October and November are busy times on the farm. Grazing for cows on the grass parks finishes at the end of October and they have to be brought back to the farm for housing or out wintering and feeding out. Shorter days and colder weather has slowed grass growth to almost nothing, in turn it means that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence for our cows. Each day they lean further and harder against the ageing boundary fences to reach that tastier morsel. Touch wood, fences are holding and the angry phone call from a neighbour ranting about the thirty heifers rampaging through his barley has yet to come.
This call normally comes through to my phone while I'm at work. After ten minutes of my pocket vibrating I have to excuse myself from the checkout and my rapidly worsening void rate, to hide in the loos and pass the disaster on to my father in law. If my phones ringing it means that Mr Farmers mobile hasn't been answered as he is busy at work too.
Not only are the cows coming home but one of the most important times for sheep is coming up too. Grandpa always said "put your tups out on bonfire night and you'll be lambing on April Fool’s day", Grandpas logic was always a few weeks’ wrong but near enough for us. Two weeks before male sheep join the flock, ewes or lady sheep are pushed on to better grazing which causes them to produce more eggs and improve their fertility, this is known as flushing the ewes.
In-between stocking shelves, voiding double scanned products, chasing cows, moving sheep and walking dogs; normal tasks are always there. The role of a farmer’s wife still includes all the household tasks. Picking brambles and making jam is out of the question, grabbing a jar of Hartley’s at the 24 hour garage is more like it. The tumble dryer is a godsend at this time of year and the clanking of tumbling buttons drowns out Mr Farmer scrutinising the electric meter and moaning about the cost of running it. Homemade food is still on the agenda but it's often been made in big batches years before and reheated from the deep freeze, followed by a 2012 vintage Apple and Pear crumble and custard.
Three new pedigree Charolais cows with calves have joined the herd, I wasn't allowed to know the cost, but guessing from the fact that they are the first cows to be housed and are sleeping in bright shiny barley straw, that they cost a small fortune. Another give away is the amount of time that Mr Farmer spends leaning on the feed barrier looking at them and saying things like "look at the length of that cow" or "see the back end of that calf, that's a good calf"; while poor Mrs Farmer shovels out the dog muck and refills the water bowls behind him in the yard...