In an ideal world you’d knock fence posts into the ground in winter or spring. This is because the ground is still wet and is comparatively soft. Not only that but because the ground is soft you can use a fence post with a larger diameter. I admit it’ll take more knocking in, but it’ll last longer so you might not have to replace it as soon.
Again, in an ideal world, if you have to knock fence posts in during the summer, you’d have a few slimmer ones about. Because, and I’m sure you’ve worked this one out for yourself, the ground is dry and hard.
Alas, it is not an ideal world. But then you might have noticed this for yourself. So we had a few cattle who tiptoed through the hedge and over the fence on the other side. Before I put them back in the right field I had to string up a breast wire, and that meant I had to hammer some posts in. Sixteen of them, and even with a steel bar to make a preparatory hole, it was harder work than it really needed to be.
So with the fence fixed, the cattle had to be collected from the next field, taken down onto the lane, along the lane and back into the field they should have been in. A simple enough task.
But cattle are more individualistic than sheep, and faster moving. Luckily I was on a quad, and Sal is a dog who can cheerfully run at 30km per hour, looking back over her shoulder to see if you’re keeping up. (She really shouldn’t, one time she ran into an elderly ewe and they both looked remarkably put out by it all.)
But we started the cattle moving, and between us, Sal and I sort of kept them in a group, and sort of kept them moving in the same direction. Then the inevitable happened, one decided not to play. She just put her head down and ran in a direction of her own choosing. Jess, who knew her trade, might have spotted it about to start its mad career, and if she got chance, would have restored order by a sharp snap to the nose. But by the time Sal had realised what was happening, the heifer was off.
So Sal and I set off after it. Sal managed to get ahead of it and turn it, and then it started running in a different direction. Again Sal and I set off after it. This is where the quad shows its mettle. It doesn’t get tired and you can just pull quietly ahead of the running animal. Eventually the heifer decided that it wasn’t as much fun as she thought it was going to be and turned back to her mates. Sal and I followed her back to the rest of them them, got them out of the gate and they thundered along the road and into the proper field. Job done.
We got home and normally Sal will stand somewhere in the middle of the yard with an expectant expression. This is the expression of a dog who rather hopes something else interesting is going to happen.
On this occasion she just flopped down next to the cattle trailer that serves as her kennel with a little sigh, and watched me put the quad away with a look of relief.
Given the amount of running she’d just been doing, I can see her point.
You might want to meet the lady in question
Another collection of anecdotes drawn from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. As usual Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep get fair coverage, but it’s mixed with family history and the joys of living along a single track road.
As a reviewer commented, “Excellent follow up to his first collection of bloggage – Sometimes I Sits and Thinks – this is another collection of gentle reflections on life on a small sheep farm in Cumbria. This could so easily be a rant about inconsiderate drivers on country lanes and an incessant moaning about the financial uncertainties of life on a farm. Instead, despite the rain, this is full of wise asides on modern living that will leave you feeling better about the world. Think Zen and the Art of Sheep Management (except he’s clearly CofE…) Highly recommended, and worth several times the asking price!”