Chapter 5: City Visitors - a Word of Advice

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You've done it. Moved out of the rat-race, out of the smog. Peace and clean air embrace you. Bird calls are sweet music to your exhausted ears. Your dream of farm-life has come true.

But wait... is that a convoy of cars coming along the road and turning into your driveway? Oh no. Weren't you warned?

City visitors are the name of the species, and to this breed belong such exotic delights as weekends, public holidays, and a strange phenomenon known variously as RDO's or flex-off days.

A short list of never-ending requirements includes extra rubber boots; clothes of all descriptions; old face-washers and towels (for clean-ups after falling into, or being christened by the unmentionable). You will need scrapers at the back door for cleaning all types of nasties from the cavernous craters in the soles of sneakers... and a heap of firewood for the obligatory roaring fire.

Don't forget the food. Tons and tons of food. All fresh, organic, home-grown and home-cooked simple fare. Appetites become ravenous in the fresh clean air of the country. In fact, appetites arrive ravenous simply making the trip to the farm - and hot scones with jam and cream, or cake fresh from the oven are an essential welcome. "Oh yes please," will be the answer to anything and everything you offer.

"A bought carton of cream? On a dairy farm?" Kindly restore their equilibrium by pointing out the richness of the milk they just added to their coffee, explaining how it was still in the cow's udder just a few hours ago. This will produce either gasps of delight - or the pale sweaty face that signifies a forthcoming event, depending on individual preference and strength of stomach. It's good policy to have shown your guests the bathroom before morning tea!

Don't be too alarmed by the dramatic drop in milk production during the visitors' attendance at the milking. Cows have great difficulty in holding back 175% of their milk for more than 24 hours. Most city folk will not have been to a farm before, so they will bombard you with questions about the necessity to milk cows twice a day.

"But don't you get the weekend off?" they will ask in horrified disbelief, as you talk about your average week.

And you are likely to overhear the odd muttering in the background, "Well, if you ask me, I think it's mistreatment that makes those cows not want to come into the dairy". Be gentle as you tell them how this fear is actually the result of the visiting kids who hang from the gates, sit on top of dividing walls and swing from the rafters - plus the adults who manage to generally get in the way... everywhere.

Most will take scenic walks over ALL of your land, burning up that accumulated energy after all week in an office. Some will be chased by the bull, while others all but lose fingers to the awesome suction of a calf's mouth. They will inevitably leave open 'closed' gates, and close 'open' gates. Their children will fall into mud, water, cow-pats and, pig-pens. And they will fall off trailers, haystacks, calves and rams' backs (... and from those rafters in the dairy, as well).

If they are short children, their faces and hands will be washed by the dogs -"Saves on facewashers," you will blithely say. Their hair will be munched by horses - "Skinheads are SO fashionable!" you will calmly state. The other thing about little people is that they can walk directly under the bellies of tall cows. Pretend to be calm and relaxed as you desperately try to remember the exact coverage of your Public Liability policy.

Tall children will rush excitedly back to the farmhouse, new mohair jumpers bundled up in their arms, shouting "Look what we've found - a nest of cute little baby mice." If their Mother hasn't fainted yet, she will when you gently inform them that these 'adorable cuties' are actually baby rats! Other children will return with handfuls of rare, possibly precious, round black pebbles. Take these prospectors outside before you inform them, "Actually honeys, they are sheep droppings". Strangely enough, 'dropping' is usually the instant and inevitable reaction.

In the season, some folk will say, "Let's go mushrooming"-and have been known to return with every variety of toadstool known to man, proudly announcing, "Look at all the 'mushies' we found!" Be gentle as you take them outside for a Botany lesson.

Electric fences provide good clean fun for spectators; however the recipients never seem particularly amused - even after they've replaced their false teeth, are able to stand upright again, and have been told that a small jolt of electricity is believed to be exceptionally good for the heart!

There are many things these folk will not understand.

"But it's raining! On the very day we are visiting! But you're smiling?"

"You really know each individual cow? Aww, come on!"

And why you don't rush out with boiling water to assist Daisy the minute she begins to calve, and why you're not crazy about fluffy little rabbits. Maybe our favourite is-

"But what do you do between milkings each day? Don't you get bored?"

Most of these can be answered in a simple, straightforward fashion. Others however, are decidedly curly, especially on such subjects as-

'Heat' periods..."No Milly, they're not heat waves. Heat periods are the times when cows are most likely to conceive."

"What's conceive? That's when the bull gives the cow a baby calf."

"How? Ask your Mother, Milly!"

A.I. (artificial insemination)..."No Milly, the A.I. man is not the donor! He's the... er... technician."

Wethers..."Yes Milly, they do know whether they're sheep or not. They just can't give ewes babies like the rams can, because of a slight alteration to their anatomy."

"What alteration? Ask your vet next time 'Poochie' goes for his check-up."

'Blown' sheep...."No Milly, we didn't have a cyclone! That's when flies lay eggs in the sheep's wool."

"NO, MILLY!" (through gritted teeth), "NOT like the eggs I scrambled at lunchtime!"

Colostrum is the essential first milk a mother produces (laden with essential antibodies) - not to be confused with cholesterol. However, despite your best efforts to differentiate, many people will still go away wondering why a cow would deliberately give her calf a heart attack!

As you can see, one walks a tight-rope over quicksand when trying to teach 'instant' agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry to the uninitiated... "No Milly, animal husbandry doesn't mean the animals get married!"

As you finally wave farewell you will have any (or ALL) of the following -

laryngitis, arthritic fingers, aching legs (from two milkings, several 'walkies', and having to get the cows in twice because Milly was blocking the gateway), and a pantry that would make Mother Hubbard's cupboard look bountiful.

You sink gratefully (if not gracefully) into your favourite chair, only to jump up again with unbelievable agility... "That *%@$!#?* Milly! I knew she wouldn't take that rats' nest back to the hay shed!"

PS: Memorandum to City Visitors:

Please don't stop visiting us-you truly are special to us-and we sincerely welcome you with open arms and hearts!

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