A first lamb of the year. A new fence. More land. More work. Wood still to split in the barnyard. Tomato seedlings that, worryingly, don’t seem to have grown much in the last few days. A hole in the ozone that means a searing sun even when the air is only 13°C. Lots of eggs. Rhubarb again. Flowers on the apple trees and bees everywhere.
That’s life for us at the moment. As the last of the bulbs die down into the grass, ready to surprise and delight us again next year, and the north facing banks start to dry out, we look forward with anticipation. And trepidation. I’ve spent the winter reading. Well, reading a lot more than I have in the past couple of years. About pigs, about cows, about rotational grazing and soil structure and micro nutrients. We’re hoping to increase our stock, and want to get as much information as possible before we do it, hence the literature.
All very well in theory, but when you’ve got a sow in heat and a boar eager to please and a makeshift fence in between, let me tell you the immediacy of farming issues come frighteningly to mind. Yesterday, I helped a neighbour put up a telegraph pole that needed five people to stand it upright. Another neighbour, Andy, who I’m working with to fence our place, has been helping his mate pull a calf from a cow in difficulty (great news for both mum and bub on that front). I watched Bobby the steer crash through another fence that had no top wire and had lost its tension, thankfully emerging unscathed. Priscilla still kicks when milked. Tiger snakes are on the move. There’s old hay to rake up and pile. The lawn needs mowing. The kitchen needs a mop.
My chores overwhelm me. The place looks a mess, with roofing iron kept for future projects, old apple boxes left where I last used them, wood stacks knocked over by the calf left scattered. And yet I reckon I live in paradise. The sun washes over the house at this time of the year, baking the sun room and raising our spirits. The raspberries and strawberries are flowering. Everywhere in the valley we see new life and lush grass. Orchardists are bringing in bees for pollination, hawks float overhead and flowers fill the garden. Most of the work on the farm is uplifting, some is exhilarating. None of it is demeaning. To paraphrase an old fishing song, a bad day farming beats a good day working every time.
Speaking of fishing, had some flathead caught by the neighbour with the telegraph pole for dinner last night. Fillets steeped into an Indian-inspired fennel seed, turmeric and tomato sauce with perennial spinach. Fish from Richard. Tomato from the freezer from last season’s heirloom crop in May. Spinach seedlings came from Mick, the bloke with the cannoli stall next to us at the market, though the stalks came from our garden. And the spices? Well they came from a long way away, as spices often do.
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