We have had a day of spring. Being a dedicated writer I was ignoring the beautiful weather outside and working away like a good little bunny on a new scene involving dogs, rivers, mud and misunderstandings. Then my farmer friend called in and asked me if I fancied a walk around her fields to check out the stakes for the electric fences, before she turned her cows out for the season.
Did I want a walk? Amongst the most breathtaking scenery south-west Scotland has to offer? Of course I did. There was a moments tussle with my writerly conscience, but only a moment. I was into my wellies and out to her pick-up before you could say free-range eggs.
It was all superb. A few fluffy clouds floating in a bright blue sky. We made our way around the edge of the fields checking stakes and replacing broken ones where necessary, gradually gaining height until we arrived, hot and panting, at the topmost point. We were rewarded with the most spectacular views out over the sea with the Cumbrian hills beyond.
We chatted as we walked and worked, reminiscing about our past adventures on the farm over the last few years. Happily modern technology has reached into our wee corner of the world - no more manual castrating of bullocks, always a dangerous pastime. Now, the strategic placing of a stronger version of an elastic band does the job. No more sawing off of budding horns on young calves. An instrument resembling a very large hot brush does the job. So our close shaves with irate mother cows and wriggling calves are no more.
I do not lament said close shaves, as last years tagging of a young calf was nearly my last and I did not feel I was ready to meet my Maker just then. I have to 'fess up that it was my own fault. It was carelessness and you can never afford to be that around animals.
From birth all calves have to have a plastic tag put into each ear, bearing their herd number. When 'Mum' wasn't looking, we snaffled the calf and pulled it into the byre at speed. Sheena had the tags and punch-gun ready to go. I had to check the adjacent byre door was shut. I duly went and it looked shut. I was half-way down the byre to join in Operation Ear Tag when 'Mum', discovering her calf was missing and hearing its high-pitched moo, nudged the sliding door to the byre open.
Note - I was still only halfway down the byre. 'Mum' came galloping down after me, eyes bulging, nostrils flaring. An irate Pamplona bull has nothing on a cow deprived of her calf. She was hell bent on rescuing her offspring and possibly crushing all else before her, which was me. Believe me, no Olympic runner ever moved so fast. Greased lighning wasn't in it. I was round the corner and slamming the door to the next byre like Mo Farrah on Speed. Never mind my wobbly legs and thumping heart, we had that calf tagged and turned back out into the yard before Mum could break the door down and get to us. "You'll check the door properly next time," Sheena grinned at me. Next time!
So turns the year. Soon the cows will be out to pasture again and I will be assisting in spring cleaning the byres, water and cow muck flying everywhere. I can't wait ... but it's all grist to the mill for the next novel, co-incidentally set on a farm .....