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Posts tagged ‘livestock’

I didn’t notice the nuts

“Hope you avoided the bulls,” said Her Goatiness when I returned from my walk.

I paused in the process of unlacing my boot and squinted up at her. “Bulls?” I said. “No, I didn’t see anything. Apart from the two black cows in the paddock below.”

“Black cows? Those were BULLS, Niamhie. Didn’t you notice their nuts?”

Now, I have only recently graduated to the ability to distinguish chickens from goats, never mind determining the sex of livestock. I mean, I’d noticed the cows were a little beefier than the rest of the herd. Good conditioning, I’d thought sagely, congratulating myself on the appropriate application of agricultural jargon.

“Your Goatiness, I’m not some cocky who instinctively checks out an animal’s bollocks,” I said a tad archly. In any case, I generally go out of my way to avoid cows. I hate them: the glazed zombie eyes, the grinding jaws, the udders swinging like wrecking balls. And the way they RUSTLE. Ugh *shiver*.

“Jesus, Niamhie,” said Her Goatiness, “those bulls are seriously dangerous.”

I laughed. I don’t know; perhaps it was a nervous response to having unwittingly stared into the grinding jaws of death.

“I’m not joking! How far away were they?”

“Um. They were beside the gate when I let myself out of the paddock. About ten feet, I suppose.”

Her Goatiness actually went white.

“Jed went over and growled at them. Showed them who’s boss.” Although when one of the bulls lowered his head and wagged it, Jed swiftly ran out of bravado.

“NIAMHIE! They’ll kill him, you know!”

I would have been more touched by her concern if, when I’d started out on my walk, instead of saying, “Have a nice walk,” she’d said, “So you’re going for your usual late-afternoon walk which never varies in its route across the fields to the creek? Watch out for the two black bulls in the lower paddock. I’d avoid it if you wish to maintain your current status as ‘Living’.”

Exploding eyeballs

There is a herd of wild goats that rampage around our promontory, raping and pillaging at will.

Since Andrew got his gun licence, he has talked at length about going and shooting one, but there’s always been an excuse a valid reason not to. Either he’s due to start work; or the goats are hiding; or his trigger finger’s stiff; or he needs to further research his prey by observing their grazing patterns from the living room.

Personally, I suspect he was intimidated by the Billy giving him the glad-eye.

Finally, last Friday the herd was sunbathing in the clearing above the cliff. If you squinted you could actually see the bull’s-eyes on their foreheads.

“The goats are in the open,” I said. Andrew barely looked up from his laptop screen. He said something that sounded like, “Um”.

“Well, are you going to go and shoot something?”

“Let me just check the weather forecast.”

The weather conditions were evidently favourable, because twenty minutes later we were edging down the track. I was present in my official capacity as Dog Handler and Controller – not that you’d have guessed it by the state of the squirming mutt at the end of the lead. Andrew stalked in front, gun at the ready, issuing Navy Seal hand signals over his shoulder.

He shot a young male goat in the head.

Its eyeball popped out.

 “I hope you identified the target beyond all doubt,” I said, quoting the New Zealand Police Arms Code. “How did you know it wasn’t our neighbour, Tim, snuffling for raspberries?”

“Well, if it was, he’d shrunk and was sporting a goat costume.”

After boning up on his Basic Butchering of Game and Livestock, Husband gutted and skinned the animal, then chopped it up. Most of it will keep Jed in dog food for maybe a week; Husband might roast some goat chops in the slow cooker.

Personally, I don’t really have the stomach for it

Zombie cows

091112 Cows

From the time Jed was four months old, we have shared a ritual on the Outlaws’ farm in Oamaru. Around mid-afternoon, we stare down the goats in the first paddock, cross into the second paddock, walk through the third paddock, then on to the creek in the fourth paddock.

Two days ago, I noticed the livestock were loose in the third paddock.

“We won’t disturb the cows, will we?” I asked Husband.

In fact, I got the subjects confused. The question I should have posed was, “The cows won’t disturb us, will they?” One way or another, Husband would probably still have responded, “Nah, no worries.” In either case he would have been wrong, but in the second he would have willfully endangered our lives. So it’s just as well I didn’t pose the second question, because casting the lives of his wife and beloved dog into mortal peril?

That’s not nice.

Whenever I think about cows – which is not that often – my overall impressions are negative. They smell, they project effluence, they have freaky jaws. Otherwise, I have never harboured actively violent antipathy towards the bovine community. And I have never feared cows – until now.

Jed and I strolled down the first paddock, into the second, and passed into the third. At first I didn’t notice, because I had a squirming puppy by the collar. Jed has never been under any disillusion that cows are vicious, savage creatures. Personally, I’ve always thought they were just willfully stupid. I suppose the end result is much the same. But halfway across the field, I was alerted by a stealthy rustle of grass.

When I looked around, half the herd – or about 125 tonnes of beefsteak – had formed a semi-circle of doom behind us. Their cold, dead eyes stared glassily at me, chilling the cockles of my heart.

My mother is originally from farming stock, so I can speak a little pidgin Cow. “Gerraway back!” I bawled. Unfortunately, it appears Kiwi cows do not understand farming Irish. They retreated a pace, only to return two. One was trying to organize a mass flanking maneuver to cut off our escape entirely.

Well, I didn’t want to show fear, in case it started a stampede. However, I stepped up the pace a bit. One cow was rushing my puppy; Jed had a front paw through his collar, and his torso wasn’t far behind; he was desperate to get out of there, and I could fully sympathise. I felt the fermenting, fetid breath of 450 cows hot on the back of my neck.

I’m telling you, the last 200m felt like MILES. Any second I expected to get karate-chopped by a hoof in the head. I can’t tell you how many times I broke out in a cold sweat.

I returned to the farm via the road.

Someone stole my bold

On Thursday, the weather was so balmy we opened the doors and windows and ate lunch on the balcony. It’s been a while since that was possible without being swept away by a tsunami of rain. The temperature has climbed at least four degrees in the last ten days.

But enough about the weather. At the rate I go on about it, you’d think I was Irish or something.

The sunshine was that saucy (last mention, honest), it tempted Husband and I out on our mountain bikes. Again, I’ve written essays on cycling, so I’ll almost leave it there. Except to say this was the first time in over a week we’ve been out biking, since we were visiting the Outlaws in South Island. If that comes as a surprise, well, I’m canny like that.

It’s calving season on the farm, which means there was a disturbing amount of mucous. According to local legend (Craig), one of their pregnant heifers suffered such a build-up of gas that she fired her newborn right across the field. I suppose you might call it an explosive delivery. If the calf wasn’t dead at blast-off, it certainly was by the time it hit the neighbouring paddock.

Since I am chronically afflicted with Pteromerhanoboviphobia (fear of airborne cows) I spent the entire week cowering in the living room. Husband’s family pretty much treat me as one of the livestock, albeit a pedigree. It suits everyone: I get fed and watered, and have even trained the Outlaws to the extent that everyone is horrified when I fix myself a drink.

Mother In Law: Niamhie, did you make that?

Me: *martyred sigh!* Yes.

Mother In Law: CRAIG! Poor Niamhie had to get her own drink.

Craig: Ker-rist.

Don’t ask me how I arranged that; I only wish I knew. [Note: this phenomenon applies only to Husband’s immediate family, not Husband himself.]

It wasn’t an entirely one-sided arrangement. Every now and then I did the dishes, in order to feel useful and moan about how dishwashing fluid dries out my hands. Also, I exercised the farm dogs, albeit inadvertently when they came to round me up at the end of the day. And I am great entertainment value in the evening.

At least the surfeit of sloth gave me time to catch up on some quality TV.

On Oprah, I discovered that apparently, someone has stolen my bold. The pyschologist was regrettably vague about who or when, although it was probably a man (cue earnest shot to earnest woman in audience nodding earnestly). She also failed to specify whether I could retrieve the Bold if I staged a daring counter-raid, or whether it would be a waste of time because shortly after the theft my Bold was traded on the Black Market. Then again, it was difficult to make her out with all the hair patting and gesticulating.

I can’t say I’m happy about the situation because, despite not being entirely sure what it is, my Bold sounds like a useful asset. I’m considering robbing someone else’s Bold. Maybe Husband’s, because he appears to have double or even triple rations of Bold. Even though he heatedly denies it, chances are he was the one who stole my Bold in the first place.

Once you get over how profoundly disturbing shows like The Swan and Wife Swap are, they make compelling telly. On Swan, women who are mentally compromised and/or have deep-rooted issues apply for a makeover, because they believe their earlobes or abnormally large ankles are what is holding them back in life. In a fairly typical overview, Kelly explains how she has always hated her teeth: “Kids made fun of me in school. They called me- they- <sob!> called me ‘Rabbit Teeth’. I kind of nibbled my food. I just know <pause to wipe eyes> if I didn’t have these teeth, everything would be better.”

When I say ‘makeover’, two participants are whisked off to a hotel where they have cosmetic and/or reconstructive surgery, followed by an extreme diet and exercise for three months. Neither woman is allowed see themselves until the grand unveiling in front of a full-length mirror.

“Are you ready?” asks the presenter, gripping Kelly’s hands fiercely. “Are you ready to meet the brand new you?”

The curtains over the mirror swish back, and Kelly’s all:-

“Oh my God! Oh my Gaw-haw-hawd! Is that- I can’t believe it’s really ME! I’m SO BEAUTIFUL! Waah! Waah! Waah!” <fluttering hands>

“You’re a new person!”

“I am! A new person!”

In this case, Kelly was fitted with a full set of glow-in-the-dark veneers. Despite the fake choppers being freakishly large and causing a significant overbite, Kelly appeared to be ecstatic. She proceeded to the Swan Pageant because her competitor was disqualified for smuggling a mirror into the hotel in her anus.

Wife Swap features two families where the matriarchs abandon their families to be temporarily installed with another. Wiccan chicken-worshippers are placed with born-again Christian families, and composting yoghurt-weavers with families who mainline MacDonald’s. That sort of stuff.

I don’t know what the duration of stay is, but the whole exercise is staggeringly irresponsible. I’ve only seen the show a couple of times, but it has never featured anyone I would trust to water my plants. No family members have been killed in the production of this show, but it can only be a matter of time.

In ‘Don’t Forget The Lyrics!’, contestants have to guess the lyrics of a given song. In a nail-biting buttock-clencher, Nicole had to guess the next ten words to Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’.

Girl close your eyes
Let that rhythm get into you
Don’t try to fight it
There ain’t nothing that you can do
Relax your mind
Lay back and groove with mine
You got to feel that beat
And we can ride the boogie-

____ ____ ____ ____ ____
____ ____ ____ ____ ____

There you go folks, what are the last 10 words?

$600,000 at stake, and Nicole tanked.

The Outlaws have viewed me with a new respect since I leaped to my feet, gripped my crotch, and nailed the lines in a dazzling performance:-

Share that beat of looove!
I wanna rock with you-OW!

Of course, they were not to know that I have stored in my memory banks a library of seventies and eighties lyrics, including the entirety of Boney M’s canon. Couldn’t tell you what I had for breakfast this morning, but

Caribbean Queen!
Now we’re sharin the same dreeam!
And our hearts they beat as one
No more love on the run


Last week, Mum brought me up country to visit the relatives. My cousin, Michelle, was home from London with her first baby; a gorgeous, happy little six month old called Cormac.


Before we left, I persuaded my uncle to let me drive his tractor. I consider it outrageous that in all the years I spent growing on my family’s farm, I never got to wreak havoc with a tractor. In a scene reminiscent of Sophie’s Choice, I ripped Michelle away from Cormac, and Uncle Anslie gave over his Valtra Valmet T170 to us. Michelle balanced on the seat atop one of the wheels while Anslie issued garbled instruction from a precarious perch on the swarting machine affixed to the back:


“Turn er dah way!”


“Which way? Left?”


“Naw! DAH way!”


“Where- right?”


“Naw! Naw! Other way!”


“Up- up the ditch?”


“NAW! Wha’ did I tell ya?”




This is the man who, on the way home from market one day, mysteriously lost two cows out of a trailer. Could have had something to do with the style of driving favoured by the typical Irish farmer, allied with the trailer door swinging wide open. Anslie returned to hunt down his cows, who were grazing by the side of the road about twenty miles back. He coaxed them into the trailer by way of a kick up the arse, reinforced the door with baling twine, and drove home . . . only to find the cows had fallen out of the trailer again.


(There’s no happy ending to this – what d’you expect? Any story involving cattle ends up in the giant farm in the sky.)


I’m hoping this illustrates why Anslie had no problem with me taking his €50000 tractor out on the open road:


“Come on Anslie, it’s no FUN going around a field. And I can’t say I’ve REALLY driven a tractor until I’ve been down a main road with at least 20 cars backed up behind me.”


“Supposin’ yer right, ar. Take ‘er up hill.”




So off we went up the hill, Anslie still clinging grimly to the back of the tractor.


“You think I could swart the hedgerow?” I asked, just on the off chance.


“Chrisht, NAW! Keep ‘er straight!”


“It’s pretty responsive, isn’t it?”


“Ar. Steerin’s bit timid al’ right.”


“Ok, I need to know how to salute people. The farmer’s nod. Does it go like this? Or this?”


“Never nod the head up,” said Michelle knowledgeably; she grew up down the road from The Farm. “People will think you’re up yourself, sticking your nose in the air.”


“An’ wan finger up aff da steerin’ weel. Like dah. Ar.”


I’m not sure I will ever make a farmer; there were only three people behind me when I PULLED INTO A GATEWAY TO LET THEM PASS. It is doubtful whether I have the robust insouciance of character required for farming life. Being a total wuss probably doesn’t help either



Photo by Michelle – Anneslie with me in the tractor and the remains of a bush that got in the way

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