Summer in the fields, and how to surprise a cow with a hastily-erected fence

Rosamund Young, author of The Secret Life of Cows, writes an exclusive update for Country Life about life on her farm.

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!

As Robert Browning explained in ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’ in spring my thoughts turn to grass growth and the possibility of making hay, sorting sheep, moving cattle, tending whoever needs me, cleaning water troughs, allowing the warm breeze to permeate the corn store and of course, keeping an eye on the time for feeding the lamb. Do I cut the thistles to prevent or at least delay seeding, and thereby set the grass’s achievements back, or do I leave the hay fields to grow unchecked? And thus the questions of spring run inexorably into the questions of summer.

The latest batch of young calves, with their mothers and older siblings were given a new area to graze yesterday. As they slowly and curiously investigated their ‘new’ territory we saw the older bovines race with glee towards the far side of the field only to be suddenly confronted by a temporary fence we had erected in order to save the wild flower bank from being grazed too soon: that is, before the flowers have had a chance to set seed. The ‘babies’ watched as the older cattle literally had to slam on their brakes in astonishment at finding a fence where none had been before!

“I felt no longer tired but elated to have been able to come to his rescue”

Earlier in the year one of our Hebridean ewes had given birth to twins but she refused to accept one of them, so I had the tiring but delightful task of rearing a minuscule lamb. Her mouth was too tiny for the smallest lamb teat I owned so for the first two days, until an Internet search brought forth a perfect Lilliputian bottle and teat, I fed her every two hours with a syringe, carefully collapsing the plunger as she cleverly sucked the inflexible end.

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She is now nine weeks old and a fully integrated member of the flock, having attended the ovine equivalent of nursery school for extremely brief but incrementally greater amounts of time each day since day three.

GREAT BRITAIN - JUNE 02: Cow in Oxfordshire field, Swinbrook, England, United Kingdom (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

Late last night, while cleaning and refilling the last water trough, the beam of my head-torch alighted on a small toad. Scooping him out of the trough and gently tipping him onto the damp late night grass, I felt no longer tired but elated to have been able to come to his rescue.

Walking home, I deliberately avoided straying into the wild flowers I’d admired earlier in the day. Sitting at eye-level with tormentil and orchid, betony and dyer’s greenweed I was treated to a constant flypast of butterflies: chimney sweepers, skippers, meadow browns, gate keepers and some exquisite day-flying moths strutted their beauty on the lepidopterine catwalk. 

Today I received an email sending me links to a festival I am speaking at and it contained the words: Do feel free to promote through your own networks too!

My ‘networks’ are spiders’ webs in the early morning dew.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young is now available in paperback (£7.99 | Faber & Faber )

The Secret Life of Cows - PAPERBACK cover