With the water tank overflowing this week, it has been time to catch up on spring cleaning - all of those jobs I couldn’t do in the September drought. The outside of the house was washed, the bed quilts were washed, the car was washed, Luke’s summer rugs were washed, the cowshed floor was washed …. and the water tank was still overflowing! Undaunted I re-filled every water storage container in preparation for the next dry spell, hosed the fallen wisteria flowers off the veranda, cleaned out the gutters, luxuriated in long hot baths, and gave Last Thyme lessons on “How to Have Your Tail Shampoo-ed”. I can’t stand waste and, until the two new (as in second-hand) tanks are installed, I tried to prevent the abundance of rainwater from going out the overflow pipe and ‘onto the floor’. Every drain and plughole has been flushed with a strong solution of hydrated lime and all of the outdoor furniture has been scrubbed down and de-spidered. I could almost hear the neighbours musing “Nutty Woman” as they drove past me standing in the pouring rain washing down plastic chairs. But, make hay while the sun shines I say, and I have made sure that every job that needs water to be done has been done.
The five Black Angus babies have gone to boarding school. One of the neighbours came in to say her parents had just bought another block of land and were needing some stock to eat the copious amounts of grass - fancy that. So, the five black babies were drenched and were last seen disappearing into the undergrowth! The dream was also given a trip in the horse float and is now with a small group of heifers visiting a rather handsome-looking jersey bull that the new property owners have, and it looks as if most of the other calves I am raising will be able to be grazed there when I wean them at Christmas time. When the new property owners came to Middelmost to have a look at my stock they were very interested in the white-faced heifers that Poppy is feeding. Sounds good to me … they have far too much grass and need to give some away … I have far too many calves and will need to give some away - fancy that!
The babies left at Middelmost all had their horns removed this week. It’s a horrible necessity and not something for the squeamish. The de-horning man I use brings his own crate with a head bale that fits into the back of his van. The two of us can lift it out easily and it is positioned up against the wall in the cowshed with one of the internal gates acting as a lane to it. One by one the calves are moved into the crate and secured safely front and back. A gas-heated hollow-ended iron is fitted snugly over the horn bud and held until the deed is done. This is the squeamish part as the smoke pours off and the disgusting smell wafts past. It’s the same smell as a burning hoof when a horse has a hot shoe fitted - except it doesn’t hurt the horse. Some of the calves just accept it and others bellow their heads off and I could see Cream Cheese, Poppy, Sweet Pea and Africa anxiously pacing up and down the back fence mooing worried-sounding moos. I felt stink, like a mother reassuring her youngster just before the Diphtheria jab. However, like the jab, it only takes a few seconds for the horn bud to be removed and cauterised and, with a quick spray of iodine, the calf is released to scamper back to its mates. The whole procedure for eighteen calves took three-quarters of an hour, cost the equivalent of three dozen beers and is certainly much kinder than cutting the horns off later when they are adults.
The hard part came next - the post-operational care. Apart from all of the usual signs to look for - shock, depression, infection, secondary injuries - I also had the weather to contend with and for the last couple of days the calves have been kept in the shed with a deep, fresh bed of straw to snuggle into and a heat lamp in one of the stalls for the jersey babies. Little Miss Jonquil suffered shock. She was shaking, lying curled up, not caring in which direction her head lay and she was also not making any effort to avoid being stood on by the others. I separated her, put her best friend Lily with her for company, fitted her out in one of my old jerseys, rigged up a desk lamp as a heat source, encouraged her to nibble a bit of Sweetfeed and by morning she was back to normal. All of the other calves were fine except Little Miss Pie (Pumpkin’s friend). She was obviously irritated by the wounds on her head and, when I saw her trying to scratch them with her back hoof, I decided to spray the wounds with Solarcaine (which is an antiseptic - local anaesthetic). That did the trick. Two applications, three hours apart, were all that was needed to get her over the first day and by day two she was bouncing around as usual. For everyone else, it was a case of checking constantly for any bumps which may have opened the wound up (thankfully none) and giving them continual care (fresh grass, clean water, extra straw etc.) while they remained shut inside to prevent any rain going into the open horn sockets and causing a fairly rapid death! The weather forecast looks better for tomorrow and, hopefully, they will be able to go outside for a gallop around during a fine spell.
A goody basket filled with eggs was delivered this week and I was really chuffed. The barter system I began with my inaugural baskets is now established and appears to be a part of the neighbourhood culture. I know that this basket is in anticipation - my reputation for growing lovely and abundant crops of tomatoes has spread. But the nicest thing about this goody-basket was that I didn’t recognise it - it wasn’t one of mine!