It is so annoying when something goes horrendously wrong and the only butt you can kick is your own. The local handyman had arrived with a huge pile of timber and a seemingly endless supply of implements of destruction and, as he laboured all day in the intense heat wave, a palatial looking boxed up square arose from under the old plum tree. All of the animals had been stacked up a bit because the fence between the cowshed paddock and the middle forest paddock had been taken down. Africa was in the front forest paddock with her family; Mrs Pig and her family were in the calf pen; the other four cows were in the back paddock; the calves were shut in the cowshed and Luke was in the stable. Last Thyme had disappeared off to Rata again. The concrete truck was ordered for the morning, a temporary fence was erected between the pig paddock and the cowshed paddock so the calves could be let out for a run-around and Mrs Pig and I went for a walk in the forest together to stretch her legs. Mrs Pig viewed the building site, inspected the corner posts, counted the gaps where the gates were to go and ordered her tele. She was most impressed.
In the morning, after a bit of bribery with the neighbour next door, the concrete truck arrived via the hay paddock, backed right up to the boxing and began to pour. With the heat wave well and truly on us by this time, the truck driver gave us a hand as well, and we pushed and shoved and scraped a wonderfully smooth concrete pad. When we had finished you could have held roller skating championships on it. Everyone departed and I headed inside for a quick shower, as I was meant to be somewhere else. A hasty check of the animals before I jumped into the car revealed the calves all as happy as Larry, the cows in the back paddock all as happy as Larry...and Africa standing on the concrete pad!! For some reason beyond comprehension I had not latched the gate up properly and she had come through from the front forest paddock bringing her three calves with her. Now, they hadn't walked across the concrete - they had done the Highland fling on it and there were great big holes everywhere!
For once it wasn't the local stockman filling the air with expletives as he rounded up the stock with his team of highly trained dogs - it was me as Africa and her babies thundered over the concrete twice more before I got them back into the right place and locked up. The local handyman must have guessed what had happened as he answered his cell phone and heard my puffed gasps on the other end.
"Don't do anything," he said. "I'll be right there."
And he was. Within fifteen minutes I was on my hands and knees, garden hoe in one paw and a small block of 4x2 in the other. For the next hour, I frantically broke the surface up with the hoe and dragged and smacked the pieces into the gaping craters while the local handyman did the intelligent stuff with a bucket of water and the trowel. We did it. In the boiling sun and the ninety per cent humidity we saved the day and the pigpen could have hosted another skating competition. We both laughed about it, he went back to what he was doing and I died for the rest of the afternoon - I was so exhausted. The second problem of the day was my farm trousers. I had dropped them at the back door as I staggered towards a cool drink and when I finally had enough energy to remember where I had left them, the knees were solid!! It's a bit silly preparing the washing with the hammer.
So - the week could only improve...and that it did. Yesterday Africa and her three babies, and Sweet Pea and her two babies went to boarding school. It's a co-ed school and they look very happy. Having a ramp up to the milking bay makes loading into a horse float very easy and neither of them minds a short trip in the 'magic box'. The only hitch was that the co-ed school had forgotten to inform me that they were having their herd TB tested and so Africa and Sweet Pea had to line up too. All of their TB transfer cards were in the car for me to give to the property owner and that made the administration side of the business very easy for the TB technician and, of course, they were model students and stood very still for him to administer the jab under the tail. The property owner was very pleased to have an extra person to help with the yarding and un-yarding of his cows - it is such a major job to bring an entire herd (from weaner bulls to just-in-calf-cows-with-calves-at-foot) into a small space and back out again without mishap or mixing-up mistakes. And it all has to happen again on Friday when the technician comes back to monitor the results! No wonder the TB guy loves coming to Middelmost. He pats the cow, does the job and spends the next half an hour passing the time of day before his next appointment. I'll go and give them a hand on Friday. That way I can catch the girls and tie them up to a fence post somewhere so they don't have to go through the yards and possibly get hurt.
Africa and Sweet Pea will stay where they are for about six weeks, by which time their babies will be ready to wean. Africa and Sweet Pea can then come home to be hand milked until the autumn calves become available. And, within six weeks, Mrs Pig's babies will be weaned and loudly demanding every drop of milk I can squeeze from every teat in sight. It's all timing, timing and more timing!
The tui has returned to the gardens. As soon as the flax flowers start coming out, in come the tui with their multi-layered song and their paua-shell colours - and tomorrow night I am going to eat my first strawberries. There are three plants potted up on the veranda in the warmest part of the front garden and the strawberries in them have coloured to the point where they are begging to be demolished. With the barometer saying it is going to be another sunny day tomorrow my pudding tomorrow night is going to be: my own fresh-made ice cream, my own fresh-made chocolate sauce, and my own freshly picked strawberries. Bliss.