Though I have lived in cities I have spent a good deal of my life in the countryside, and it is in the latter that I thrive best and where I live today. My family has always had animals and I have always been an animal-lover. Though I don't have as much time for them today as I once did, I do enjoy having our dogs, rabbits, fish, cats and chickens. One problem we have is that my second wife didn't like animals so we had to arrive at a kind of 'compromise' although she was in a minority of one in our house! In the future I would like more chickens. My fourth wife wanted birds (parrots, etc.) but I had to veto that because of the extra mess they make and because no one else really wanted them though I did relent once.
I love going out for walks in nature, mostly in the spring and late autumn (fall). There is much wildlife around where we live: deer, elk, foxes, badgers, woodpeckers and so on constituting our main 'menangerie'. Less visible (and fortunately still very rare ... I haven't seen any yet) are wolves, bears and a wild-cat like the lynx. There are a few snakes though I have only ever seen half a dozen or so, one of which is poisonous (a kind of adder) and the rest are harmless grasssnakes. There are plenty of mice (one reason we got a cat) but we have a pretty effective control system. There was only one winter when we really had problems.
Winters in continental Europe can be very cold winter and all too long (though with global warming it has been very mild the last years), very short but beautiful springs, and pleasantly warm summers. We live inland but there are lakes very close by.
Though we are some distance from the sea, I have always loved the seashore. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of trips to the coast. Swimming, beach-combing, and shoreline fishing are things I have enjoyed and at one time I used to keep a tropical fish aquarium. I love trees and flowers and though I am not an accomplished gardner I do enjoy working in it more and more. Having wives who love flowers, and now growing vegetables, has been a great blessing.
I love to be outside in the spring and summer enjoying the flowers, bird song, sun and the happiness of small children playing amongst dog, rabbit and chickens, who have a vast garden to safely roam around in. My favourite tree is an enormous weeping willow which, though it is menacing a barn, I am loathe to cut down. There is always a lot to do outside like lawnmowing, gardening, and the annual maintenance work on the buildings. Everyone joins in, from very young to very old. In the autumn (fall) there is a lot of fruit picking to be done following by jam and fruit juice preparation. Blackcurrants and apples are our main crops though we also have a large plot of raspberries and there are plenty of blueberries to be had in the countryside. A huge sandpit at the back of the garden is well used by the small children for building castles and imaginary landscapes. They get their physical geography lessons there. Armed with buckets of water, we dig channels and they learn about erosion and other such academic things.
Winter time is when I withdraw inside the house though I venture out now and then to join in some tobogganing and snowman building with the children. Winter is the time when I write a lot or go abroad evangelising and I can't say I've ever been particularly good friends with it. Many members of the family enjoy skiing and skating so I leave them to that. Two of my wives and eldest daughter are good skiers. Me, I stick to my writing desk in a warm study and look out of the window at them enjoying themselves! Only once, when the conditions were perfect, did I spend half a day making igloos for the children. It was back-breaking work but they had days' of fun before the thaw melted them all.
With so many trees, autumn (fall) means a lot of leaf raking, followed by big bonfires which everyone enjoys. In the very early spring before the ground gets too dry we set all the waste ground alight to encourage new growth. It's quite a tricky thing to control and one year I nearly started a forest fire! But the local fire brigade took it all in good humour (thank goodness). We have a lot of visits from the local elk (left) who have the unfortunate habit of leaving dung heaps the size of car wheels all over the lawn. Fortunately they are shy creatures so they tend only to venture onto our land at night when everyone is asleep. They can be a bit frisky in the mating season and it's advisable to stay well back from a mother and her young.
I have to confess that I have a soft spot for chickens and they (it sometimes seems) for me too. To me they are working pets so I shower them with lots of affection. As a result they lay us ENORMOUS free-range eggs, twice the size you can get in the shops, and twice as nutritious as well. All our chickens have names to match their temprements like 'Cheeky', 'Squwaky', 'Goldie' and 'Indiana'. They are very tame and can often be picked up (sadly by foxes too if you aren't careful). They have a good life and show their appreciation by not only laying fine quality eggs but also throughout the winter when the temperature in their quarters is well below zero. I reward them by finding juicy earthworms as dessert. They, together with the dogs, cats and rabbits, are our main waste food disposal units.