The Decisive Farmer

A farmer lived in a pleasant valley with his wife and three children. They usually had all they could eat from their own farm, which looked out at the mountains beyond. One year, however, the harvest was very poor and, after a while, the family had eaten most of the food. Only some hay was left in the barn. “Right!”, said the farmer, who liked to be decisive. “We cannot survive the winter by eating hay. I must load what hay we have and take it over the mountain to sell in the village. Then I can buy some food.” The farmer’s wife suggested that, because the snows had started to fall, it would be difficult to get over the mountain without some help. After some discussion the farmer decided to take child No 2 on the journey. This was because the horse was not very strong, and it would not be able to pull the haycart and the farmer and child No1, who was the oldest and the heaviest of the three children. Child No2 was just right for the job though, being a little less heavy than child No1.
Very early the next day the farmer loaded all the hay from the barn and, because it was snowing, he decided to cover the hay to keep it dry. Saying goodbye to the rest of the family, the farmer and child No2 set off toward the village. The snow was not very deep in the valley but, the higher they got on the mountain, the deeper was the snow. Every so often child No2 had to jump down from the cart and help the farmer to push the cart out of the deep snow. After a while child No2, said “Perhaps it would help if we put some of the dry hay under the cartwheels. Then the cart will not get stuck.” “That’s a decidedly good idea”, said the farmer. He gave child No2 his pitchfork to take some hay from the back of the cart and place it under the wheels, as child No2 had suggested. The hay did the trick and, as the horse pulled and the farmer and child No2 pushed, the cart rolled out of the snow. “I’ve decided that you can run back home now and send child No1 out instead”, said the farmer. “The cart isn’t so heavy anymore, so the horse will be able to pull child No1’s extra weight. Child No1 is a little stronger and will be able to help more if I become stuck again”. At this, child No2 ran off to send back child No1.
When child No1 arrived at the cart they all set off once more for the village. It wasn’t long however, before the cart became stuck again. The horse pulled and the farmer and child No1 pushed, but the cart was stuck fast. “I have an idea”, said child No1. “The horse must be exhausted by now, so let’s give him some hay to eat to make him stronger”. “That’s a decidedly grand idea”, said the farmer, “Take some hay from the cart and put it in the horse’s nosebag for it to eat”. After a while, when the horse had eaten and recovered its strength, they managed to free the cart from the deep snow and set off again up the mountain.
Before long, however, the cart became stuck yet again. No matter how hard the horse pulled and the farmer and child No1 pushed, the cart would not budge. “We must get over the top of the mountain, then it will be easy to roll down the other side to the village” said the farmer, in his decisive way. “Here, take the pitchfork to get more hay from the cart and put it under the cartwheels. Then give the horse another feed of hay for good measure”. Child No1 did as he was asked and then, after one last effort, with the horse pulling and the farmer and child No1 pushing, they managed to get over top of the mountain and roll down the other side to the village.
As soon as they arrived at the village, the farmer decided to go straight to the store to sell the hay for some food. When the store owner came out to decide how much to pay for the hay, they took off the cover, but no hay was left! “There is nothing for it”, said the farmer. “I’ve decided that we must sell the horse and cart”. So, they sold the horse and cart, just as the farmer had decided. Then they bought a supply of food and two rucksacks to carry it in. On the way back over the mountain, child No2 asked, “Dad, why haven’t any of us got a real name?” The farmer’s face became very thoughtful for a while and then he said, “I just haven’t decided which ones suit you best yet”.

A Toast

Come any who might with me dine
Of choicest foods and finer wine
And know full well that down the line
You too must share this cup of mine

Then do not seek to chide thine host
Instead drink deep that final toast
For that you have you forfeit most
Of what remains you cannot boast

The Fox and the Wells

A thirsty fox came to a well along the road. He was just about to lower a bucket down the well to get a refreshing drink of water when a large frog sitting on the well wall spoke to him. “Good day Mr Fox”, said the frog. “What is your business here today, if I may ask?”
“Well, I am not sure that it is any concern of yours,” said the fox, “but if you must know, I am thirsty and need a drink from this well”. “Ah!” said the frog, “then it is just as well that we have met, for I fear that you will be disappointed. This well is quite dry, but there is another further down the road and, fortunately, that one isn’t dry. In fact, it is absolutely full of the most refreshing water imaginable”.
“Well there must be at least a drop of water left in this one after the recent rains”, said the fox. He picked up a stone and threw it into the well. Almost immediately there was a loud plop, as the stone hit the water. “See!” said the fox, “All is well; there must be some water down there”.
“I fear I have misled you slightly”, said the frog, “but I was only thinking about your health. The truth is that the water that remains in this well is quite unsuitable for drinking. It has somehow become horribly tainted and I fear that, if you were to drink it, you might become quite unwell”.
“Oh, very well” said the fox.” Perhaps I should walk a little further down the road and take a drink at the next well. I just hope that well isn’t tainted as well.” “Oh no,” said the frog, “the water in that well is as cool and clear as crystal. If you are thirsty, you would do well to set off straight away.”  “Well I may as well go and see”, said the fox, and he trotted off down the road to the next well.

When the fox was well out of sight the frog leapt back into the well and joined its little tadpoles who were playing and swimming about in the well water. “Well now”, said the frog. “I have fooled Mr Fox and convinced him not to drink from our well, so we’ll be safe for now.” “Well done, Mum”, said the tadpoles.

The Donkey’s Tale

One sizzling hot summer’s day, an old brown donkey lay in a field that had once been grassy, but was now parched and scorched by the sun. The donkey wanted to find somewhere cool, but the only shade to be found was under a large willow tree that stood in one corner of the field.
The donkey stood and made his way over to the tree, moving slowly, so as not to become too exhausted. As he approached the tree, the donkey was shocked when one of the tree’s heavy boughs swished down to swat at the donkey.
“Stay away!” shouted the tree. This made the donkey back off a little and, when he was safely out of reach of the tree’s branches, he stopped and studied the tree with his big pleading eyes.
‘I only want to share some of your shade’ said the donkey. ‘It is very hot today and the flies are biting and driving me mad’. “You have a tail, don’t you?” said the tree. “What do you think that is for, if not to flick away the flies?”
The donkey thought this over and said, ‘Is that why you have branches, to flick away tired old donkeys?’ “Don’t be silly”, said the tree. “My branches are for stretching out into the sun, so that my leaves can gather in the sunlight to help me grow big and strong.”
‘But in doing so, your branches and leaves create shade beneath, and that costs you nothing ‘, replied the donkey. The tree thought about this for a brief time and then said, “You are right. Something that costs me nothing costs nothing to share. You are welcome to sit beneath my canopy and shade from the sun as much as you like”.
Bye and bye, in return, the donkey lifted his tail and shared his droppings, fertilising the soil beneath the tree and helping it to grow even bigger and stronger. This also cost the donkey nothing.

The Mouse and the Cornstalk

A field mouse once sat at the foot of a tall cornstalk and started a conversation. He shouted loudly so that the ears of corn high above could hear him. The cornstalk listened intently to the mouse’s account of its travels to the far-flung corners of the fields, its near escape when pursued by a combine harvester, and its woes about the size of its family and how difficult it was to feed all those hungry mouths.
In turn the cornstalk explained about meditation and how this helped the cornstalk to while away its days in the sun, waiting for harvest day, when its seeds would be taken to begin a new life as something called bread. It proudly said that its very best seeds would be saved by the farmer and planted next year to create the next generation of corn in these fields.
The mouse said it was impressed with the cornstalk’s patience and with the care it took of its seeds. He asked, “Might I climb your stalk to have a better look at the seeds?” “I would be able to tell you which of your seeds will be those chosen to be planted when the farmer comes with his scythe”, said the little mouse.
‘I think not’, said the cornstalk; ‘I can be patient a little longer to find out and, anyway, it would tickle if you were to climb up my stalk and that might shake some of my seeds loose. I can feel that they are almost fully ripe now.’
The mouse looked a little saddened by this, but he said “Perhaps you would care to dance to one of my songs? I have picked up many a fine tune on my travels and, in some quarters, I am well regarded for my voice”. The cornstalk replied saying, ‘I would love to hear some of your songs, but I would prefer gentle ones, so that I might only sway slightly and not shed any of my seeds’.
Once again, the mouse was slightly disappointed by this response, but he began to sing anyway. As requested, he sang songs with a slow beat, but he sang as loudly as possible so that the cornstalk might not fall asleep. The cornstalk seemed to appreciate the music and swayed as if moved by the gentlest of zephyrs.
However, little by little and note by note the mouse reduced the level of his voice. Intrigued, and not wanting to miss a note, the cornstalk bent over to better hear the mouse. Again, the mouse lowered its voice and the cornstalk was forced to bend over even further, until her ears were next to the field mouse. At this, the mouse leapt onto its head, bit off all the seeds and ran away to feed his hungry family.

The Rose and the Grass

One day a gardener planted a young and elegant rose bush in the border surrounding her well-manicured lawn.
‘Hello and welcome, friend rose’, said some of the grass nearest to the rose. ‘Our owner is a keen gardener and has chosen a fine sunny spot to plant you. You should do well there.’
“Quite so”, said the rose, somewhat haughtily. “My owner has placed me where I might display my wonderful flowers to the best effect. This clearly shows she is a keen gardener.”
‘Ah’, said the grass, ‘we can hardly wait for the summer to see what colours you will have’. “You must be patient”, said the rose,” it will take me no little time to prepare for the glorious show that I am to give. But what of you? What is your role in the garden and is green really your only colour?”
‘Sadly’, said the grass, ‘we cannot claim the brilliance of the colours you will bear, though we have the most vibrant shade of green imaginable and we work together to provide a velvety soft carpet for our owner to walk upon’.
“My owner cannot care for you too much then”, said the rose, “for she tramples on you daily and even the birds have little regard as they root for grubs and worms between your shorn down stalks”. At this the grass grew silent for a while, and a humble mood spread across the whole lawn as the grass stalks pondered just how keen a gardener their owner was.
The days went by and spring gave way to summer. The owner tended and fed the plants lovingly, and with a growing sense of pride as the garden was readied for its coming splendour. The lawn was given a dressing of fertiliser and had its hair cut at least once a week. The rose was inspected regularly and sprayed to prevent blackspot and mildew. The rose did feel it somewhat degrading when, in full view of the lawn, it was also sprayed to remove the greenfly that had cheekily moved in uninvited. However, this was better than having the pesky things greedily sucking its sap.
The rose pointed out to the grass that, being a keen gardener, its owner was merely taking proper care of it. “After all,” it said to its now weary audience, “all my sap is for my magnificent flowers. See how some of my buds are already beginning to burst. My owner must be overcome with excitement”. The grass gave no reply, but did note that a beautiful fragrance had begun to accompany the young and radiant blooms on the rose.
A few more days of warm sunshine later, the lawn woke to hear sobbing coming from the rose. Even though the grass had regularly been subject to the rose’s arrogant attitude, the stalks remembered their common bond as plants, and inquired what the matter was.
At this, the rose wailed and roared; “My prize flowers, they are all gone!” ‘Quite so!’, said the grass, ‘Our owner is indeed a keen gardener, but she is an even keener exhibitor at the local flower show’.