Saturday, 23 April 2011

Striking gold

We have pretty much caught up with all the essential spring work. The crops are in and we wait for good weather to make them grow.

I thought we might try a second attempt at getting out for the day without being stopped by wind turbine lorries so we set off on a different route and arrived in the very heart of Perthshire.

The landscape here is stunning, dramatic mountains, gentle rivers, abundant with wildlife and best of all, the sun was shining. Grass looked plump and green plus the trees have woken from the long winter dormancy and were shyly showing off their new leaves.

It makes your heart fill with sheer joy to see the beauty in the land.

We took a picnic and went panning for gold. Everyone would get soaked and filthy but it would not matter, besides, we may strike lucky and find a huge nugget (then retire!).
There are the tiniest flecks of gold in the river silt. Really miniscule. (about the size of a full stop).
If I took a hankering for a gold filling like a pirate has then it would take years of picking up the tiny flecks. My teeth may all fall out by the time I saved enough flecks for my pirate look.

The Farmer dozed in the sun while we splashed in the water. He is so tired but I think sleep and rest is one of the best tonics available.
We found lots of iron pyrite which twinkled in the sun, giving false illusions of having found treasure.

The birch trees, which are truly magical, belied their name of 'silver birch' and shone with a hint of gold.

The land was providing us with a wealth beyond money. What price to relax in the sun while the river washed away worries, soothed sore feet, kept the children happy (and cleaned a whiffy dog).
The land is slow and ancient, practically untouched since glacial times. There are areas without houses or even grazing animals, only acres of heather, trees and stillness.
Your heart slows to the beat of the earth. Very healing.

Later, once we realised that we had not realised a fortune in gold flakes, we headed home.

We headed for the cowshed where the remaining herd of pregnant cattle remain. They were content and lying down, enjoying the warm breeze wafting through the shed.
The sun had dipped a little and the shed was bathed with a warm light.

A tiny new born calf lay in the straw.

I felt so relieved that the mother cow had delivered without any problems and all was well. She stood protecting her calf and lowed very softly to it.
The Farmer was delighted.

Our Good Friday had given us so much.

More priceless than gold.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tilting at windmills

I am wracked with guilt today.

The cattle were sold this morning, well, they were taken away in a huge lorry to the market to be sold. They are not going for slaughter but going to a new farm. One which has lush grass and kindly nature, I hope.

The lorry came at 6am so I was up at 5 to be super ready, rechecking that they had their passports - all the cattle have a movement passport each so they are traceable via their eartags.

The lorry arrived and I was glad that the driver did not use a stick to move them - the cattle have never had a stick near them and I hate to see one used.

My eldest son was already helping to move them into the cattle float and they went in with no trouble.

I felt completely hellish once the float drove away.

The Farmer was still asleep.

Later on, we decided to go to Aberfeldy and take the children to the park plus we would go there via the long way or scenic route as it was such a lovely day (and to take our mind off things).

We got halfway to Aberfeldy then the road, normally very quiet, was blocked completely by a huge convoy of lorries carrying enormous turbines.

It is very disparaging to discover that your road is blocked by windmills both physically and mentally. Sometimes it is easy to feel like one of the Quixotes of this world, eternally fighting injustice through chivalry (or hard work) yet for what?

The winners are the land owners, not those who live and work under the blades. We are the people who pay extra for our electricity in order to subsidize the wealthy land owners.
It is one of the greatest cons today.

The land owners who 'own' us as tenant farmers, who grow fat on the back of our work, our rent, our knowledge of the land..... those who care not one jot of our wellbeing.

Our family trip was spoiled in more ways than one so we turned up a side road and went home.

Tilting at windmills was postponed for another day.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dippy Dora wakes up.

We are starting to get into the swing of things now, my eldest son and I.

He has taken to calling himself "The Farm Biatch" and I am supposed to assume the role of Farm Manager.
Now, I see a manager as someone who is efficient, neatly dressed with perhaps a clipboard and sadly I do not tick any of these boxes just now.
The Farm Biatch is an ex Drum Major and has a voice which can probably be heard in Penzance. He has no tolerance whatsoever for anything other than 100% commitment to the work.

I was caught dreaming several times today....

The first 'mini sleep' was when I had to cut the net off the bales. Farm Biatch would then run at the bale with the stabby forks and lift it into the cow shed.
I drifted off in a sleep deprived stupor instead.

"COME ON DREAMY DIPPY DORA" "THE COWS ARE WAITING". He roared over the noise of the tractor.
I cut the net and just avoided becoming a kebab on the forks alongside the hay.

The silage was next.
It is quite satisfying to slice open a big fat bale of silage. Very satisfying to be frank.
I cut and bailed these bales one lovely day last year and now, months on, the black plastic is sliced open and the pungent smell of fermented sweet grass is released. It is full of nutrients and the cattle love it.

Of course, while I was standing remembering the day last summer when I bailed with the Red Kites whirling around the sky above and the very sandwich I ate whilst sitting in the sun...FB had jumped out of the tractor and deftly sliced open the bales of silage.
I had that fleeting feeling of someone else cracking open the seal on a new jar of coffee - vaguely miffed because I never got to do it and missing the newness and the fleeting aroma.

"What is wrong with you today?" roared FB.
"I am just sleepy, Rosie and my head is all full of the things which have to be done".
"Oh great. I'm not Rosie" barked the Farm Biatch.

I shuffled through the shed following the tractor like a lone seagull.

My next job was to open the big metal gates to let the tractor in but not let the cattle out.
They were in there thinking about it.

There is a square which is cut out of the metal which is supposed to be the bit for the bolt but it is exactly my height for peeping into.
I peeped.
I peeped just as a cow kicked the metal right beside my ear.
I sort of died for a split second even although the cow was on the other side of the door.

Farm Biatch was impatiently revving the tractor and I had to open the door but feared a stampede. The evil brown cow would squash me with a hoof the size of a dinner plate and besmirch my nice fresh summer top with cowpoo.

We managed but it was all a blur. FB was not impressed with the quality of my work and the fact that his mother was now a completely gibbering wreck.

I sat with the sheep for a while. They are gentle and docile and are rather disdainful of the uncouth cows.
I cuddled one of the newborn lambs and felt it's soft coat against my cheek. This was more powerful than valium and reached further than hot, sweet tea.
The lamb's mother bleated softly and I swear she looked concerned at me but it is hard to tell what a Wensleydale is looking at through the wild fringe of dreadlocks.

We are now back in the house, fed, calmed down and resting. The Farmer is feeling the cold so I lit the fire and there is a nice smell from the oak limbs which were cut yesterday. A good heat too.

Tomorrow, I will try to be alert and efficient even if it means painting wild starey eyes on my eyelids a la disco goers circa 1980's. I will drink coffee and wear earplugs and be ready for the evil brown cow.

The children are just back from a long walk. They have rosy cheeks and smell of fresh air.

"I'm as tired as a bumble bee" said the little one as he kicked his wellies off in exactly the same manner as his Dad. Sock a foot long once the welly comes off.

I know how tired a bumble bee feels.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A difficult decision

I think the reality hit this morning when a large wodge of damp straw trapped me by the welly.

The bulk of the work here is done to keep the cattle.

We plough a field then go over it again with the harrows. We return and sow the crop then back again to harvest. All the hay, silage and straw go to feed the cattle.

They are brought in to the big shed before winter begins (it comes early here) and the bulk of the day goes in to feeding, watering (the water pipe usually freezes so it is a manual job), laying down fresh straw for bedding and making sure they are ok and healthy.

They stay in the big shed usually until the middle of May when the grass begins to grow. (It arrives late here). The calving begins during the last days of April and the cows with their new calves stay in a separate shed for a few weeks so they can have special attention.

My husband is very good with his cattle and they are calm and responsive to him.
Wild and unresponsive with me though.

He is not going to be able to calf or indeed do any work at all with them in the forthcoming weeks. Even if he resumes full health soon, the work is too heavy and unpredictable for someone who has had a recent heart attack.

I phoned the auctioneer today and he is coming up to see the cattle then talk to The Farmer next week. We have to be realistic and look at what we can and cannot do. It is very sad.

Perhaps once we have had time to think about the next few months and the winter slog then we can decide how to make our workload a little lighter.

In the meantime, my eldest son and I are busy getting the big sheds cleaned and ready for the calving. We are both insensible with tiredness.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

No rest for the wicked.

My dream of sitting quietly in the sunshine with the family lies as shattered as I feel.

First of all, Piedog ran down the track and on to the road in front of an oncoming and fully laden tractor at about 7 am. I was right behind him but not nearly as fast as he was and apart from a real swearing from the farmer (to me), Pie was fine.
I think I may have been a tiny bit sick having to burst into a sprint so early.

The day got worse from that moment.

The Farmer felt a bit unusual and very tired - I think he overdid things yesterday plus the tablets are bound to have an odd effect - anyway, he was bundled back to bed to rest.

The little one sprayed Febrese into his mouth while I was helping the Farmer upstairs. Much wailing, more running, this time for water and cloths. He was fine but stank of sandalwood for a while.

Rosy took an almighty strop. Perhaps one of us had looked at her sideways or breathed wrongly but she stormed off to her room in a huff.

The cattle managed to squish themselves into a tiny corner of the barn where the haybales are stored and were jam packed like sardines. Mooing, slavering sardines. The son who did not smell of sandalwood managed to get them all sorted out and calmed down then repaired the barrier which they had trashed.
ASBO cows.

The rest of the day has been a blur of domestic drudgery - cooking, washing, bleh...

The little one managed to get Olbas Oil in his eye.
Pie ran down the road again....

The Farmer is fine this evening, good colour, well rested and fed and feeling fine.

I, however, look, feel and no doubt smell like something which has been dragged through a hedge. If I had the energy, I would throw Olbas Oil in my eyes and run wildly down the farm track but would probably get flattened by the same grumpy farmer who braked for Pie.

Luckily, I have not the energy left to do it.

I am going to put the children to bed and get everything settled then sit and stare at the wall for a while in a vacant way. It is all I am fit for.

Tomorrow, we need a stockman, stonelifter, shepherd, poultry keeper, cook, laundry person, nanny, nurse, mender of huffs, dog trainer and perhaps a chocolatier to keep morale up.

I am tempted to concentrate only on the latter.... ;)

Friday, 8 April 2011

A bit of R & R

The Farmer is home.

He was operated on but is well enough to be back on the farm.

It has been a crazily busy time and this week has flown past so quickly with lambs being born, long trips down to Dundee and back, a million things to cope with....

Truthfully, I hated the journey to Dundee. It is such a fast road and sometimes I was scared of falling asleep at the wheel or zoning out and hitting someone. Luckily it did not happen - I think you run around on pure adrenalin and have chameleon eyes.

The hospital is vast.

That entire building in the picture is Ninewells Hospital. It is not a place I ever liked despite doing part of my training there a thousand years ago, it seems.

My eldest son and I have sort of coped in The Farmer's absence. We coped in an "Oh my God, are we doing this correctly" Heath Robinson way.

The lambing is now finished after Bella produced one tiny lamb. It sits in a Sphinx like manner and I admire it's zen calm.

The weather has been kind and the little lambs are loving the heat of the sun.

Our little boy has been unable to sleep at night which is completely understandable but his sleeplessness has left me feeling shattered during the day.
He saw the whole incident on Monday and tightly held my hand as the ambulance tentatively dodged the potholes on the farm track. (we filled them in)
He did not say anything but his eyes showed so many emotions. I hope he can heal too, given time and reassurance.

We have begun the long, slow process of recovery, rest and a change of diet. I completely blame the pies which The Farmer could pack away as if they were going out of fashion. Their fat content closed his arteries completely and stopped the blood flow to the heart.

I am going to rest with my husband and children. We have done lots of the full on, manic work, emptied sheds of dung, ploughed all but one field, seed is ordered, potholes done, fences mended.....

Yes, it is time to sit quietly for a while and just enjoy the Spring sun with my Farmer and our bairns.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Small steps

I feel able to write now and finally breathe out.

The Farmer had indeed suffered a heart attack but is now fully on the mend after surgery.

I drove to Dundee to see him yesterday and he looked so tired and bare, somehow. It was a scare and even scarier is the prospect of completely changing the way we work, eat, live, worry and everything.
My husband does not smoke, very rarely drinks, walks every day and is as strong as an ox yet the Fates dealt their maverick card just when it was least expected.

The main thing now is that he is ok.

Eldest son and I ("helped" by the little one and Pie) tried to carry on where The Farmer had left off. I realise that my organisational skills and farming knowledge are akin to those of, say, Keith Richards or Kermit the Frog.

We had to figure out which plug went where when trying to work out how a plough went on to the back of a tractor without falling off or the signs of a cow thinking about going into labour, that sort of thing.
I had a tiny weep behind the little shed after pretending to go to look for Pie.

There seemed so much to deal with - strangers arrived wanting scrap, some men wanted permission for a huge bike run through our land, a chap turned up to tell me how to test the soil and where to order barley seed from, the little one found a nest of new chicks....Things bleated and mooed, clucked and barked and sometimes a farm in the Middle of Nowhere is as noisy and busy as a town. Noisy at least.

The cows were kind in that they did not attack or trample me into the straw.

The last couple of days have finally caught up with me as I had fuelled up on tobacco and water, forgot to eat and was running about on adrenalin.

The Farmer just phoned a little while ago and is being transferred to a different ward and I will see him tomorrow (once I have taken the soil samples and handed them in to Perth first thing in the morning).

I am amazed at how much work and organisation my husband copes with as well as the knowledge of crop timing, calving, lambing and all the other things which have just about run us into the ground today.

My sons and I are now inside for the evening and are all doing the 10,000 mile stare. We all feel shattered and ready for bed but now I understand why my fit and seemingly healthy husband dropped like a stone the other morning.

In the words of Chairman Mao - "The journey of ten thousand miles begins with one step"

We will gently start the walk together.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Trying not to panic

The Farmer collapsed this morning.

We were up early and never got as far as outside when he slumped on to a chair in the kitchen then on to the floor.
His colour was ashen and he said his arms and chest were sore.

I phoned for an ambulance and it seemed to take ages to arrive but they bundled him up and took him away - miles away, to the huge hospital in Dundee.

Our little boy and I stood outside watching the ambulance disappear and I felt stunned at what had just happened and did not know what to do.

He was going to feed the cattle. We must go and feed the cattle.

I got the little one dressed and muffled up (it is cold, wet and quite raw outside) but I forgot to wrap up warmly myself. We met with my eldest son and told him what happened then we all fell silent for a bit trying to make sense of things and get our heads into working mode.

We got the silage into the cattle without spearing any of them or being attacked. No calfs yet.

We then went to the sheep 'nursery' and checked on Bramble's new twin lambs who were born yesterday. They are lovely.

Once the work was done, I felt rising panic. The farm did not seem right without The Farmer there.

We returned home to try and make a plan to delegate the work he would have been doing. There is so much happening just now and we have been working steadily, fields ploughed, fencer booked, etc but there are fields to be sown, limed, reseeded and everything in a very short space of time.
Trying to surf with the seasons, catching the wave.

I phoned the ward and they let me speak to him - he sounded so tired.

I will go down to Dundee tonight and bring him fresh clothes, his glasses, toothbrush and things. My eldest son is going to look after the littlie for the evening.

We miss The Farmer terribly and just want him home and well but I suspect our lives have taken a radical change of direction as from today.

And I am trying not to panic.