Category Archives: Tales from the Homestead

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Our neighbour’s forestry block was being harvested and they were about to move into the area which has our spring source and 15,000 litre water tank. The forestry boss man had agreed to help us move the tank out with his digger. But on the day, we were meant to do it, with the tank already drained, he was caught up elsewhere.  The tank sat on a cut out at least 20 metres up into the pines so David decided we could get it out ourselves… It’s that self-sufficient mindset you see.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, if I want it done now, I’ll have to do it myself etc. David’s got it down to a fine art. Besides the reality is a helping hand also brings outside interference, ahem, I mean outside opinions and heaven knows there’s enough opinions between the two of us without bringing in another person’s ideas! David tends to mull over these difficult jobs and find a solution in his head (or You tube if necessary but not in this case) and then bounce it off me for a different viewpoint. Its not the first time we’ve moved a large cumbersome object, though often they are not round and get rolled on posts. Like the 2m x 4m shed we rolled down a small hill, dodging large oak trees and into its new spot as a chicken house.

The tank on its forest cut out platform.

But anyway back to the tank, using a fence post and a sturdy board as levers and with much straining and grunting, we raised the side near the bank until we had enough leverage to flip it on its side. It hit the ground with a hollow thud and fortunately stayed put on its forest ledge.  After much debate and mucking around in the mud, we tied a rope around the tank and looped it around a punga, slowly lowering it down a 3m bank onto a track David had cut through the massive blackberry.  The blackberry kept it in place on the slope as we scurried down to join it. Turning the tank to face the road below we pushed it like a steamroller over the dense blackberry, thorns grabbing at our legs and tearing our skin.  It rolled up against a small punga but with more manoeuvring it was on its way again.

The squished blackberry path down the hill.

A broken mess of pine lay over the old gate, so sturdy boards were put down to get the tank up and over. This worked great until one of our future carport beams snapped, damn, what good structural timber that was…

But we got the tank onto the road and across to our paddock.  Until now we had been mostly in the shade of the pines but once in our paddock the sun was intense. We rolled and manoeuvred the tank up a steady but uneven incline, pausing occasionally to reposition the tank and catch my breath while seeking much needed shade.  Once at the flat area we chocked the tank with a bit of pine debris (of which we have plenty) to prevent it rolling back down the hill.  David still had to prep the pad so home for a much-needed drink and to get some more tools.

Later as David was determinedly struggling to flip the tank by himself (I think another term for this is bullheadedness…), Ben the boss man turned up.  He was impressed (and a little gobsmacked I think) to find the tank already moved from its hillside perch 100m down the road. David said ‘here pull-on this’ and together they flipped the tank back on its base. Ben being a giant of a man made the job easy. He went off to check on his boys felling trees further up the road, glad to be saved a couple of hours work.

Over the debris and onto the road.

David decided to climb in the tank and give it a clean it.  But as he descended into the tank the old wooden ladder disintegrated beneath him.  He landed hard on the bottom of the tank, bruised and sore, the ladder fragments around him. His first though was ‘how am I going to get out’, his second ‘I may as well clean the tank while I’m here’.  However, it was so hot and stuffy in there he soon stopped cleaning to try and figure a way out, but none of his escape ideas worked and as surely someone would come past soon, he continued cleaning the tank.

The air was getting hotter and stuffier, he stood on the bucket to see if he could get some fresh air. The opening wasn’t too far away so he jumped and gripped the rim. But he couldn’t get his elbows up through the small opening and the top started to cave. The sweltering simmering heat made any effort exhausting and dropping back down he thought ‘Bec’s making dinner, she’ll wonder where I am soon and come looking. I might as well clean the tank’.

The tank finally in place.

As he started to clean, again he was overwhelmed by the heat.  ‘I wonder what the time is? Will the sun be going behind the hill soon?’ He stood on the bucket again and could see the sun was still high in the sky it could be another hour and a half before it cools down. The slightly cooler breeze near the opening made him realise he was having trouble breathing in the thick hot air of the tank. ‘Surely someone will come soon; I might as well clean the tank’. You must wonder at this point if the lack of air and the heat was making him a bit incoherent as he just kept trying to clean the tank…

The heat was intense, and he felt himself becoming overwhelmed if he tried to do anything. He struggled with each breath and felt faint, and it occurred to him that he might not last another 30 minutes he had to get out! David picked up the pieces of the ladder and tried to put them back together, but one of the few rungs still clinging to a side rail just fell off. Leaning the broken rail against the tank with its last two top rungs near the wall he stood on the bucket and leapt for the opening again.  Holding the rim, he scrambled for a foot hold on the rail. His soaked socked feet (gumboots were on the bottom of the tank) gripped the rail like climbing a coconut tree. This was enough to allow him to get his elbows up through the narrow opening, but he didn’t have the energy to pull himself up.  The rail started to slip across the base of the tank, but still stayed upright long enough for David’s foot to find a rung, but he also felt the rung bend under his weight. Pushing himself upwards with the little extra leverage he heard the rail hit the base of the tank, it was now or never.  The tank top started to cave again, he mustered all his strength to haul himself out, roll off the tank and still holding the rim he waited till he felt his legs drop below him before falling to the ground. Dehydrated and shaken by the experience he walked home in his sodden socks. We’ll just add this one to his list of well that was a bit dodgy, someone must be watching over him.

The homemade wooden ladder.

The next morning, he made a ladder from timber (all our ladders were too wide for the opening) then went to retrieve his gumboots and finish cleaning the tank. But this time he told me what he was doing with instructions to come check if he wasn’t back in an hour. Long story short he cleaned it, dragged loads of pipe out through the blackberry and the pines, reconnected it to the spring and got our water going again. Luckily for us the crew got in and did their felling without wrecking the spring or dropping a tree on the damn tank. Phew.

Following pipes through the forest mess.

Pine Harvest Time – The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly!

Its finally harvest time and the pines are coming down! It’s only been ten months since they first said the harvest would happen, October was the first date, then late November, oh definitely before Christmas… between Christmas and New Year’s the gear will be there, oh sorry the harvester decided to have a holiday. Definitely by March. No, the harvester said he wasn’t going to take his gear down THAT road, pulled out last minute…  Definitely this winter, it’s a flattish block we can get it done over winter; besides they won’t have work elsewhere over winter… Mid July comes and another phone call to the forestry man, ‘a harvester has just been up there yesterday for a look, I have two harvesters who are interested, will get back to you Monday’ later that week (not Monday) the phone rings ‘they start next week’ still doesn’t feel real until the actual harvester calls… FINALLY!!! 

Then it’s all go, the transporter turns up with the harvesting machine, he has to stop and unload it at a bridge down the road, then back on the transporter. Another unload at our cliffs and we hear the machine rattling down the road, then back on to cross the little bridge (council requirements) and off again on our side to avoid low branches. It’s a relief to see the big machine rumble past our house to the large pine paddock. The transporter has to carry on about another 3kms to the end of the road to turn around on our narrow gravel road. That in its self has been a mission as the Honey farm at the end of the road has put padlocked gates across the narrow gravel public road at the only turn area… But a last-minute rush around finds the farmer who grazes it (out loading a stock truck himself) and we get the code for the padlock. 

The harvesting machine rumbles in

The harvesting machine roars into action clearing a skid site, the loader is not due till the next day. But it soon grinds to a halt as on the first day there is a breakdown, then another issue on the second.  The harvester in charge here, tells us this is their back up machine and its due for retirement. The job is hard on the old machine and the following week its busts a track which takes two days to repair. But when the gear is working the boys plow through the trees and logs stack up, along with the mess… 

We are looking at the mud and debris in our poor paddock and contemplating our plan of attack for the cleanup and then restoration.  Some of the neighbours pines were harvested 2 years ago, harvesting was stopped due to the price dropping and it would have cost him to continue having them harvested. Nothing was done to remediate the steep hill paddock; debris still litter it and several large piles of slash are on the flats below. But when we moved here a year ago there was already a grass covering and of course the opportunistic foxglove and thistles, with blackberry clambering over the pine debris. Another year later and the cattle have heavily grazed the hillside periodically, the blackberry has spread quite a bit but the paddock has held a reasonable if somewhat sparse pasture over winter. But the pasture growth is slow here in winter anyway. 

Lucy surveys the destruction…

The farmer who grazes this block tells us that his pines were harvested prior to this lot. He went down the spray and reseed route and says that his ex-pine paddocks have recovered to pasture much better than the block opposite us. Due to the steepness of the hills, I would think that heavy machinery was not used on the hills themselves but just on the flatter areas below, these areas were not planted in pine. You can however see the impact of the machinery on these areas, with much track rutted ground evident even after two years of cattle grazing.  There did appear to be a high presence of clover and lotus in these areas over summer with the untouched areas (the old yards etc.) retaining a mixed pasture of grasses, lotus, clover etc. 

A couple of important factors to note here is that the hills/soils are primarily pumice with a small amount of top soil and there is copious ground water, with many springs evident on the hill sides, resulting in ponding and boggy ground on the flatter areas. Most of the soils are based on sedimentary mudstones and siltstones, but there are ‘outwash’ terraces of Taupo ash along the deep river gorges. It is on one or these terraces that our plantation stands, or stood… 

The springs are starting to fill up the tracks in the mud.

Something that we and our neighbours have observed is that on these pumice slopes the radiata pines develop a small root system which it seems is barely able to support the size of the tree above. We also have a high annual rainfall, being near the Whanganui National Park in the central North Island. The combination of sodden earth and winds means many of these harvest size pines are being lost to uprooting and once one goes on a steep slope it creates a domino effect. Walking through these hill side forests is severely hampered in places by the large trees stacked like pick up sticks. The tracks on our neighbours pine plantation are largely impassable now. He, like us, cannot wait for the blasted trees to go and will not be replanting in radiata. He told us that he feels radiata was highly mis-represented in the 90’s with forecasted returns over inflated. While no one has a crystal ball to see into the future, a basic knowledge of ‘right plant, right place’ should have been applied when recommending forest species for areas.  

Surveying the destruction

Another factor is the remoteness of our location and the excessive cost of the transport alone to get the trees out. And then there’s the size of our plantation, at only 3.5 to 4 hectares, it’s a long way to bring in the transporters with the gear for only a few weeks work. I have heard a logger’s opinion of these small blocks “often they are shitty awkward blocks that someone thought it would be a good idea to plant in the 90’s” “they are not really profitable anymore so most companies won’t touch them unless they are specialised woodlots.”  Another farmer had small areas of mature pines scattered across his farm, often in these ‘awkward’ places like steep ridgelines or gullies. He was of the opinion that it would not be worth it financially to harvest them by the time access to each area was factored in. Surely these issues would have been known when these blocks were planted and yet planted in radiata they were… 

Churned soil as the logs stack up

So here we are with our small radiata pine plantation in a remote location with awkward gorge edges, surveying the carnage left behind. But also, grateful that this crew took the job on, because for us and the land to move forward the pines need to go.  Harvesting trees in this manner can only be called devastating for the land. If trees fell en-masse during a natural event it would make the news, but forestry does it as a matter of course. It might not feel so bad if we knew these trees were going to build or repair homes for New Zealanders, but the reality is most of our resources are being shipped out to other countries. So, we rape and pillage our landscape for other country’s needs, because that’s what it looks like from where we are standing. You might say we get paid for the destruction, but when I look at the small percentage that the land owner gets from it, it is not worth the devastation.  Not only that, but for the small block owner who is not going to continue the ground destroying process by replanting in radiata, the costs start to mount up.  The slash needs to dealt with, possibly stumps removed, the ground needs deep ruts from the machinery filled in or smoothed out. Fences need rebuilding and replanting must be done whether it be pasture, natives or anything else. If you are paying someone to do this then that’s most of your money gone. 

Torrential rain has not helped

For us there is no paying someone else, there is only us and the loan of a neighbours tractor. This is daunting and we have spent many hours contemplating the best way to do it. Getting the logging crew to rake up the debris into piles is a common method. But we see the piles opposite us, full not only of slash but of precious top soil too. We feel the soil has been through enough and we will probably just slog through the paddocks bit by bit. Clear one large area, remove any firewood, burn what’s left, spread the ash, reshape and level where necessary and then reseed. For now, we will most likely just use untreated ‘Bush burn’ seed, its cheap and reasonably fast to establish. This will give us a grazable cover and hopefully prevent too much soil loss in our high rainfall climate.  Other plants can come later as we have the time, beneficial trees being high on that list. We are thankful to the crew though, we asked if they could do their best to spare a couple of mature tulip trees, an oak and our lombardy poplar, which gives us tawaka mushrooms. There was one near miss where a pine fell between two of them, but they are all still standing with only minimal damage, the funny thing is where once they stood out against the backdrop of pines, now they appear small and lost in the flattened paddock. 

It is night as I write this and the wind has picked up, I hear it howling around the house and there is a whooshing in the remaining trees like a stormy sea in the distance. Today one of the crew cut through the middle of the last of the paddocks. I hear a crack and a thump as a pine, who has lost the support of his fellows, succumbs to the wind… 

Starting on the other, smaller paddocks

Well just over a week has passed since I wrote the words above, we thought the main paddock would have been finished last week but tomorrow they will load the last of the logs from there. The morning after I wrote this, we went for a walk to see what had happened with the wind, and found a pine leaning across the creek and against our old man pines, its roots torn from the ground by the wind. Thankfully they got in there and pulled it out, then we cut yet another fence so they could remove some of the old man pines from our pond paddock. These trees are starting to drop limbs and have become a worry since they are now exposed to the full onslaught of the wind, so we thought it better to remove them while we had the chance. There are some native trees planted around them which have survived the harvesting so these can fill the space instead. 

Starting the clean up in the pond paddock where the old man pines stood.

Another event which has happened is the discovery of a powerline running through the pines. No one knew it was there and now it is not there! Snapped in two it was twisted around the top of a pine and sagging low across the valley. The lines company was notified and turns out they thought it had been lifted it out of the trees just months prior while replacing a power pole… Hmm. 

Satellite images show that it had been burning our tree tops, which they would have seen from the helicopter inspections earlier this year. First time we had heard anything of it, but probably explains the power issues the honey farm has been having. I spoke to the linesman who came out to inspect and he said it was a 20,000-volt cable and would have been burning the trees each time it made contact. Scary. A piece of the line now lies tangled around pine debris in our paddock. 

I watched from afar as they cut the pines from the edge our gorge, as each one crashed down the sadness grew. I may not be a fan of radiata pines but they are still trees which have been growing on this land for 25 years. Then in just three weeks the forest has been turned to debris and mud. How long will it take to regenerate?   

It has taken about a day to ‘tidy’ the debris from the old man pines in the corner of the pond paddock, about 1/8 of an acre. That would mean about 20 days’ work to clear a hectare… 3 months to clear the lot… but it is exhausting work, not only because it is highly physical, but also because of the type of work. The fact that it is all about clearing the carnage, the damage that we have chosen to inflict on our land because someone many years ago made a choice which was the wrong one for this landscape. Yes, it will be remediated, yes it will one day be beautiful and healthy. But right now, as you drag yet another branch out of the tangle, you turn around and see more tangles of branches stretching out across the paddock. You see mud and tracks a metre deep, soil both churned and compacted. Barely a blade of grass is left, of the four trees which the harvesters had previously spared only two now stand and one of those has logs stacked against it… 

A Plague of Pestilence

Warning story contains mentions of foul putrid dead rodents. 

I opened the shed door at pig and chook feeding time, startling sleek glossy fat rat. Up the wall it shot, its nimbleness belying its bulk and into the shed rubble stacked high upon the shelf. Shudder. The Other Half said ‘we must lay some bait….’ 

Another day and the maize bag was chewed, spilling its contents over the floor. The Other Half said ‘we must lay some bait…’ 

The next day we lifted the cover on the fermented maize in its ½ blue barrel. I gagged at the sight of a drowned rat, floating spread eagled on the foamy surface. Fishing it from its watery grave on a long handled spade I gingerly carried it out and biffed it over the fence, far, far away. 

The Other Half laid some bait. 

With bait stations everywhere it was looking good. Bait all gone the first night and all gone the next. Partly gone by the third morning, we were making progress. 

But then the STINK came…. 

A horrible sweet dead animal stench. We searched for the bodies and followed the smells; a rat was disposed of in a hole in the ground. But it seems there was more to be found… 

As I hung out the washing a smell wafted up, gagging I searched through the grass and comfrey to find a fat still body against the fence. Bloat had set in and any movement released more of the fetid stench into the air. I fetched the old shovel and dug a small hole nearby, retching, I gently slid the shovel underneath. A shove and a slide it was into the hole and covered with dirt. But the smell hung in the air like a smothering cloak as I barfed into the grass at the side of the path. 

Theres a lot I can handle, a lot I can do, but maggots and rotting flesh seriously make me ralph! 

But there was a smell in the driveway and a smell in the shed. Smell under the deck and in the garden… and we had visitors coming. 

Photo by Vicky Thorley on Pexels.com

Luckily by the next day we had found the one in the shed and the deck one had faded. So outside we sat in the rustic back courtyard, cuppas and cake in the sun. Talks about gardens, solar power, living of the land and of course politics. 

When what should I smell but a waft of the dead, of foul rotting beast and there in the corner lay the biggest one yet! A long-handled shovel and apologies needed as I gently scooped up the carcass from its paved grave. I carried it far, so far away and flung it still further over the bank. But the malodorous stench was still wafted in the air, so a quick bucket slosh to rinse the whole spot and wash the foulness away. Phew back to relaxing and enjoying the day, which went along quite well with no more putrid smells. 

But then a day or so later came the flies… We’d had some pesky little beasts, but suddenly numbers swelled to epic proportions!  We try to be natural with the use of no sprays. So up went the fly strips and on went the vinegar, fly swats and hand-held fly zappers all put to the test. But these flys were relentless, the strips just filled up and then we ran out!!! ‘I must have some spray; these little buggers must go!’ said The Other Half. But the first spray was scented and worse than the flies! The whole house reeked of some brain numbing scent and the flies just kept on coming. 

Photo by Vijay Putra on Pexels.com

The next can was better ‘non scented’ it said, but its success rate was just as bad as the first and the flies just kept on coming. 

More strips were hung, over and over, at least the buzzy b#*tards would die on those. Then a chance find under the sink, a spray can left by the previous owners, I think. Pyrethrum ingredients, natural to a point, but it knocked those buggers down dead and extinct. 

A spray on the window sills, a few blasts through the house and numbers were down, the relief was so great. Fresh fly strips went up and lasted much more than just one day, we were finally free of the horrible fly plague. 

But it seemed the smell in the shed had not been just one rodent. I pulled out some frost cloth to be assailed afresh by the pungent stench of partly dehydrated rat, all fluff and dry carcass entangled in the now smelly folds. Fresh gagging ensued and a hastily washed cloth was flung on the lawn, devoid of its mummy. (Which, by the way I must confess, was left on the shelf for someone else to deal with…) 

Two more small mummies were swept from under the freezer to lie on the concrete, their empty eye sockets staring, creeping me out and squeamish for sure, somebody else can deal with those two. I am Done!!! 

Lessons from the garden

From the moment we are born, we begin to learn and to the day we die we are surrounded by opportunities to continue learning and growing. Often these learning experiences come from our immediate surroundings, if we chose to see them.

As I walk around our garden I observe and consider… so what has it taught me lately?

Firstly, to act on my thoughts. So, when I see the white cabbage butterflies flitting beautifully amongst the plants the thought ‘I should net the brassica seedlings’ enters my brain. DO IT. Don’t procrastinate because The Other Half just tidied the shed and packed all the nets away (that I had left in handy disarray) somewhere behind the quad bike. Don’t get distracted by some other job, because there are always other jobs. Go and get that fine netting, no not the green one the holes are too big, the white one that’s it. Drape it over the greenhouse door way and secure it well. Because if you don’t those beautiful fluttering bastardflies will lay their noxious little eggs, EVERYWHERE. And even if you brush off those minuscule balls of future caterpillars you will still get caterpillars…

The damage begins…

Then even if you search those poor little chewed brassicas and squish the green fleshy demon spawn there will be more next time you look! Growing fatter and hairier as those poor denuded future food crops languish under their voracious foraging. So, remember listen to your pop-up thoughts and act on them – unless it’s just snowflake rubbish, then ignore it.

Lesson number two. Don’t plant your Kamo Kamo anywhere near your cucumbers. Or for that matter anywhere near anything at all. In fact, I would say give them about 10 square metres all to themselves far away from any other garden. Then at least you will have other garden.

Also, when harvesting from said triffids wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves. Or even better send someone else to find them! We were harvesting tasty little cucs from the plants scrambling up the re-enforcing mesh frame, but then the Kamo Kamo came. Its trailing vine crept stealth like across the mulch, flowers popped their sunshine heads out from its leaves. But no fruit came forth. We had pumpkins growing round and fat, but no Kamo Kamo. So annoyed we turned our back on it, foolish mistake.

The kamokamo escapes…

Its trailing tendrils crept over the corn, which was fine, you know ‘Three sisters’ and all that, minus the beans that is. It was in said corn that we finally started harvesting its fruits and found the first mammoth beast weighing down the vine. Then it crept past the cucumbers frame and out towards the lawn. We tossed it back off the herb garden and started harvesting the cuc’s from the back of the rusty support.

Then somewhere, somehow it breeched the cuc frame. I don’t even know when or how, it was just suddenly there, smothering all asunder. The cuc’s suffered, sunlight obscured and flattened by the overbearing weight of bullying creeping fingers of prickly green.

That was lesson number two plant the damn Kamo Kamo far, far away.

Lesson number three. Jerusalem artichokes. “I think we got them all, no those ones will be fine over there” foolish naive person…

Fartichokes are the gift that just keeps on giving. Don’t get me wrong here, I think they are great. You can eat the tubers (we don’t, low carb household here) They have pretty little sunflower like flowers for the bees and are in fact related to the sunflower. You can feed the plants to your stock, or just let them clamber up the fences like feral goats and let the blighters help themselves to the once towering stems. Or feed the tubers to your pigs so we can all experience why they have the nickname fartichokes. Plus, they are a great carbon crop for your composts.

However, if you at any time should choose to repurpose that particular area of garden, they will repel your every effort to remove them. Kind of like oxalis but two metres tall. Then they will even magically appear in other parts of the garden, spreading their wonderful bounty across the land.

So, lesson number three don’t plant near, in or around any area where there has been fartichokes, unless you will remember to constantly remove little sprouty gifts.

Lesson number four. COVER THE SOIL. (and learn how to make real good compost, but that’s a whole other story) Now this is very important, hence the caps… if you want to grow food which enhances your life you need to enhance the life of the soil it grows in. Covering the soil is the first step, it stops the sun from baking it, just like a hat stops the sun baking your bald spot. It helps to keep the moisture in, like putting a lid on the pot to stop evaporation. Ya get that? Whether you cover it with woodchip mulch, straw, leaf litter or living plants, it provides protection and food for your underground livestock.

The mulched garden

You might need a microscope to see most of these little critters, but they are the lifeblood of your soil. Get these microorganisms in a prolific healthy state (this is where the REALLY GOOD living compost comes in) and your soil becomes a living, thriving farm under your feet. Hey you can even start calling yourself an underground farmer cause you know a healthy soil has apparently 100 billion microorganisms per handful of soil. Phew, that’s a high stocking rate. Bring the Soil Food Web (Google it!) back to life, be the spiderman hero for you garden, spinning the web of fungi.

Thats lesson number four and obviously the most important one here. Spread the organic love mulch throughout your garden, learn about and bring back the microorganisms, the fungal life and watch the magical invisible underground livestock do their thing!

Fungi sprouting in the mulch

Lucy and the ‘Half pint’ bull

Lucy has only ever had a ‘sheep herd’, ever since we picked her up as a tiny 6 day old lowline Angus/jersey cross dairy calf. The teeny bundle of cuteness turned out to be a menace in disguise as we struggled to get her to survive her first couple of weeks. Between the scours and the refusal to take bottle, to tubing the poor little beast it was a battle of poop and frustration. But we made it! Just…. 

At 18 months we brought the vet out to AI (Artificially Inseminate) our wee girl. She was ready, the timing was right but at 50/50 odds our chances weren’t great. Sure enough we were out of luck. Her next cycle she was mooing down the neighbourhood and making amorous moves on poor Sooty the pet sheep. We were out of luck, left with a vet bill and no calf. 

Time rolls on, we are busy, then moving property. No time to think of AI again or finding a little bull. But luck was on our side, the farmer down the road at our new property has some Highland cattle and a wee bull… a deal was reached and the small herd moved down the road to a paddock opposite our house. 

Lucy the low-line Angus/Jersey cross

Lucy was fascinated! Half Pint was a gorgeous strapping short legged lad of Highland /Hereford ancestry. And in true Scottish form he let his presence be known in the mountainous regions. But it wasn’t the bagpipes that echoed over the steep wooded slopes. It was a tremendous bellows of a different sort that could have emerged from a bull twice his size. He stomped the fence line and outside our gate let rip with his courting of our dainty wee lass. Day and night. 

Cautious we were, allowing Lucy some time to get used to the beastie from the space of two fences and a quiet gravel road. She stood at the gate with her long lush Lucille Ball lashes (her namesake you see) bating them over her large soft brown eyes. What bull could resist such a stunning sleek black barrel of a cow. 

So as evening drew on the third day we opened the gate to let lucy out. A sheep herd stampede to the wide-open spaces hastened us up, their excitement of fresh grass crushed by the click shut of the gate. But Lucy set free had trotted off down the road. With grass on her mind, she grazed the long acre, nibbling her way along the verge of the road. We opened the gate to her destiny and ushered her through. Her mind still on grazing she ambled straight in, short knee deep in the lotus and clovers that grew. 

But Half Pint saw us shut the gate and move away, his senses alert and eyes on Lucy he was off at a trot. Lucys ears pricked up, her nostrils flared and promptly turned on her heels and shot off the opposite way! “hell no!” she said as he lumbered on up and zipped round the paddock, Half Pint hot on her heels. 

We left them to it, to sort themselves out. At least he was finally quiet the noisy little prick. 

Half-Pint the Hereford/Highland cross

That night poor Lucy stood opposite our gate, her whiny moo floating across the road and down the quiet drive. Out to see her I went and found her wide eyed and flustered while Half pint nuzzled her bull goobered side. I want to come home to my sheepie herd her low mooing told me, or so I heard. But no, it’s a calf you want and this is the way, poor Lucy my girl, it’s here, I’m afraid where you have to stay. Lucy turned from the fence and tried to get away but he dogged her and moped with his big shaggy head a giant lovesick puppy mooching behind. 

The next morning we woke to his bellows again, a grumpy Half pint was having his say! Oh bloody hell is it worth it we thought and went out to see what the racket was about. Lucy it seems was nowhere to be seen and Half Pint was shitty and not in the mood. So off up the track and round the big hill, he grumbled and moaned to find where his other girls and offspring had got too. Meanwhile in the growing quiet we called out for Lucy, who slowing emerged from under the old woolshed in which’s darkness she stood. Her short little legs had allowed her to hide in a spot where the bullock couldn’t quite get, small as he was old boofhead wouldn’t fit. Smart thinking my girl but I’m sorry to say, if you want a calf this really is not the way. 

This harassment and hiding continued for two days, Half Pint bellowing, complaining and stomping off to sulk. But funny enough on the next day we came home from town to find both in the paddock, grazing and quiet. It seems that the roles had reversed with Lucy docile and meek following along behind the hairy great beast. Phew we all said what a relief now we just have to wait a few more weeks. Hopefully she will take and a calf we will have, this drawn-out rowdy saga will mean milk, butter and cheese!