Big beasts

Today I start as usual. Let the chooks out of their house, feed the little girls, Holly and Alice. For the first time I take nuts to the three old cows, Flora with her metre wide span of horns, quiet Moira who struggles for her place with no horns at all, and Morag gimping along with chronic arthritis. They all get a bucket, but Morag’s is laced with cod-liver oil in an attempt to keep her mobile even as the damp and cold makes this harder for her. They share the shed with the biggest beast on the farm, bigger even than Billy, my JCB 3X. 23 years old, battered and rusty, I am dependant on the old machine for a whole variety of tasks, but at this time of the year primarily for putting out the silage bales, too heavy to load on the quad hauled bale buggy.
The machine needs coaxing to start, demanding a boost from the battery charger and a squirt of quick-start in the air filtre. Rattled into reluctant life I ease it gently out of the shed, knowing that even brushing against the building uprights, other machinery or hay bales will result in damage like a cuff from an avuncular giant. I reverse into the silage stack, pull down a couple of bales and turning round, load the first bale onto the forks. I head down the farm road to the feeder at the hardstanding, pausing to allow the Nog to scrabble up the high step to join me in the cab. Close to the feeder, I drop the bucket and jump down to cut the wrap and net and tie them back to the fork bars. Lifting the bale high over the feeder, I tilt the bucket forward to drop the bale and then reverse to pull the wraps away from the fermenting grass. As I pull out to the road, Billy has already huiched a pile of silage out of the bale and up into the air where it falls onto his back resting there like a fox fur.
The second bale is destined for the old girls who are now raiding each other’s buckets – that’s fine just so long as Morag took some of the oil-impreganted nuts. Driving up to the fence dividing the calving pen from the store, I touch the front wheels against the line wire and raise the bale over the feeder on the other side. it is just too far to reach with ease, so I give the forks a little upward flick as the bale drops, half lobbing it into the feeder.
Next I turn the machine to the newly delivered stack of building timber, force the forks between the bearers and balance the 4.8 metre lengths in the centre of the bucket on the way into the shed that I am converting for my joinery workshop. Once the timber is stowed inside, I return across the yard and gingerly park up. Igniton off, Nog released, job done.
I would feed the old dear with special oil if I thought it would keep her going longer.


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