Obviously, I've had the dread black cutworm. But it's not just me. Potato growers are complaining of low sunlight hours, failed crops, and a poor year for spuds. Vintners are stressing over a perfect season for powdery mildew. There's been uncommonly aggressive rusts on the garlic and on the broad beans around the valley....
And the worrying is set to continue into what is forecast as a wet and warm summer.
So there's nothing like the timely birth of a stunning Jersey girl-calf to lift the spirits. She was born 24 hours ago, and she's already on her feet, shepherded around the paddock by by her mother, Florence. The calf was a bit slow in getting onto the teat, so I had to clasp her hips between my knees, push her head down and squirt warm colostrum from her mother's udder onto her nose until she sucked, sucked, sucked to get her fill. If Flo' is not letting down enough, the calf butts her nose into her mother's udder hard, once, twice, thrice.
Jerseys produce far more than a calf can drink, so we have to milk out the rest of Flo's colostrum every day until she's into milk. Then we will start sharing the milk with the calf. She needs up to six litres a day, and the rest is for us.
Real cow's milk is different to what you get in a plastic bottle or paper carton. It is cow-ier. It tastes like the smells of a living cow breathing, farting and shitting. These smells are not unpleasant. They are grassy and real. They are part of leaning your head against the warm cow and squirting long streams into the pail, for as long as it takes to milk her out. It's a kind of meditation.
You get up in a mild daze. Your hands smell of milk. There's nothing like it.