Joyce Bupp, farm wife

The best-laid plans ... aren’t always.

Sometimes it seems that, no matter how carefully you plot out intentions and strategies to deal with some new enterprise or challenge, something will throw the proverbial “monkey wrench” into the midst of whatever activity you are about to undertake.

Even worse, sometimes, are the results of actions taken on the spur of the moment, without having thought through all the possibilities of what might go wrong.

And then, you are faced with unintended consequences.

Such was the case one early Saturday evening several weeks ago. The Farmer was away, evening chores were completed and I was about to head to the house for a shower. But first, I needed to do the daily “Easter egg hunt” to see where our hens had decided to lay that day.

Generally, our free-roaming hens (by day, but locked up at night) deposit their eggs in pretty much the same spots, especially since I leave a marked one in those chosen places so they feel familiar. For a while, they even used the nest boxes provided in their pen, but for some inexplicable reason, those no longer suited the hens’ independent-minded tastes.

But the Leghorn — the hen that’s always had the most “attitude” — had either suddenly stopped producing, or selected some new, secret, egg-laying hideaway. We’d seen her hanging around the old wagon shed, where we always stored the sawdust used for cow bedding. The remnants of the sawdust made soft, cozy nests in nooks and crannies where the dusty stuff settled over the years. And, one of those sites where she’d been hanging around was on a set of old, rickety stairs, buried partway up in residual sawdust.

Without giving the idea much thought, I decided to look high up on the old steps, to see if any of Leghorn’s big, white eggs had been left there. But to get there, I had to climb up an old board support along the edge of the stair landing. (Yeah, you know where this is going.)

No sooner had I stepped up onto the side of the stair landing where the support board held a collection of sawdust, than the old, dried board gave way. It went down and I went with it. On the way, the back side of my upper arm connected with something solid (still as yet undetermined), leaving a several-inch-long gash.

Unintended consequences. It took a couple of weeks, a bunch of bandages, ounces of peroxide and first aid spray before the long gash finally healed. Fortunately, the remaining scar is not easily noticeable and hidden by sleeves.

Recently, with the Leghorn’s nest site still unknown, we turned our attention to rerouting our guineas to a new, overnight roosting site. Their large, wire-sided pen in the yard offers little protection from upcoming cold weather and will be in the way when firewood needs to be brought in for the wood furnace.

Still battling the raccoons and foxes that had snagged our pretty rooster and yet another guinea, I decided the safest place for the guineas to roost over winter might be the calf pen, currently occupied mostly by barn cats. I planned to wait until dark, when the guineas had settled into the familiar roosting spot in their pen, then snag them one by one, and move them to a safer place.

Probably, I thought, it would take a couple of relocation nights until they figured out the new roosting arrangements, but the move had to be made. So, one evening last week, with the guineas settled onto their usual roost, I quietly walked in the door, and reached out to grab the first bird.

Explosion! Panic erupted inside the dark pen, with birds flapping in all directions as they tried to flee, banging into the sides and racing around the floor. So much for thinking the darkness would be enough to calm the normally hyper and flighty birds.

The next evening, I walked to the pen to close the guineas up for the night ... and they were gone. I grabbed a flashlight, went investigating and eventually found them roosting on a beam in the old bank barn, where we really had preferred they roost all along. Apparently, my catch attempt had spooked them enough that they returned to the roosting spot remembered by the oldest bird, the lone one remaining from the previous group.

Occasionally, even unintended consequences turn out better than expected.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.