It’s been a hard week on the farm. Life out here is beautiful, full of charm and can be a big challenge. We’ve been searching for escaped and missing animals this week and it’s been exhausting and emotional for everyone.
Our week started with some wandering ponies, putting our tracking skills to use and a lot of stress. We have three Shetland ponies and a male sheep that free range on our property. They’ve been free to come and go as they please for the last 18 months and have never ventured past the steep track that leads down to the river and ultimately the village 5km away.
I’m well aware that this is mostly due to good luck and pretty much any free-range animal will eventually if not immediately venture further than they should. This week our luck was up.
Heading out to work at a friend’s farm we discovered they were nowhere to be found. The trail of manure on the track towards the village gave the game away. Thankfully we’ve had some rain and managed to find which trail they had taken by searching for their tracks. We found them grazing on a terrace of olive trees 2km up a steep hill. I was relieved, slightly annoyed and amused they had made it so far!
We’ve had a few months of relentless work on top of everyone being sick and our baby keeping us up all hours so I was exhausted and the thought of walking this raggedy band to our distant farm seemed like a big challenge. Actually, it was just what I had needed. I realised I hadn’t had a moment to myself in weeks and the 40-minute walk home with the sounds of trotting ponies at my heels was blissful.
The days of free-ranging were over for these beasts. We set about completing the long-abandoned fence project on our terraces to keep them at home. With zero budget and time, our efforts would take a few days so I ended up walking those ponies and our sheep home three more times this week. This involved some chasing, some stumbling over rocks and plenty of working out where the track was in the pitch black.
Building the fence was less than simple, during the process our pigs also escaped! The boar wanted to get friendly with one of the food barrels we had tied to the inside of their pen and broke a rail in the process. Our sow and her little brood of piglets saw their opportunity and made a break for it. So Dan’s trying to finish the pony fence and I’m chasing a 150-kilo pig around the terrace trying not to step on her little ones and watching our kids at the same time!
It’s a good job we have a few tonnes of hay stored as now the ponies are all penned in we have to feed them. It is a relief to know they are here and not venturing to the village allotments or vineyards.
Now that the ponies and sheep were secure we had to turn our attention to our heavily pregnant goat Daisy. She had taken herself to our forest area where the chickens roam so we knew she was close.
The day before yesterday we found her calling at the edge of the fence first thing in the morning. She had some blood on her hind legs and plenty of milk but there was no kid to be found. They can get very tired the first few days so we searched the terraces and the forest, looking under each bush and expecting to find a tiny, cute little goat quietly sleeping.
Eventually, I found a small scrap if skin and white fluff on the ground. Poor Daisy, something had got into the pen and taken her kid. She has been calling for him ever since.
We milked her out to give her some relief and the pigs were happy for the extra ration of fresh milk. We may continue to milk her but finding the time twice a day is difficult with two little ones and plenty of everything else on our plate as usual.
I’ve tried to spend a lot of time with her the last few days, to keep her calm and make sure there are no complications from kidding. Physically she’s doing great but she doesn’t know what happened to her baby so she’s very stressed and so are we.
These types of incidents just leave you feeling flat. I’m sad and worried for Daisy and just plain exhausted from it all. I’ve been telling our two-year-old that soon there would be a baby goat and now I’m just avoiding the subject and wondering why there isn’t more chocolate in the cupboard.
Getting the Good Life can be hard and emotional and often far from simple. Hopefully, our next seven days will be a bit quieter and we can all start to recover from all this stress. You can never tell what will happen when you live in the middle of nowhere with an odd little band of animals…