So August is here already…..
…..& we still haven’t got our hay crop in, although we really had hoped to have it baled & in the barn by nightfall. Another blissfully sunny afternoon led us to the anxious assumption that today would be the day; however unfortunately our contractor, Lloyd, had to get in his own crop of recently-cut silage. As the hay had been turned that morning, I had assumed we’d bale during the late afternoon, as usual; & so started to prepare my contribution to the proceedings – the all-important Hay Tea. This traditional meal is provided by the farmer’s wife for the workforce, in thanks for their efforts in helping to bring in this precious crop. I’m in an unusual position in that I’m both farmer and wife; so I have to find the time – & energy – to do both! So I spent the best part of the day in the kitchen despite the glorious weather (which is when the ‘outdoor’ jobs get done); baking potatoes, roasting meats, & freeze-churning ice cream.
My neighbour & dear friend, Janet, has described this season to me amongst the local farming community as ‘a more prolific time of year for divorces than Christmas’! The tension is almost unbearable, as we anxiously hang on for a few days of sufficiently balmy weather, at exactly the right time, to produce a crop that will comfortably satisfy our animals over the long Winter months; & unlike those with the luxury of a nine-to-five job, summer holidays simply cannot be planned in advance owing to the unpredictability of the seasons in recent years. Indeed, even day-to-day activities cannot be plotted as the first warning you have that it’s ‘all hands on deck’, is the rumble of tractors as Lloyd & Will turn up to start baling the fresh-cut meadow grasses. Subsequently, everyone in the neighbourhood watches each others’ fields; when ‘rowing up’ commences in preparation for the baler, a volunteer workforce descends as if from nowhere to help with this mutually, vitally important harvest. Thus, you mustn’t plan anything until all the neighbourhood hay crop is in; forget long, sunny days at the beach, or carefree picnics in the Prescelli Mountains….the hay’s the thing.
But today, for us – alas, ’twas not to be; & it’ll be a sleepless night, because rain is forecast, which could ruin the whole crop…..ah well. We took a gamble. Wish us luck.
P.S. To cap a difficult, frustrating day (& to commence an undoubtedly sleepless night); when our ‘Hooligans’ (aka maiden goatlings) waltzed in from their happy day grazing in the field behind the house this evening, we found that dear little Anthemis, a milk-chocolate-coloured, flighty young girl akin to a roe deer doe in terms of stature & delicacy – had (to my utter horror) developed a particularly nasty case of mastitis (infection of the udder), during the course of the day. This was totally, profoundly, unwittingly, unexpected; she hasn’t yet had a kid nor is even pregnant, & so isn’t (well, shouldn’t be!) producing any milk – so it’s a doubly horrible shock for us. We immediately treated her with a strong shot of penicillin; & bathed the affected udder with a warm cloth, before gently releasing a muddy-coloured, clotted fluid from the affected side. Then came the even worse, unpleasant process of intramammary injection of a topical solution to treat the condition; & this procedure is particularly uncomfortable for goats, as the only medication available is designed specifically for a cow’s udder – & they have far wider teat canals – talk about squeezing a quart into a pint pot, for goodness’ sake! Poor little Anthemis was clearly distressed despite our very best, calm, efforts; I shudder to think (as it must be even worse, treating an afflicted ewe) how hard it must be to treat a sheep with the same painful problem: so please, pharmaceutical companies – when will you start tailoring your range of medications to dairy animals, other than cows?? They DO exist – & in abundance (& undoubtedly to your ultimate profit) – you know!! There’a a big (& doubtless – pointedly – gap in the market for someone who cares enough (or who can be bothered enough – ‘scuse the cynic) to see the sense in treating individual species, rather than just conditions across the board.