On Monday I was SO CLOSE to giving Last Thyme away!!! I have had a really bad week with the little monkey. Firstly he decided that roody-noodies was a good game and stripped everything off everybody. Luke lost his cover - it was shredded. Last Thyme's cover was in a neat pile, not a strap undone, and the cows had their halters spread from one end of the big paddock to the other. His lordship thought he was very clever. Now - this was after I had discovered why Mr. Pig was continually telling me he was hungry.
"You lie!" I had kept saying to Mr. Pig but, no...he wasn't and it took me a couple of days to discover the reason.
The feeding and milking routine rarely changes here and Last Thyme's scheming little brain had sorted this out to his advantage. I thought he was just playing a game when he raced in the back gate each day with Sweet Pea and Bossy Boots. He got his cuddle and a big scratch around his ears and seemed contentedly settled as I popped Sweet Pea in with her calves and invited Bossy Boots into the milking bay. While Bossy Boots munched her feed I took Mr. Pig his food and returned to the milking bay with Last Thyme looking innocently at me from the other side of the cow shed paddock. I would get down to the job of milking with Last Thyme climbing up the ramp and putting his head over the stable door about halfway through the milking process. Bossy Boots doesn't mind Last Thyme at all and it was nice to have someone to chat to but I suddenly realised, one morning, that he had garlic skins stuck to his nose. There had been garlic peelings in the scrap bucket! That night I continued the routine as usual but, after a minute of milking, I stood up and had my suspicions confirmed. There was Last Thyme, head over the fence, eating the pig food! Mr. Pig's feed bin has now been shifted.
Because it was cold at night and, because I hadn't been able to get Luke's cover in to be repaired, I was having to bring both horses into the boxes each evening and put the woolen stable rugs on them to keep them warm. On Saturday night I forgot to put down the roller door of the garage (which is right next to where Last Thyme sleeps). What an invitation! In the morning I found the tomato stakes impaled in the strawberry tree - which is on the other side of the horse float! He had pulled a large tarpaulin out, dragged it into his box, shaken it open, and poo-ed on it. The bucket of brushes had been emptied and I'm still looking for the hoof pick. A container of oil was heaved out onto the driveway and, generally, any item his wicked teeth were able to grasp had been turned into a missile and launched!
Oh well, I thought - my mistake. But on Monday I came home from shopping to find the local handyman (who was putting in a new fence for me) about to shove him down a posthole and concrete him in. His first misdemeanor was when the local handyman had stopped his car and trailer to open the gate from the big paddock into the milking shed paddock. Last Thyme thought a box of nails was just the thing to lift out of the trailer and toss across the grass. The second misdemeanor was when the local handyman left his shovel propped up in the hole he was digging and stepped back to check the line of the posts. Last Thyme gleefully leaned over the fence, grabbed the shovel in his mouth, and galloped off across the big paddock. The local handyman then had a continuing battle to put the rails up. Every time he tacked a rail on and stepped back to make sure it was straight you-know-who leaned over the fence again and pushed it off! I kept my cool, and the peace, by bringing him in and giving him a two-litre plastic milk container with some stones in it to play with. While Last Thyme made a hell of a racket happily tossing it about in the stable, the fence was finished and the local handyman made his escape.
I turned him out with a few cross words but he didn't care. He just turned around and back to the gate with me, reached his head over my shoulder, snuggled softly into my arms, and sighed a sigh, which seemed to say, "That was fun, Mum, and I do love you." Alas - I am so easily bribed.
Africa still hasn't popped (talk about the watched pot) and Sweet Pea loves her babies. For the first few days I kept her calves in the milking shed stable and, between mouthfuls of grass, she would moo from the big paddock. On the first really sunny day this week, I let the calves out into the milking shed paddock after Sweet Pea had been put back out into the big paddock. The calves ran up. Sweet Pea ran up. The calves ran down. Sweet Pea ran down. All day long she mooed and ran, mooed and ran. I compensated for her lack of eating with an extra large hard feed and an extra slice of hay when she came in to feed them that night and, after two days, she had settled down and was happy to wander a short distance away from the fence separating them and eat grass. Although she is a 'worrier' and needs more feeding than the others to keep her blooming, her excellent nurse-cow nature more than makes up for it.
Unfortunately, her calf, being what is termed in commercial dairying circles an unidentified jersey bull, has his fate sealed and he has been called Wellington (of the beef variety!). I will not make friends with him and he will be grazed out somewhere far away. It's horrible to think of while he is so tiny and so cute but as a great, hulking, snorting two-year-old steer in somebody else's paddock, my emotions will be quite different. My mouth will water thinking about the up-and-coming meals of rump steak that can be cut with a butter knife. Or the smell of topside, steam roasted with sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, oregano, and basil. No, he's such a sweetie now but I'll have no difficulty later. This is subsistence farming at its best. It is my job to pamper him and to provide for all his needs and further down the track, after a swift and humane dispatch, it will be his turn to pamper and provide for mine.
I'm wondering how I can instill this philosophy into Last Thyme. Can I last the distance? We aren't going to reach the Terrible Twos until February next year and the track, at the moment, is looking rather bumpy.