With the warm rainy nights and the hot sunny days earlier this week at Middelmost, everything is growing with gay abandon. The spring flowers are making way for the summer blooms, the vege gardens have plants thrusting up everywhere, the calves are bonny and bouncing, and Mrs. Pig is expanding on all sides. But, with the good comes the bad. The weeds have gone mad, the magpies have multiplied and the possum population has proliferated, and to cap it all off - Poppy was a piece of an absolute baggage!
Now, this is the time of the year where, if you don't keep on top of things, you are in grave danger of disappearing into a depressed bundle of helplessness, which occasionally can be seen to wave a little placard that reads, "I'm not coping!!". You leap out of bed every morning ranting "Attack! Attack!" as the list of Things-to-be-Done-NOW stretches beyond the hours available. Experience has taught you that crumpling towards the placard doesn't help - you have no choice as you go into automotive mode and face the challenge.
Sleep and housework were put into the 'Another-time' basket, the week was scaled systematically task-by-task and, with time brutally shortened because of a previously arranged commitment, some drastic actions were taken. The weeds wandering wildly across the new orchard garden had their heads roughly chopped off with the Dutch hoe and a two-inch layer of sawdust dumped on top. The sprouting vegetables looked happier and by the time the weeds have pushed through again my timetable will hopefully be less hectic and I will be able to deal with them properly.
I am quite tolerant of the odd possum scuttling across the stable roof and leaping into the grapefruit tree but, when a platoon of possums ponce past leaving a trail of tipped-over buckets, knocked down tools, broken branches, and puddles of piddle on the back porch, my generosity plummets. Likewise, I don't mind a magpie or two nesting in the big old plum tree out in the forest, but when you have to put an ice-cream container on your head before you go out to feed the pigs, a bit of culling becomes a necessity. My pest control programme swung into action and a young bloke up the road was offered a can of beer for every possum or magpie he came and shot!
Poppy was a different matter. For the Saturday evening milk, she was what I call a 'Celtic Cow' except I couldn't quite catch the rhythm of the jig she was dancing. Being rather stretched, as the jobs stacked up, I didn't need a foot in the milking bucket let alone two feet in the milking bucket! It was my fault - I had forgotten what it was like to milk a cow who was in season. I hadn't noticed she was sweaty and that her udder was not as full as it should have been. She had spent the day pacing around the big paddock looking for men and eyeing up anything that could be promising...the weaner bulls four paddocks over...the lampposts...Luke. My patience ran out and I threatened to put her on a truck to the sale yards as a boner! She didn't care and I was dealt another thwack with her tail.
Fortunately, for her, this malady usually lasts only a couple of milkings and by Monday we were best buddies again. I had also taken time out on Monday afternoon, which could have put me in a better mood as well. Jerseys are like children. They seem to be able to pick the right time to maximize the impact of paddy and she would obviously have sensed my frenetic feelings during the week. I had filled a tall champagne glass with a refreshingly cold marrow and ginger wine and had toured the property taking stock and assessing my efforts. I was impressed. By the time I had looped through the orchard (and back to the kitchen for a refill), around the paddocks (and back to the kitchen for a refill), in and out the tyres in the berry garden (and back to the kitchen for a refill!) things were becoming far more relaxed. Even a mountaineer, pulling forward foothold by foothold, stops occasionally and takes in the view. On Monday afternoon I took in the view and, like the mountaineer, was encouraged by the distance I had travelled.
The Three Little Pigs (who weren't little but were rather large and rather horrid) are at the butcher hanging. On Friday, with their heads down and their faces in a feed, none of them knew a thing. It was gobble-gobble-gobble, pop, lights out. The Farm Kill Operator I use is excellent and there is no fuss, no bother, and no dramas. This equates to no stress and meat which is full flavoured and so tender that the roasts don't need to be carved. The operator is licenced and has the facilities to do the job efficiently and hygienically. His refrigerated truck squeezes down the drive, he unloads the big scalding bin in the paddock, pops the pigs off, does the gutting and scraping bit, hangs the pigs to set in his truck, cleans and packs everything up (including the offal) and drives away leaving a small patch of grass with hair on. All I need to do is mow this patch with the lawnmower and tip the clippings and hair into the compost bin. After the first shower of rain (or a quick hose), all the evidence is gone. I could have the pigs killed in the morning and have a garden party in the afternoon!
I couldn't bear to see my animals shoved and beaten into a strange vehicle and driven off to an unknown and frightening place where the last thing they ever knew was terror. In the circle of life, their dispatch closes a link. This has to be accepted and I am not being hard or callous as I stand there quietly chatting whilst they are dispatched. I am making sure that it is as pleasant as possible for them to fulfill their purpose and join the ends of their particular circle together.
So, it has been a hectic week. Pumpkin is bright and happy and is the sweetest little calf one could ever wish for; my previously arranged commitment was lucrative enough for Mrs. Pig to be promised a new house for her and her imminent babies; there is only a small patch of garden left to plant; the last of the beefy calves have been delivered and settled in; the population explosions have been controlled, and I have caught up with the housework. Sleep is next on the agenda and Albert knows the perfect place. As the beronia on the side veranda finished its fragrance, the wisteria on the front veranda burst into great hanging clusters of beautiful mauve blooms, and Albert and I shifted our afternoon tea spot. He now curls up in amongst the freesias beside my chair while the bees in the wisteria flowers above hum us both to sleep in the late afternoon sun. A couple of 'extended' afternoon breaks nodding off, book in one hand, half eaten orange in the other, should see our batteries recharged.