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Herald – a Bull Story with September Skies

Hello, well, some of you know that we’re buying a half share in a bull, Herald   (if not, you can read about it here if you’d like). The other day I went to visit him in person for the first time with fellow bull purchasing friend T. Before we commit 100% he has to have blood tests for both TB and BVD (Bovine Virus Diarrhea) – it sounds horrible and best to test…a Hereford farmer in Wiltshire alerted us to this particular bovine problem. Which made me think that maybe we should have had ours tested too. Must get that fencing sorted…

The farm Herald is currently lodging at is on the hills above the Camel Estuary.

Camel Estuary Cornwall

We approached him in the field, accompanied by the farmer and I took some pictures…

Traditional Hereford Bull

Herald, note table like back

Traditional Hereford Bull

He was pretty unconcerned by our presence until T went a little too close and he tossed his head in an irritated way. We backed off and he continued with his munching.

I’m thinking how to convert my trepidation into respect, which is how the farmer describes their attitude towards him and implies some sort of control over your gut feelings. Hmm.

Herald was originally halter trained though he hasn’t been handled in this way for two years. His owner and the farmer think he’ll remember no problem. T has volunteered to be the leader in this enterprise – erm, shall we say there wasn’t a queue…

T’s friend J the rope man has made him a halter from rope, modelled here by a door

Cow Halter

Rather than think too much about the Herald situation, I concentrate on looking at the sky and the clouds…

Sky over Cornwall

Sky over Cornwall

Sky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comAnd the flowers…

PS thinking cowgirl is going offranch for about a week …so hasta luego for now (as they might say in a spaghetti western)

Dahlias in a box

Dahlias by special request


Heifer Update and Autumn

Dandelion Seedhead www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comThis is an update on the heifer pregnancy panic story which you can read about here if you are so inclined.

Well, I phoned the owners and they didn’t say one way or another but said it was pretty unlikely because of her age. He just said keep an eye on her and if you see some calf feet coming out call the vet straight away As you can imagine this didn’t inspire me with confidence. He did say he would replace her if it was the case as she would be a devalued animal. I wonder if I’m going to talk like this when I start selling…

A more reassuring comment came from, a commenter on the blog….one or two of our heifers have (accidentally) gotten in calf at an earlier age than one year. Technically, it’s possible, but for her to be far enough along to show it… probably not.

Thank you from one cowgirl to another.

Autumn is snapping at our summer heels….

wild carrot autumn

wild carrot and snail


Hawthorn Berries

Winter Wood

Pile of logs

This September morning I am woken by the Jackdaws clattering and sliding down the roof. I think they may be trying to get warm on the slates, catching the sun as the heat absorbs into the dark surface. Sometimes, when it has been really hot in the summer, enough to cook an egg in seconds, I have seen them cling on to the tiles, spread their wings and flatten their feathers to the sun. They lie there, beaks open, panting.

Jackdaws sunning themselves on the roof in summer

Last summer the Jackdaws did strange things on the roof

I can hear other birds, the song of the morning. But the swallows have gone and it feels cold outside the duvet. The warmth of the summer, which was being held in the thick stone walls of the house is gradually seeping away into the mists. Last night the weather forecast announced the first frost further north. I get up, make a cup of tea, and get back into bed.

Yesterday we had a fire in the stove for the first time in months. I think ahead to all the wood we’re going to need. The house is only heated with wood, we have a woodfired range in the kitchen which heats the water and a few radiators, and a woodburning stove in the sitting room.

Esse stove wood firebox

The Esse range wood fire box

Earlier this year we re-pollarded an old Ash pollard which stands in the hedge line of the back field, as well as felling a few other trees, mainly Sycamore, Ash and Hazel, part of the ‘restoration hedge’ project.

Polarded Ash Cornwall

The same Pollarded Ash in spring

Pollarded Ash Cornwall

The Pollarded Ash

An ancient pollard is a truly beauteous thing and well worth searching a few out to admire.

The Woodland Trust has an excellent resource to find out where ancient trees can be visited. One year we went to Staverton Park in Suffolk, a privately owned estate, one of the country’s best preserved medieval deer-parks, with many ancient Oak pollards and huge Hollies in the wooded Thicks.

Ancient Oak Pollard

An ancient Oak Pollard – image captured by

Ash is one of the best fire woods, belting out a lot of heat and burning slowly and can even be burned a little green if necessary. Our pile has been drying out over the summer so should be fine to burn this winter. But it won’t be enough.

Ash wood pile

The wood from the Ash

Wood pile in barn

Not nearly enough wood

When we go to France, where half my family live, we covetously drool over the amazingly large and neatly stacked woodpiles outside peoples’ houses, wood being a resource so abundant in France that it makes a Cornwall dweller weep. (Waiting for M to send me a picture – yes you!).

Ah well, better open a bottle of Roughtor beer from our local micro brewery and drown the wood sorrows by the fire. Come join me.

Woodburning stove

Fire in woodburning stove

Heifer…or Heffalump?

Traditional English Herefords

Getting rounder

So, it’s nearly two months since we’ve had the heifers. The other day I noticed that they are getting a little fat. Not such a bad thing going into winter I think but Mary Rose has a rather alarmingly large belly, significantly bigger than either Lucy or Belita.

I watch her for a while. It really is quite big. Is she just a quick eater? She’s always butting Belita out of the way when the cow treats come out so there is a bit of a greedy preponderance. But nothing like Lucy who is a real bully girl, bashing the other two with her horns to get to the goodies. And she’s not anything like as huge as Mary Rose.

Traditional English Hereford

Mary Rose – even rounder?

Suddenly, a horrible thought strikes me. I hope she’s not pregnant. Thoughts race around. Is that cowly possible? I think that they can come into ‘bulling’ (season) at the earliest from 9 months and usually at around a year…but they shouldn’t be put with a bull until at least 2 years old. Ours are a year old so…

I realise I have been bumbling along at this cow business for a while. We haven’t even managed to catch them yet.

We get on the phone. I speak to J & L and ask them to come over and see what they reckon and B talks to a local fencer about quoting for making a pen in the corner of the field by the gate so that we can drive them into it and then get them into the cattle crush (this sounds worse than it is) for things like TB tests, foot trimming and scanning the uterus.

Cattle Crush

Cattle crush I bought from ebay. On the list to paint…!

Our friend H the vet comes over and has a look. She’s more of a cat and dog and guinea pig vet but she thinks it may just be a grass belly. I feel slightly reassured. It is not nice to think of a calf growing inside Mary Rose she is too young and small to give birth and would have to have a C section. Today I’ve emailed the previous owners to ask if there is any chance that she could have been with a bull.

I’m hoping it’s just a scare and that she’s just turned from Heifer to Heffalump on all that lovely grass.

Traditional English Hereford Heifer

They are definitely growing. Here is Belita. She is now 1yr old.

Boots – When you Keep Hoping and Wishing they’ll Change

These sharp mornings, when a mist is hovering in the valley below and fingers are quicker to cool, my thoughts turn to boots. In fact, it doesn’t take much for my mind to stray in this direction. The half formed picture of the ideal boot is always hovering somewhere near the edges of consciousness, a germ of an idea, ready to bloom into a full blown obsession at any moment.

When I lived in the city there was plenty of opportunity to indulge. In the country, the practical considerations always end up outweighing any fanciful style ideas. But you can see that within this there is embodied a quest. A practical boot to withstand the rigours of the mud yet with plenty of style

There are lots of boots in the hall….

Boots in the hall

Of course boots, like other footwear, come and go. But one particular pair have become my constant companion for over fifteen years. I can’t seem to shake them off. They now hang in the barn, their steel toecaps covered in dust, dried mud from their last outing still caked between the treads, a handy holder for a mallet. But I still say one day I might need those boots…

Hanging boots

Throwing them away, passing them on or selling them just doesn’t seem to be an option. Deep down, I keep hoping and wishing they’ll change, a bit like a confused girlfriend over-attached to her bad boyfriend. Perhaps I keep hoping that they’ll do for me what I originally wanted. The fact that that they are the most uncomfortable boots I’ve ever possessed doesn’t seem to dislodge this recurring fantasy. I say to myself one day those boots will come good

It was an attractive woman who seemed to embody who I wanted to be that got me on this boot thing. I was in the middle of a life crisis and was changing everything so I was looking for ways to solidify this incredibly fluid self. She was an artist, feminine, with long tousled hair (I might as well have given up then), yet she had on a pair of chunky work boots which poked out from beneath her jeans. I think she very possibly had long legs too. I was retraining to be a gardener at the time so it all seemed to fit. I was so happy when they were on sale – 50% off.

I was clearly in one of those blind fashion moments, adrenalin pumping, without giving a thought as to why they were so reduced.

I persevered for a few days. It was like having your feet encased in concrete. The leather was hard and unforgiving and they weighed a ton. The tops were too high, and the edges chafed the side of my (slightly shorter than the woman I was emulating) leg terribly. I invested in a pair of longer socks to help out, believing that I could crack them, that they would eventually soften. Weren’t all boots like that?

After many tries I eventually gave up. I had to admit defeat. But nevertheless I stored them away one day I will have the energy and commitment to tackle them again I said to myself (secretly though, because those around me were possibly getting a bit tired of my blister complaints)

Over the years, either when I think I need something extra sturdy, or when I have imagined I can still grasp that elusive (unobtainable) ‘look’ that I so desired, they have occasionally come out of hiding and I try again. It’s all to no avail.

2011. When we moved into our house, it was a good four years since their last unsuccessful outing. This time though, it was going to be different. This time I enlisted B’s help too. If only I could customise them myself, things might work out. B cut the tops down to an acceptable height, just above the ankle, rather than just below the calf.

You’d think I should have known by now that even drastic measures weren’t going to work. Even though they were marginally improved by the trimming, I was almost instantly hobbled by clods of sticky clay on the landscaping job I was doing. It resembled the Somme, acres of bare compacted earth, with standing pools of non draining water. The hard soles and deep treads were a perfect surface for which the soil to adhere to. It was a relief to be home and the next day I let them dry out and when we moved we hung them up in the barn. But of course, you never know…Barn wall

B made a keyring from the discarded leather which I have treasured ever since.

Keys on slate

 Maybe this was the real reason for their existence.

A Million Tiny Wings

Window Seat www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comThis morning a trio of goldfinches are clinging to the stems of the Knapweed, using them as a support to get to the real prize, the flowers of a yellow Hawksbit, just going over. I sit by the window watch them through the binoculars for a bit, transfixed by the efficient processing laboratory of their beaks, rolling and chafing the fluffy seed until they get to the kernel while discarding the rest.Goldfinches

I step outside into the sun, the air is humming with the vibration of a million tiny wings. It is scorchingly intense in this south facing mini world of the front yard, a scree slope of slate shale and old concrete with a smattering of soil. Heaven for invertebrates. A cloud of hoverflies, bees and butterflies rise up as I push my way through the yellow Scabious to get a closer look at a grasshopper. I feel an intense joy at seeing all this life.Scabious butterflies www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comScabious ochreluca www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSt Johns Wort www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.commating craneflies  www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSmall White

It reminds me of a cycling holiday to Poland in the late1990’s (not the cycling bit) when we crossed over the border into the Czech Republic. After we got a stamp in our passports we took our picnic of bread, sausage and apples into one of the many meadows which clothed the hills there. We were totally overwhelmed. The air was literally alive with insects, thousands and thousands of them crawling, buzzing and humming. It wasn’t so great for the picnic – sitting on the ground was really uncomfortable – within seconds insects were crawling all over us. Eating too was difficult as most of the time was spent batting them away as they whizzed and crashed around our heads. We abandoned the meadow pretty quickly and got back on our bikes. Peacock Butterfly Spider  www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comThistle Seed  www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comBut it was amazing to think that this is probably what most of Europe was like before the advent of intensive farming. So we wonder where did all the birds go? I was talking to L about this and we both wondered whether Environmental Stewardship money is wasted on the likes of us and might be put to better use encouraging the ‘green desert’ farmers to preserve/create/maintain good habitats alongside food production. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.

The rest of the day I spend ‘desperate mowing’. Despite the clear blue brightness of the sky, rain will come again soon. I pull the cord and she rumbles into life.Lawnmower www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comDaucus Carota www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comPeacock Butterfly


ListHaving reached number ten, I was thinking that it might have been a mistake to number the posts on this blog. As my friend T pointed out, by the time it gets into the 100’s it might be a bit weird – and tedious. Sorry, I think it’s probably my obsession with lists. I have a day list, and then then there’s the Long List….

it seemed like a good idea at the time

Which is, I hope, not what I am going to say after having just purchased a half share in a BULL

Traditional English Hereford Bull

Herald when he was young – much bigger now. That cow seems to like him.

More like this….

It all became a bit of a dilemma. Being a fairly rare breed there are not a huge amount of herds around. The bulls seem to be everywhere around the country apart from the south west. A fact I probably should have taken into consideration more before going ahead with the Traditional English Hereford. But I was so taken with them, their lovely colour and sweet temperaments. Usually, the idea is to borrow or rent a bull to get your cows in calf and then send him back whence he came. However, as they are so far away the costs of transportation are enormous. Of course there is always AI (Artificial Insemination) but I have gone off this idea.

Pedigree Hereford Certificate

Heralds pedigree certificate. He comes fro the Llandinabo line which is good apparently.

T & N are in the same boat, so when the opportunity arose to buy Herald from someone who is moving to the Outer Hebrides we had a discussion and decided to go for it. We will own half each and he will divide his time between our two little herds. Though he may eventually end up spending more time here as T & N have a public footpath and yurts.

He ‘throws’ lots of male calves – which is good for beef production. I wonder when I can officially say I’m farming. Steak anyone? Excited!. Terrified.

Thought Number 10 A Big Thank You to my Herd of of Lovely Blogits

Hereford Cow & Calf

T & N’s cow Woodbine and this years calf.

I’d just like to say a big thank you to thinkingcowgirl followers, contributors, readers, and one time visitors for taking the time to peruse my cow and nature ramblings. I really appreciate the time you spend here.

I was thinking the other day how pleased I am that I abandoned the blight ridden tomatoes this year in the polytunnel and grew Dahlias instead. I hope they will brighten up your day.

Love Dahlias www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comDahlia www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comDahlias www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comDahlias www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comDahlias

Thought Number 9 More Cows, the Coming Chaos and Meat Eating

North Devon

My friend L is reading a book about coping with the coming chaos, so she can make herself more resilient for the future…must ask her what she thinks is coming. We’re on our way to Somerset with her 5 year old daughter M on yet another rainy day to look at some North Devons. Her small herd has a couple of gaps since the two with TB were sent to slaughter. I didn’t realise but the culled TB cattle enter the food chain like any other animal.Herd of North Devon

The deep sided narrow lanes bordered by swathes of meadowsweet confuse us as they skirt pretty hillocks and expensive looking barn conversions. Finally we find the track to the farm, after some open woodland of ash and oak. We catch a glimpse through the raggedy hedges of the rich brown blocky shapes of the North Devons, pale cream horns standing out against the green and gray of a slope punctuated with stands of creeping thistle.Somerset Farmhouse

The farm house is almost totally overgrown at the front, some of the windows are boarded up, there are many things which have slid off the end of the list here. We are greeted by C, a one time traveller, who pitched up with his old Mercedes truck one day looking for a place to rest and ended up staying on. First as a part time cow hand and odd jobber and then, after D’s stroke, almost running the herd single handedly. His wide grinned enthusiasm, lip ring and goatee a reminder of times past, tell us that he has found a home.Tiny House

The herd is amazingly handsome, even in the pouring rain, particularly the bull Rufus who L admired very much – apparently he has lots of ‘leg’ which is unusual in a traditional breed. North Devon bull

I learn that you shouldn’t get too physically friendly with horned cattle when very young as when they want to play the same games when they’re fully grown you could be in trouble. I learnt my lesson says C after one of his favourites had him on the floor of the barn. But he doesn’t seem to bear any grudges. L agrees. A little bit of distance for ease of handling. Must remember this.

D sits on a chair facing us in the low light of the almost abandoned farmhouse. The dilapidation gives it a hollow feel, there is hardly any furniture and I glimpse in another room scattered papers and other rubbish which looks like it has been left in a hurry. Three filing cabinets are stacked up to one side and there is a desk where D has begun his list of all the North Devon bloodlines since 1852.

He is ethereal, with long gray hair and beard and is obviously much diminished by his stroke. It’s like he might disappear at any moment, and he has long delicate fingers. The picture of a voluptuous semi naked woman seated by a river on a calendar above the filing cabinets speaks of a more robust past as we stand before him amidst the desolation. C tells us later that he actually lives most of the time down the road with his sister in a bungalow where carers come in 3 times a day, which is a relief.Somerset Farmhouse

His broad Somerset burr and the softening, stretching and whispering of his words as a result of the stroke make it a challenge to understand, but a high level of concentration uncovers a bawdy sense of humour. He talks to L about the cow and heifers he’s selected for her, I guess she’ll negotiate later. Gloucester Old Spot Pigs

C introduces us to his two Gloucester Old Spot pigs which he’s just let loose in the old orchard. They are exuberant and snorty. One of them is ready for slaughter and we talk about how wonderful it is to have a freezer full of delicious pork.Gloucester Old Spot Pig

Looking at their piggy faces and stroking their coarse hair I wonder whether I will ever be able to see one of my Hereford steers grow to maturity and then kill it. I’m a meat eater, so why not? L tells me that the local slaughter house is a good one and the animals have minimal stress. Alternatively you can home slaughter, but then you’ve got a massive carcass to eat or give away as selling is illegal in these circumstances. It’s about £700/800 for a beef carcass at the moment. Morally speaking, if you eat meat, then shouldn’t you be able to bear it?.North Devon Cattle

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