Ever had ‘one of those days’….?
Well I did – today. For a start I managed to damage my hand whilst weeding the beds in the vegetable garden, a cumulative effect after yesterday’s wild weeding spree of the Arrivals Yard. To be honest I didn’t feel anything other than a slight ‘twinge’ whilst I was working but by the time I’d given myself a ‘breather’ between Evening Chores & the kids’ last feed, my hand had well & truly seized up: thumb & first two fingers, with shooting pain right up to the elbow – not ideal for a farmer who needs to use her hands all the time! Cheesemaking is an art; caring for our animals is a science; but living is a subtle balance of the healthy senses, which are oddly at odds, today.
But this was nothing, compared to the dreadful news to rock the UK’s farming community: Foot & Mouth Disease – FMD – is back, in its’ full, grotesque glory. The grey sky highlighted the black mood of every owner of every ruminant in Britain when the grim news was emblazoned across the Press at around 10am. Unlike the previous cases, DEFRA appear to be a bit more ‘on the ball’ as, by the time I’d finished the usual exhausting round of jobs by 10.30pm a stilted, pre-recorded message had been left on the Answerphone formally informing us that we were no longer to move any livestock, anywhere until further notice. Lucky I make sure I catch the news headlines each & every hour: the DEFRA message had been left late in the afternoon whereas the latest FMD news story had broken much earlier that morning. But hey, that’s a distinct improvement, on last time: the first vital information to be dispatched advising us on essential measures to prevent the spread of this notoriously virulent disease, arrived almost two weeks after the initial outbreak had been confirmed! On that dread occasion, the moment we heard the awful news via the BBC we took immediate precautionary measures to prevent the disease entering our premises; but many of our neighbours didn’t realise the full gravity of the situation until at least 24 hours after the imposition of all the restrictions – far too late; & even that was via word of mouth & the press, rather than from any information provided by our Governmental Lords & Masters.
And so here we go again: I rushed into Carmarthen to buy yet more outrageously expensive disinfectant mats (approx £50 for a 2ft-square piece of thick plastic foam, basically) so that our vehicle tyres will be suitably soaked whenever we return to the Ffarm; the pieces of carpet we used for the previous outbreak had served us well, but had become a little worn in patches. Meanwhile I needed to ‘top up’ Nanuk’s fresh meat ration in a continued effort to bring her up to the optimum weight for her breed & energetic work level. I finally managed to speak to Tony en route from Beirut regarding the grave FMD situation, as to compound matters Heathrow Airport falls within the latest Suveillance Zone which with his regular commuting to & from work there, is an added worry. So Tony got the car cleaned, very thoroughly, on the way home.
Meanwhile I returned to the Ffarm to find that the picture of tranquillity I’d left only a couple of hours before had deteriorated into utter bedlam: the ponies had been grazing quietly on the Middle Yard as I’d chugged up the drive – but as soon as I was out of the way, Toto had evidently been ‘in cahoots’ with the Milkforce, who were playing in the adjacent Parc Dyffryn (the ‘Valley Field’). Working together, the goats chewed steadfastly through the thick rope which secured the gate; whilst Toto pushed at it with his podgy pony bottom until he’d sprung the catch. Then the ponies galloped gaily into the lush grass of the field, & the goats swapped places causing mayhem on the yard with their curiosity to be in everything & be everywhere, that they shouldn’t. On my return they were attempting to dismantle the horse box which had been moved temporarily onto the yard to allow access to the haybarn when we brought in the last bales & so drastic measures were called for – I had to get them into their accommodation, as quickly as possible. Fortunately the majority followed me straight in – & it was then that I discovered I’d left the gate open from their pen to the milking parlour – & of course, being goats, they just had to explore! Meanwhile the reprobates who had opted not to go to bed just yet, ran up & down the corridor, yelling loudly & having a high old time until I managed to persuade everyone into their lovely soft bed with plenty of food. Meanwhile Nanuk was encouraging the frantic activity with ear-splitting howls which bounced from one end of the valley to the next, adding even further to her excitement, to the goaty mayhem, & unfortunately to the noise level.
My next challenge was to catch the ponies & get them back into their stables; I had been tempted to leave them out overnight as by now dusk was falling; but having seen the length & lushness of the grass, I knew to leave them there would be a potetially fatal mistake – Sabe is prone to laminitis, a debilitating & painful inflammation of native ponies’ feet which is basically caused by consumption of too much sugar-rich grass. Luckily, as darkness finally fell, I managed to gain the element of surprise with Sabe; he gave up without a struggle but sulked all the way back to the stables. However Toto was not so easily persuaded: the closer I attemped to edge, the further he skipped merrily away. Eventually however the old ‘rattling bucket of feed’ worked its’ magic; still steadfastly refusing a hand on his headcollar he waltzed his way back to bed without a care in the world. I shut the stable door with a big sigh of relief, & headed off to finish the rest of the chores, my hand now throbbing painfully. Tony arrived, exhausted from his taxing days’ work & long drive home just as I was finishing giving the kids their final bottle feed of the day; we headed into the house & closed the door against the night – & the nightmare that FMD has returned – with relief that this dire day was over at last. Oh to have a desk job…..?! Well, maybe not.