On Sunday Mrs Pig delivered her babies.
"How's this?" she said, as she opened a can and popped out thirteen little baked beans. She was clucky, I was clucky, the calves in the forest were clucky and Luke tripped-the-light-fantastic around the paddock at the multitudes of tinsy squeaks coming from the pen. (After two years he is quite used to Mrs Pig but he still goes to pieces when Mr Pig comes home or, in this case, piglets arrive.) The cows were fascinated, a visiting friend was fascinated, Albert was delighted (more bacon rinds for breakfast) and the only one who missed out on the whole event was Mr Pig who had left earlier this week to visit Mrs May up the road!
After the initial 'look-see-and-check' session I left Mrs Pig alone. When piglets are first born they are so vulnerable to being accidentally trodden on or sat on, and for the first couple of days I avoid any activity near them that may encourage Mrs Pig to stand up or to move about. Even so, by Monday, two had been squashed. It's a bit sad but it's something that does happen. Although, on the bright side, I suppose thirteen piglets and twelve titties would have been a problem! I will have to curb my urges to poke and prod and count and check and goo and gush for a few days more. Hopefully, by next week, the baked beans should be orientated and organized enough to handle some disturbances and I will be able to lay down some fresh straw for them to scamper about in.
I am having to think about who has to be sold at Middelmost this summer. I usually leave this thinking until December but, with the weather being so horrid my November things have been put off and the void has been filled with further-down-the-track plans. With a slight change in the grazing available next door (and the state of my bank balance) I need to sell three cows this year. That's the easy bit. The hard bit is...which ones? I line them all up, I measure up their goods and their bads, I judge one against the other, I try to sort a list of priorities and preferences - all a waste of time. I love them all and it's too hard to choose.
There's Little Cream Cheese - she's my number one cow and, as a beginner's cow, she is perfect. She is generous and kind, is superbly easy to milk and is giving me an average of seventeen litres a day of the richest, creamiest milk you could ever wish for. She has odd looking horns to match her odd looking udder but she has been my friend for eight years and it would have to be someone very special I would sell her to. Poppy is just as nice. She is a big, careful cow with such dainty manners at dinnertime. Poppy is an 'identified' cow, having been purchased from a herd, and she has a 'BW' and a 'PW' rating which she thinks gives her status above the other cows here at Middelmost. Milking her is a tad more difficult because her udder is so round you have to stretch to reach the far teats, but she gives huge amounts of milk and really enjoys her twice-daily cuddles. Her willingness to be spoilt makes her a pleasure to have. Poppy would be an asset to any farmyard and a great loss to Middelmost if she were sold. Then there is Sweet Pea and Bossy Boots. These two have been together since they were calves and it is going to be rather heartbreaking if they are split up. Both of them are so easy to handle - although Bossy Boots does tend to expect things to be done more quickly than Sweet Pea does. Sweet Pea is just that - sweet. These two cows are so biddable. You can pop calves on them, change their calves around whenever you wish, or milk them by hand. They don't care. If there is a feed at the eating department you can do what you like at the milking department.
Last of all is Little-Out-of-Africa - big, blundering Africa. I am so impressed with Africa's placid nature - but then, she is Cream Cheese's daughter. Because she is a 'first-calver', I haven't hand milked her yet but her qualities as a nurse cow cannot be faulted. At the moment she is feeding two completely different sets of calves each day and doesn't mind a bit. When the older set of calves she is feeding in the morning are weaned I shall start to hand milk her and I don't envisage many problems. With her father being a Friesian I'm looking forward to trying her milk. I think I am going to have quantity as well as quality.
So I ponder and pause and wring my hands and look around for guidance and support - and of course there isn't any. This issue is another of those 'deal-with-it-yourself' things. As 'things' grow and multiply the issue multiplies and grows with it and, try as you may to find reasons, excuses and solutions, the inevitable cannot be escaped. Jonquil, Lilly and Pumpkin are earmarked for the herd and Little Miss Dream is visiting the bull now. Cows have to be sold...but, which ones?
With nearly two weeks of mulling it over, my cowardly mind has made a decision - I shall advertise the lot! If somebody arrives (money in hand) and falls in love with this one or that one...and if that person suits whichever cow it is they have fallen in love with...and if that cow is comfortable and happy with that somebody - well, the decision has been made for me. But if it is Poppy, my milk supply is going to drop drastically...if it's Africa, I will miss out on milking my first 'Middelmost bred' cow...and I'd be so sad to see Sweet Pea and Bossy Boots part company...and Little Cream Cheese is my best friend...