DIARY FROM A FAMILY FARM IN ULSTER
OUR international visitors have all but left us now after a summer of unprecedented activity in this house.
The girl who Jenny stayed with in Milwaukee three years ago was here for the whole of July. Amys American girl only stayed 10 days, but she had eight friends with her on at least two occasions and as for the plan of one moving out before the other arrived… well it never really happened and so the sleeping arrangements have been complicated.
For a start, our Australian niece, Zoe, who we thought was staying with us for a few days in June, is still here and getting quite excited about the thought of a real pine Christmas tree, so that has meant the spare bedroom is out of commission.
Secondly, Jennys boyfriend, Aaron, seems to have forgotten how to get home at nights and there was a stage when I was scared to open a door for fear of what I might see. Indeed, I actually made him a sign to put up – DANGER! AARON SLEEPING IN HERE. For the parents of three teenage girls the sight of a large teenage boy dressed only in boxer shorts is quite terrifying.
Anyway, to add to the masses, we gathered up a travelling French Canadian bloke that Zoe invited to stay, never dreaming that he would, so we put up the trailer tent in the garden and let them get on with it.
Unfortunately, this meant the rest of the family and neighbours could also see what was going on and certainly my father-in-law, Addie, was as appaled as me when one morning he peered in through the plastic window to see Aaron sound out in his boxer shorts as usual.
I didnt like to tell him that not only Jenny, but also her American friend had been in there all night with him as well!
Jennys friend Kari was working in the tearooms while she was here, along with the 20 or so young people that we employ during the busy season. We are very stereotyped in our jobs and would never pass the fair employment test. For instance we have café girls and yard boys.
And when we took on a young man to do pony rides this summer, all the kids were aghast. "Thats a girls job", "whoever heard of a pony boy" and "weve only ever had girls before" were only a selection of the comments.
Perhaps I am biased, having only daughters of my own, but it has been my experience that while girls can turn their hands to most things, boys are pretty much set in a gender pattern. They balk at cleaning toilets and serving food attractively seems totally beyond them! Obviously with all the wonderful chefs, this is a skill that they can develop, but for any of the teenagers that have worked here, quantity is the only important factor where food is concerned.
As it happened, our break away from the male/female pattern was not successful and the new "pony boy" is no longer with us, he has moved house to the south of England.
Our international visitors are not confined to the human variety as we have just taken delivery of three Alpacas on the Open Farm. I first heard of these Peruvian llamas in a Farmlife article about them being used to protect sheep flocks against foxes and as a result we now call them our Woolly Bullies.
They are a interesting stop on the tractor and trailer ride round the farm, and although our plan is only to keep them until we close at the end of the month, it would not surprise me if they are still here at Christmas.