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24 Aug 2011 - 11:34 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

It’s amazing what a few sunny days and a bit of warmth can do.

The place smells differently. Flowers are dotting the shrubs, or blousing all over the early rhododendrons. Firewood is drying remarkably fast under the pine trees, and the stack under the house isn’t dwindling so quickly. And asparagus, that joyous vegetable that bridges the winter and spring crops, is shooting forth from the ground. Spring is definitely here and my mood has picked up considerably.

You can almost hear and feel the sap moving. You can almost see the grass make its first tentative steps toward lush, fast spring growth. And a little wind and a lot of sun have managed to dry the pigs’ paddocks considerably, so they’re no longer up to their shoulders in slurry, just in mangled, moist earth.

I’m still having trouble milking Priscilla. I’ve spent hours brushing her and feeding her some of her favourite things, like lucerne chaff and molasses. Hours spent getting her to feel comfortable around me. Bonding with her. Yet I can still barely clean her udder without her trying to decapitate me, let alone get right underneath to get enough milk for a decent cup of coffee.

It’s time to meet a cow whisperer. We visited Jennie and Russell, a lovely couple closer to Hobart, who have had several house cows over the years, and who hand milk Lola, their small Jersey, each afternoon. We watched as Russell gave her a quick cuddle then milked four litres out without her even twitching her tail, let alone taking a well-aimed kick at his arm. Without using the bales to secure her head. Or a leg rope.

Jealous? You bet. Inspired? That too. Russell gives us many tips on how to settle a dairy cow, to make her feel special. To get a stubborn girl to become a dairy delight. Time will see if we can turn her around.

Milking a cow is a huge commitment, and we currently have all the chores, but none of the pleasure of milking. I simply can’t get Priscilla to stay still long enough to milk. Sadie can get a litre or two, on a good day, though Priscilla’s not letting down even for her. Sadie often comes in virtually empty handed and covered in muck from her tail. Despite all the attention I’ve showered on my leggy, long-lashed Jersey, my stainless steel bucket continues to return to the house completely untainted by milk. I’m going to give her another month before I decide whether she’s worth the effort.

Luckily, the garden keeps giving for little input right now. If you’ve ever had asparagus snapped straight from the ground, you’ll know it’s a completely novel flavour; an experience that is intrinsically tied to the season, to your location. The flavour has hints of hazelnut. There’s a leafy green sweetness you don’t get in bought asparagus. And if you blanch the spears very quickly and drizzle with good olive oil and a touch of Meyer lemon, well, you’ll know that food doesn’t get any better than this. I’ve paid several hundred dollars to eat in some fabulous restaurants in my former life, but this dish beats them all. Yet to get to this point it took nearly three years. This is the third winter I’ve spent on Puggle Farm, and I planted my asparagus in the first year after preparing the soil. Like a well-nagged boy I fought my desire to cut the spears in the first two growing seasons, in order to let the roots find strength. And it’s only now that I can eat with abandon. Those two years, however, should give the plant enough vigour under the earth to produce spears like mad for the next two decades.