Autumn, and the sedum is abuzz with bees, always so exciting when after two months of looking like pale, spindly broccoli (also lovely) the sedum turns its rusty pink colour and the insects all congregate. It is so loud now in the garden with the bees, cicadas, tui, warblers and hens all talking at once, the hens now all sounding like hens rather than baby chicks, Maude and Mabel having gradually eased into clucking without the sudden honking that seemed to surprise even Goldie herself when she tried to speak after first losing her baby chirp. I am always so pleased to come home to my hens after a few days away, when they are always so well behaved, coming when they are called and clustering around their breakfast or tea, all four of them eating amicably out of the same bowl. Simon is a much better farmer than I am. But I don’t think my hens would have traded a day like today for another day with Simon. After a magnificent breakfast with oats, yogurt and garlic mixed into their mash, which is supposed to be good for them and in any case they didn’t object to, I took Wilma into the bush for one of our spider hunts and it was one of our best – five extremely large spiders were found, one after another. More surprisingly, for the first time ever Wilma and I were followed into the bush by the three small hens (they are bigger now than Wilma but I think will have to retain small as an honorific so I can continue to talk about them as a group). They were a bit nervous on the bridge, peering over the edge to see what was there (no trolls), but very enthusiastic about grubbing around on the other side and, alarmingly, quite interested in exploring well beyond our property. Goldie launched into a great flight back over the stream into such a deep growth of tradescantia she was almost buried by it, and we could only hear a muffled honking coming from somewhere deep amongst the leaves. I wasn’t able to coax her out myself but Maude and Mabel eventually succeeded, Mabel leading a well-organised and focused expedition deep into the distant reaches of the neighbourhood’s back yards Meanwhile, Wilma had returned to the garden and was calling to them from the feijoa grove. This is the call often heard as a declaration of egg-laying. I had always wondered what the evolutionary purpose could be of announcing every egg, but I think what is really going on is that it is after laying an egg a hen is often returning to the flock, and if the flock has wandered off she needs to find it, or ask the flock to find her. The heartless hens in the bush took no notice of Wilma, and they took no notice of me calling them back either, not even when I went and got the bucket of kibble (wheat, corn and sunflower seeds, supposed to be only an occasional treat). It was only after about an hour of exploring they allowed themselves to be lured back to our section, followed the little trail of kibble I laid for them across the bridge, hopped up the steps and at last let me call them home. It was worth their while coming home, too, as the next treat was a couple of ears of corn, from our plantation – every corn plant seems to like to produce one splendid ear of corn for us, and a second smaller one, about a third completed, with shrivelled little bits of corn on it, for the hens. I did want to get the hens all back into the coop eventually, because I wanted to hear Eamonn Marra talking with Annaleese Jochems at Bookhound, about his completely brilliant collection of stories / episodic novel 2000 Feet Above Worry Level. It was well worth going to as he gave away all his secrets which were 1. if you want to slow down the pace and make an event take longer, add extra words (e.g. the three lines of dialogue which take place over the first five pages of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse), and 2. any story can be turned into a story by adding two stories together into one document, so that the reader has to supply the connection and hence the story magically has subtext.