Animal stories, Farm Life, Highland cattle, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

Spring into summer

George Halfcalf gets himself stuck behind the fence separating Logan’s meadow, where the main herd luxuriates in the new grass, from the coarse whitegrass and rashes of the wee lochain, beloved of waterfowl.
Winter is over now- not because the leaves are on the trees (apart from the aspens, still gaunt and grey), but because I no longer start the day with a feed-round.
The year does not divide into separate apartments though; I do not step through the door of spring into the renewed world. It moves like a travellator at an airport. After staggering through the dark and cold, lugging baggage, I suddenly step onto a moving belt surging towards the departure gate, blinking and off-balance.                                                                          The martens work in squads,                                        the swallows in pairs,

and I work alone –                                                                  all of us building, relishing the damp warmth lifting vapour from the burgeoning growth at ground level. The birds collect mud from puddles: I collect plasterboard from Inverness.

The birds pick dry moss off the rocks: I buy packs of rockwool. I’m halfway home with the  loaded cattle  trailer before I realise I left them behind.

We all move forward; no-one must be left behind.
George wobbles through the gate, setting out across the lengthening grass.

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Highland cattle

The first day of winter

Ice smears the ground this morning. The air is still. The animals have their heads down on the Apron but I shall feed them today. This marks the start of winter, establishing the pattern that will prevail until the new grass.

The digger is mute and cold – its old engine will not start under its own power so I hook up the charger and squirt juice into the air filter. It turns grudgingly and apparently on its dying revolution fires into life. I let it run for a while, use the time to drain the field roller of water to avoid bursting the welds under the pressure of expanding ice. Picking up the first bale end-on, I drop it to come in sideways, entering offcentre to allow for the skewed pallet fork I bent swinging too fast past a tree, and head down to the hardstanding. The plastic covering the ends of the round bale is cut & I slash hard along the front just above the forks, and pull both wrap and net back against the bucket, tying it to the fork bars. Lifting and tilting I drop the bale and the grass is freed from its covering which now hangs like an untidy flag from my loose knot. The smell of part fermented grass is on my hands now – not a haybale’s wistful reminder of summer but something with sourer notes, reassuring nonetheless.

Returning with a tombstone feeder balanced on the forks, I find that Billy has rammed the bale as though a rival, shifting it several feet unrolling as it goes. A good part of the feed is now at risk from being trampled and lost. Yelling at the delinquent veteran  I hoop the feeder over the bale, reversing to pull it into position like landing a fish. I jump down to pull out as much of I can of the fringe of silage projecting from the ring, while avoiding Billy swinging his horns at marauders.

Taking the second bale to Angus halfhorn and the girls goes smoothly enough, but feed is not enough: I have to ensure their water supply. A few days ago, one of the animals had fallen in the water trough, breaching it. I installed a replacement but finished in darkness and only discovered later that the ballvalve was not closing the incoming supply. The well had emptied but more importantly the pump was hunting for water in the dry borehole and might burn out, leaving the farm waterless. Stripped to my shirtsleeves I feel in the cold water for the machine screw retaining the float, and reset it

Farm duties done, I can now set about some paid employment.

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