As our flock increased from a single female to a couple of laying hens and young rooster,
the four-year-old dilemma of what to do with our side-yard solved itself:
Anu is digging up its unsightly concrete slabs to make way for a small kitchen-garden.
Whatever vegetables are considered easiest to grow will be planted out.
In this climate that will probably include cassava, beans, pineapple and more bananas.
The chickens run free from daybreak to dusk.
Much chicken-wire* will be required if we hope to harvest any produce.
“I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer
* Having been born, raised and lived in London for almost fifty years, the now glaringly obvious relationship between chicken-wire and chickens comes as something of a revelation to me!
Pictures show Anu and Dalila in our side-yard.
Here in coastal Kerala, late evenings are played out against a gentle orchestra of cicadas, while night is punctuated by pye-dogs‘ alternating howls and barks. The cries soon summon restless answer from their housebound cousins. And, lest tedium ensue, variety is on-hand from rapturous choirs of toads.
Inside the house, mosquitos’ persistent drones buzz the ears of those who risk sleep without fan or nets.
But, well before the sun’s first gleaming and muezzin’s call to prayers, neighbouring roosters arise en masse, in boisterous anticipation of the day.
Our new lodger presumably escaped from one such neighbour’s clutch. Though, no sooner had our guesting hen settled and laid than Shaji, Dalila and Anu bought wheat grain to enhance her feed, and sat in conference to plan her continued well-being. Chickens are social animals and apt to pine if kept alone. It seems that acquiring company for our paying guest is to be Shaji’s new project.
Hens are thought to have been first domesticated in either India or China, maybe almost ten thousand years ago. Their original appeal to humans lay in cockfighting. Notions of eggs fried “sunny-side up” or chicken tikka masala, came considerably later.
It was a day of surreal contrasts.
First a morning spent traversing “the world’s highest motorable road” with snow-chains fixed to our wheels,
then lunch in a restaurant staffed by a silent Buddhist monk,
and now an afternoon crossing the Nubra Valley desert – on camel.
I must be honest:
There was no real need to cross the desert, nor hire these beasts of burden.
But bactrian camels have been used to carry travellers across this part of the ancient Silk Route for more than two thousand years.
It was an opportunity I could not refuse!
With almost touching naiveté, I had imagined this would be similar to riding a horse.
I was mistaken:
For a start, there were no stirrups.
And trying to hang on to the animal with only one hand, whilst the other furiously gripped a camera, made the experience even more interesting.
It is surprisingly difficult to take a photograph whilst sitting astride a camel in motion,
but frankly alarming to be on the poor beast when it finally sits down!
So despite being treated with genuine care and concern by our camel-handlers,
(and sadly, “our camel-handlers” is an expression I rarely have the opportunity to use)
it was with a slight sense of relief that we returned to a more familiar form of transport.
The beers we shared at the end of the day were, I think, well deserved.
All bar one of these pictures were taken in the Nubra Valley highland deserts.
From well-disciplined patience
To potential mayhem.
A passing dog-handler with her charges inadvertently risks canine chaos.
Pictures taken in Buxton, a spa town in Derbyshire.
“I confess freely to you, I could never look long upon a monkey, without very mortifying reflections”
William Congreve (1670 – 1729)
“A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family—and, often, is all that remains of it.”
Susan Sontag (b. 1933)
Pictures taken on our trip to the Nelliampathi Hills