But, still, when Priscilla has found her way into the house block – a place full of toxic rhododendron leaves and a whole bunch of plants like the grapevine that I’d rather she didn’t eat – moving her is tricky business.
A weed, they say, is just a plant in the wrong place; a place a human doesn’t want it. So onion grass on one side of the fence is great paddock fodder for Priscilla and Bobby, while onion grass on the other side is a menace in the vegie garden. (Hence in an effort to remove it from what is now part of the garden, I’ve put a fork through the irrigation pipe, which is the same pipe used to fill the cow’s trough.)
An animal in the wrong place is a threat to itself, other livestock, plants, vegetables, traffic and children. No wonder there’s so much talk, angst and money focused on fences in the bush. So when Priscilla was out under the silver birches in the house yard, and so was my son, a bad situation was suddenly a lot worse. Turns out my gorgeous Jersey wasn’t too much of a worry, moving predictably forward with us behind her shoulder (and my boy Hedley on my back), but the young calf is as scatty as a pup, charging through thickets and into branches, and nearly into us. We got them both out, with relatively little damage done, though I’m in no hurry to repeat the mistake. A gate left open on a farm is a tragedy in the making.
Fog has come back to Puggle Farm. Moody, misty mornings that – with luck – burn off to bold sunny days. Fog is different to the clouds that bring rain, thicker in the valley and lighter on the hills. It’s smoother textured, like mashed potato more than porridge. With it comes the change in season. Mushrooms have been bounding out of the ground. Leaves on some of the trees are burning off to gold. The chickens look like they’ve caught some toxic disease as they shed their feathers in the annual moult, and the solar panel that keeps the hot wire hot around the pigs can’t cope with the longer nights. Especially not now it’s on the other hill.
A mob of pigs left the farm for the cutting shop a couple of weeks back, and even seven less, which halves the numbers on the place, makes life easier. Maybe it’s just quieter come mealtimes. Maybe it’s because three porkers are less likely to flee their pen than the 10 I did have.
So the calm, sunny, fog-fringed days are pleasant beyond belief. The winter garden is in (just about), and the brutality of winter – when the pasture doesn’t grow and we have to give hay to the cows – is still a speck of cloud on the horizon. It’s nearly time for winter fare, but Hans and Esther’s Tongola goats’ cheese is still in the shops, a sign that a fraction of summer lingers on in the lactating goats. With the tomatoes that continue to ripen at the pace of a punch-drunk snail, a drizzle of still green and bitter olive oil from down near Eaglehawk Neck, and a few basil leaves that will wither come the first frost, life looks pretty bloody good from here.