It's amazing how things can change so quickly. Two weeks ago I was gloating to friends about still picking tomatoes ("and it's nearly June"). This week I'm saying, "It's only the beginning of June and I am feeding out a bale of straw a day!!"
The frosts, this week, were very welcome as they squeezed the water out of the ground giving the midday breeze a good chance to dry it off. Frosts are the perfect time for harrowing - tummy-type worms just don't like them. With great glee, I rubbed my feet with Deep Heat (a trick I learnt from a skiing friend), donned my trusty gumboots (still with grocery bags in them), and dashed out to energetically kick poos across the crunchy grass. An hour, two mornings in a row, and the place was done making me feel holier than thou as I tucked into porridge and cream for breakfast.
The frost has its hazards though - one being the wooden ramps up to the cow shed. Little Sweet Pea is so keen to come in for her feed that she fair gallops up, and I had visions of her legs going in four different directions and her titties jamming into the ramp slats, but a couple of buckets of sawdust tipped onto each ramp solved the problem.
I buy in two loads of untreated Macrocarpa sawdust each year. There are about 12 cubic metres in each load and each load seems to last about six months despite the multiple uses I put it to. Macrocarpa has an antiseptic property and a very refreshing smell.
Harvesting is back in the swing again with this week's crop being water and leaves. Now don't laugh - water is a precious commodity in the summer and leaves are the basis of all things great in my vege garden. I have a great roof catchment area here at Middelmost and have never run out of water (although I came close the first year I was here). But, you never know. Be prepared! You'll be surprised how much water you can store if you scout around for every available water-tight container and, over the years, my collection has grown. I put the containers around the property where I think I might need water during the summer - by the young trees, the goldfish pond, the fruit trees, the vege garden etc. With a coat of black fencing stain on, the containers can hide discreetly away until needed. I then hook up all of the hoses and spend an afternoon filling them up.
My trees around the house give me a huge crop of leaves which I divide between the compost and the hedgehogs. Firstly, I make sure there are plenty of leaves piled up in the places where hedgehogs are likely to nest. Under the house hedge, against the fence behind the petanque court, around the rockery and in the fernery. Hedgehogs are vital for pest control at Middelmost and they are helped and encouraged every season of the year. In the Autumn, nesting places and cat biscuits are the priority. Have you ever heard of a snail eating cat biscuits? The munching is deafening and puts Albert-the-Cat to shame. Snails love cat biscuits and little bowls of them, dotted around the place, will flush the last of them out. This makes a ready feast for the hedgehogs needing to put a little extra weight on before hibernation. Once the end-of-season snails have been dealt with the hedgehogs usually clean up the remaining cat biscuits.
The rest of the leaves form the bottom layer of next year's compost. One job, which didn't get done last week, was to re-pot all of the house plants and I use the very last of last year's compost to do this. Once the plants look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, any leftover compost is scattered over the cowshed paddock for the cows to trample in when they come in for milking each day. This gives me an empty compost bin to begin again for next year - starting with a good layer of autumn leaves. Perhaps next week I'll get this done. There are still plenty of leaves to come down.
Little Miss Poppy was dried off this week. She was down to five litres a day so I popped her into the forest with only straw and water for four days. On Saturday I treated each teat with Dry Cow Therapy and put her back out with the others. The first time I ever treated a cow with Dry Cow Therapy my courage failed me. As a woman, my courage failed me, and I phoned a Learned-Friend-of-Many-Years and said, "Help!" My Learned-Friend-of-Many-Years arrived with a grin and said, "It's easy - watch," and with a slip and a squirt the job was done. Now it's just another annual task. Little Cream Cheese is easy to do because you can drive a truck up her titties. Poppy, I knew, would be a little more fiddly as she is a wee bit harder to pull the milk out of. So, to make sure I didn't get my head kicked in, I tied both her back legs up. For a commercial herd cow, she was very good and she didn't even swish her tail as I carefully inserted the tubes into each teat and pushed the paste in. I have had her just over a year now and she is developing into the type of friend a house cow should be.
The downside this week was Africa, who thought the four days last week spent in the orchard should be continued. My orchard fence, I'm afraid, is a hotch-potch of all things long tied together with copious amounts of baling twine. Africa, being a Friesian Cross, felt this was of no consequence and on Thursday morning started to test the wooden bits which supposedly resemble the gate. Do you know the look a two-year-old has in its eyes as you plead "No!" from the kitchen sink but the coco-pops and milk still go flying across the room? Well, that was the look in Africa's eyes as I raced across the paddock frantically yelling. She quietly continued bulldozing her way overtaking a post and two panels with her! I was so disappointed. This year's financial achievement was to be a new lounge suite. I have never been the proud owner of a brand new lounge suite. Still, I suppose I have never been the proud owner of a brand new railing fence at the end of the orchard!!