migrations of multifarious malfunctions

Sometimes things go wrong
in flocks like birds.
The sky darkens with misadventures
chattering busily
on their way to breed.
I have virtually lost my internet connection my water pump doesn’t work my desktop has gone dark two building deliveries got lost the hot water timer has died
Mind you there are many more things
I depend on
that could go wrong.
Is this a good
or a bad thing?
or just a sign of spring.


Water trauma

Tomorrow I will walk
with the Nog.
Today I worked at the water.
My failing pump
on which I and the guests depend.
I bowsered water in this morning just in time-
this evening I ran out.
Because i thought to have it working.
As I lowered the pump – I came upon a cable end
where there should be none.
My new connection had snagged and parted.
Calum provided me
unexpectedly with a new heatshrink waterproof sleeve
and talked about powering his house by steam.
The way I feel just now
steam would be
a major advance.

Farm Life, farm visitors, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

Night supply

The water in the taps failed at 11.30pm-
after the movie and a couple of drams.
It is Friday after all.
So the guests have no water either.
Outside the sky is clear – but dark.
The quad is out of power – I have no way to bring new water down to the tanks unless I can start it manually.
I don’t remember if it is a kick or pullstart- or where it is.
I prise loose a couple of panels in the torchbeam – it is a pull.
The bowser was left by the tanks; I ride round making as little noise as possible in case I wake sleepers.
The tanks are full- must be electrical. My temporary seal on the pump connections has failed, I guess.
I knock the trip to the pump down and look for the breaker that has tripped. Must be in the garage – but the door won’t open with the power down.
I sneak in via the bunkhouse door – flip the breaker. The pump is whirring in the basement when I return, filling the pressure vessel that supplies the buildings.
Enough to keep the water on for the time being.
I will have to pull the pump from the borehole to make the connections waterproof.
But for now –
sufficient unto the day is the effort thereof.
In short-
though I must fill the tanks tomorrow by bowser-
I can sleep the while.


Quiet Days in Uvie

Moira turns towards the opening in the pen.
She and the halfcalf have been competing for the feed bucket I used to bring them in. It flares out at the top: the little lad insists on inserting his head at the same time as hers. This urge represents nothing less than his new will for life; but the result is ridiculous as two bodies, one large, one small share a dirty red bucket for a head.
She takes a half step towards me, turns and walks steadily down the race to the handling crate where I close the gate behind her.
She stands easily and the litre jar is filled quicky
and then a second.
Yesterday, my friends did this: shared the chore and the pleasure: the obligation to maintain the small perverse life of the calf,

now larger by a name: George.

The sun that shone on them has disappeared and the day has closed in with damp and close cloud. The swallow and martens, returned yeterday, are nowhere to be seen and the mallard duck has abandoned her nest to content herself with one solitary duckling.
Even the Nog is muted-
we’ll walk some hills at the weekend,
and work the week.Image


The first swallow ..(and we’re not talking calf-rearing)

Mike reported the visitor;
passing the window.
I saw the shadow darken the room momentarily,
but was uncertain.
There are starlings nesting under the tin roof of the bunkhouse,
at evening they stand guard on the apex of the roof
like finials.
But Mike says: This wasn’t a starling.
As lunch finishes, I see it.
A single bird, exploring the air above and around the buildings:
the forked tail makes it plain-
the first swallow.
I run out on the deck, yelling:
‘Welcome back buddy!’
At evening, we return from the hill to find Cathy watching housemartins reclaiming the nests that have lined the eaves since last summer.
She revels in the pair surfing the wind, charging at the house before climbing the air to the nests bracketed under the eaves.
These birds, their neighbours and offspring will be riding air currents swirling around the roundhouse for the next six months.
Welcome neighbours.



Cathy takes the halfcalf – straddles him, prises open his teeth with one hand and inserts the teat. She shuggles the bottle and strokes his throat feeling for the movement that signifies a swallow.
‘ There’s one. There’s a big one – goo-oo-od boy’ she croons.
He should be sucking the bottle dry in seconds, as he should clear his mother’s swollen bag – but neither is attractive or necessary to him. Squeeze the milk in, force him to swallow. Squueeze and swallow – Cathy is finding the same rhythm that I adopted with this strange small animal

with the the suicidal yearning for adulthood.

Across the yard, Caroline and Mike are working on Moira- one each side, drawing down the milk: to relieve her and ensure a fund of nutrition for the wee man in case we are unable or unwilling to milk her tomorrow.
I have friends who engage seamlessly with the life of the farm, treating my processes as a challenge, an adventure.

In truth this is not so different from the way I treat them.

My routines are one short step away from experiments. My chores simply improvised stratagems repeated.
All can change, improve –

I am no authority.

Keep it simple.
The water trough needs cleaning: when the girls come in tonight,
they will have clear water to drink.


Introductions over fodder

In the aspen paddock
behind the high fence
at the bottom of the hill,
lives Angus Halfhorn
and his four ladies: Holly the buff-coloured dun, black Abby, red Alice and yellow Demi Og.
They have calves at foot: two red, one black and one white.
Today I am accompanied by Caroline and Mike.
I skoosh the nuts through the fence into the trough to avoid the confusion of competitive foraging, and then enter the enclosure to empty the bag into the second trough.
The cattle move restlessly between the two looking for advantage, but, food finished and nothing to be gained, ease back into their customary placidity.
As we stand by the feeder the animals move slowly, assessing. The babies bunch together apprehensively.
Angus has his head lowered to the trough for the longest time.
Holly moves forward to the feeder where Caroline and Mike stand.
Holly is not looking for silage:
ower your face’ I say to Caroline,

but mind the horns!’

Holly raises her head, licks her nose,
breathes the breath of another female,
another mother.

Farm Accommodation, farm bunkhouse, Farm Life, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

milk from the mother

I am not working alone.
I am with the belay team.
Caroline, Mike and Cathy have come to stay- old friends who blend seamlessly with life on the farm.
The name derives from further work on the borehole pump. I know my repairs have restored function –

but not for long.

The isolator perches precariously above the water that fills the pump housing as a result of my poorly regulated float switch.
In short I have electrical elements in close proximity to a watery element – not a recipe for long term sustainability.
The pump needs withdrawing from the well-
This time though –
I have help.
While I hook the well cover to the hitch on the quad and drive slowly up the field, the rest of the team ease the lines out of the borehole and over the timbers of the enclosure to ensure that the alkythene, power cable and probe line do not entangle with the hawser retaining the pump and motor.
When the cables are refixed – the team then works to lower the pump and its eighty metre tails back into the depths below the herbiage and soil of the farm deep into supporting bedrock.
Hence the belay relay – easing the steel canister in a controlled way into the earth to enable water for use in the roundhouse and bunkhouse.
Earlier we teamed up to strip milk from Moira’s swollen udders – neglected for 36 hours- releasing on both sides simultaneously as a result of extra hands for the work.
No pumping here, no electrical connection,
apart from the age-old grip,


and release

of the hand on the teat,
channelling an ancient goodness
warm from the body of the mother.


Alice gets official

Alice needs tagging.
this means a label punched ineach ear, The numbers relate to the individual animal and my herd. She will carry these through life.
I don’t know how to do it.
She was born in the aspen paddock at the bottom of the farm. Unlike the others born in the calving paddock by the shed where I have handling facilities, here she is running free among the other animals,
In this case free means just that: vigorous and fast: followed by mum.
She will need separating, and containing somehow so that I can catch her and hold her long enough to attach the tags.
Today at feeding, I leave the gate open, walk between her and mum, walk slowly towards the gate so that she sees the opening and uses it, Her sister, pearlwhite Margarita runs through with her.
First step, separated from mum. I can leave them for the while.
After breakfast i dismantle three metal hrdles from the yard, load hem on the trailer, tie them down so that I don’t get beheaded if the heavy metal slides forward down the slope.

In the corner by the gate I set up a new pen parallel to the fence< drive the babies down as the two mums keep pace the othe side, Alice enters the pen, I can swing the gate to. She charges the gate with the mesh, bumps her nose, a bubble of blood appears where she has split her lip, I must move fast so that she doesn’t injure herself further, I chase her round the containing pen until she sticks her head through the bars in an attempt to escape. Grab the tongs with the tags loaded, hold her into the hurdle, my body behind her, catch her head and feel the ear for the skin between the blood vessels.
Little Alice is bleating, crying to be rescued. I check whether I am close enough to be caught by her mother if she decides to charge the mesh with her horns,
At this point the Nog, waiting in the field outside decides that I am clearly intending to murder the child and lends a hand by surging forwards at the calf’s head projecting between the bars. I swear at him and bite down with the first tongs to set the tags in place – withdraw them smoothly and pick up the second. Feel the left ear, check the tongs are the right way round and press together, wihdraw, Done.
Release the baby – open the gate, return her to mum. She is straight on the teat, when she surfaces, her bloody nose is clean, but her ears carry the oversized labels.
508005 100093.
She is official.
Take down the hurdles, reinstate them at the shed.
The architecture of the moment, the machinery of intervention,
is gone as if it had never been.
A calf is sucking.