Highland cattle, Uvie Farm

Shadow road

Noise and conflict prevail. Young Alice, newly weaned, is bleating constantly while crash-testing the metal hurdles confining her to the yard. Little Holly, her companion, has a resigned look. I feed them both – the more time I spend with her now the easier she will handle in the future.

At the hardstanding, the boys are shouting at their exclusion by reason of yesterday’s thuggish behaviour towards pregnant Holly. I cannot realistically separate them into four different groups so they are going to have to take their chances. Once they have established precedence, or even arm-wrestled to mutual satisfaction, everyone will settle down; in the meantime there is real danger – not least to myself.
Sure enough – they all set to. Abby wisely takes on a a younger stott: she is pushing head to head in the usual test of strength but using her points as well – if she catches an eye could do real damage. Holly, top cow, takes on the big stott who is bellowing as though he had balls, using the slope to dominate him, and gives a good account of herself. The problem is with the other two stotts who gallop down the hill with their tails up to join the rammy. My job is to run around the gladiators in circles keeping the interlopers at bay so that Holly doesn’t get outflanked and battered. while watching that I don’t get backed into and trampled.
I haven’t had my breakfast yet.
By the time I do, a wary truce prevails.
I can leave now to pursue my second trade: joinery. I take the back road as the animals are gathered around the yard gate and I want to leave them to their own devises for a while. I don’t use this often. It exits to the council road at an acute angle close to a sharp bend so is only allowable as an access road as being in consistent use for agricultural purposes. However, it has another identity – it is the medieval road to the old (Ubhaidh) Uvie township, I am taking the route of the ghosts of this place. These roads looped between adjacent villages and houses; where modern roads are thoroughfares cutting in a direct line between distant destinations, the old roads wander like conversations. It takes me through the birches, one of which has been felled by recent storms. I retreat to collect the chainsaw to cut myself out. The sun is shining now and the wind is warm. There is grass in the tracks of the old road, and water running clear under it. A tall silver birch stands close by discreetly authoritative among downy pubescent companions.
After work I return down the newly cleared road- the moon is bright now, shadow trees lie across my path.


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