Farm Life, Living with Nature, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

Drover Storm quarters her cattle

Drover Storm arrives at the farm in the night. She strides overland from mid-Atlantic pastures bringing her wild black beasts behind. She carries a fencing spike in one hand and with the other broadcasts hail and sleet from a seed bag hanging from her shoulder. She hurls these indiscriminately against rooves and windows. Her cattle lurch ashore over Ben Nevis and stampede inland kicking their heels in the air and raking trees with their lowered horns. I hear the swish of her skirts before the storm-herd charges against the shivering house. The more malevolent beasts prop a horn against a corner and bunch their powerful haunches to force the resistant fabric, straining to rip the roof off, shatter the windows and collapse the walls before charging onwards.
Snow lies outside my door in the morning, a light covering spread by a mean housekeeper, not a blanket. The cattle are like the trees, encrusted with snow on exposed flanks. Their backs will remain white for a good part of the day, they are so well adapted to retaining heat. The ailing Wyandotte is huddled by the gate to the yard where I have to disturb her to spread feed for the baby girls: Holly is puzzled by her presence nuzzling her gently before turning with me to the trough.
Morag reclines in the shed where I am pleased to find she has learned to protect herself in the shelter; she growls, responding to an outraged bellow from the big stott telling me that he is not only cold and wet but also hungry. I need to refill the feeder on the hardstanding, time to urge the chilled metal of the JCB into life: it doesn’t co-operate. The cattle must wait while I drive to Newtonmore for red diesel, which doesn’t pump so I have to pay full price for road fuel.
Down the road again, this time the machine starts, a bale is lifted at the yard and dropped in the feeder, the animals gather quickly to gorge – apart from Billy who stays at the gate. I let him in before bringing the big machine through.
He waits patiently while I drop the bale wrap in the dustbin by the gate and park the digger. I walk over to him, he half turns his head away. He is looking slightly hollow in the saddle and I prop my chest into the cavity leaning against him and stretching my arms, scratching his spine with my left hand and tickling his ribs with my right. He shifts his horns halfheartedly as if to reprimand me when I haven’t quite hit the spot. I notice the scratches and battlescars on the back of his giant horns. I lead him out of the gate with bucket of feed and close it behind him.
Snow is falling vertically now, the day proceeds after the night before.


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