We’re back in the egg game seriously now. With the passage of the shortest day a while back, the birds started laying more conscientiously. So it’s luminescent omelettes, golden cakes and saffron coloured dippy eggs once again. In the lean times in late autumn, we have to ration their use.
Like much of the country, we’ve been having a warm winter. The asparagus has started shooting, about three weeks earlier than last year. Flowers are coming up in the garden a little more promptly than usual, and the grass at the farm, well, that’s growing like there’s a hint of spring in the air.
It’s a good thing it’s growing, too. After a long dry summer and autumn, we’re not as flush with grass as we’d like. We’ve had most of our calves, added to our dairy herd, and there’s plenty to eat so far. Others aren’t so lucky, buying in winter hay much earlier than usual, the price rising to reflect the shortage across the state.
I feel a little like a failure. We have a milking machine. And while part of me misses the quiet, calm, intimate rhythm of hand milking, the other part, between my forefinger and thumb, reckons its great. Elsie has small teats. Quite small even for Sadie, and very small for me. So to hand milk is to use two fingers rather than your whole hand, the cramp rising quickly from that pad that separates thumb from fingers. We have been hand milking a bit anyway, but with about five litres of milk to draw out each time, I do love my new machine.
There are some machines that make life so much better. Things that make you realise that a litre of petrol is a very, very intense fuel. Take the brush-cutter, for instance. It can do so much, so effortlessly compared to slashing by hand. A tractor is even faster and more powerful, doing in minutes what it can take a day to do by brush-cutter.
The tragedy is that we, like so many, use this potent fuel in wasteful ways – moving a tonne of metal around the countryside with a single person in it: driving unnecessary or less than fruitful trips. When you dig things by hand, move things by hand, harvest things by hand, it gives you a pretty great appreciation for oil and all its versatility. We tread lighter than some and yet heavier than most simply by the nature of being from a rich nation. We’re no zero-emissions family, but we do try to moderate our use of all kinds of energy, while still living a comfortable life. I just hope some of what we do is low enough impact to help make a difference.