What a difference a couple of sunny days can make.  Coupled with a lifting wind things are looking much better and I have been able to accomplish tasks that had been stalled by the wet ground.  I felt sure I could drive the trusty Triumph into the paddock where Africa and Sweetpea were grazing and, with the help of some neighbours, Bossy Boots and her calf, Gumboot, were loaded into the horse float and safely taken to join them.  Bossy Boots was so happy to see her best friend Sweetpea again and even more happy to see a bull waiting amorously for her as well.  Poor Bossy Boots.  She should have been visiting the bull a month ago but, with the ground being too wet to drive over, I wasn’t going to risk unloading her on the very busy road and walking her into the paddock.  Another neighbour bought the last of the calves still at Middelmost and, with them gone, I suddenly started to have some space, especially as the forest was drying out and Last Thyme and Luke were able to go out there again.  With spare calf pens and an empty paddock, housing was no longer an issue - everyone had their own beds and I have learnt another valuable lesson.  Never again am I going to base my stock numbers on the traditional weather patterns.  Mother Nature obviously has some problems and I am not going to expect her to sort them out.  Never again am I going to have my animals held to ransom by the inclement weather.

We suffered two winters last year and I am determined that by the time winter hits us this year every animal will have its own mud-free shelter with mud-free access to and from it.  Food was never a problem as my alternate fodder crops and the availability of freshly cut grass kept everyone full and happy.  It was the damage done to the grass paddock that caused most of my distress.  Every cow has four legs and one mouth and it wasn’t the mouth making the grass disappear.  Next winter I intend to house the cows indoors and bring all of their food to them.  On property as small as Middelmost, this will maximize the productive land.  It will be more labour intensive but with the cows being cosy, dry and mud-free their production levels should remain high and I will definitely need the exercise to work off the extra cream I will get!

Africa has been sold and will be winging her way towards Auckland as soon as the local trucking company can fit her in. She is going to a wonderful home with a nice friend to keep her company on her arrival, and with experienced new owners to ensure all of her requirements are met.  My earlier thoughts of waiting until the prospective buyer matched the cow worked as Africa will suit the new owner’s needs and situation to a tee, and I am confident to let her go.  I am disappointed I won’t get the chance to try her milk, but reality rarely matches our wish list and Africa was the chosen one to help keep Middelmost solvent this year.  Selling Africa has not only yielded the bonus of money in the bank, I have also gained two lovely friends.  I intend to keep in touch with them as I hope the calf Africa has next spring might be a heifer ... and I’m hoping they might want to sell Africa’s new heifer calf ... and I’m hoping ...

In the meantime, both sets of owners sit and wait.  Me down here for her departure, and the new owners up there for her arrival.  The trucking company is very good and they are making sure she gets on a truck which is doing the quickest turnaround possible to minimize any trauma.  I will have her fed, watered and milked before she is picked up and the truck driver reckons he should have her delivered in about eight hours.  With her new owners waiting with food, water and a hungry calf I think she will settle very quickly into her new home.  Even though I have every confidence that all will be fine, as I watch the truck travel off down the road, I think I am going to spend a very anxious day waiting for the call to say she has arrived safe and well.

Mrs Pig and eleven pigletsWith Africa sold I had to rethink the pig department.  I was going to leave Africa’s big fat weaners to graze where they are now, bring her home to hand milk and use her milk to fatten Mrs Pig’s piglets.  Mrs Pig’s piglets were eight weeks old and were ready to be weaned.  Mrs Pig had been telling me for about a week they were ready to be weaned!  She had lost quite a bit of weight and guess where it had gone?  Her babies had grown into enormously fat, podgy munching machines with dinnertime being an absolute riot.  Mrs Pig would carefully circle as eleven monsters tried in unison to knock her legs out from under her.  They would leap and she would circle until she felt she had scooped the piglets out of the way and she was safe enough to lower herself gently onto the straw.  Once she collapsed it was all on board and heaven helped the two little runts at the bottom.  How they all managed to plug in I don’t know but, with great ‘stacks-on-the-mill’ agility, plug-in they did.  Poor Mrs Pig. With patience beyond the call of duty, she would lie stretched to the maximum until the greedy little beggars filled themselves up and fell off. I really knew it was time for them to be weaned when I opened up the gate for Mrs Pig to come back into the pig pen after her afternoon walk-about and, instead of wandering in, she took one look at the advancing horde and backed out.  The look she gave me as she scurried back into the pig paddock said clearly, “Thank you, but no thank you!” so I rang the friend of a friend who is the commercial pig grower.  Like a shot he was out cooing overtures of how nice my pigs were and how well they grew and what a great length of the body they had etc. etc., and how many could he buy?  With their intended milk supply now going elsewhere, I decided to keep the two runts and let the rest go, especially as the commercial pig grower had bribed me with such a good price.  Before I could change my mind, nine chubby piglets were deftly loaded into his trailer and off they went.  Luke sighed with relief - he was having nightmares about the ballooning pig population.  The girls sighed with relief - dinnertime would be much more peaceful.  I sighed with relief - the winter grain supplies were guaranteed, and Mrs Pig sighed with relief - two piglets were just fine.