Sunday, 26 September 2010

What's brown, and comes out of Cowes?

    Ah, the sights, sounds and smells of the British countryside, marvelous! My dad has spent a short time in hospital for a minor procedure, something we expected around Christmas but that happened now due to the whims of NHS waiting list planning.
    So I've found myself going back to nature for a couple of days, over at my parents place keeping an eye on our small herd of cattle. Not an onerous task, but I guess mucking out isn't to everyone's taste. I couldn't escape the stuff, yesterday afternoon when I went out in search of blackberries I managed to tread in a cowpat, thanks ladies! Maybe wellies would have been a better choice than trainers to cross the field, I've been gone too long.
    There was a time many years ago when I saw myself one day taking on this herd when it became too much for my dad. How much has changed since a younger me thought anything was possible. It's not just the effort required or the meagre financial return associated with small-scale farming but the less pleasant side of it. Cattle are not objects, mindless automata dedicated to taking in fodder and producing milk, beef and manure. Instead they are complex and gentle creatures, to get the best out of them you have to get to know them and understand their ways. They are all different, just like us.
    I don't know our current animals as well as I knew the generation before them. They know me and accept me grudgingly because they've seen me with my dad, but I don't think any of them would let me near a calf. I was rather glad of this unfamiliarity yesterday as I was mucking out, some of the animals were steers destined for market within the next few weeks.
    I am probably too sentimental about all this but I guess it's the way I'm built. I should be a vegetarian, but don't have the guts.
    Elsewhere this morning I harvested some of the apples that will make this year's cider. It's going to be a good pressing.


  1. What's a cowe?

    Keep that cider ready for my visit! Make sure it has a high alcohol content!

  2. It's a play on a schoolboy joke featuring the ferry to the largest town on the Isle of Wight.