Transhumance must be one of my favourite words - it's long enough to savour - I love the way it rolls around the tongue. Far better than those staccato one syllable bits and bobs which are literally spat out. It's generous and descriptive - coming as so many of the good 'uns do from Latin roots. 'Trans' = across and 'humas' = ground, describing the movement of animals from their winter quarters in the valleys to their summer grazing in pastures higher up the slopes - nomadic pastoralism.
This won't be news to anyone familiar with that soppy tale of grumpy grandfathers, goat herds and sick children: Johanna Spyri's 'Heidi'. (I notice Amazon describe it as 'heart-warming tale'....which rings warning bells in my cynical ear.) Heidi's grandfather, Alm-Öhi, lives in seclusion on one such high pasture and her friend Peter brings his goats up the mountain for the summer. Heidi brings sweetness and light. Tra-la.
However, I digress. I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched Alan reinforcing the fence which runs alongside The New Hedge, putting on an extra strand of wire to keep straining, leaning necks out. We await the arrival of cattle in the fields around us, cattle which over winter in sheds down in the valley and come any day now to graze on the slopes of the Long Mountain. Now, there's nothing a cow likes more, even when there are rolling acres of fresh spring grass to forage on, than the fresh tips of a newly planted mixed species hedge. I call it pruning but Alan describes it as *expletive deleted* wrecking. Hence the fortifications.
I did a bit of transhumance of my own - albeit only a matter of a few metres. The hens have been moved to a clean bit of land slightly higher in the field and into a new spacious hut as well. I made a new pen, which like the old one is electrified to deter Brer Fox. I'd innocently assumed that getting hens from a to b would be a cinch - shake a bucket of corn and they would calmly walk behind me from one pen to another. Nope. I hadn't factored in the infinitesimally small size of a bird's brain. The resisted the open gate and refused to cross the strip of plastic which runs under the fencing to prevent the growing grass shorting the circuit. They looked at the shiny black threshold this way and that, clucking quizzically at this flat barrier and refused to budge. There was nothing for it but to wait for nightfall and move them from one house to the other when they were in a sleepy roosting state.
Which is what I did. They were all a bit grumpy about the disturbance, the hens clucked and complained a bit but the cockerels both made murderous ear-splitting shrieks. All mouth and trousers?
This morning they emerged from the new house into their clean grassy pen like holiday makers who've arrived at their destination under cover of darkness and are presented with a whole new world to explore. Except of course I don't expect words like 'Wow!' 'Must explore!' 'Great view' 'Fab accommodation, where's the beach?' crossed their beaks.
More like: 'Pellets', 'Grass', 'Eat' - and in the case of the randy cockerels -'Phoarrr - giv's a shag'.
......I really think I should get out more.