You may read this, and I hope it happens, and feel a wave of nostalgia at the image of the pit. ‘Come down off that, you’ll tear the plastic!’ Personally, as a city girl, I feel robbed of the endless days running over tyres and sliding down plastic. As the country mother, I feel the sheer dread of the forty foot drop over the top of the pit. As the farmer’s wife, I breathe deeply with relief at the mountain of silage ahead of the cows for the winter.
It’s done. The silage is in. The week was spent busily feeding ‘silage’ men and keeping children inside the gate. As you can imagine, the small boys just wanted to be on the road looking at the huge machinery bringing the grass into the pit. ‘Come in off the road!’ By Thursday, the men were on top of the huge mound rolling down the plastic to cover this year’s pit. Tyres were piled on top on a blustery June week to keep the plastic down and weights were placed around the border to ensure it stayed put. In it’s winter home, the grass sealed in plastic without air will become pickled in it’s own juices.
The tractors on the road are fewer, the slurry needs spreading on the bare root fields after mowing. The farmer is happy with the crop this year, knowing that he’ll peel back the plastic slowly this winter and with the loader of his tractor, chomp into the mound to feed his cows. Phew.
The cows are grazing to the West of the farm. And so with my four month old in his sling facing forward, I wondered into the setting sun on a lazy September evening to bring the cows home to milk. At his first sight of these black and white masses in front of him, the little one dances with delight, arms and legs wriggling to the gentle bellows of these beautiful animals.
There is no need for the ‘how, how, how’ of the farmer’s call to milk. No rush, the year is ours now to spend as we wish. Circling the cows in slow motion from the periphery of the field, we herd them gently towards the parlour. In a slow shuffle behind the cows on the dusty farm road, we are not unlike an elderly couple waltzing. It’s a dance with my little boy as he sneezes at the setting sun.
Only a few more cows left to calve telling me that soon it will be my turn. I feel a lot of empathy with my heavily expectant counterparts; the slow and laboured march to the water trough and the constant grazing. Like their own calves, my two little boys are full of teaspach (a local term used to describe the exuberance and spirit of young calves when new straw is scattered around them or on hearing the familiar splash of creamy milk reaching their bucket, a wholly bucking, jumping, break dancing show).
Teaspach to the heavily expectant mother is the most challenging. While one doesn’t want to break their spirit, a mother has to use up some of the battery life on some exercise that ensures everyone in the farmhouse gets a full-nights sleep. I find living on a farm helps; obviously, there are safety concerns that young cowboys have to adhere to but the farm is a veritable childhood obstacle course designed (in my mind) to help the farming mother harness some of that exuberance.
There is no shortage of adventures. Provided with a knapsack that includes a biscuit, toilet roll binoculars and a fascination for any insect/rodent/small animal or bird that moves; little boys can safely tour the perimeter of an adjacent field in full view of their mother. And every little find provides a relay back to the same mother to show their findings or perhaps a little kiss for a nettle sting. Spirit in tact, they wander back on their expedition.
Bringing the cows in for milking is another luxury in the world of heavily expectant mommying. There are few calls as welcome to a mother who has just prepared the dinner and washed up as ‘Boys, do you want to bring the cows in for milking?’ Oh yes they do! Suitably attired they walk out the door behind their father as I flick on the kettle for my real cup of tea; the ‘cows come home’ cup. An utterly bovine experience that allows me to sit for a moment while my ladies in waiting chew the cud outside the window in harmony.