I could have an easier life.
I farm because I want clean nutrient dense food for my family. That is all.

I’ve been watching the conversations go round and round arguing the case for GMO technology as the best way of improving productivity and ‘feeding the world’.
I’ve also watched as people trained in the sciences abuse others for thier ‘lack of capacity to mount an argument of measured evidence’ in trying to express their reticence about accepting the stated benefits of GMOs and their clumsy but very legitimate articulation of an alternate view.

Genetic modification can be as simple as identifying desirable traits in a plant and breeding them into a crop, sometimes forming a new species. Humans have been doing that in a simple form since Mesopotamia.
So why the hub bub and rhetoric from many countries, in particular via import bans throughout the European Union?

What many markets fear, particularly Europe and parts of Asia, is the impact of recombinant DNA on the human body in ways we haven’t yet understood. That includes the potential for desirable traits in one species to transfer to another species, where the trait would be harmful.
This is true of herbicide-resistant wheat and alfalfa.
If such herbicide resistance were accidentally to slip into the DNA of a weed, for instance, it could form a superweed, impossible to kill with modern methods.
Sobering thought. Think cane toad, think rabbit and then put this possibility into an Australian context- introduced to help solve a production issue and now a scourge in this land. Do we really want to take another risk with what’s left of our biodiversity- and our arable farmlands?

The question for me is not the economic imperative but simply why take the risk with ANY unproven technology, especially one that manipulates nature herself, when already the signs are there of unintended consequences and community disquiet.

I don’t know the full scientific breakdown of the pros and cons of GMOs. I’m not a scientist (but even if I were – could I know every fact or possible outcome? I don’t possess the arrogance to think so…)

Why are there rising levels of glyphosate residue being found in human urine samples across more than 18 European countries?

A proclaimed ‘simple, effective and environmentally harmless’ compound developed to make monoculture agriculture machinery-friendly and profitable, and ‘gifted’ in the 70’s to home gardeners- surely the reporting of glysophate in all food chains including meat tissue and milk products is just greenie, tree hugging, frogshit propaganda??? (See articles and study’s at Glyphosate and GMOs)

Why, after destroying the traditional cultures of African nations in the 19th century to give them the gift of ‘modern’ society did we not consider, observe and learn from what was done? In forcing them to become urban societies we took away their capacity to feed themselves through sustainable farming practices dating back millennia, only to leave them dependent on Nestlè and other corporations to feed thier children while Royal Dutch Shell destroyed arable land across Nigeria just to pipe oil. Have we learned nothing?

So it’s right that Europe is showing leadership and hesitating before accepting GMO imports.

Africa, South America and Australia are all historical examples of typical environmental destruction through careless stewardship .
So then why are we prepared, as an international community to accept that corporations such as Monsanto have the nutrition of the human race as thier guiding principle in developing and pushing GMO technology?

For me it’s no different to pondering why we are at war, even at the farm gate, over oil or gas or coal – it has NOTHING to do with democracy or freedom to live or even food. Nothing.

We are too many on this planet now to wind back ‘progress’; but I for one am not sitting back waiting for governments to legislate or regulate to protect me and my family’s food supply.
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Knowing that my cattle eat native pasture and that I’ve sourced good forage to supplement them in hard seasons I will use the cows poo pats to improve my vegetable patch and give thanks for what I can grow on my piece of country.
I will continue to raise hens and pigs -for us-in as sustainable and light a way as my simple brain can think through.

I am aiming for a closed system small farm, not an economic bonanza.

I want to take responsibility for my own and my family’s health and well being.

I just don’t want to be forced to accept ANY process that I haven’t gone into willingly with my eyes wide open.

Why should any farmer be the collateral damage of a new technology, anymore than war or economic growth or land acquisition for mining or ‘development’ be allowed to displace indigenous populations.

People we’ve already given away too much of our autonomy and individual capacity to make a difference in any way other than grass roots action.
I don’t know any other way, and I for one will just keep plodding along my chosen path until – well, until I just can’t anymore…

The repercussions of agisting off farm

One of the most challenging learning curves I’ve dealt with this year has been some tough lessons around the art of contract agistment….
After surviving ten years of drought, followed by two years of flooding the last thing I expected last summer was to be plunging into a dry that was worse than all that had gone before.
It was sadly clear by early January that in spite of opening up all the forest pastures, there was not going to be enough feed for our cattle to do well this year. Selling cattle into a falling market was not an option, though I did sell some of the Wagyu breeders.
I was keen to implement some pasture renovation techniques I’d studied in a number of courses I’ve completed over the past year; and I was urged to consider agisting my herd on a property closer to the coast with good pasture growth, and the bonus was it would give me the breathing space to resow and mulch the grazing paddocks. Twelve months was agreed.
Moving the cattle out there was traumatic (for me) and exhausting. It felt wrong to not see my cows dotted on the hills outside my windows.
What I didn’t really expect was to have the whole deal fall in a heap less than three months in, with no explanation aside from an irrational ‘we’ve changed our minds’.
New arrangements in that location had to be organised quickly, because the cattle couldn’t be transported anywhere without infrastructure to load them and luckily we struck an amicable agreement with the neighboring property to agist the herd till I could find a means to get them home. To add to the challenge- we still needed to hand feed forage to keep up with the nutrition levels the cattle required.
It was a very tough decision to go down the off farm agistment path initially, and I don’t think I would feel very open to doing it again, unless it were possible on an adjoining property where I retained full control of the herds welfare.
After a lot (a LOT) of delicate negotiation, and stress to find a contractor who could load up cattle with their own yards (i.e. build yards, provide loading facilities and a truck to transport). The cost was huge- financial and emotional.
But we managed.
It was such a relief to get the herd back home again, even though the goals I hoped to achieve by having them off farm were not realised.
One of the issues in shifting the cows home last weekend was that calving had already started so there was a bit of extra juggling to get little calves, frantic mumma cows and bigger animals split off and travel everyone home safely, without mishap.
One of the cows, a first time calver named Mirrabelle had her heifer calf just 48 hours before the big move, and managed to get locked into the truck with bigger cows minus her calf, so the concern was to have them reunited as quickly as possible to ensure the calf was not dehydrated or otherwise ‘mis-mothered’. We did notice Mirrabelle was a bit disconnected from the calf as we were working the cattle through the yards, but I just put it down to the clanging steel and strange blokes.
Back at home, by Sunday morning it was clear there was something more amiss and we found the heifer alone and calling…
An intervention was needed, and I was feeling pretty smug that all was sorted once I’d confined Mirrabelle in a small yard, tethered her head so she could eat but not horn the calf, and voila- drinking calf.

But alas!
In spite of lots of encouragement, Mirrabelle was clearly declining and not interested in the heifer. Poor little baby.
So last chance, having had 24 hours of at least some milk, we turned Mirrabelle and the calf out with the rest of the herd and crossed our collective fingers.
This morning, the calf was again abandoned, so there was no choice out to pick her up and feed her ourselves.

We have called her Lorraine, after the region in France where the delightful mirabelle plum is grown and concocted into marvelous liqueurs and divine Mirabelle de Lorraine, recognised and promoted by the EU as a high-quality regional product. Our french lass Melina chose the name and it seems appropriate.
So far little Lorraine is doing ok…

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Saucy Meat loaf- with Paleo options….

BushSpicesMeat loaf should take me back to my childhood years but it’s not really a part of Maltese cuisine- unless you sort of stretch Bragoli as a kind of unctuous meat loafy thing-(Beef olives in Maltese they’re called Bragoli)

But when I started to develop recipes while working on cook books and television for the manufacturing industry, no book passed the editorial team without at least one, and preferably two meatloaf recipes (yeah ok. it was the seventies and eighties last century after all….).

My time at National Panasonic and Sharp in particular gave me the opportunity to develop so many really interesting variations on traditional comfort food, reconfigured to suit microwave cooking. The film crews favourite was a saucy meatloaf simmered in a thick tomato-y Bar-b-acuey sauce that resulted in the tastiest loaf and it never lasted long. When Josh was little I used to make meatloaf cooked in a sauce of homemade tomato, maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce spread on top of the loaf while it was cooking to give it an extra touch of sweet and salty taste, especially good cold for sandwiches the next day. Remember Joshie?

So,after a post on Facebook,  I had a lot of requests for my recipe. so here it is.

I would love to say that this recipe originated generations ago in my family; however, if it did, it would contain ingredients such as flour and bread-crumbs, things not suitable for my health and my new found focus on a Paleo lifestyle.

For the meatloaf, the two bad ingredients that are in there are usually gluten in the form of  bread crumbs and any commercial bottled tomato sauce or ketchup. It’s not great to just leave the breadcrumbs out because it really changes the texture of meatloaf for the worse, especially if you then cook it in a microwave. So what I do is substitute minced mushrooms and some other small amount of moist vegetable-minced zucchini, minced carrot or additional onions for the breadcrumbs.

To get a nice sweet tomato topping without using a commercial sauce, use one small can of crushed tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and simmer it on the stove until it thickens up or use a good quality passata. Of course you can make a great fresh tomato and red capsicum salsa from scratch too. This way you get the great tomato smokey taste, but with fewer empty carbohydrates and more nutrition.

The challenge is finding ingredient(s) that can be used as the bonding agent for the loaf. In traditional recipes, these ingredients would most commonly be flour and eggs.   As we know, there are many healthy substitutes to wheat flour that we could use successfully like almond flour for example; however, I know that some of my friends struggle with nut allergies as well, so in that case I suggest you omit the binding agents altogether and substitute finely minced mushrooms.

I dont stress about the egg at all- but if you need to omit eggs, this recipie can cope because you’ve added in the extra moisture in the form of the finely minced mushroom and vegies. You may be surprised how successful and very tasty this is.

If you can add an egg so much the better to hold it together, and the result is a delicious and juicy meat loaf.

Worcestershire sauce often contains some soy sauce and honey is high in fructose, but the amount used is small enough not to be an issue. If you’d prefer to stay away from those two items however or if you just don’t have them handy in your kitchen, feel free to only use some homemade tomato sauce or other tomato based sauce to spread on the loaf for an equally pleasing result.

The whole point with this paleo thing is to just relax and enjoy- be aware of what you’re eating, but it’s not about slavishly following some strict guidelines every single mouthful- not for me any way.

The question to ask yourself is would my grandmother have eaten this? (or is it a post war abomination distilled in a laboratory by Nestle, masquerading as food?)

And using grass fed pastured animals that we’ve raised ourselves makes this humble economical mince meal a real treat.

Meat loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 Kilo ground beef (grass fed Dexter beef of course-I prefer the flavour of half pork mince and  half beef mince- and we farm both so…..);
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt;
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper;
  • 1 egg;
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped;
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms, very finely chopped (or substitute half a cup of finely ground almonds);
  • Half a cup of other finely grated moist vegetable (carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower)
  • 1 very finely chopped mild chili ( or not- I like to substitute a generous teaspoon of dried McCORMICK Bush Spices- my favourite ‘commercial’ spice at the moment);
  • 3 tsp fresh herbs of your choice (I prefer parsley but you can use the leaves only of  thyme, oregano or coriander finely chopped);
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped;

Sauce ingredients

  • ½ cup tomato sauce as described above;
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup or raw sugar, optional;
  • ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce, optional;
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp  cooking fat*
  1. Preheat your oven to medium hot (175 C /350 F).
  2. In a medium sized skillet placed over a medium heat, melt the cooking fat, add the mushrooms and onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft but not coloured.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the meat, salt, pepper, egg, onion, mushrooms, herbs, garlic and nut flour if used. Mix well, making sure to break-up the meat. Add the cooked mushrooms as well. It’s very important that the mushrooms are evenly distributed to ensure the loaf bonds well.
  4. Lightly grease a suitable sized pan (a loaf pan is easy) with additional cooking fat and fill it with the shaped meat mixture. Place in the hot oven and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes. (The loaf should start to shrink up and any excess fat or moisture will drain into the dish)
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, stock, sweetener and Worcestershire sauce to make the sauce for the top of the meatloaf.
  6. After cooking for 15 minutes, drain the collected fat from the loaf if required, then pour the sauce on the top of the loaf.
  7. Continue cooking for another 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when tested with a skewer.

Ok a note about the fat.  I always always cooked with either butter or virgin cold pressed olive oil or a combination of butter and olive oil. But Rebecca has switched me onto coconut oil. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat which makes it really stable under heat and solid at room temperature. If you buy the virgin coconut oil, it well leave a great yet subtle coconut taste and smell to your dishes. The taste is something I like in almost any situation except cooking eggs, where I prefer cooking with pure home rendered leaf lard or butter.

You’ve probably realised by now that I don’t believe that good fats make you fat and that saturated fats are in the good fat category.

In fact, fats make you happy, and their absorption by our bodies is way more complex than you imagine. Coconut oils main fatty acid content comes from Lauric acid (47% to be more precise). Lauric acid is a rare fatty acid that is a medium chain fatty-acid, which is supposed to be the easiest fatty acid to digest. Lauric acid also has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

It’s really hard to find Virgin Coconut oil in country Australia-(try Costco- OMG I just said Costco….) let alone Malta or other places- so for the amount of greasing you are doing here- don’t stress. A light smear of oil is fine- once the meat has its first cooking the loaf shrinks back and you can drain off any fat that’s accumulated and it won’t need to much else. The sauce will bake on -no matter what you do anyway.

what you are trying to avoid is using any vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6, they’re the ones that will end up killing you! Example of those include corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil. and the myth of oil high smoking points is moot- once a hydrogenated oil had begaun smoking its already very bad for you…. Even olive oil overheated breaks up into compounds you don’t want to know about. If this subject is all new to you, I suggest you read this great article on the importance of fats.

To convert this to microwave (1000w oven). Cook shaped loaf in glass loaf dish on medium-high 10 minutes , drain, top with sauce ingredients and continue cooking covered on medium 30- 40 minutes or till firm. Stand covered 20 minutes before serving with reduced sauce over.

The joy of pigs

I try not to worry about money- but farm life with animals or farm implements/gadgets is guaranteed to drain any money one has in the bank or on a card anywhere!

The issues that need attention on the farm expand to consume any available fiscal capacity.  I think I will patent that as a kind of Newtons law for farmers……..

Of course it’s natural-there is  always something that needs attention, and we are still developing a practical infrastructure so life  is all spend, spend, spend. But  I don’t kid myself. I am not in charge-I just react to each changing priority.

And then, often, I think that the animals actually run  the timetable around here…….last week, just three pigs (the large black and a pair of randy berkshire boars) absconded into the house yard and ploughed up my kitchen garden and finished up any tomatoes and herbs I was reluctant to pull up just yet…….and anything else they could. Including paving!  Really amazing strength in their noses!

Anyway, no point crying about it-I see an opportunity to change the  design of the  courtyard around, and there was  no real damage to the camellia’s  or adolescent citrus trees, which are very hard  to establish in this cold, elevated climate and after all, we did learn a bit more about secure fencing in the process….

So…..

The time has come to do some serious separating of the pig families, now that every one is  interested in finding  a mate! Berkshire boars  separated out  first, and lets hope they respect the netting and electric  wires- I think maybe I will     trial electrifying the netting, but at least three  high 4ml strands set low and  a broad hand span apart and another  set just above head height for them as they have demonstrated that they can get through whatever they choose in order  to reach a  lady fair…

Probably worth siting the girls up hill too so absconding under the netting is a less visible option to them.  I know all pigs are intelligent and I doubt that Berkshires are more intelligent than other breeds- it’s just they do have upright ears so compared to other heritage piggies they have good vision and they  can see the easiest way out. I think it’s as simple as that – and they don’t have to think long to work out a plan either. Like the musketeers, they work as a team to achieve their goals.

Now that the apple orchard site is plowed up and fertilised courtesy of the herd, let’s put the Saddleback  sows in  the stringybark gully for the rest of the winter and Berkshire sows above them on the wattle ridge.

I will have to introduce some ‘panel’ fencing and training electric  around a section of the rough shed and  Ethyl the large Cornish Black can come back to the house veggie garden along with the weaned  saddleback piglets- even at 300 kilos she is  easy to manage and will keep the piglets warm and teach them the ropes till her own litter arrives in September.

A plan- now lets get some order happening here!!

A weak moment- and now…..lot’s of responsibility.

Livestock Guardian Dogs are an amazing asset to have. And I know it sounds very clinical- but the plain fact is that they are a farm asset just like any other item or piece of equipment, so like a fence line that is broken- I have to get on and fix it- fill the gap so we don’t lose more stock unnecessarily.

With Dona missing for over 7 weeks now, I am not very optimistic we will ever find her, so have ordered several new dogs from a very reputable breeder in Victoria. They will be coming home around July I think.

But……. meet Simba- the latest addition to my crazy life.  A six week old Maremma pup.

I didn’t mean to bring him home, but a friend alerted me to a litter close by, and I went to just take a look, and also maybe see if they had heard anything on the ‘maremma network’ about Dona, perhaps a sighting or something.

What I found really shocked me.  The parent dog and bitch were really nice looking well tempered and socialised dogs, but so so deathly thin and unkempt. Clearly they are not treated as valuable working assets. The people couldn’t tell me when the pups were born, so I imagine the bitch has whelped out in the paddock and no one has really noticed till the pups were at least a few weeks old and moving around. Great mother- but don’t know how she fed nine pups in her depleted condition(this was the last pup- all the others had gone to a pet shop- but they couldn’t catch this one). “No, no” they said-“hadn’t vaccinated any of them-why?  We’d just have to pass on the expense to you?”……

So when this dirty wormy ball of fluff was dragged out from under the house- of course I paid for him on the spot and went directly to the vet.

So, after a check at the Vet’s we have a plan- he is very light (5.1 kg and needs to be around 8 at this age) has ear-mites, fleas (easily dealt with ) and incredibly rickets already as well.

Rickets are caused by the lack of calcium, phosphorus and mineral salts in the diet, but can also be exacerbated by bad hygienic conditions, lack of sun and exercise. I have an incredibly supportive and thourough vet- rickets is generally only noticeable when it is in its advanced stages, but it is still possible to fight it off, especially if the dog is still young. If you administer large doses of calcium and phosphorus, along with a diet rich with raw foods especially chicken- bones and all minced finely, eggs, milk, vegetables like raw grated carrots, and apple peel.  It is best to avoid overly cooked meals-canned dog food- as cooking reduces the wealth of vitamins and nutrients in the food the damage can be minimised.

So Simba is on five small meals a day- raw kangaroo and beef, minced chicken frames (for the extra calcium) eggs, brown rice vegetables and cheese as well as high quality puppy biscuits and fortified milk on demand.

With solid nutrition and lots of outdoor work, hopefully at 6 weeks we have caught him early enough and will get over all of these issues. The plan is to build a great future guardian.

Travelling in a car can be very stressful for Maremma, but Simba only needed one rest stop before we got home.  I couldn’t bear the smell inside so a bath was next (how humiliating for a farm dog!) that needed three rinses of clean water to see the pink colour of his skin and restore his white fluffy coat. (he had actually been ‘painted’ by children and the stuff made his fur matt and very challenging to brush clean)

Clean and dry, time to eat at last and Simba ate like he had never been fed – he gulped down minced roo and chopped beef, cheese, dry biscuits and 1 litre of fortified milk in about 5 minutes flat- and has been poo-ing it out the other end ever since like a tourist with Delhi belly…… It’s clear food was something he has had to compete and fight for, even with his digestive issues to adjust to and day five of all-he-can-eat, he is showing extreme food issues, growling and snapping at the Pomeranians if they even try to sniff his bowl……already protective of territory and he is just a baby- now this dog will make a great chook warrior!

I am keeping him very close for a few weeks to know my family and our little dogs first- the poms were unimpressed when he arrived-and they are still quick to point out to me that he ‘smells different’. And he does have a distinct odour- working dog. He looks so cute all clean and fluffy now-it was hard not indulge myself and bring him into the office and just have him under my desk- but the poo-ing was the killer really, not the risk to my public service career…

Simba will have just a few short weeks with us near the house, then he will go out to be with some hens and new lambs in a training yard till he is about 24 weeks old-nearly six months. The older Maremma will be brought back up to the house yard a few times a week while lambing happens over the next month or so, and then by increments Simba’s interaction with them will increase as they move into bigger and bigger paddocks with more animals introduced over time.

By September, our spring, I will have the rams and ewes back in the paddock next to the training yards where Simba will spend time with the other dogs and the bigger sheep before being turned out to work fulltime.

Especially because we will be at the vets regularly to monitor Simba’s bone density in particular, socialising him to walk on a lead and trust me introducing people to him is important. In days gone by, and still today in traditional settings in rural France and Italy, these livestock guardian dogs are a part of the village life, community dogs interacting with all – not isolated, ignored or neglected.  Human interaction is important to the dogs’ psychological wellbeing too.

I wonder why people who have no idea about Maremma do this? They imagine there is money to be made, I suppose. Maremma go from a tiny 400 grams born, to the fluffy-stuffed-toy-on-your-bed stage- to a 65 kilo hulk in about 12 months- so pity the fools who buy them from the pet shop and imagine they have a backyard dog! With their huge growth curve, it takes a clear understanding of what nutrition is needed to ensure good health in these dogs, and breeding bitches especially require careful nutrition.

Not taking on these poorly bred pups doesn’t help them either- at least good nutrition and spaying early will save the individual. Don’t know what to do about backyard breeders in general though. Anyway, I haven’t stopped searching for Dona, but thought you might like to meet this guy.

When it all doesn’t go according to plan……

Anyway.  Sometimes I question why it is so hard, why am I doing all this ,but then I look out the window and I look at my grandkids and I know why.  It’s all good.

Well,  not today- I can’t look out the window and feel good today- there are marauding pigs tearing up my kitchen garden……..At least I won’t have to dig.

But I will talk about the piggies another time- just have had the hardest day……

You know, when everything-and I mean everything- is harder than it logically should be.  That was my day.

Ah! a day at home- was going to garden and paint- but escapee pigs took over and hyjacked my plans. Still got lots done, and felt really buggered when I finally got to the last task of the day- hook up the bike trailer and collect feed from the hay dude, 20 minutes away.

It’s expensive, but a choice I have made for the sustainability of this piece of country and the welfare of my cattle. Quatré Saisons has magnificent native pasture-precious little left in New South Wales- so we have a limited pasture grazing program in place to protect the native grasses, which entails alternate or hand feeding the stud cattle over the late summer, autumn and winter period to allow the grass seeds to mature and resow.

There are a few things we do, and bringing in lush silage from further up the valley is one thing the cattle appreciate during the winter.

And what a cold snap we have had- down to minus 5 and a heavy snowfall over the weekend, but after a slow and very foggy start the days have been spectacular, with a stunning moon each night.

I have had a birds eye view from my bed each morning for about a week and a half now of Mercury, Mars and Venus slowly rising in the cold still sky and welcoming the dawn. What a sight!

Anyway, about today….

With late calves due for a few stragglers and lambing about to begin, the feed requirements are building up fast. So need to haul in that hay!

Called my ever obliging hay dude- always has a happy greeting and makes me welcome on his farm, even when he is flat out- which is always.  Must be a pest having to bring out the tractor and muck about for half an hour for someone who drops in every few days for just a few rolls at a time …

I  asked for 2 rolls of silage- only had the bike trailer with me- and no ute back- (that’s a tale in itself-later) so we talked a bit and compared the weather to this time last year, and concluded that at least it wasn’t as cold as another village further towards the coast, and laughed. As always.

I could see he was itching to ask me where the Hilux was, so I let him ask and watched his face contort as I explained the fate of the mighty Toyota ute.

Hay dude does that you see- enquire about the family each time I see him-only it’s the cars and the cows he wants to know about, not the kids……

Anyway, the silage bales are loaded, we chat a little more, he tells me to take care on the road and off I go- slowly, carefully across the sheep paddocks, over the little bridge and out onto the dusty road. Each turn in the road I check the mirror to be sure the heavily loaded low trailer is following along behind- and it is.

Over the very bad old bridge and on the tar now, I relax a bit and start to fiddle with the radio- why can’t I work this silly radio out?

Then the noise starts- a strange squwooshing noise- like the trailer sounds when it is being dragged sideways because I am jack-knifed again in the driveway trying to do a 44 point turn.  But I am not turning, and I am not jack-knifed and the trailer is there, in the mirror, following along…..

Then I see the smoke.

This bloody road- that bloody council- there is no shoulder to pull over, nowhere to stop but right in the lane of the roadway.  I limp on a little further- just want to get over the crest so I see the truck that swoops over the hill to kill me ….

Over as far as I dare pull up- I hop out and go around the front of the car and drop straight into a drain, full of something slimy, very stinky and overgrown with metre high grasses- so it looks like all the ground around it.

Great. Well. At least I didn’t drop the car and trailer into that bog- so let’s count our blessings here.

The front bale has dislodged itself a little and is sitting just a fraction on the wheel arch.  Just enough to push the metal down sufficiently that on this rough road the tyre is now rubbing on it and dragging rather than turning freely on the axle.

OK. Other side is close but manageable- heavy bales of silage this time Hay Dude!

So I let the tyre pressure down just a bit to see if that compensates for the lack of room under there, and yes, it gives a little more clearance,so I potter off very cautiously.

Off  the tar again just 50 metres on and again the wheel is complaining and I realise that I just am not going to manage 25 kilometers like this and the dusk is falling fast too.

So I have to call.

I hate to bother him, but I have to call Hay Dude because there is no way I can roll off two 350kg silage bales on my own, on the road  with no shoulder and night falling fast. It’s a wipeout waiting to happen.

But Hay Dude is on his way out to a fire brigade meeting, and he is the Captain, so he has to go- “pull into a driveway and leave the trailer there and I will sort it in the morning for you”, he says.

I am silent and nervous. OK. Will do….

I spy the closest house to the road- at least it is visible. My house is more than 2kms from the front gate-so this is actually convenient really.

I knock on the door after making my way through myriad gates that are getting higher and higher the closer I get to the house, and as the sound of my knocking resonates through the house I see why. Six or eight huge dogs come bounding from all parts of the house converging on the door. The noise of their barking echoing through the house is deafening!

A man comes to the door, pushing his way through the dogs and squeezes out the narrow opening onto the verandah.  I apologise and explain my predicament, and ask could I please leave my trailer on his driveway overnight. And would he have a jack we can use to help lever the heavy trailer loose from the car so I can get home please?

This lovely man, who I have never met, doesn’t hesitate- he gets his coat and torch and goes via the garage to get his trolley jack and we wander down the driveway in what is now a dark moonless evening.

Back at the car, I warn him about the drain, just in time, as he walks around assessing the extent of the problem (no man ever says straight out that they are going to check it out for themselves, because after all women don’t know about cars and things do they? Usually they are very polite, and then say- often with a tone of surprise-“You’re right-this trailer/car isn’t going anywhere in a hurry”….).

We exchange thoughts on how little the council appears to do to keep this road passable and how the best thing would be to get the trailer off the roadway before a double tandem cattle truck comes hurtling over the hill.

I hand over the keys so he can negotiate the car back 20 metres and right into his driveway-it’s very dark now and he knows his gates best. And I am not up to reversing the stricken trailer in the dark, up a hill anyway.

But alas!!  the car won’t start- the hazard lights have flattened the battery.

Patiently my knight in shining armour heads back up his driveway and fetches his car and jumper leads. Phew!

A 64 point turn on the narrow roadway lines up the two engines and we start the car after just a little time holding our collective breath.

No Double B yet- so a quick dash back and around and we have both cars and the trailer back at 662.

A little more maneuvering, after first testing if we can dislodge the front bale- no way-and the trailer is off and stowed for the night.  His cattle start milling around the fence as the sweet heady smell of the silage reaches their nostrils on the cold night air.  I ask about his dogs- wonderful beasts-Salukis, Wolfhounds and Afghans. And I discover, he knows about my dogs- heard about Donatella on the local network and so we chat about Maremma, and break-ins and how challenging it can be settling into a country community- we have both been here about the same length of time.  We have never met but he knows just what to say about my recent loss.

What can I say to thank this kind stranger?

I am grateful that he would open his door and help someone he had never seen before, and extend the safety of his property to me.

I am grateful that Hay Dude just matter of factly slotted in the time to have a rescue tractor organised for the next day.

What can you say about wonderful people like that who will lend a hand?

As I walk back down his drive toward my idling car, I watch the moon suddenly rise over the river and bounce over the old church roof, now a house, across the road from 662.  It is glorious and round.

Yes. Thank you universe. I am grateful, and tomorrow is another day……