It’s got nothing to do with the workload. (Although with the population set to pass nine billion by 2050, a look of grim determination could be forgiven.)

No. It’s the scythe.

I bought one a while ago. But this week I had the excuse to take the wrapping off (plastic film on the blade – very 21st Century) and use it to cut down some grass on an ancient path through the woods above which an electric fence now sits. More on this, later.

Although a novice to the tool, I soon got into the swing of it. The forceful side-to-side action is not one my body has come across before, and I wondered what effect it would have on an upper body that is becoming increasingly triangular. I was, for a while, the Grin Reaper. The Getting in Trim Reaper. The Eversoslightlymore Slim Reaper.

I suspected I would feel the effects the next day. But no. It was the day after that. Possibly exacerbated by the planting of about 60 iron posts (some through limestone), the relocation of several barrows of manure and the doing of many other jobs not mentioned here.

Last night, I slept like the dead. All of them.

It didn’t help. The body aches in all kinds of places. I’m very, very tired. Not tired enough to buy a petrol-driven strimmer (why use fossil fuels when calories will do?), but I can almost see the attraction.

Maybe, like with other tools, reaping is a question of practice. Not too much. Wouldn’t want to do it all the time. That would be grim.

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It started in 1990.

I thought it had something to do with my manful move from lager to bitter. But it might have been because I hadn’t done any serious exercise for five years. Or any other kind of exercise either.

The move from 30 to 32 was natural. Maybe even inevitable. At size 34, I thought I had achieved a comfortable maximum – an impression left behind, along with most of my wardrobe, by the maniacally depressing jump to 36. Years more of commuting, desk flying and very good food had me, even more unhappily, holding a pair of 38s.

More than once have I run into someone I used to know who said: “Blimey. You’ve let yourself go a bit.” It looked like the rest of my life would be one of managing my stomach’s suburban sprawl.

After a few short months of working “on the land”, I am happy to report that my jeans are hanging off me and I desperately need a new belt. Today, I’m even wearing a shirt and T-Shirt combination my mother-in-law gave me a few years ago that I just couldn’t throw out.

Size medium.

This physical devolution (which also seems to be appreciated by her outdoors) could be the result of all that post bashing, pig-ark lifting and shit shovelling I’ve been doing recently. But I haven’t had a pint of beer since August.

It’s very easy to say: “Pig ark? We could build it out of pallets.” I know this because I’ve heard it said. And testing my theory of ‘Clare is invariably right in the end so why not just skip to the bit where I agree with her?’ I agreed.

I could tell you about removing ring nails without breaking the precious pallet wood. Or without bending the nails, so you can re-use them immediately. Or about painting wood treatment on marine-ply floor by candle-light because the pigs are arriving the next day. Or about hitting your thumb with a hammer – hard – twice – and still walking home at dusk feeling like you’re having one of the most fantastic days of your life.

But I won’t.

Because that would deprive you of the joys of finding these things out for yourself. Or not. (Whichever comes sooner.) So I’ll just show you the finished product and tell you that I am more tired than I have been for a very long time.

And stronger. And younger looking.

Ark One is made almost entirely from Found Things. I did buy 8mm marine ply for the floor, anti-water and anti-pest treatment, and some nuts and bolts, because this ark is made to break down into its component parts. For cleaning, and transporting into the woods. (More on that in a few months.)

Here’s the front, with chicken mesh holding in the straw stuffing:


Here’s the back, with our new residents rooting around:


And here’s a beautiful thing Clare made to keep our horse shit happy:


Talking of Pepito, the vet saw him the other day and told Clare we should build a shelter for the winter because he’s getting on a bit.

“Field shelter?” she said. “We could build it out of cordwood.”

Fencing the orchard/chicken run has given me a newfound appreciation for other athletes. Today, for example, I was thinking about snooker players and people who claim to sail round the world single-handed.

Two thoughts on this immediately:
o Such a feat surely requires the use of both hands.
o As they are apparently alone in the boat, how can anyone know for sure?

I digress.

Fencing equipment
Before you can play, you will need: A step ladder, sledgehammer, straight-and-slightly too-long crowbar-type object, a small axe, some string, several 2.5-metre fenceposts, a tape measure, a funny shaped stick and… a towel.

Fencing practice
Begin by making a 50-cm hole with the crowbar and sledgehammer. (This is not in the Rule Book, which suggests using a spade. But at least two knowledgeable shop assistants told me this is the way it’s done here and, as here is where I am, this is the way I do it.)

Balance a 2.5-metre fencepost in the hole. Sledgehammer in hand, climb the step ladder to an uncomfortable height (having made sure the feet are probably secure) and balance yourself. Lean against the rung above, which should be wrapped in the towel to protect the calves.

Raise the sledgehammer and SLAM it onto the fencepost – side on – about 15 times. Wiggle the post, checking it is roughly vertical and SLAM and wiggle away until only two metres remain above ground. (The Rule Book suggests using a post rammer – previous point re-applies.)

Breathing heaving, take one handful of soil at a time and use the funny shaped stick to RAM it into any visible bit of hole.

Repeat until exhausted.

Side effects
Frequent practice results in increased balance, energy, upper body strength and beer consumption. A very little bit like darts.

You can read all the books you like on fencing (my own preference is one), but at some point (as with all things) you’ve just got go to up there and do it.

Which is why I spent several hours yesterday, after my now-habitual tractor yoga, up a stepladder, carefully heaving a four-kilo sledgehammer onto the ends of several two-and-a-half-metre fence posts the previous owner had stuck in a Most Inexplicable Place.

The orchard/chicken is being enclosed.

Today, my formerly soft office-worker’s hands are feeling slightly crampy as a result and the rest of my body is feeling just a tiny bit stronger. Good thing too, as I also have a large veggie plot to enclose with even more serious fencing, before installing a couple of rotivating pigs in January.

For this exercise, you will need: one Fordson Major (1963 model or thereabouts), a grass-cutting attachment and a field of long grass sloping steeply behind you.

Warm up
Press the little wossisface on the side of the engine and climb onto the machine. Make sure the gearbox is in neutral and the attachment is disengaged. Push the thingummyjig and press the button to start the engine. Then sit for a moment, inhaling the diesel-infused air, taking the time to appreciate the beautiful scenery, the peace of which you have just shattered. (This is a good moment to put on your ear defenders.)

Yoga it must be
Engage the grass cutter, put the engine in reverse and release the clutch, then pull the gizmo to lift the attachment off the ground for the journey uphill. Turn around, placing one hand on the rollbar, and guide the tractor up the hill in an unnecessarily straight line. At the top, reduce the engine speed, drop the attachment, stand on the brake and engage first gear, bearing in mind that leaving it in neutral could send you hurtling to your death. Release the clutch and trundle gently down the hill, relieved that you are in gear, occasionally turning around to watch the long grass spewing out of the side of the attachment. At the bottom of the slope, slow the engine, brake, engage reverse and turn to the other side, ensuring an even development of the back, neck and knees. Repeat for one hour, or until the engine stalls and will not re-start.

May help weight loss as part of an intensive outdoor lifestyle.