There is snow in the air, on the ground and on the beasts’ backs. They can’t forage in these conditions, however slim the winter pickings and it makes these opportunist grazers nervous, like card sharps at a bingo night.
There must be accessible grass some other surely place. Those other animals that can be seen and heard – maybe they are stealing a march, living better.
This doesn’t pose too much of a problem except when I have bales to put out which means opening gates from one paddock to another without mixing the stock -who are very keen to mix. Today I have two bales to put out.
I let the two little girls out and even open the old blacksmith’s gate to the wood bordering the yard – so they can get lost. Well, at least explore for a while. Run along and play little ones! This clears them from the yard while I pull down some silage bales, arrange them in a line so there’s something to push against, and drive the forks under the front one. The animals have mustered at the gate ready to mount an insurgency so I prepare a bucket of feed that will pacify Billy the ringleader and set it down a ways apart. I have the machine almost resting at the gate braked on its rear rams that need lifted before I can let the machine freewheel through. I need to judge just how far to go so as to allow the gate to close, and misjudge it at first, wasting time. By the time I’ve dropped the bucket hard enough to lift the front wheels, one of the stotts is working his way past my side window. I jump down the other side and get to the gate just before he does.
Down the road, drop the bale in the feederi on the hardstanding, roll up the balewrap and net and back for the next. I discover that I am wearing the wrong coat for this operation: army surplus cammy jacket – with buttons – lots of buttons. Every time my arms get close to the net or it brushes my chest, the buttons snag on the net like sprats- my cuff, my pocket, my chest – so that at times I am attached at multiple points like Gulliver.
Little Holly has wandered back from the wood to wait at the gate, clearly keen to join the others feeding below. I chuck the feedbucket behind her- she won’t be distracted. I shoo her away, before mounting the four foot step to the cab, she returns. I shoo her a bit further and edge the machine through, scraping past the gatepost nearest her: she is waiting. I jump down again, shoo again, she returns again- this time outflanking me on the open side. At this point I lose patience with mischievous heifers, netted buttons and all things slushy and run at her yelling and cussing – at last she flounces off into the wood and I can proceed onward serenely, if shamefaced.
The digger is now parked and the quad comes into play – the ground is too soft to take the big machine down the slope to the Aspen paddock – and the quad won’t carry a heavy silage bale. I topple a hay bale by climbing into a gap, setting my knees against its neighbour and shuffling upwards until the upright bale tips sideways. I can now pull it onto the buggy with the the ingenious scorpion tail grab and head back down.
I pass the feeding beasts as fast as I can in the snowy conditions to make it to the gate and safety, like Wells Fargo. However, the Injuns are after me in the shape of some stotts galloping the hill as I push through the gate. I let the quad run through, turning its wheels uphill so it stops against the fence (see the alternative: todaysstoryblog December 15th….) and run back to close the gate in their faces.
At the Aspens, Alice alone is waiting at the empty feeder. I am about to check in the willows where the animals might get stranded by a flood, when I feel I’m being watched and turning round I find Angus Halfhorn and Demi Og glaring at me from the shed in mute rebuke for late breakfast. They are protected from the falling snow in the improvised shelter: I am pleased that they are using it.
I leave the gate open on the way out: it’ll will provide them with something to investigate this damp winter day and perhaps calm them if they find there is no more grass in the next door field.
Calm is good.