Tag Archives: cows

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 13

12 Tui Glen Drive, Levin, New Zealand

December 2014 – August 2016

We instantly fell in love with this place during the open house that the rental agency staged. Other people attended besides Eric and me so we behaved as super nice as possible to the rental people. In the end we were lucky enough to get selected.

We met the owners. They seemed a nice couple. She was a New Zealander and he was originally from Vanuatu. Their work was one and a half hours drive away and they were tired of travelling. They would rent somewhere closer to work and rent their own place out to us via the rental agency. We signed a year’s contract.

There were several acres of land made up of three paddocks and an orchard, as well as the lawns around the house itself. The owners had half a dozen cows and about a dozen sheep; far too many for such a small property. They would feed them hay all year. Fortunately they took the livestock with them.

Billy the Goat’s house was placed in one of the paddocks and he was very much at home.

We purchased a young Aberdeen Angus cattle beast that we called Blossom. When she reached about eighteen months of age we would call in the butcher. Several months before the butcher’s engagement we bought another young cow, a Simmental, that we called Truffle. Truffle would replace Blossom.

The owners were keen that we keep the place tidy. We were permitted to have a vegetable garden under the tall trees at the entrance gate. It was infertile and shaded. The garden wasn’t overall particularly successful. We did have success with tomatoes however, as there was a concrete path all around the house and about six inches of soil with no grass growing edged the path. We planted tomatoes all along the edge of the path. Not only did the mature tomato plants flop all over the footpath making it impassable, but they produced literally thousands of tomatoes.

It was a very happy year and the translation business was going well. Such was the amount of work required that I volunteered to format the documents to be translated. I still do that to this day.

The house was modern and comfortable. I had taken up practising the piano with a vengeance. The Levin Public Library held concerts every Friday and I was invited seven times to give an hour’s concert. It was great motivation to practise the piano daily. I think the library viewed keyboard works from the Baroque and Classical Periods to be more suited to a library environment!

At one stage I had a heart attack. The ambulance arrived at the same time as the guy arrived to clean the chimney. He said he’d come back later. They put me in hospital for a week or so. The heart specialist said the arteries are so gunked up they couldn’t even do a stent. They sent me home with pills that thus far seem to be doing their job.

We got the ute (pickup) fixed while we lived here. It had become a rust bucket. And what a great job they did! It was cheaper to get it done up and made road-worthy than to buy another.

Usually a Rental Agency will come and inspect a house every three months or so and report to the owners. They were always pleased with the care we took. We signed a contract to rent the property for a second year. The day after we signed, the owners withdrew the property from the Rental Agency.  They would look after the rental agreement themselves.  There’s a phrase Rental Agencies have for clients who take over a contract once the paper work is done and the contract signed. I can’t remember what the phrase is but it’s not polite.

On the first Saturday after the takeover we had a six hour inspection. Every nook and cranny, every cupboard and shelf, was examined minutely. They left, giving us a list of things to be improved. They reappeared to do a similar inspection the following Saturday – and every Saturday. Eric and I would take the dog and go to the beach for the day. If it was raining we would sit in the car until sunset.

A list on the kitchen bench would greet us on return:

- There are water droplets on the board behind the kitchen faucets.
- The waste bin in the kitchen is in the wrong place.
- There is dust on the window sill in the dining room. (They would have had to have climbed under the table to see it).
- Who gave permission to plant irises in the vegetable garden?

On and on the inspections went and we still had six months to go on the contract. Things got worse. We came home after a day of sitting in the car and they had stripped every fruit tree of its fruit. The orchard was part of the rental agreement. The next thing a lawn mowing company moved in and cut down all the grass in the fields that was intended for the cow and goat. We had to quickly buy some hay. The fields were looking uncut and untidy, said the landlords. We were presented with a bill from the lawn mowing company for $180. The only thing we could do was to rent another house altogether and pay two lots of rent until our contract ran out. We made a submission to the Rental Association who ordered a hearing for the case.  We were well prepared. Would you believe? We got the month wrong and missed the hearing.

The landlords seized the occasion. They took us to court for abandoning the contract and destroying property. They wanted $6,000 in compensation. They had first gone to another rental agency so that new renters could be found. We had a letter from the new rental agency saying we had abandoned the building and had broken the contract which will now terminate officially in a week. But we still had stuff at the house – such as Truffle the Cow and Billy the Goat! We quickly had to finish packing and moving. Billy went to his new home – to be cared for by one of my brothers.

The sole butcher in town was away on vacation. We couldn’t take the cow with us into town! I found the butcher’s son who could cull it for the freezer before 7 am when we had to hand over the keys. Have you ever held a light for a butcher while he guts and quarters a cow in a field in the middle of the night? Then we had to clean the house. We made it out on time yet still the court case loomed.

What nasty things had we done? “They, your Honour,” said the landlords, “have made holes in the ceiling with a broom handle, all along the corridor. And here are photos to prove it taken during the rental agency’s final inspection.”  Eric pointed out that apparently they were not overly computer literate. The date and time is recorded in the photos on a computer. The photographs were taken the day after the inspection and at seven in the evening.

We knew we would get an unfavourable judgement. The judge had been efficient and curt. She clearly didn’t like us. We were dismissed with a wave of the hand and were to be informed of the outcome by letter. The landlord’s son had been murdered several months beforehand in a domestic dispute. We didn’t have such a heart-rending story to sweeten the tale.

It was the day of the presidential election in the United States. Hillary lost to Trump. The letter arrived. We have since referred to the landlord-losers in this case as “The Clintons”.

2134. You are being watched

Sometimes (quite often actually) I feel as if I’m being watched. It’s nothing really. It’s just that every time I go somewhere everyone and everything looks. In fact, once or twice I’ve put my hands into my pockets just to ascertain whether or not I remembered to put on my pants.

There’s nothing unusual about my appearance that I know of. I’m really quite ordinary to look at. In fact, when I left my home planet (somewhere up near Sirius – I’m not allowed to say) I thought the Department of Shape-Changing did a pretty good job of making me look like an ordinary Earthling.

But here on Earth it’s mainly the cows that stare. I know that the Crowdacians (they’re from a planet fairly close to mine, and they’re our greatest enemy) take on the appearance of a cattle beast. They’re so good at it that often I can’t tell a real cow from a Crowdacian. The Cow is one look that our Department of Shape-Changing has never been able to master.

So when I see a herd of cattle I stop. They all stare, and I shout: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Milking time! Go home! Milking time!” That usually sorts them out. The fake-cow-Crowdacians can’t stand that. They stamp their feet and drool at the mouth. So that’s one way I get to determine who is who.

But now I’m faced with a terrible conundrum. To make myself appear even more normal of a human being I got myself a pet cat. Every second Earthling seems to have a pet cat. And now I’ve discovered that my cat in fact is a Midconsevarian in disguise. At first I didn’t know where the planet was that Midconsevarians came from. But now I know and it’s not nice. I love my cat but have strict orders from my Department of Shape-Changing that I shouldn’t associate.

What am I to do? Everything and everyone stares. I love my pet cat. I want to go home. I asked to be relieved of this terrible cross (goodness, I seem to be taking on the language of an Earthling religion). I have been told that I am on a sixty year contract to stay on Earth.

So a warning to others: think twice before volunteering to do a spell on Earth. It can really suck.

2024. A couple of cows and a few pigs

When Frank bought his little farmlet (big enough for a couple of cows and a few pigs and room to pursue his special hobby of growing asparagus) he never warmed to the guy who sold it to him. Harvey was the previous owner’s name. Harvey had lived alone, made stupid blunt observations, and couldn’t even crack a smile at any of Frank’s little break-the-ice jokes.

What Harvey clearly needed was a wife to moderate his bluntness and turn him into a human being. (Sorry if that sounds sexist but it works both ways). Having a wife and a few kids might have softened his edges a bit. Anyway, he was single and that was that. On the other hand, Frank was married but with no kids. His wife had certainly made him more open to other points of view. In fact, he had learned over a few years to agree with absolutely everybody about absolutely everything – and especially to agree with his wife. Oh! She could make life a living hell if he disagreed with her.

The small farm (apart from a rather attractive post-card cottage) had a hay barn and a garden shed. The hay barn was filled with hay bales. The hay would last Frank with his couple of cows for two or three years…

It was now his second year on the farm and things were going well with Frank. He would have to get more hay because it neared the end of the supply. Just six hay bales left. And then he noticed…

Sticking out the end of one of the bales were a couple of partly decomposed leg bones wearing bright blue stiletto heels.

That gave Frank an idea.

1845. To find someone nice

Destiny said she didn’t marry her husband’s job; she married her husband. Quite frankly, she hated her husband’s job; cows, cows, cows. All he did every morning was milk cows. All he did every afternoon was milk cows. Was there ever time off?

Roman was doing his best. He’d grown up on a dairy farm. Dairy farming was all he knew. He’d worked hard throughout his teens. His father left Roman the farm. He built a special house on it for his widowed mother. He met and married Destiny. That was about his life.

Destiny didn’t merely love Roman; she fell in love with the prestigiousness of his habitation. How wonderful to live on a farm! How wonderful to have all this space! A house! A garden! Some chickens! A pet calf for the children when children came along! Fresh milk! All her friends married labourers of one sort or another; plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers. They lived in hovels in town. She lived in a mansion; more of a manor. She alone had married into proper bliss.

Can’t you take some time off so we can get away? asked Destiny.

The cows can’t not be milked.

Pay someone else to do it.

We can’t afford to do that yet.

Since a while Roman’s mother cooked one decent meal a day and brought it over. Destiny has gone off somewhere in pursuit of happiness. It’s all over. Roman wished he could get out sometimes and perhaps meet someone nice. If only he could find someone to milk the cows say one night a week.

Success! He found Ned Burton’s daughter from up the road to milk the cows on Thursdays. Betty knew the ropes; she was brought up on a farm. In fact, Betty helped milk the cows twice a day every day of the week. And on his day off Roman would give her a hand to milk. He didn’t need to look too far to find someone nice.

Poem 83: When I was young and free as a bird

When I was young and free
as a bird, as the wind,
I knew every frog,
every eel, every darting fish in the stream.
I knew every wasp nest. I knew every
empty and abandoned butterfly cocoon.
I thought thoughts like a wild duck and could
walk straight to their hidden nests.
I knew the secrets of pied stilts on river beds
where they laid eggs disguised as stones.
I knew where to find peripatus resting in rotting logs.
I knew when to go get the bull to put to the cow, and
mark in the book when the calf was due.
I could milk all the cows, the whole herd of 120, all by myself;
and drive a tractor; and make hay while the sun shone.

And then I went to high school and they made me
take trigonometry. I couldn’t understand a thing. I liked
Euclidean Geometry but they dropped that from the syllabus.
They taught Shakespeare and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught Bertolt Brecht and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught T.S. Eliot and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught physics and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught chemistry and I didn’t understand a word.
They made me read Darwin and Mendel and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught Latin and I never knew what an ablative absolute was.
They made me play sports and I could never comprehend the rules.
And in between I’d go home and milk the cows.

And then I went to university and they made me
study Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Boulez and Messiaen. I couldn’t understand a thing. I liked
playing Scarlatti on the piano but they dropped that from the syllabus.
They taught John Dryden and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught Samuel Beckett and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught Teilhard de Chardin and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught how to calculate the properties of a distant star and I didn’t understand a word.
They taught Plato and Bertrand Russell and I didn’t understand a word.
They made me read Clarissa and Joseph Andrews and I didn’t understand a word.
The only thing I understood about Einstein was that he played the violin.
They made me study deoxyribonucleic acid and it tied me up in knots.
And in between I’d go home and milk the cows.

The other day someone said
have you noticed there are fewer birds about these days?
I looked and counted 24 species out my window.
I hadn’t looked for over fifty years.
I should never have stopped milking cows.
Funny how some things don’t work out.

To hear the poem read aloud click HERE.