Sitting in a now properly green garden, overlooking the barn on one side and the glittering lake under a glorious sunny morning after having finished the barn work I realized how much I will miss this amazing place and experience. I look back at the time I spent here as a stable/barn boy and I can picture all the exciting things I have done in my mind like little movie-clips, from driving tractors (4 of them), cut concrete bars, getting around working with cows and not being kicked once (although I banged my head around pretty much every single day in the barn), acquiring little by little more confidence and assertiveness having to take care of the horses…and the list goes on. So three days from my departure for the more on the road adventures of my RWT I think it’s time to put down a list of the 5 things I have learned being a farmer apprentice.
1) Tractor driving is as near as it gets to a formula one experience
You would think that driving a tractor is not that much of a challenge. Well, I can assure you that driving one of this overgrown and power enhanced citroen 2CV is an art of its own. In my few attempts I have managed to get stuck in the mud, nearly tumble over on a side trying to get hay bales and brake few fences. Luckily enough AK is a very easy going person and his wise suggestion when I was sent out was: when driving a tractor never look back just go on and everything will be fine. Those fences did not get a look back.
Interestingly enough I discovered that driving a tractor is a completely difference experience from driving a car, a tractor speeding at 22Km per hours on a dirty road will make you feel as you are driving at light speed on a rally race, try if you do not believe me.
A tip for you is to locate before you leave the farm with the tractor the switch for the 4-wheel drive. Among all the levers, buttons and whatnot in the “cockpit” you will be overwhelmed and at loss. However, is one of the most exhilarating and empowering drive ever, you will feel as the master of the road and nobody will challenge you if only because the front-loader can crush their car at a push of a button.
2) The incredible Hulk was a calf
I experienced the birth of three calves during my stay, I took care of them, fed them and petted them trying to make them more use to human interactions. I was looking at this cute, sweet, clueless little creatures in awe till the reality behind them struck me. They are indeed little stubborn power factories; as soon as you will have to move one even of merely few centimetres you will discover that they have herculean force and psychic powers. In fact, they will be able to read in your mind that you want to move them in direction X and they will do all they can to make it impossible. However, despite this they still appear like the cutest little things in my eyes as long as I don’t need to move them around. Calf at birth have the most beautiful and helpless blue eyes.
3) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide, a horse story
I love horses, let’s put it out there to start with.
Yes horses are majestic, gentle looking and very curious creatures. They exude power and elegance with a disarming sweet look in their big eyes. Yet, behind those eyes lies a psychotic mind. It took a while to get more comfortable with the horses, they are quite unpredictable and easily scared. When in “run for your life” mode they just loose the plot and walk over you without blinking twice. This Dr. Jekyll mode is switched on for the most trivial sounds. One amazing common factor is that all of them from the sweetest to the most nervous and uncollaborative one would really need to see a psychotherapist and I would not be surprised if a horse therapist would make big bucks.
A fun fact about horses I have discovered is that they do hide their poo, carefully envelop it in straw parcels inside their boxes. I think they do it to entertain the stable-boy with a morning treasure hunt.
4) Hoovering is a farm business
I would have never thought this but in my time at the farm I found myself hoovering more then I thought. I hoovered straw, beans, hoat and whatnot down to water from the barn floor. Yes you heard me well, water; this is when the power of the hoover will make a big difference. When the winter started to fade the ground floor of the house was flooded and I found myself hoovering water from the floor trying to avoid the frogs. Yes, the frogs naturally comes with the water as I found out under the amused look of AK’s father when I came upstairs during a morning family meeting and said “erm I don’t know if it is normal but…there are frogs downstairs.”
So a hoover is as important a farming machine as a tractor. Boy if I am glad the Italian made industrial hoover was there!
On a side note I discovered that given a hoover, no matter the task or the place, I will enter in the same cleaning frenzy as when I clean my flat and well, the self fulfillment coming from it is directly proportional to the amount of stuff hoovered i.e. hundreds of kilos of beans.
5) Behind every single glass of milk there are infinite tales and stories
From now on every time I will use milk I will take a moment to thank the people who produced it. I feel like every single drop of it is a vessel of stories and tales, about the farmer who milked it, the intern who spilled it, the family gatherings, the hours of work in the fields to produce hay, the Kms of tractor rides, the birth of calves, the marvel of sunrises and sunsets in the barn, the escaped cows waiting for you in the middle of the barn first in the morning, the sadness of a cow getting too sick, the look in the eyes of kids coming in a barn for the first time in their life and meeting a calf. The list goes on and on and I would like to take this occasion to thank all the farmers that work 24/7 and 365 days per year to produce what we perceive as a common beverage. I wish that everybody could understand how much work goes into it and what heroes are the farmers behind it. So please next time you drink milk try to listen to it and you will probably hear of one of the thousands of stories whispered by every milk bottle.