Buppy has gone to Heaven. Although she was still waddling out of the flat and demolishing a hearty meal twice a day, her deep, brown eyes had grown darker with sightlessness, and negotiating her way back to the couch had become an activity needing assistance. She seemed comfortable enough and was obviously enjoying the company she now had to rely on, but at the beginning of the week she passed blood when she watered the lawn and I called the vet. Buppy didn't mind, she was on the couch relaxing after her lunchtime cuddle when the deed was done. She was happy to shake her paw with the Learned Lady Vet and her head was on my lap as she slipped peacefully away. My concern was for Albert. He came and saw, watched her being buried the next day, and then carried on with life as animals do. I took his cue...like Albert, I did the same. But yesterday we both bumped into each other in the flat ... like me, he had popped in to check the couch.
It's a week before Xmas and everything is so miserable. The cows are depressed and sodden, the horses are dejected and grumpy, the garden has drooped below recognition point and today I watched my newly planted pea crop float away. I think God decided to clean His water tank out for Xmas and guess where He emptied it? Two inches in one hour!!! As my Xmas travel plans floated off with the peas (nothing to do with God but more to do with a lack of money) I decided Xmas day shall be spent in bed with a good book, a huge jar of pickled onions, and a large bottle of bubbly. With the 25th forecast for yet more rain, I intend to be very anti-social and sulk the day away. Mrs. Pig is going to have a bucket of cream, Last Thyme and Luke have a twenty-kilo bag of carrots to share, the cows will have a loaf of bread and a cabbage each, and I have a big can of salmon in the cupboard for Albert. Depression has overcome us all and this time I no longer have the ability to rebuff its clammy burden. Instead, I am going to join the animals and immerse myself in their horribleness. No more false cheerfulness and hopeful comments about how "it can't get any worse" or "it has to stop soon". No! I am going to curse and vent and grizzle and moan and cast expletives at every drop of rain soaking through my raincoat. I am going to stamp through the mud with a swear word to help each stride and I am going to don my waterproof snow gear and replant the pea crop! If Xmas is going to be an aqueous affair then so be it, but I am going to make darn sure that I celebrate its soaking depths to the best of my ability!
With the weather being so unkind, strange, and unseasonable things are happening, and, with the humidity one day and the freezing southerly the next, one is constantly pressed into safeguarding the stock from its effects. I have noticed lots of coughing animals in the district - particularly calves - and, with the help of a friend, my weaners were all given an extra drench to counteract any lungworm. This week I started giving the cows a teaspoon of powdered garlic twice a day and their hard feed ration has been doubled. The calves still at Middelmost are having extra milk and meal, and Luke and Last Thyme are never left with an empty baleage net. I overheard a stock agent and a farmer yakking about the tough spring we were having. The stock agent was saying he 'takes his hat off to anyone who can raise good-looking calves this year'. My calves look good and I intend to keep them that way even if I have to spend the extra money I made when the autumn-born calves fetched such good prices. I know the girls will pick up again quickly when things get better but at the moment they are 'milking off their backs'. I looked at Poppy the other day and thought, "Good grief Poppy, you look like a dairy cow!" And Cream cheese is no longer fat - just plump - which is, as far as she is concerned, a calamity. Sweet Pea, Africa, and their five calves are looking good but they are grazing out in a very sheltered paddock with a thick mixture of lush Clover and hard Timothy and Rye. Bossy Boots is concerning me a bit. She is still well rounded and her calf, Gumboot, is bonny but Pumpkin seems a little too hollow for my liking. I have a feeling Bossy Boots is not producing enough milk at the moment to feed two calves. I am going to bring Pumpkin back into the shed tonight and start to give her a night feed from the calfateria. That should keep the condition on Bossy Boots and it will also allow Gumboot that extra bit of milk to ensure this weather doesn't give her progress a knock.
And so the rain continues to pour down, I have lit the fire to ward off the chilly evening and a neighbour has just dropped off some invoices for me to process - I help her with her weekly office work. She obviously detected my low spirits and cheerfully sang out as she waved her way off down the drive.
"Chin up," she called, "It can't get much worse than this!" and, as I wandered back past the flat, I gazed in at the empty couch and thought, "I suppose you're right."