At 8pm, which happens to be “acid hour” for Alex, a truck carrying four pallet loads of calf feed arrived. The calf feed comes in unsealed bulk bags and forecast drizzle would wreck it, so the stuff had to be moved to shelter before long.
I was singing “Pop goes the Weasel” for the millionth time and Wayne had fallen asleep cuddling Zoe.
Wayne had told the feed guy it was okay to deliver late but when push came to shove, he couldn’t be woken despite repeated attempts. On the other hand, Alex couldn’t sleep. The only thing to do was put on the baby carrier and jump in the tractor.
Alex and I brush up our loader skills
But, jeepers, it took me forever and I was like a jack in the box, checking and double-checking I wasn’t skewering a bag in the pitch black driveway. Alex was fast asleep by the time I had the first pallet loaded up though and I might just blow stockfeed Scott a kiss for the unconventional but effective baby soothing lesson.
A wisecrack of a boss once told me that photocopiers can sense human stress levels and know exactly when to break down. So it is with troughs.
Alex was beginning to squirm with annoyance in the carrier on my chest and it was past Zoe’s dinner time as we headed home after setting up paddocks in the late evening sun. Then, a minor catastrophe.
A laneway trough with water gushing over the edge couldn’t be left until the morning and this was no simple task of adjusting the float, which is usually the case with this infamous trough. It was properly busted.
This trough is always causing trouble Pic credit: Zoe
A little brass pin that holds the float arm in the valve had failed. Now the big question: can you fix a water trough with a baby in a front carrier without unintentionally baptising the poor little fellow? Sorry Alex. No, you can’t.
The only thing for it was to take him off, put him down in the paddock and see whether Zoe’s charms could keep him entertained while a much more slimline me could do a bushies’ repair.
Zoe entertains Alex Spanish style
A couple of minutes later, here was the rather rustic repair:
Bushy's trough repair - not proud of it but it works!
And the end result? Alex squealing with delight at Zoe’s matador antics and dinner delayed by just 10 minutes! Now, if only I could work out what that trough has against me…
Keeping a baby safe, cool and protected from the sun while doing farm work is something of a challenge. And we all know how farmers rise to a challenge, equipped with hay band, tape and either WD40 or silicone!
In my case, it was half a dozen paper lunch bags taped onto the top of the baby carrier to form a “verandah” of sorts that got the fashionistas talking. I’ve since moved on and think I have achieved perfection.
Some of Wayne’s old XXL cotton shirts have been seconded for a noble mission and you can see the result in the pic above. I just put one of these oversize shirts on over my singlet and the carrier and do up the bottom few buttons. Little man can be nudie rudie under the shirt and safe from the stinging sun.
Sun protection is equally as important for Zoe, who has just got a new hat and sunnies for summer (yes, I know it’s not strictly summer quite yet but it sure feels like it!).
Slip, slop, slap and splash with the yard hose makes for a cool farm girl
Baby Alex suggested we stop for brunch
Baby Alex was out in the paddocks at just six days old so, now at nine weeks, he’s practically an old hand! He “suggested” we take a break from fence repairs for a quick snack. Great view for brunch.
Fix fence with baby on board
I’ve agonised over this post but, as a neighbour reminded me, it’s important to let non-farmers hear what life’s really like on farm, warts and all. And the wart-encrusted truth is that, right now, my frustration is matched only by the desperation of my husband.
He hasn’t been back to the house for a break since he left at 5am. Since then, he’s rounded up, milked, washed up, fed the calves, fed out 60kg of grain to the springers, fed four rolls of silage to the milkers and another three to the dry and young ones, rescued a sick cow, buried a still-born calf, and with our help, brought in a new calf and cow. He still has to muck out the calf pens before rounding up again at 3pm. It’s 1.50 as I type.
Still on doctor’s orders not to lift anything, plus a five-week-old strapped to my front and a five-year-old beside me, the list of things I must not do is far, far longer than the list of things I can. I’ve been doing the finances while feeding Alex, fixing fences, working out pasture rotations and shifting stock. Nothing like my normal contribution or even what I did during late pregnancy. Not enough to make a dent on my husband’s workload. Not enough to avert a creeping sense of failure.
The rational me alternates between the compassionate “you’re doing everything you can” and the sterner “just get on with it” stiff upper lip. We’ve faced tougher tests and will get through this one but if anyone thinks life on the land is cruisy, think again.