One Man And His Dog

‘The Ladies’ have been back. Briefly.

Over on the other side of the valley there is a dairy farm. The field opposite had been pretty much deserted over the winter, receiving regular applications of fertiliser courtesy of deposits left in the barn and on the milking parlour floor. Usually when the wind was blowing our way.

The Ladies’ mooing adds much to the bucolic surroundings of the valley, but the highlight of the day comes at about 4.00 p.m. with the call for milking. And working high on the Precipitous Bank does provide the ideal opportunity to rest for a while and watch.

One day this week the farmer appeared as usual, but without his trusty ‘cowdog’. I did wonder at the time if he would regret it. Especially as The Ladies were nowhere to be seen. They do seem to favour an area right at the very bottom of the valley. It must be cooler under the shade of the trees, or perhaps the grass more lush near the river. Whatever, the farmer called and called and then eventually had to walk all the way down the hill.

Opportunities such as this are crucial to the development of our embryonic West Country vocabulary. Perfect timing too, as I deployed some of the same words only yesterday after stabbing my big toe with the garden fork. The expletives, and some mooing, went on for many minutes until the farmer, but no cows, went storming back up the hill.

It was only on his return, with Spot bouncing along at his side, that The Ladies began to move. The ‘fetch’ took in total just over an hour.

What’s worrying is that The Ladies have not reappeared. For two days.

Mike thinks they have been kept in on detention.

I just hope there is not, as we speak, a fresh consignment of burger meat on its way up the M5. It has to be said that ours are not the most energetic bovine neighbours in the land. I can only assume that milk production is satisfactorily achieved from sitting down on the grass and the chewing of cud alone, because this is what The Ladies appear to do best. Last year their milk was contracted to a certain brand of cheddar cheese which, coincidentally, is the one I order from Waitrose. So to be on the safe side I have now ticked the box: ‘substitute if not available’. To cover all eventualities.


2017-11-16T11:40:09+00:00June 27th, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Em June 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks for raising a chuckle on a rather stressful day – much appreciated. My farmer friends are capable of some of the worst language I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying something, when dealing with our bovine friends. I suppose we all have our problems at work!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      I expect they can be particularly stubborn if they want to be. The cows I mean, not the farmers. Well, maybe them too.
      Hope you’re OK..

  2. Denise June 27, 2013 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    And there was me thinking all you had to do to call in a herd of cows was rattle a food bucket at them. Never realised dogs had to be involved.

    I sometimes think I could have done with a dog to round up school children after break times. Something big nod growly with teeth aplenty. I had to settle for a good old PE whistle.

    And this soppy vegetarian hopes that the cows are not being burgered, too!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      I didn’t know about the dogs either, until we came here. For sheep, yes..
      Our other neighbour uses his Land Rover. And his wife.

  3. Denise June 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I didn’t mean ‘nod’. I meant ‘and’. Stupid predictive keyboard…

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      What I hate is that the latest version of spellchecker assumes authority – what it says goes, unless you do something to change it.

      • Denise June 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

        Ooooh, I know! And as an English teacher I think I know better than some stupid computer programme. Especially when it can’t decipher context.

        • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 9:53 pm - Reply


  4. Jill Chandler June 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    They have probably been moved to another field where they are more easily rounded up . Its odd for dairy cows not to know better than the farmer when its time for milking, ours queue up at the gate shouting!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      If the farmer is late there is plenty of shouting!

  5. the veg artist June 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    I spent many childhood summers on a farm. Fetching the cows was one of my favourite jobs. It only took them a few days to get used to me again, and they would come as soon as I shouted. With the ‘help’ of an ancient sheepdog, we would go through gates and fields then up a small lane into the yard. They would wait until the cowshed doors were opened, then, in the same order every time, file in to their own slot. Some had to wait for the first batch to finish. They did this patiently, then went in in their turn.
    Milking was with what we called ‘units’. Air powered teats attached to buckets. I was a dab hand at stripping, sterliizing and assembling these. I doubt whether any one uses these any more, or the 10 gallon churns that had to be kept cool ready for morning collection from the milkstand at the top of the lane.. This was before the days of tanker collection, when mixed farms of 40 acres could still make a modest living.
    I don’t have rose-tinted specs. I know how hard it was physically. It still is. Also financially precarious.
    I loved it!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      What wonderful memories. My mother’s family were market gardeners, and one of my uncles had a few cows on his land. Probably my earliest memory is of being hoisted up to sit on the back of a cow. (And falling off the tractor into a bed of stinging nettles.) I still love being on a farm to this day. You’re right though, it’s changed out of all recognition.

  6. Sue T June 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    We have sheep in our back field as we overlook a farm, when the farmer comes to feed them they virtually run at him. Husband thinks he keeps them on short supplies to make them more eager. Your ladies look very well fed perhaps you could give your expletive shouting farmer a tip off.

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      You could have a point.. either that or our neighbour needs to be a little bit later every day!
      They do seem extremely well fed and in superb condition. It’s nice to see animals being so well cared for.

  7. frayed at the edge June 27, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Wonderful story! I wonder if the expletives are as colourful as the ones I use when I (accidentally) stick quilting needles in my fingers …… or, the worst one of all, a needle under my thumb nail!!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      Ouch! I’m cringing at the very thought of it!

  8. julie thompson June 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    They look very content in that field you can understand why they didn’t want to move! Julie x

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      It seems to be weather related too… when it’s raining they move quicker.

  9. starproms June 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    That’s a lovely story Jessica. I can visualize all the elements and feel the farmer’s frustration at his bl..dy minded cows!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you Oma. The farmer’s frustration was loud and clear!

  10. Vera June 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I think that animals have times when they just want to be difficult, as can be seen by the ‘naughty’ look they get on their faces!

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Animals are a lot like us in so many ways!

  11. threadspider June 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Lovely story, especially the use of expletives. The shepherd here, and by default, his dog, knows more Anglo Saxon than anyone else I know. Most is provoked by the dog and his abilities with the sheep. I suppose the sheep know a fair bit too….

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Ha Ha! I know a shepherd just like him too. Never work with children or animals, isn’t that what they say?

  12. Wendy June 27, 2013 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I think this is when normally passive, routine-loving animals decide to have an adventure at the expense of their ‘owner’. I see this here, because this is the time of year when I try and catch my own ‘friendly’ sheep for shearing and, predictably, they’re suddenly rooted to the other side of the field.

    • Jessica June 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      They must have a sixth sense Wendy!

  13. Laura June 28, 2013 at 5:34 am - Reply

    I am not sure that milking cows are much good for beef, so they may be safe yet ;0)
    My grandpa kept a hobby farm when I was growing up, so we drank fresh, whole, unpasteurized milk until I was in my teens, and I distinctly remember his best milking cow…her name was Bossy!

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Great story Laura! I love the way that animals, even in a herd, can have such distinct personalities.

  14. Jo June 28, 2013 at 11:34 am - Reply

    This has brought back memories. I grew up in a house which backed on to farmland. I used to watch the cows being brought in for milking from the back garden, though they never seemed to hang about when it was milking time, they literally ran to the cow shed. I think you’ve got some lazy cows there, either that or the grass by the river is too good to leave.

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Very, very lazy. You can see from the photo, they don’t get up to much!

  15. Cro Magnon June 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I can see our ‘Girls’ from where I am sitting. They’re quite a way away at the moment, but they move a little closer every day. We love to have them (usually at the end of July) right outside our kitchen.

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      I can wind down totally as I watch cows. They can’t be hurried – the ones around here anyway!!

  16. countrysidetales June 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    You’ve me of rounding up cattle on horse back, which I used to do as child. I feel a “cow rounding up” post coming on, especially as it involved a bull and me falling off at a crucial moment… 🙂

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      You are going to have to tell that story CT!

  17. countrysidetales June 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    And that should have been “reminded me”. Not predictive text at fault as per Denise, just a rather scrambled brain from too many early morning moth related adventures!

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      I don’t know how you do it… presumably now we’ve passed the longest day (sad though that is), you will get an extra minute or so in bed each day?

  18. snowbird June 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Lol, you have me smiling as usual! I too hope the cows are not burgered up!!!

    We had two collies when I was a kid and one day they got out and moved three thousand sheep before we could get them back again, they are amazing.

    Lol….one hopes one’s toe is still intact!xxxx

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      That’s a lot of sheep!
      Re toe.. occupational hazard. Thanks Snowbird.

  19. wherethejourneytakesme June 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Glad I don’t eat burgers…we have bullocks in the field next to our cottage and they can be extremely frisky if one is startled and runs they all do. They love to line up against the fence and just look at me when I am gardening…perhaps they see me as a big burger…I am glad there is a stream between us!

    • Jessica June 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      They are probably more afraid of you (safety in numbers).
      Have a great holiday Viv.

  20. BadPenny June 29, 2013 at 7:58 am - Reply

    When we first moved here the farm was a dairy one and I loved seeing the cows slowly walking down the lane for milking ( stopping all traffic ) The downside was that our puppy acquired a taste for cow dung ( the fresher the better ) which was awful !
    The cows are long and we have fields of corn now which is beautiful but I do miss those lovely creatures.

    • Jessica June 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      We had a dog like that too when I was growing up. Yuk. And what he didn’t eat he rolled in.. 🙁

  21. knitsofacto June 29, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Welsh farmers, of course, swear in Welsh. Not being Welsh I have no idea what they’re saying, but it does sound very satisfying.

    • Jessica June 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      It’s probably better not to know!

  22. Josephiine June 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    There is nothing sweeter than a meadow full of English cows, I do hope they return !

    • Jessica June 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      I know just what you mean, even though it can sometimes be less than sweet when the wind is blowing this way..

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