Being on the River Cottage farm educated host Paul West about many things, mainly that he wasn’t in charge. “You can’t put a human schedule or desire on the natural world,” he says. “You could spend a day or two planting a new crop and shaping all the beds, only to have 150 mm of rainfall overnight and have it all wash away.” But it’s not just the weather that controls life on the farm; it seems the animals are the ones who really rule the roost! And while we all know Digger teaches Paul a thing or two, there are other animals who liked telling Paul who’s boss.
Goats on the move
One of Paul’s funniest memories – now that he’s reminiscing, of course - of his dealings with the River Cottage animals was when six goats disappeared beyond the electric fencing. [Spolier alert! The missing goats feature in tonight's episode, Monday 18 December 7.30pm on SBS] “I looked for two days on neighbouring properties, but then looked over the mountain the following day and thought, ‘I’ve seen the docos, I know where goats want to go: on the cliffs to sun themselves!’” Like a father to a lost child, Paul yelled out. To his amazement – and fear – after calling, ‘Goat, goat, goat’, a bleating noise replied. “I heard a faint, ‘meeeh’” says Paul. “I felt half jubilation and half dread – how was I going to get them out?” Armed with a bucket of feed, Paul traversed the mountain, located the curious goats and lured half back with the food. “Half of them returned with me, and the other half naturally came back following the herd,” recalls Paul.
Minds of their own
While the pen is supposed to keep them in, Paul’s pigs had other ideas. “One day, my piglets decided their pen wasn’t for them anymore – they preferred to run around the yard and under the house, as a constantly moving porcine swarm.” Then there was the dairy goat who wasn’t interested in being told what to do. “She refused to stand up and be milked, so I just ended up milking her wherever she lay,” says Paul.
Bee-ware the bees
There’s a reason one suits up when it comes to being around bees. One River Cottage Australia cameraman received a rude shock when trying to film a swarm of the buzzing creatures. “He was having trouble seeing his view finder through the beekeeping suit, so he took the headgear off,” recounts Paul. “He was bitten on the face almost immediately and looked like he’d been through a few unsuccessful rounds with a heavyweight boxer.”
The case of the goose attack
Paul also not-so-fondly remembers the time he was struck by a goose. “I went to buy some geese, accompanied by a lovely lady who warned me about how savage these animals can be,” says Paul. “I rolled my eyes looking at the giant ducks, and thought, 'nah'. Just then I turned around and one of them bit me on the crotch – half a centimetre from giving me the snip! It locked on, starting to rip and snap,” laughs Paul. Luckily, he was able to extract himself.
Watch Paul and his animals on River Cottage Australia, Monday and Thursday nights until the end of December, then every Monday night - check dates and times here. You can also catch up on SBS On Demand.