What’s worse than having a cow right next to your office window? Not having a cow just outside your window while the Forth Primary School cross country is on.

First I thought the cow was a figment of my imagination so engrossed was I in writing one of my newsletters. Then I realized it was Caleb’s cow ‘Woca’ (a cow spelled backwards). What on earth is she doing right outside my window?

Suddenly I remembered the cross country was on and that one of the teachers must have let down the electric fence to allow the kids access to the dirt track next to the school. Teachers are mostly not farmers and they sometimes mustn’t realize that electric fences aren’t just for keeping school kids out, no, occasionally they are for keeping farm animals in.

However it is hard to see our herd which consists of Woca, her son Flaca (a calf spelled backwards) and the random very friendly huge she-goat who doesn’t even belong to us, she just turned up one day and has never left. Our herd mostly nibbles the grass between the trees in the forest that we planted on our river flats. If you focus on the trees you can’t see any animals and that is what must have happened.

First I keep a beady eye on Woca but it is hard to concentrate with her munching and defecating right next to my window. She grows cheekier by the minute and starts sniffing and pushing the precious few valuable bushes I have left in the garden. Not only that, she acts like a dog marking its territory and drops a big cowpat every 10 square meter, while her hooves leave holes in the lawn because the grass is so soft and she is so heavy. I sigh and decide to face up to the inevitable and shoo her back to where she belongs.

She hears me open the door and looks at me as if to say: you can’t be serious! and ignores me. When I walk up to her she takes a few sideways steps, crashing into a beautifully grown continual hedge on purpose. It has only taken 15 years for that hedge to look perfect and now she is trying to wedge her bottom into it!

I start to get angry and she can feel a frisson of change in the air. Cows aren’t stupid! She pretends to go along with me and runs 20 meters in the right direction but does a U-turn when she gets tantalizingly close to the exit of our garden… OK I get it, you want to play, well, I am not in the mood!

I weigh up how much damage she can do where she is and leave her there. I resume my position in front of the computer but I can’t get settled. There may be young kids running up and down our track and Woca is a big animal with horns. What if she starts behaving like a teenager like she is prone to and suddenly pops her head out from the bushes and goes Mooohhh really loud and gives a poor unsuspecting child a heart attack

Cows! They are worse than kids! I sigh. I know what I am talking about because in our younger days we had six children and a motley herd of around sixty cows. We lived on a 120 acre ‘hobby’ farm. I don’t know where ‘hobby’ came into it because with all the kids, pets and cows as well as ‘paid’ work there was hardly any time to sleep at night. There was always more work than we could handle but at the same time it was our choice and we were young and idealistic and at times we even believed that it was romantic.

That is till my back suddenly caved in. I will tell you the story because it is quite funny. My whole married life I had been strong as an ox, bred babies, breastfed, cooked, cleaned, helped at the school, fed out hay, grew vegies, made bread and never had an ache or a pain, and never got sick.  I never got morning sick and never had any medication and neither did the kids.

One ill fated day my idyllic life changed abruptly.  I was in a hurry to get to Scottsdale (40km up the road) to do my weekly shopping. Before I could leave the house I put Tom in the baby capsule, Mieke in her car seat and strapped Eve firmly into her spot before I quickly hung out the daily load of washing. I only ever had one gear: top speed.  It was a freezing cold wind and as I bent over to hang the last bit of washing out I heard a shotgun and felt a wave of pain hit my back. I remained frozen like a statue in a bent over position trying to work out what was going on. What must have happened was that something had gone bang in my back. I tried to stand up, but another wave of agony hit me as soon as I did. I dropped on all fours and crawled down the steps onto the carport, past the car where my poor babies were firmly marooned in their seats. I couldn’t even bear to lift myself up so I kept crawling. The look on their little faces was priceless though! In spite of my pain I got the giggles. I managed to crawl up to the phone where I rang my parents, who lived 50 km away and they promised to come as soon as they could.

I crawled back outside. I was all by myself, 3 km’s from the nearest neighbours and 10 kms from the closest town. I couldn’t leave the kids outside in the cold for an hour so  I inched my way into an upright position and gritted my teeth while I unstrapped the family and carried the baby back inside. Once inside I took a strong anti inflammatory and hopped into a warm bed where I tried to move as little as possible. Because I had never ever had a painkiller in my life ( I used to be anti painkillers till I got hit by a truck and learnt my lesson) the anti inflammatory took effect straight away and before I knew it I was happily reading books to the kids who had clambered all over me on the bed. (I have always hated reading stories to the children… I just couldn’t make myself do it and I didn’t need to because that was Peters forte. But give me some morphine or panadeine forte and I can read whole encyclopaedias to the kids)

My parents rocked up an hour later and took care of the family while I had my one and only sick day in 20 or so years.  The next morning I was contemplating whether to get out of bed when Joh, our eldest son, who went to high school and had just finished making breakfast for everybody (Pete was at work), started yelling: the cows are in the proteas!

I lay there frozen for a split second… how did that happen? Then I chucked my dressing gown on, screamed to the kids to get outside to help me and grabbed the broomstick that was near the back door. Then I pelted up the hill behind the house where we had a substantial protea plantation. Every week we picked proteas and sent them to a wholesaler in Hobart. The proteas only took up a couple of acres while the cows needed a whole farm and we earned as much money per year from the small plantation as we did from the cows. Now the cows were wilfully destroying our livelihood! With every crash I could see my next family holiday evaporate. I could hear them having a field day while I raced towards the scene of destruction. Talk about peer pressure!  The whole herd was seemingly possessed by evil spirits ripping their horns into my freshly weeded bushes, trampling the smaller varieties and bashing the larger ones.

I stood at the bottom of the hill catching my breath. Yesterday’s backache was long forgotten by today pain in the hip pocket  and I felt adrenalin coursing through my veins as I approached the first cow to give it a firm hit across the rump with my broom. I heard it go splack! But all it did was give the cow a shudder (of pleasure probably!) while the children were running up and down trying to get the stubborn beasts to move towards the opening in the fence.

How I wished Peter was there. Pete only had  to a give a little grunt and they would all jump at his almost unspoken commands! Whereas here we were, 6 of us running up and down and yelling our heads off and sliddering around in the cow muck to no avail. They would just go from one bush to the next with only one thing in mind: to have as much fun as possible while it lasted. I swang my broom high up in the air to whack another cow when I suddenly felt myself slip and land hard on my backside right in the middle of a warm cow pat! My whole back was covered in smelly cow pooh and my dressing gown was destroyed. I felt absolutely livid! How dare those stupid cows knock the fence over and get into my recently weeded protea plantation! I had just spent weeks getting it up to scratch. This time I got up and I was stark raving mad!  I approached the nearest cow ready to strangle it with my bare hands if it dared to disobey me. Well it didn’t. Cows must be good at ESP, because before I had time to give another yell 60 cow heads turned to me in unison.  Again the look on their faces was priceless; I didn’t have to be a cow whisperer to see what they were thinking when they looked at me: hair standing up from lying in bed for 48 hours and a half open cow pooh decorated dressing gown flapping in the wind. Here is a case of mad cow disease if I have ever seen one! Let’s get out of here and off they trotted, through the open gate and into their proper paddock. They immediately started grazing the grass innocently with their heads down and tales up, all the while keeping a sideways glance at me to see if I was for real.


And that is the story of my life! The cows have long gone to the choppers, the kids have grown up and now I have another beast provocatively nibbling at the grass as close to my window as she can get. Yes, she is back, and wants to get as close to me as possible, as you can see from this picture taken from my office.

The kids never took me serious either unless I got seriously-hopping-mad.

Suddenly I hear Mieke come home from work in her noisy car. I hear her stop abruptly and then Woca disappears. I don’t even have to do anything. Mieke comes in and I ask: how did you do that? Well, I was angry she said.  Hhmmm, obviously there is anger, and then there is real anger. The cows can tell the difference!

I often think of my cow pat massage on my sore back! It must have worked because I never went back to bed. We never sold as many proteas either and I gave up weeding after that.

The day after the mad cow session I went to a naturopath in Scottsdale who gave me some reflexology on my feet and ears. Yes, the feet have 7000 reflex points and the ears 400 which can be stimulated to alleviate pain in the body. I went home after that session and never had a skerrick of trouble from my back again. At least not for another 10 years or so after which I got hit by a truck. But that is a different story.

In hindsight I am wondering what it was that cured my popped disk almost miraculously? I will make it a multiple choice test. Was it:

a)      The painkillers
b)      The cow pooh
c)       The adrenalin rush
d)      The reflexology
e)      All of the above?

I will need to enlist the help of Peter to get the right answer because he always passes his tests with flying colours, whereas multiple choice tests confuse me. … Like the rest of life does!

If you have answered d) and you suffer from back pain then you’d better get yourself treated at the Purple House. For good measure I can bring you some fresh cow pooh!

Till next time, Grada