The geese stopped outside the glass doors of the Half Barn, near where Hubs was working. Called at him through the glass, telling him that it was time to sort out supper for everyone. Nothing for it, finish the call, have a chat with the geese. Chickens and geese fed. Out to the field. Gate opened. All rush headlong up the side path and on into the sheep paddock, with Elise doing a turn to the right to trot merrily along to the back door of the Tall Barn, and from then on into her sleeping quarters. All going well. Elise fed. Sorted. Sheep already at their trough eating their supper. Sorted. Now for goats. But .... where was the black goat....
Back down the side path Hubs went. Called out 'Bisket' (or something like that). Heard one single little bleat, one, that was all, and very delicately made as well. Ah, sounded like it was coming from the brambles, the very same brambles that the goats had made their new clearance project.
..... this photo was taken in April 2011, and the little piglet with Hubs is now all grown up and has been a mum. Anyway, just behind Hubs, to the right, is the bramble thicket. It is very wide, and during the growing season last year romped away to become as high as the fence posts, and was going to be a whacking great task to get cleared at some point in the future.
But now the goats are on the case. They have cleared a line of brambles alongside the side path. The green posts are temporary. The brambles were as high as these posts, now they are trampled down. The photos do not do justice to the size of this hedge. As I said before, it is very wide. Nor do they show how deep the hedge goes, because beneath the hedge there is a deep, deep, ditch.
So, a little bleating sound did Hubs hear. With sinking heart he realised that it was coming from the bramble hedge. But not a goat could he see. Nowhere in sight was she. With his heart now in his boots, he went into the field and round the other side of the brambles. Scrambling along the temporary fence line, he searched for her. Ah, there she was. He could just make out her shape. It looked like she was stuck. Where was she stuck? In the very middle of the bramble thicket, down in the ditch.
Now although the goats have eaten this year's growth on some of the brambles, underfoot on the patch they have been working on is the older bramble branches. The goats have delicate feet and so can manage to step with careful grace through these sharply thorned stems, which lay thickly underfoot. Hubs does not have such delicate grace. The ground also dips sharply as it goes into the ditch.
The feet of Hubs do not manage the twin hazards of the thick carpet of thorned branches of bramble plus the steeply sloping ground. Up in the air they go, thus rendering Hubs flat on his back, the momentum of his fall tumbling him down into the thicket, and into the heart of the ditch.
All was not well. There was no sky above him, only a ceiling, at almost face level, of hostile brambles. To his left and right the same. But the good news was that Blacky, our black and white pregnant goat, and himself were now face to face with each other. And both were stuck fast.
He said that he felt panicky. He said that he could have done with a rope thrown to him by someone (me, who at that moment was having a slice of lemon cake and a cup of coffee, choir rehearsals now over) so he could haul himself out. He said that it was the stuff that nightmares were made of.
But somehow, and he knows not how, he managed to turn over and crawl back through the slight furrow he had made in the damp ground as he slithered through into the ditch. With the brambles desperately trying to get him to stay by clinging on to him, he dragged himself out. Turning round, he grabbed Blacky by the horns, dragging her out, mindful that she was expecting but having to be forceful nevertheless.
It was at this point that I returned home. I tried, I really did try, not to laugh. Not when he showed me his scratches, of which there were many. Bless him. He was already onto his second glass of wine by then. No, what got me most was his scratched botty. And the thorn which he carefully handed me from that region of his body, right in the middle of me cooking dinner. It was a long thorn. I think I managed to handle the situation. I did offer to rub some antiseptic into the wound from which the thorn had come. He refused, with dignity. I did not laugh much, just smiled sympathetically and carried on cooking dinner. Ah, the life of living on a smallholding. Never a dull moment.