To me, there is nothing more positive than the first whiff of boronia to say the season has definitely changed. Nowadays, with imports and large grocery stores, our food supplies are seamless and we can eat, more or less, what we like - when we like. Gone are the days of gorging ourselves on the first peas (gobbled out of the pod and followed by a good dose of hives) or the first tomato (sliced slightly green onto a cracker and topped with a sprinkling of sugar) or raspberries stolen off the vine (followed by another dose of hives). The food of each season now washes into each other and the joy of being able to anticipate, watch the arrival of, and savour each food that belonged to that time of the calendar only, has become a distant memory. And so I stood poised, dirty calfateria in one hand, halter in the other, and, for the first time this year, sniffed and breathed and indulged in the fragrance of boronia.
For the rest of this week, the side veranda where the boronia sits has been my favourite spot at Middelmost. With the boronia, I have shared my coffee, my brunch, my book, my wine, and cheese. I have savoured the subtle aromatic changes as time has passed through each day. I have experienced another segment of this year’s cycle and, with respect to Mother Nature, I have not wasted her gift. This is the reason I left the rat race - to be able to follow the rhythms of Mother Nature. The boronia reminds me of this and in a few months' time, during the mid-summer heat, I will stand in the shade of the orange trees and let the scent of their blossoms remind me again.
With the boronia setting the scene for a laid-back week, the cows have wandered in and out each day looking very motherly but with no results. They can’t be bothered and, although both Little Cream Cheese and Poppy showed some gleamings on Saturday, that’s as far as it has gone. As soon as I noticed their gleamings (a stalactite of clear jelly-like fluid hanging down from their rear ends) I noted the time and rushed inside to tap the barometer. No - it hadn’t moved. I went back out and circled them, mentally checking my ‘Cow About to Calve’ list. Were their eyes rolling? No. Had their tummies dropped? No. Were their pin-bones pointing? No. Had their udders suddenly widened? No. Were their teats leaking? No. I went back to the boronia, they went back to the grass, and the timer button was reset on my watch. Every year my Learned-Friend-of-Many-Years says, “The babies will come when they are cooked and no sooner!” But, with two sets of gleamings, and with Africa’s udder getting so wide her back legs are beginning to take on a forty-five-degree lean, I am constantly checking the barometer. I have a feeling it will all happen when the air pressure next drops.
One of my best resources in the district is the local volunteer fire brigade. What an amazing source of information. My advice to anybody moving into a rural area is: GET TO KNOW A VOLUNTEER FIREMAN. The local volunteer firemen have a social club that will, as a collective group, do all manner of jobs to raise funds for their ‘social clubbing’. Paint a roof, repile a shed, shift furniture … the list is endless and it was the local fire brigade who supplied the iron for my new calf pens - they had just taken it off someone’s roof. When I was looking at buying a garden shed, one of the firemen knew of someone who was moving out of the district and had one they didn’t want to take with them.
The next major purchase for Middelmost was another water tank to ease the need to drastically ration water during the summer months, but the cost of purchasing a new tank was so major it was rather out of the financial reckoning! However, one of the firemen knew another fireman who had five unused concrete tanks at the back of his shop and another fireman knows a bloke who has a truck with the lifting equipment to pick a couple up and deliver them and the first fireman said he’d arrange a crew to prepare the site and help put them in place - all for a modest fee and a few beers. Done deal! All of this, of course, will need to be fitted in around them picking people up off the road and them doing their normal jobs. I’ll be patient, especially as another one of the firemen is the local plumber and he is happy to connect the tanks up while the team is there to help him.
Last Thyme’s lesson this week was “How to Wear a Saddle” and he well and truly wormed his way back into my heart by being such a good boy. I saddled Luke up as usual with Last Thyme tied up beside him (as usual), except I repeated the process putting the old saddle onto Last Thyme. He is quite used to things being chucked on him and when it came to doing the girth up he really didn’t mind so long as I kept scratching his tummy. So, with one hand carefully doing the gear up and the other brushing him with the plastic currycomb, he was saddled. After a quick cuddle, I took the gear off and gave him a carrot. “Saddling Lesson Number Two” was a repeat of the first lesson but this time I left him beside Luke and went back into the tack room. Still, he didn’t mind especially as he was able to twist his head around and chew the stirrup leathers! “Lesson Number Three” was a little walk around with the saddle on with still no bad reactions. I’m hoping that by the end of next week I will be able to saddle him up and lead him beside Luke while I go for a quiet ride. Or perhaps the week after - it just depends on how long the boronia lasts!