliest wild garden of primroses, cowslips, violets, orchids and bluebells and in the autumn, black with bramble berries.
But alas! we are surrounded by mining villages, and my lovely wild garden gets ruthlessly trodden in spite of barbed wire and close hedges. I could hear the coarse voices of some women blaspheming us for not giving them free admittance, and discussing how they could creep in further from the house.
So I rose and moved about to gather the few brambles that had been allowed to ripen during two damp days. We got about four quarts. We shall boil and drip them, then preserve with plums.
At night we wash the eggs, growing fewer alas! for tomorrow’s market, and catch and separate the fowls that are to be sold off.