Eagle and pidgeons

Our newly planted fields has been getting visitors. Four legged bandits looting the place under the cover of darkness. Picking on young, self defenceless seedlings. They are not part of any union to represent them, can’t afford a lawyer, so they are under stress. Not only that, word has been spreading among the pigeon population and gangs have been congregating in the area during the evenings.

Now, I’m not about to invest both money and hard labour into a field for the benefit of our small herd and lose it to pigeons and deer.

But they know what they are doing. I can’t see the field from the house. Even when I can see it, I cant always access it with two boys. And its too far away to leave them to stand and watch. Options were considered. Back to the strategy plans. I decided to take an MI5 approach. So meet Mrs Spooks. No, she’s not spying on the neighbours, but watching in the direction of the looters. She does carry a firearm. She’s more akin to GCHQ than 007, but the enemy doesn’t know that. A general scarecrow wasn’t what I needed. I need to scare the deer, and we’ve all seen Bambi to know what the evil man does. But men aren’t the only ones with firearms licences. And the deer know that. And they will have seen that hoodie out working before. And they may remember losing their pal Big Red a few years ago to that woman (the fingerprint analysis showed its not just wee deer…).

So my beloved deer and pals. I may not be there 24/7, but Mrs Spooks is my new employee covering it for me. She may not always have a gun. She may be joined soon. If she is, there will be social distancing between them. Who knows what skills the next employee may bring with them. But sometimes it’s better to be alone. Pigeons may flock together, but eagles fly alone. Let’s let her be an eagle. And let’s not spook the neighbours.

When a plan comes together.

But there was no plan. Just a simple ‘nip down to the shed and get back up to sort tea’ type of plan. And just to get the dog doing as much with me as possible, I’ll let him run down without the lead (Gus, a patterdale terrier if that gives anyone an idea of the story about to unfold). Got to the shed in time to be greeted by the entire herd at the nearest gate. They had seen me coming and they were bawling. Not soft, gentle moos. They were making their presence know and demanding action. As to what, I could guess.

Just a few hours earlier, the Crofter and I had been discussing what the field/stock rotation plan needed to be over the next few weeks. Grass growth is currently pants on the grass growing scale. We have one entire field newly sown so out of bounds (for the cows; the deer seem to be having a ball with it so if anyone wants to help do some evening scare tactics, do please get in touch…). Anyway, we then have a section fenced off for the ‘hopeful haying season’. That time will now not just be dependant on the weather being dry, but will there be enough grass to even cut for hay? The rest of that field usually gets split for strip grazing. But not this year, there isn’t enough. So the plan was I would move them up to the top field soon. But with the bawling I thought I’d just take down a few posts, they can step over the electric wire (turned off) and off they go to the rested field. Moovers and shakers business really. They moo, so I shake a bucket and whistle, they follow and move fields.

Smooth, apart from Jack, a teenage steer and two calves that is. No way Jose (I realise that that ‘e’ needs a tilted, farmers flat cap above it, I have no idea how to find that on my phone, just imagine its there and all the grammar/punctuation people can be at peace). Anyway, the last three wouldn’t go. So I head to their rears to try and offer a bit of further encouragement. Still no chance. Cue Gus, who at this exact point, dips under the gate and takes a run into the field. Now, he has done this in the past but has chased the cows and barked like mad at them. His free movement was taken away in the lead up to calving so to avoid stressing the cows. It has been slowly reintroduced. I hollered a him to sit (hello neighbours, enjoying the peacefully countryside?). And he did. I was shocked. Not bad for a terrier who has his eye on something. The admiration was short-lived; the two mothers of the calves I was still trying to shift decided to see what the problem was. I envisioned a dog/cow fight/charge and I was in the middle of the field. I snatched Gus and chucked him over the nearest fence (gently I hasten to add, but speed was of the essentence at this point). I then spied the Mini Crofter at the bottom of the orchard with a piece of rhubarb he had just pulled up out of the best looking crown that I had grown from seed. He got quickly sent back to the house. At this point, the Micro then took an interest in the cows and headed acroos for the fence. He is down a shoe and has a really wet sock half hanging off (where’s the shoe?). Never mind, he seemed fine so turn back round to loop round behind the steer and Gus entered the scene again. Another shout; an instant lie down. Hmm ok, is he a wanna-be sheepdog? Quite impressed. But never mind that, I suddenly realised why they were bawling. Something had gone wrong with their water supply, the troughs were empty.

I pick Gus up and run. A quick turn on of the bore hole tap and a sprint up to turn an upper tap off (water comes in from a burn usually) and I hear the reassuring sound of water filling the tanks. By this stage, Jack (as in Daniel’s…) has been nosying up the electic, decided its not so bad and stepped over it along with both calves. Except the rest of the herd have decided, this wasn’t what they wanted and start making their way back down. Electric fence post were jabbed back in as fast as I could to get back and turn the electric back on (they aren’t daft if you leave it off). All while having Gus at my heel.

And so you think, excellent, jobs done, I can know sort a one shoe boy, a potential sheep terrier and a very late tea. Hmm, two hours later, all the cows are queuing wanting back to the bottom field. That and I’ll need to go sort out a water pipe…tomorrow.

Just gin and share it.

Maybe it would have been better if I had just done the original saying and just grinned and beared it. But back at the start of the year, one of my goals was to make my own gin (by infusion with a neutral spirit I hasten to add before I have HMRC tapping at my door wondering why I don’t have the proper license; I’m not bootlegging it before anyone asks).

The moon may shine but this is no moonshine. It’s just a chance to experiment with what is used to make gin, to see what flavours come through, what can I actually taste. But, I have a slight issue (not the unhinged type of issue where life’s lessons have given me a love of sarcasm and alcohol). Firstly, I don’t like tonic, and so what I use gives different flavours than what the general masses use. Secondly, I don’t tend to like the bog standard. What’s a girl going do? Find someone or some people to help. Yep, I had to lo and behold, ask for help again. I needed some to trial some blind tastings. And I found someone. Thankfully the search for volunteers was not long and hard to give away four mini gin bottles at home and have a wee evening in (thank goodness for lockdown…). But this wasn’t any knock it back and say aye or nay. Mine got sent with a tasting note card.