Me and My Dog: So much for our routines changing for another season

The sun came out last week and the clouds disappeared for a few days. The temperature even got to 20 degrees Celsius. After a long winter and near despair with heavy rain the previous Monday, the drying wind and the sunshine were welcomed by all. Unfortunately, we’ve had showery days too.

LouLou has been accompanying me on my morning and evening rounds and knows exactly what I will do next. If she helps Brian first in the mornings while I’m getting the kids to school, she then waits at the back door for me to come out. When I’m feeding calves in the new calf shed, she either rolls and plays in the straw or lies down to watch me. When I go to give milk to particular pens, she darts in the side ready to round up any calf that doesn’t go to the feeder immediately. I can only assume that as I had to get into those pens when the calves were young, perhaps to encourage a wayward calf or sort out a crush on one side of the feeder and Lou still assumes that I might need help.

When I scrape and lime the cubicles, she tags along. She walks along the raised platform of the cubicles as I push the scraper and as she walks faster than me, she waits patiently for me at the end before turning around to head back. When I go to the hayshed to fill up the buckets with lime, she knows this is her chance to play amongst the rapidly diminishing number of straw bales in her constant search for farm cats in hiding.

The weather has been changeable and the forecast isn’t great for tomorrow either. If the cows aren’t going out to grass, I separate out 55 cows from the others as they are housed in a separate cubicle shed. The highlight of her day is bringing in the cows to be milked, helping me bring this batch over to the new shed or getting the cows out of the cubicles. From the moment I start the jobs, she is watching for me to walk in the direction of the cows and then she flies past me like a bullet.

Although I love the solitude of farming, and to be honest, for the most part, Lou and I work together in a companionable silence, it’s lovely to see her joy when she hears me putting on my wellies in the back hall as she launches herself at me when I open the door and then races ahead as if to say ‘hurry up, we’ve lots of work to do with cows today’. Dogs really are the best company.

Thankfully the weather today and yesterday was sunnier than was forecast and we got back to one of our favourite jobs, ambling along the lane to shut the cows into their field for the day or night. Here’s hoping it continues as we have a number of fields which are just too wet to graze at the moment.

Another job I thought had finished for the winter is the bringing in of sticks for the fire. It’s quite cold at night still. I saw up pallets for the woodstove in the kitchen and it really is a relaxing 20 minutes. I rest the pallet on an old chest of drawers in the old stables. That’s my woodshed. Lou goes cat searching in the old castle gardens as I’m working but she pops in to me every few minutes to let me know she is okay. If I hear a vehicle coming in the distance, she usually arrives in before I have a chance to call her as she knows I’ll be calling her anyway. She’s not the most sensible of dogs amongst machinery.

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As it’s 1st of May tomorrow, here’s hoping the sun keeps shining, temperatures increase and the rain clouds disappear, and we can get into our summer routines of herding cattle, bringing in cows, shutting out cows, grass measuring, moving cattle and so on. At the moment, one really heavy shower could set it all back another week. Breeding season started today. We’re bringing home the maiden heifers from the outfarm later. They’d normally go to a nearby field and it would be one of Lou’s jobs to help us bring them in each morning so any on heat (ovulating) can be separated from the group. However, we’ve had to clean out a shed. It’s horrible to be putting them back indoors.

Fingers crossed for a long and sunny summer.

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