And so the harvest begins. At the moment it’s a gentle affair of wandering leisurely about in the sunshine wearing as little as possible, basket or bucket in one hand, scissors or painted fingernails in the other, delicately snipping and snapping fresh goodies for the daily meals. There are peas, beans, apple cucumbers, courgettes, celery, peppers, lettuce, radish and a tomato or two, as well as the odd corn cob and, of course, the instant edibles such as sugar snap peas and alpine strawberries … and this is just in the vege patch! It’s a picture of serene tranquillity. The garden is at its cultivated best - everything neat, tidy and weed free; everything beginning to burst with a ‘runneth-over’ cup; superb weather in which to wander about in, and a seasonal lack of commitments which normally would take away the time to indulge in such things. Happiness!
But, at nightfall, like Jekyll and Hyde, the image changes. The fair, sweet maiden with long flowing hair and a softly swirling skirt reappears wearing black beanie, a grubby farm jacket and a borrowed air rifle crooked over her arm! With an insidious cackle the bait stations are checked and refilled, a pocketful of pellets is carefully counted out and, for the next half hour or so, a barrage of shots are fired away at every possum who stupidly decides to call in. Armed only with an air rifle, the ‘kill’ potential is fairly low but the instinct to defend one’s own property overrides this slight disadvantage as the pure harassment value of pellet after pellet encourages the possums into a quick reverse.
I found a dead one yesterday. Albert is trying to claim it as his own work, but he lies - a poisoned possum is definitely a poisoned possum. Albert may have blatted it a couple of times as it staggered about but that, I assured him, would have been the limit of his contribution. A friend had suggested a trick he had been told about of hanging dead possums in the fruit trees to deter others - rather like stringing magpies along the top barbed wire of the boundary fence - but the thought of the smell put me off. (And you never know, the practice with the air rifle may win me a place on someone’s small bore shooting team one day!)
Mr Pig has gone visiting again. The earth had moved for Mrs Pig and she was getting sick of him hogging the majority of the sleeping quarters. Mr Pig has expanded on all sides during the last six months and he has also begun to grow a powerful set of tusks, the might of which was demonstrated when he arrived to meet his brand new girlfriend, Mrs Shona. At Middelmost, Mr Pig is always shut in by himself to be fed, as his ability to enjoy good company with his meals is extremely limited. Boars are always hungry and to stand in front of the food trough when it’s Mr Pig’s turn is plain suicidal. You could give him two heaped buckets of anything faintly edible, it will disappear in a twinkling and, before you have had a chance to make your escape, he will be bailing you up against the fence demanding more! At any other time, Mr Pig is docile, endearingly cuddly and quite an asset to show off, but Heaven help you if you foul up the food time routine.
I arrived at Mrs Shona’s place, drove into the front paddock, dropped the horse float door and stood back with pride as Mrs Shona’s family ooed and aahed. Out he sauntered and he took a casual stroll around the paddock enjoying a scratch and a rub from all and sundry. Mrs Shona was introduced and the usual, highly immodest, greetings pigs make were made. And then came the mistake. Before I had time to advise them on Mr Pig’s eating habits, the lady of the house rounded the corner of the shed and dumped half a rubbish bin of scraps from the local school down on the ground calling, “Come on, Shona. Come on, Shona.” (as you do). What followed was an embarrassingly instant lesson on Mr Pig’s table manners when Mrs Shona sustained a bloodied gash across her shoulder as she was unceremoniously hoisted off to the side! What do you say? What do you do? With greatly appreciated aplomb, the man of the house saved the situation by kicking a pile of the food down the paddock muttering cheerfully about ‘natural love play’ and ‘it’s all part of the process’ as he did so. I could have crawled under the nearest cowpat!
With the two swine settled into different parts of the paddock and, with a liberal spray of iodine on Mrs Shona’s shoulder, I thankfully accepted the reassuringly friendly invitation for a coffee and promptly spent the next three quarters of an hour reclining in a comfortable lounge chair, gazing out of the window across the front paddock with an expensively fine china coffee mug balanced delicately on my knee ... while Mr Pig and Mrs Shona proceeded to vigorously bonk from one side of the paddock to the other in front of us! Why is it that, no matter how well you bring your charges up, they will always choose a very public place to spit in your eye? (You wait ‘til I get Mr Pig home again!)