Middelmost is a bedraggled mess. It's a set of unfortunate mistakes collected and compounded by the weather into a disaster of catastrophic proportions. For the last two months, there hasn't been a twenty-four-hour period without rain, and some of it was the heaviest downpours in living memory. Some friends paid a flying visit during Xmas and even though they knew from my correspondence how wet it had been, and even though they brought their gummies in anticipation, the fact that the water table was two centimeters above the ground and the solid part of that ground was seven centimetres below the top of the water table confirmed the veracity of my rantings over the last month or so.
The first mistake was made by the neighbour who decided to shut the grazing paddock next door up for hay. Under normal circumstances, the hay would have been long in the shed by now and the cows back out there. The second mistake was made by me saying it would be no problem keeping Last Thyme and Luke at home in the forest while the paddock behind the grazing paddock was sprayed ready for spring cropping - it would be just a temporary measure until the grazing paddock became available again. The third mistake this season was raising twice as many calves as usual. The fourth mistake was being optimistic. Under the circumstances, and to cut a long story short, Middelmost has been grossly overstocked. If the weather had been normal there would not have been a problem. I have plenty of alternative feed and the forest area has never gotten wet before. The temperatures should have been kind enough (apart from the odd night) for everyone to be comfortable outside and the pile of sawdust still under the hedge should have been ample to ensure everyone had nice dry beds to lie on. But, no!
The neighbour is now going to take a high cut of silage, as soon as the tractors can get into the paddock, and follow that with a late cut of clover hay. This means the grazing paddock is unavailable for another month or so. The paddock behind the grazing paddock has greened up again and, instead of cropping it normally, it is going to be direct drilled (after a second dose of chemicals to kill off the re-growth). With the extreme weather conditions taxing the limits of the housing department, the sawdust pile disappeared and because it has been in such huge demand by everyone else in the district trying to cope with the wet conditions as well, the sawmill now has a long waiting list and I can't get any more until mid-January. My only hope of survival has been to think 'Continental'. Every animal has been kept inside and I have had to use my reserves of straw for bedding. At every opportunity, the cowshed paddock has been used as an exercise yard and I have totally ruined the pasture in the process. The agricultural contractor up the road helped me make this decision by saying that no amount of pasture management would save my paddocks in a season such as we were having. His advice was to forget the pasture but to keep the welfare of the animals paramount. And when it does dry out he is going to bring his machinery down, lightly rotary hoe the whole lot, and re-sow it. This advice took the pressure off me as I no longer lamented every time a hoof or gumboot submerged one of the last remaining blades of grass. "You are ruined, little plot," I would say, "but by Autumn you will be fine." (Is this optimism?)
What has kept everything going are the fodder crops I had the sense to plant and the luscious growth of grass in the orchard. The stock looks good and I am going to have HUGE amounts of compost. I have run out of bin space to pile the twice-daily-mucking-outs in and, instead, it is being heaped into a pile in the forest. Not a problem you would think - but take six calves playing "King of the Castle" and Mrs. Pig having a daily root through it and you would understand how I am getting sick of continually having to pile it up again. At least it is being turned frequently!
Mrs. Pig has been ecstatic about the weather. She is very snug in her new house and when she is let out every day for a break from her big fat babies she has mud to play in. LOTS-OF-MUD! And in it she plays. All you see is this large shape snorkeling across the paddock looking rather like an alligator somewhere in an Amazon swamp. As she emerges the black tidemark commences from the lower eyelids and travels back to the base of her tail. She is a two-toned Amazon alligator. During Xmas, there was a wee window of fine weather and with people coming to stay I decided Mrs. Pig was going to have a bath. With a friend to help, the hose, and a plastic currycomb, Mrs. Pig was scrubbed from top to toe and left to lie in the sun on some clean straw to dry. Those of you who know the Junior School storybook called 'Mrs. Wishy Washy" will comprehend my pleasure at having a beautifully pink pig for my guests to look at, but the next day - down came the rain again...and like Mrs. Wishy Washy's pig, back into the mud, she went.
With the mud comes foot troubles and it is so heartbreaking to see most of the cows in the district limping around. There is a lot of penicillin being administered by a lot of farmers trying desperately to counteract stone bruises and buggy toes. I have managed to prevent a visit from the vet so far by making sure the girls have their feet cleaned out at least once a day, either with the hoof pick or by going up the road for some grass and letting them give their feet a good scrape out on the hard tar seal. Last Thyme was going to have shoes put on him when the blacksmith came out before Xmas, but the blacksmith was recovering from a broken toe ("Got stood on by a poxy horse!") and was only doing selected quiet horses while he was recovering - Last Thyme and Luke being on the list - so Last Thyme was given his usual trim rather than the full works. This has meant his work alongside Luke has had to come to a halt as the paddocks are too wet to ride over and I can only do roadwork with Luke at the moment. Yet, yesterday was wonderful - warm, sunny, light drying winds...and then I watched the weather forecast on the tele. Rain until Friday!!