Another completely different day, of bizarre meterological ‘ping-pong’:
Inevitably, it was dark when the alarm went off (as mornings have been for a while, now) but it seemed to stay murky for longer than usual. When I glanced out of the window whilst munching my breakfast toast, I saw to my dismay that the reason for the gloom was an impenetrable blanket of fog smothering the ffarm, fields & woodland beyond. However, it gradually became a paler, pearly-white; then turned a deeper, shell-pink hue until the whole valley was magically suffused with a translucent golden light; above which, I could see the merest hint of blue sky….& the promise of a better day.
In fact, as I worked on the chores it became increasingly warmer & by the time I’d commenced milking, it was positively stuffy in the oval-roofed shed. Meanwhile thankfully, Agrostema appears to be feeling that her leg is so much better – & to demonstrate she jumped clean out of her holding pen & hobbled off into Parc Tu ol Ty (‘the field behind the house’) with her pals, another eight goatlings (young adult females who haven’t met their ‘husband’ yet – in our case, fondly referred to as the ‘Hooligans’). So of course, owing to her painfully-obvious-obviously-painful tender tendons, I felt obliged to bring her back inside: & that’s where the fun & games (on the goats’ part & at my expense of course) began….
Cutting her out of the group, & persuading her back towards the (very stiff & heavy) field gate was not too difficult; however once she realized my intentions, she was having none of it. And nor were my wellies….woefully lacking grip, as I struggled to keep up (&, indeed, upright) whilst attempting to steer the now remarkably speedy ‘Agro’ in my intended direction, said footwear slipped & skidded on the freshly bedewed grass as if my legs were not their own; & like Bambi on ice, I ended up smashing spectacularly onto my backside, right in the gateway – yet still (you’ll doubtless be impressed) grimly gripping my goat (but there again, I think she was as surprised as I was!). I hauled myself ungracefully upright, struggling with wriggling caprine & unyielding latch; & burst through into the next field whilst slamming the metal monstrosity behind me. There now being only two of us in the equation – the accompanying herd of participating onlookers (Agro’s other goaty pals) coralled firmly in the requisite field, I eventually got the errant young lady back into her pen. I mopped my fevered brow, & commenced the next urgent task demanding my attention: that of turning out the next herd of goats: my senior ladies who make up the milking workforce, aka the ‘Milkforce’. Two were still on their milking stands – having long since finished their breakfast owing to my earlier antics – & were decidedly unimpressed at my tardy attention; bleating loudly & furiously wagging their tails in disapproval. Meanwhile an extremely loud chorus of similar annoyance struck up from the main Milkforce’s pen. I released the gates (& a big sigh of relief) & did that ‘farmer-in-pastoral-idyll’ thing of leaning over the gate & chewing a straw, to catch my breath whilst observing my contentedly grazing stock. Or not, as the case may be – & indeed was…..
During the earlier melee, I had sucessfully managed to exit the field & had indeed shut the gate behind me; but – as it transpired – had not, actually, closed it. And with goats, there’s a distinct difference…. so, having tested the defences accordingly as ever, the Hooligans in Parc Tu ol Ty gave ‘Old Whingey-Hinges’ a good shove; the gate bounced open with its customary groan & said Hooligans hurried eagerly through to join the Milkforce in neighbouring Parc Dyffryn (‘Valley Field’) because, of course, the grass is always greener….& because they’re goats. And because they can. However, this wasn’t their best brainwave; as the Milkforce don’t take kindly to having their field invaded by a bunch of young whippersnappers!
Having realised the impending disaster of my rapidly-deteriorating pastoral idyll, I hastened out to close the gate – but not before Apricot & Aralia had successfully managed to make a break for it. The first mistake I made was to grab hold of the nearest goat without a collar (the Milkforce all sport smart leather collars – until they eat them, that is) & haul her back into the neighbouring field. Unfortunately in my haste I’d grabbed the only milker (Armeria) who was currently collarless; which became immediately apparent when her hackles went up & she started attacking everyone in sight. She used to be nicknamed ‘Shadow’ as she followed us everywhere when she was a kid; so luckily it wasn’t too difficult to persuade her to rejoin me back on the ‘right’ side of the gate. That flurry of excitement over, I turned my attentions back to the errant escapees. I succeeded in returning Apricot safely back to her chums fairly quickly; but Aralia – a flightly little thing sporting a fine beard & no udders as yet – was having none of it.
So – like any true Knight (ha ha) I girded my loins & set to the near-impossible task of delivering the World’s Most Flighty Goatling back to her colleagues. The Milkforce insisted on being as unhelpful as possible (as ever), getting in the way & intercepting my valiant efforts at every opportunity; thus I seemed doomed to failure. In all seriousness, though, this was a rather sobering concern as I knew the senior ladies would not take kindly to a single ‘virgin’ stranger in their midst – & would butt her black & blue before the day was out if I didn’t do a ‘swift something’ about it. So I persevered. And persevered. And persevered.
Several circuits of the steeply-hilled field later, she began to tire a little (by which time I was absolutely knackered) & I successfully cornered her in a gateway. This time my desperate lunge was spot on & I managed to grab her & actually keep hold; I’m sure the scene was not dissimilar to a rodeo or circus clown act & I’m glad we are completely secluded so that nobody else could witness our antics. The next trick was to get her back through the gate – without anygoat else going through it from either direction who shouldn’t. After some tricky manoeuvring, much grunting (on my part) & ear-splitting yelling (on Aralia’s part, who was still having none of it) I managed to heave the gate open & haul her – nobody else in tow, thankfully – through it. My nerves now in tatters, I staggered up to the house for a much needed cuppa & an opportunity to further shred said delicate disposition with a call to the local Planning Office to try to find out what on earth was going on with our application.
And the news wasn’t good. Despite our secluded location, & our understanding that we legally have Permitted Development Rights to erect an agricultural building as we have over 12.5 acres of land (so submitting an outline application which is cleared if it faces no local objections after 28 days); we have been advised that because the building will be used to house livestock, we have to submit a full planning application (err…so what are agricultural buildings normally used for, if not housing livestock, I’d like to know….?!). This new Planning Application will cost us an additional £160 (the equivalent price of enough concentrate feed to last all our livestock a whole month), takes far longer to process (apparently) & requires detailed building plans to be submitted for consideration. It’s an absolute nightmare as the time already elapsed for consideration of our original application does not count; & the Department had already had the paperwork for just under the 28-day cutoff before they considered the plans & rejected them – a real kick in the teeth. The further we move towards Autumn, the more potential setbacks we face as the weather inevitably worsens – & the more things will be delayed. I honestly cannot see us being ready to start production on 1st March 2008, as we’d planned; in fact I’m worried we won’t have any produce for the Summer market at this rate, which will be a massive set-back for the business. But there’s nothing we can do, other than submit a new, detailed application; & hope for the best. Apparently the ‘protected building’ mentioned as the reason for our reapplication , is not anything on the farm: a house is considered a ‘protected building’ if it is within 400 metres of the proposed development. To our amazement, we were advised that there are at least four dwellings within that curtilage ‘as the crow flies’ – to none of which, our Ffarm is directly visible. However, as we want to use the building for housing animals it could produce ‘offensive smells’, hence the requirement (regardless that anybody could have appealed against our prior application, but did not). And so, the wheels of bureaucracy grind painfully slowly….& we’re crushed by their pondering lumber. It really gets my goat.