Ten days ago.
The sky is a luminous blue and the cumulus are randomly gathered in huge silent piles on the horizon. I walk up through the top field with the breeze making the tips of the inflorescences ripple and shimmer in the sun. I’ve got my eye out for Spear Thistle which I pull before it’s millions of tiny seeds make new ones. We leave some to flower and go over at the edges of the field so that the birds can feast on them. This way, we get what we want – good hay –and the birds get what they want – a food source.
Looking back from the top I can see Bodmin Moor in the distance, its bare granite hills scattered with slabs of rock. I’m getting hot and I imagine swimming in the quarry up there, the water heavy and cold, and our voices echoing back to us from the steep vertical sides of stone.
The swallows are back in the yard, we think to raise a second brood in the lean to. I saw one this morning on its feet collecting mud, a rare sight as they are usually on the wing.
I walk over to the valley field to clear out the water trough. There is black sludge at the bottom and the remnants of last year’s leaf fall. I scoop out the sludge and a frog emerges and hops into the grass, its camouflage skin peppered with bright green dots of duckweed. The smell of anaerobic decay wafts up from the piles and not long after a newt emerges, tiny prehistoric hands doing a strong job clawing through the leaves, and it finally pops out with a wriggle of its tail. I always think that this is where life starts, in the slime. Soon after I see another two and I put them all in my palm and rehome them in the pond in the front yard. I’m sure they don’t appreciate the interference but I’m not sure they’d stand a chance once the cows get their heads in the trough.
I spend rest of the day anxiously waiting for the heifers to arrive. They finally arrive in a small truck at 4.30, he drives down to the far gate of the valley field and my sister C and I stand in the lane to block their escape. They are extremely timid and don’t want to come down the ramp but the driver gives them a prod through the bars of the truck, telling us later that one of them is a kicker which is why he didn’t want to get in with them. We back off a bit and they come down the ramp and fly into the field, kicking their hind legs into the air and running straight through the electric fence with barely a twitch, the one which we’ve put up to protect the hay crop. They crash through the long grass down to the bottom of the field. Carefully laid plans and all that. As they have been indoors for nearly three weeks it must be an amazing thing to be outside again and they quickly get down to their favourite occupation – eating grass. I hope that at some point they will come looking for the water trough as it is hot and they have been travelling for hours. They are incredibly skittish and wary, trotting off in alarm as soon as I get near. Even a tasty treat of rolled oats fails to bring them closer. But I can already notice the differences between them, one is prettier, one is bolder. We decide to leave them to recover from the travelling for a while and worry about the destruction of the hay later. It must be hard for them being separated from their herd and they are probably in a panic, trying to get away from the unpredictable and high energy human beings.
I try not to feel disheartened that they don’t love me yet. Instead I have lunch. The sun is hot and there is a breeze rippling the long grass. Butterflies flit around and I can hear the snap of seeds popping and the drone of machines in the distance – strimmers, mowers, combines, turners, balers – and a model helicopter whirring and whining in a nearby garden. A wood pigeon coos in a distant tree. I munch on a sandwich, taking in the view, this moment, this life.
The Girls have Arrived