Wet wet wet

The Crofter left this morning on the Aberdeen train. Seven hours later I call him:

Is there a tap on the water pipe that comes from the burn? (Said pipe supplies water for cows troughs and polytunnel).

Him: No, why? (N.B. Background noise means he’s sat at the airport)

Me: It’s got a hole and there’s a high pressure water foundation coming from it which I need to fix.

Him: A hole? How?

Me: Hmm, I shot it. Why didn’t you bury that pipe way back? How was I supposed to see it under the grass!

I hate to think what that conversation sounded like on his end. Two phone calls trying to problem solve and I found out there was no tap to turn the water off, the sediment tank was near busting, I couldn’t get the pipes to unscrew at any join and not only that, the next door neighbour who’s good with plumping wasn’t back from work yet. Can I also say I was soaked by this time having tried to get tape over the hole. And it was cold.

Note to all future plumbers to the croft: can you all please put in taps above the point where I could be shooting for pest control? My step count for the day suddenly rose when I had to sprint up the hill to take the pipe out of the burn before sprinting back to turn the supply over to the bore hole. I could have done without the sprint training although I am wishing to improve my fitness.

Wake me up when September ends.

It’s not me that needs woken up when September ends, but my writing. I have been working, honest, I’m now just a month behind, so I’m on par with the overdue library books I recently discovered.

So, a few episodes ago; way back at the beginning of September, the Crofter returned home after a 32 day stint away. Believe me, I hit the wall on day 28. The last four days are killers. I often feel that I could do with a week off to recover. However, the to do list would get even longer and the time shorter. And besides, this time, I had shared the to do list with the lovely film crew who were coming back. Aye, back. I had wondered if I had done enough to drive them demented and they would decide there was little need to come back. But they did. Dirk and Sebastian were here the first time, but this time Babette was with them. What a fab team again. Easy going, not pushy in agendas and helpful with everything. Now, I am no Hollywood actress wannabe. Nor was drama high up my favourite subjects at school. In fact, it was one of my least favourites. Not that I would need to act for a documentary, it was just I am well aware that I may not be the most expressive in my speech. In fact, I’m good at the stereo typical dour Scottish approach. And this will potentially be aired for German TV (I say potentially, I still think of the film producers sitting in their office with head in hands at my wanderings and mutterings and deciding to scrap the bit on crofting). I wasn’t sentimental when sending off Hrossey. I had a kitchen in desperate need to being on a horders anonymous show (the chutney I made that day is only for home consumption, honest, I have varying standards). I shifted a bull with the sound of my youngest not being too happy (really hoping that didn’t get picked up) and, I had a microphone on while driving (let’s hope I didn’t make any sarcastic comments). I drove along the A9 with one of the kid’s sun visors stuck out the door. I hit a massive rock when I pulled over to wait for them. And the list does on. So, how they will work with it, I have no idea.

Having never been involved with a film crew, I am so glad of how they worked. Now, I’m not saying I will be putting myself forward for more filming, but if they ever wanted to return, I’d be happy for them to come back for the craic.

So next time you’re sat watching something on TV, have a wee thought for how many hours went into it. Camera, sound, production, the amount of hours is huge. Just wake me up after it’s been aired…

Back to Black

Thankfully, our usual delivery drivers around here know me…

“Have a parcel for you”, while overlooking the gate.

‘Fab, can you just stick it inside the pickup?’, head under cow trying to milk her out after she refuses to let her calf on.

“Hmm, are you happy for me to sign it for you? You look a bit busy.”

‘Certainly’ (head voice: I really don’t think your next delivery will be ecstatic to handle a signature machine covered in cow manure and udder cream).

For yes, two boys were securely plonked in car seats (they say boredom is the best way to ignite a child’s imagination, so, these two will be destined for being authors or film makers at this rate). Once pick up was positioned so they had good spectator seats, the cow sectioned off (think two attempts, there was a bull in the same field) and walked down to the handling area, I was able to start working.

Lead up to the event: An afternoon of noise from Gilly had me puzzled. Why did she keep mooing? Eventually I stood with the binoculars and watched her (told you they aren’t used to spy on neighbours…). Observations led to the realisation that she had a full udder, was nudging her calf up but then wouldn’t stand to let him feed. Oh whoop-ed-ee-do-dah. Well, it was going to have to wait till the morning.

So a early meander through the field with a bull was quickly aborted and I decided I’d entice her to the gate. So, after sorting the boys into their front row seats (well, front row but the Micro is still in a rear facing seat so his view was just of the headrest), and hence the delivery driver couldn’t get up to the house and had to join the party).

Now, the last time I had a cow in for something similar was back at calving when Breena went ballistic. I therefore wasn’t exuding confidence when ‘going under’ (if you ever see a football player dive after getting kicked in the shins, they need to come here and milk a wild one). So, just like jumping from a high dive, I held my breath and went for it.

Now, I’d love to say it was all calm and soothing. However, it didn’t start that way. Something wasn’t right (obviously) and she wasn’t wanting me touching her. A trick of the trade taught by Farmer Ian back when Breena was hormonally wild was adopted and soon, a more typical hand milking sessions was going. Other than I wasn’t sitting on a wooden stool; more crouching down ready to drop everything and run. But not crouching as if to start a 100m sprint, more a cross between a tai chi movement and I’d just met an intruder in the night. And because of that, I got an instant make up do. Yep, one tail swish in the face and I had lines under my eyes that were an Amy Winehouse wannabe look. Add a few dartings up and down with a buff on, causing a similar backcomb, beehive look for a small beehive was coming on nicely to match the eyeliner and little wonder the delivery man kept to the gate.

Well, I may not be able to sing but my cows think I should be a rockstar. Skip the black though, my waterproofs are green…

Red bull (but no wings).

So we have a bull. And he is a red and white bull. Not ours, a rented one that comes for a six week package all inclusive holiday. A bull that had no experience of electric fencing. Yes, he cantered through it like it was the ribbon at the finish line when he first arrived. However, we had deliberately done it so it wasn’t the end of the world, all he had done was headed for the part of the field with less grass, more reeds and no ladies. He then refused to come back. This should have given a warning that this bull was no Mr Clever Clogs.

Fast forward to my last field shifting exercise and all the ladies followed the clue. Stand at the gate, whistle, they all come through. Welcome Sweet Muppet and our steer calves. Now, fair do for the calves as they are less familiar with shifting fields. But a bull is not something I want to be up close and personal with. And after hanging about patiently waiting for Sweet Muppet to shift his sweet rear end through the gate, I may have quietly whispered that if he didn’t get his act together he would be joining the same process as all the other male cattle. Now, that threat was not one I could follow through with but how does he know that? So, he shifted. And since then he has been much better at following the rest of the herd when stock rotating.

Until this evening. Sweet Muppet decided that he didn’t want to step over the electric fence. He then bellowed that he had been left behind. He cantered off along the fence while I decided to make a swift exist from the field in case he decided to run back. But no. So I went off to work on the polytunnel to give him time to work it out. Sweet Muppet still refused to cross the line. I undid it to give him a gap with no fence. He still refused. I reeled it in. He still refused. I wondered if I should have just spoken to him. Told him the electric was off, that the line was gone and it would be better to just head for the new grass. But I didn’t. Time was running out as I was trying to solve the water system in the polytunnel. Figured he would eventually work it out.

And as I write this, Sweet Muppet has finally joined the cows. Well, the ones he’s supposed to be with. Thank goodness he doesn’t drink Red Bull…

Auf Wiedersehen Herr Hrossey

Mr Hrossey was a steer. A fine prize steer (no connection to the fine prize cow in ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ by Julia Donaldson). Today, he went off to his forever home as he was just about to hit the 30 month mark. However, this wasn’t just any send off, he got a proper leaving do. For not just myself, the Mini Crofter and the Micro Crofter were involved. But a German film crew.

A fine party of three who seemed to manage loading a steer, shifting a bull, babysitting a baby and dealing with the mayhem of our house (along with heavy burst of rain, high wind and glaring sunshine at times). For, it was not just a day for day tripping to the abattoir. This was a day for making bread and relish (while trying to get tea sorted). So, my home does not suit Country Homes and Interiors magazine. Mine is a working kitchen, with mouths to feed and cows to shift. So, for anyone in Germany; the saying goes that my kitchen looks like ‘there appears to have been a struggle’. But don’t look at what I haven’t done, for the steer’s away, two lots of cows shifted, and I made it to spinning group. Housekeeping can wait.

Now, I decided today being in TV production can not be easy. And today gave them a run for their money. For there is no second shots of asking a cow to come more slowly through a gate. Two year olds do not accommodate for cameras either (or at least mine wasn’t keen; I even had to shift a tractor to get him to sit quietly at one point). Seven month olds do better until it takes the bull a lot longer to go through a gate and it’s getting into meal times. And what about people like me who either talk to themselves or don’t say a word (just like the ladybird)? Am I supposed to if I have a camera watching. What about the mike? Is it on all the time?

In reflection, it seemed to go ok. Hopefully today gave them a glimpse of crofting. My reflection is, longer grass can hide some pretty big stones if you pull off to let someone pass…

Everybody hurts

The past week (and a bit) has been a bit of a journey. A William Tell Overture with a swan song and minor key change/REM song interspersed.

For where there is livestock, there is deadstock. Maybe not something we like to discuss but it can (and will) happen.

In the process of collecting the sheep in so I could shear, the wee dude was spotted. Now, our Jacob sheep are a friendly bunch. They generally run towards you or just keep on with their grass cutting job when you go near them. So to have a sheep not run away wasn’t overly concerning. However, when I went to get him to join the others, I knew something wasn’t right. A bit of investigating and after the diagnosis, the discussion was made to put him out of his misery.

Now, I realise some don’t understand how I can raise stock that ends up on my plate but I would say, that is so much more easier than dealing with an animal that is not well. They often don’t let on that something is wrong, they can’t communicate the extent of their illness/pain and so with that, it’s often left to knowledge, experience and guess work on knowing how to quickly treat (or ring a vet). Those of us with livestock like our animals to have happy and contented lives and we want them to end them well, not in pain or stress. I could have put him through a lot with medications etc which may or more likely, may not have worked causing a drawn out conclusion. And the advice I got before the decision was made, was to make his exit as swift as possible.

So, what did I do? I phoned a friend to come for support. We have the means to humanly put down our livestock if we need it. That doesn’t mean it makes it easy so figured the best way was not to approach it (the task, not the sheep) on my own.

But it’s not just the first phase that is easy. Once you have a dead animal, you then have to get it taken away. So here is the massive thank you to the Fallen Stock Collection man (aka knackerman). His is not a job for the faint hearted. Funnily enough, it’s also a career I never heard spoke about at school. When he did arrive, it was not a hot day he came but his lorry certainly had an aroma. A chatty guy and one able to tell the the do’s and don’ts of dead-stock management. Not what I had pictured needing to do while the. Crofter was away, that’s for sure.

But the croft still goes on. And for several days, a Mini Crofter has been asking me if the knackerman was coming back. No son, hopefully the knackerman visiting will be few and far between.

When a plan comes together.

Do you love it when a plan comes together? Then I suggest avoid planning anything that involves the weather, livestock and toddlers. Because all can be as unpredictable as the wheels on a supermarket trolley.

So yes, at the end of July the Crofter headed back to ‘work’ with a few things that needed to still be done on the croft. The last of the sheep needed shearing (don’t be thinking I do 200 in a day, more one in every 200 hours). One tractor down to the neighbours to turn hay, closely followed by getting the old baler set up and ready. Intersperse with a few sheep having foot problems due to the rubbish weather, a sheep needing culled, a lovely chat with the knacker man (not a job for those with sensitive noses), a broken water pipe to the water trough so no water for cows or the polytunnel, a phone call from my ‘work’ saying my registration was about to run out, a bull needing shifting, a shed delivery by an lorry driver who couldn’t follow directions, and as of this evening, a cow with an udder problem.

Thankfully I had unsuspecting visitors staying on most occasions which meant the term, ‘can you hold a baby?’ really meant, ‘can you look after two highly energetic boys while I nip off for an hour?’. Little wonder I have very few offering to hold a baby anymore.

Now, don’t be thinking all went to plan. Plan? What plan? Hard to plan when a lot of what your job entails seems to be trouble shooting. The baler managed a near lap before breaking down. All sheep have been sheared although I have the most magnificent suntan stripe on my lower back (don’t shear with your back to the sun was that lesson). The bull eventually went through the right gate and I only jumped the fence once (and would not have done it without the help of a neighbour; shift the bull that is, not leaping fences). The water pipe was fixed by another neighbour and another (yes, I have fantastic neighbours) one helped retrieve the herd (I had taken emergency action to release them into the far field that has a burn to ensure they had water thinking it wouldn’t be easy fixing the broken pipe. My neighbour managed in about 10 mins!).

So after livestock, polystock. And man alive, that poly tunnel is a jungle. So that will be next week’s task…in my spare time.