I spluttered awake as the little goat pirouetted neatly from her vantage point at the foot of the bed & scored a direct hit right in the centre of my supine stomach. Despite the merest grey glimmer of dawn on the wooded horizon she’d already decided it was her breakfast time. OK, so no lie-in for Jo (again), then.
I fed Madam & the cats; took Nanuk for a brisk walk & gave her the morning meal before cleaning her pen; then it was time to tackle the chores before coming in for my own well-earned breakfast. Whilst going through the week’s post after my delicious duck egg-on-toast I received a ‘phone call from Boo to say she’d be over later, for some sacks of manure; so I hastened on with paperwork knowing we’d doubtless take time for a chat over a cup of tea.
Boo came over in the afternoon & set to work filling sacks of well-rotted manure for the vegetable patch & flower garden she’s planning. With Roberta-Goose having nine eggs in her nest now, partner Dave took umbrage to Boo’s unfamiliar presence on the farmyard; & hissed, hooted & rattled his feathers at every opportunity, when not stretching out his snaky buff neck & taking threatening steps toward her, beady little orange eyes glaring balefully. I interevened, wagging my finger crossly at the boastful goose, his cacophany of complaint repeatedly echoing up & down the otherwise peaceful, sun-filled valley.
“Oh, give it a rest, Dave!” I cried in frustration.
“Well, Jo; I’d rather listen to your geese here in this lovely valley, than be sitting in an office with the noise & stench of an endless stream of traffic going past the window,” Boo observed; & of course she has a point.
Sometimes, even here in this little slice of paradise, I suppose familiarity can breed complacent contempt.
As she was coming back for a second carful of manure bags, I took the opportunity to save some fuel & car-share with Boo, & was dropped off in town to do some admin (going to the bank, post office, etc) whilst she unloaded the first consignment. By now the sky had become overcast, the brisk wind blowing leaden clouds across the shops, hills & houses of the little market town, swirls of bitterly cold sleet making me regret not pulling on a coat before we’d left the brightness of the valley. I was relieved to clamber back into the car & return to the farm.
After bagging up a second round of manure sacks accompanied (as ever) by the unmelodious cackling shrieks of an eternally angry Dave, we paused for a much-needed cuppa to take off the chill of early evening. I fed little Bechan, who skipped round the living room, bouncing with all four feet off the floor in energetic, joyous play after her milky meal, every now & again running up for a cuddle & approval at her antics. My friend watched in wonderment.
“It’s such a privilege to share the same space as this beautiful, remarkable little creature – especially knowing what a tenuous start to life she had” Boo remarked. The little goat, leaping with lightness of heart & spirit, as delicate as a deer, was blissfully unaware that there is anything in life other than playing happily; sleeping in a comfortable, warm bed; & enjoying plenty of lovely, warm milk. And yet there are those of the vegan persuasion who castigate me; & say that I mercillessly exploit animals for profit……personally I’d happily swap places for the comfortable, easy, well-fed life this little Madam will lead. Or perhaps they’d have preferred I’d just let her die.
After Boo ha loaded up her now-fragrant car & headed homewards I resumed work & started the evening chores a little earlier than usual, aware that it would be a particularly long & taxing evening when Tony arrived home & we separated the goats from their kids.
But when I went to feed sheep I found our small, black, feisty Shetland sheep Headcase, suckling what appeared to be one of Alchemilla’s twins; & assumed that either she was being patient or for some reason had hijacked it – until I realised with a shock, that it was actually hers, & had been born unannounced whilst we’d been sipping tea! I hastily gathered up the lamb & calling to Headcase, put them both indoors in one of the freshly-cleaned pens after which Headcase lived up to her name & commenced her gratuitous attack against me every time I went near the lambing shed door, furiously headbutting the nearest wall whenever I walked in & snorting like an angry bull. Trying to pick up the lamb in the confines of the pen to check her over & spray her navel with protective iodine, proved delicately tricky manoeuvre & I only narrowly avoided a cracking ‘Glaswegian Kiss’. Therefore with the mother’s fiery temperament, this little lamb was dubbed Crosswort.
Tony returned from Damascus later in the evening but although both he & I were very tired, the pace of work didn’t falter as we knuckled down to moving the mothers into their new accommodation & settling the kids in theirs, an operation which took about an hour & a half.
We finally switched out the farmyard lights at around 10pm once we were fully satisfied that all creatures great & small were finally settled – time to go indoors at last, where I rustled up a hasty meal before heading off to bed for tomorrow’s early start: for now, with twice-daily milking & kid-feeding four times per day, the work really begins in earnest……