Putting the hours in…
Mulching is hard work, there’s no doubt about it, but other than that we’ve had a reasonably slow start I guess. Time to step it up a gear!
Day 119 – Monday 19th September 2016
We had one mission today and that was to get mulching over and done with so that we never have to spend another second of our lives doing it again. Ever.
We started working at around 08:30 to a new plan which Abbie thought up. Initially we disagreed on how to work in the most quick and efficient way possible, but found our stride after a while and started to really get into it.
The weather really couldn’t make up its mind, but a mix of light showers, cloudy skies and occasional sunshine actually suited us very well. We worked for roughly four hours before stopping for tea, which brought us to midday. At that point we didn’t have too much left to do, but instead of making the tea last through until lunchtime and finishing up for the day we got back to work. Two hours later, after putting in an hour and a half worth of overtime, we finally had the job done. We grabbed our hosts, got their approval, and then put away the buckets, spades, shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows that had been haunting us since the day we arrived. Finally, the job was done.
Our afternoon was spent back at the room, feeling shattered yet completely accomplished. We only showed our faces again for dinner, before calling it a night and heading for bed quite early. We went to sleep pretty certain that no matter what tomorrow throws at us, it’ll probably be more enjoyable than shifting doing that again all day!
Day 120 – Tuesday 20th September 2016
Unlike every other morning, we had no idea what we’d be up to today. We were told at breakfast that our day would be spent with one of the hosts, doing just about as many things as you can imagine on a farm. We started with a quick quad bike lesson, before riding down towards the lambs so that we could move them from one paddock to another. Abbie chose to ride on the back of my quad bike, which was a bold move seeing as though I’d never been in control of one before, but I got the hang of it pretty fast.
Herding lambs was a lot more difficult than it sounds. You can’t get too close because then you’ll scare them and they’ll run away, but you can’t stay too far back because then they’ll see an opportunity to escape and run away. That combined with riding a quad bike for the first time made quite a comical show, although a relatively successful one. The little buggers only managed to scramble once before we rounded them up again and directed them through an open gate back to where they’re meant to be. Job done.
The plan was to attend to the calves again after that, but on the way we spotted a broken fence which took around half an hour to fix. We didn’t have any tools to hand so watched our host spend some time untangling barbed wire with his hands and hammering posts into the ground using broken tree branches. We probably could have helped, but decided not to because we knew that we’d almost definitely walk away injured.
From there we rounded up the calves on quad bikes, which was even more difficult as they’re just a bit bigger and scarier than lambs when they run at you, but no real trouble. One of them actually decided to jump over a fence in the wrong direction which really frustrated our host, who said it was my fault because I got too close (of course), but we had it back on track within no time. Then, with the herd back together again, we guided them into a smaller paddock where our next few jobs would take place – drenching and tagging.
The drenching involved holding a calf by the head (which isn’t easy, funnily enough) and spraying 10ml of liquid down its throat, kind of like a vaccination. We watched our host do of that because neither of us fancied calf wrestling (as he calls it), and then moved on to tagging. The process wasn’t difficult in theory – Abbie would write out numbered tags one at a time, then our host would tag each calf while reading out some details (number, gender, size, and colour) which I had to take note of for future reference. In short, Abbie wrote from number one to twenty seven on small bits of plastic, then each calf was given a new ear ring, and I took notes. After that, we moved them back to where they belong, and headed in for lunch.
On a regular day that we would’ve stopped working after eating, but we spotted a few cows who had escaped their paddock, and couldn’t just leave them to roam free. We let our hosts know, jumped on a quad bike, and chased them into a corner at the back end of the farm. Then we worked out how they managed to escape, fixed three broken gates and loads of broken fence posts, noticed that the electric fence wasn’t working so had to replace loads of insulators, and finally lad the cows back to where they belong.
We had no idea quite how big the farm was until this afternoon, but seeing as though we were already half way there, our host took us on a complete tour before we headed back. Amongst the buildings, paddocks, and hay barns that they own, they also have a fresh water stream, a number of camp grounds and even a shooting range. We will definitely take a quad bike out one afternoon and take you on a video tour of the place just to show you how impressive it is, so there’s another something for you to look forward to!
Despite the fact that we worked a double shift today, starting at 08:00 and not finishing until around 18:00, theres on thing that I am absolutely certain of – given the choice, I would 100% take another ten hour day of various farm work over a five hour day of mulching. Besides, we learned a hell of a lot today, and actually had quite a lot of fun along the way!