It is incredibly dry on the farm right now. We haven’t had a drop of rain since April and that after an unusually dry summer. Farmers never seem to be happy with the amount of rain they get, but this really is a drought. One which could have devastating consequences if it doesn’t rain soon. What is normally considered a quiet time on the farm has now become a daily struggle to make sure our animals have enough food and water. Many of our dams have been depleted to pools of mud so water has to be brought in by tractor twice a day – a very laborious and time consuming process. Fully functioning boreholes and windmills are precious commodities right now. Sadly not all of ours are working, which limits grazing options especially in the tracts of land on top of the mountain. There are spots of green where wheat is growing, but the crop is definitely a failure since the germination rate was only about 30%. The landscape would be pretty monotone brown if it wasn’t for the willow, poplar and oak trees! Nevertheless, life goes on and Quentin is making the best of a depressing situation carefully eyeing the weather forecast each day for rain. Hopefully it will come next week or at least before the end of October.
Calving season has been in full swing since August, which is usually a joyful experience. We have many different groups of cattle sorted according to age and type (Boran, Angus and cross-bred animals). This year, our heifers (cows calving for the first time) have been very labour intensive because they are still quite young so many of them are having trouble giving birth. The heifer group is checked twice a day so that problems can be picked up quickly. I can’t count how many times Quentin has been called out to go an “pull” a calf or rescue a weak mother stuck in the mud. Sometimes it feels like he is a gynaecologist rather than a farmer! The calves are eternally cute especially when they have just been born and stand up on wobbly legs in search of their mother’s teats. One often has to look carefully to find the calves because their mothers hide them away from predators during the day. Most of our cows should calve by mid-November and then if it has rained, attention will turn to the planting of summer crops. It is amazing how the same cycle of activity can feel so different each year depending on the weather. In the three years I have lived at Vastrap I’ve experienced both extremes of too much rain and too little… is it too much to hope this time for a Goldilocks season that’s just right? Only time will tell.