City Slicker Reshaped.
She could still remember the old house she grew up in. It was a big old house, quite ugly and austere. The big courtyard in the middle could have been an improvement, if someone had bothered to dress it up some! Still, it was very handy to ferry some stuff from the flat second-storey roof down to the open kitchen. A wicker basket on a rope made it easy to lower fresh herbs down from the box-garden on the roof straight to the cook below, on demand.
It was also handy when the cook put a mug of hot tea and some freshly baked biscuits to the man who spent most of his time up there, tending to the boxed gardens, the chooks and the rabbits. The children loved playing with the baby chicks and each 'adopted' the best looking one. Katerina preferred the blond ones, but her brother was quicker to claim them and she often had to be happy with a black one instead. She loved holding them while they were cute and tiny but as they grew into chickens she found their claws intimidating, and only got close enough to touch when her mother sent her to pick up the fresh eggs.
She was particularly apprehensive at getting close to the rooster that strutted around the rooftop when let out of an evening, under the watchful eye of the man up top. The rooster had a fine set of feathers and stood taller than the hens, and while the hens usually kept their heads down as they pecked around, the rooster got a share in a round tin, all to himself, and could eat as much as he wanted, so did not really need to search for crumbs. Instead he strutted with his tail feathers held high, shimmering in the evening sunrays, and his bright red comb flip flapping in the breeze.
The 'man up top' was actually Katerina's old uncle who preferred to spend most of his time tending the gardens he had fashioned in wooden boxes along the perimiter of the flat roofs, and seeing to the chickens and the rabbits which were alas! meant to augment the food rations for the family, and mending all sorts of things, but mostly the children's shoes and sandals which seemed to be forever in need of it.
The great war was over, but this tiny island that sat in the middle of the mediterranean like a nutshell adrift in the ocean, was still shaking from the battering it had received. It had been on the side of the winners, but it did not feel like it yet. It had been bombed to near oblivion, and many small cities in this small island were turned to smithereens, as was the city where Katerina's family lived. In fact there were 3 families living in this big old house and ugly as it was, they felt it was a blessing, as houses to rent were so few, and so much in demand. Others had to make do with a curtained off area in what was once horse stables, and now housed several families in hospital-like cubicles.
Good Luck is jumping at a chance offered.
It was an opportunity that Katerina had never, ever, thought would come her way. While others wanted to see the cities and the monuments in countries of Europe, she had so often dreamed of wide, open, spaces, of green pastures as far as the eye could see. So when the offer to travel came, she grabbed it with both hands, and off she went, with bright eyes that misted at the idea of what she was leaving behind, but resolutely looking towards the new horizon she was going to.
Everything looked beautiful to her, in its own way, but it did not seem all that different to what she had left behind, only it was bigger. She was good at making the best of what life offered ,so she settled in, and lived the best life she could where she had been deposited.
A New Frontier.
Where had the years gone? Katerina was facing another big decision; another big move. A chance encounter, a promise of green vistas, open spaces, and a different lifestyle beckoned.
A house built on top of a mound that was just big enough to be called a hill, a vista of green, many four footed animals behind a wired fence, and a huge black and white cow that came to the gate to greet the owner of this farm. 'Ahem. . . .Excuse Me' she laughed later when recounting her story. The big black and white cow was a male cow, which is really a bull, and actually a neutered bull, called a steer. These tend to grow very big, and are reared for beef. But not this one. This was Farmer's baby, rescued from certain death at three days of age, and nobody was going to put a tooth onto him. He seemed to know all this because he would bellow as he ran to the gate to greet his rescuer, and then lower his head for the farmer to rub!
Katerina felt dwarfed looking up at this steer, but the Farmer told her not to be, and to come close and give him a tid-bit. Her hand trembled as she offered Gunyah a carrot, shoved towards his huge lips, green bits first. Gunyah nibbled at the green fronds delicately; Katerina was fascinated at this and time stood still, until Gunyah got into some serious munching and suddenly Katerina let go of the carrot in case he got onto her fingers.
Getting to Know You.
The Farmer gave Gunyah a pat and told him to go. Gunyah looked askance but at the second directive, he backed up from the gate, and eventually shuffled away in the distance. Once the 'King' of the paddock had retreated, others came up to the gate to say 'hello' to their provider and to gaze at this unknown quantity next to the Farmer. Other cows with names like 'Bella', 'Daisy' and 'Martha' and many goats, brown and white, black and brown, pristine white; some big and powerful, some slender and young ones too, came up for a tidbit. Katerina did not cower as much now, and happily fed the smaller goats through the bars of the gate. That was a small but important step to a new life style.
Katerina trailed after the Farmer as he went around the paddocks to feed the mobs or to check that they were all hale and hearty. To this day, Katerina cannot work out how he knew each and every one of the cows, sheep and goats. She asked him once, and he said simply "I recognize their faces of course, as I do with people". Katerina too learned to recognize some, but there were many others that were to her "the goat with the broken antler" or the "cow with the limp".
Learning to Handle Cows.
Feeding them just before sundown was her favorite chore now. She'd pile the old jalopy with bales of hay, buckets of dry mix, and others with fresh leaves from the kitchen garden and off she went, through the gate to each paddock, and the animals knew the time and the drill. They'd gather round her, and if she was not careful, they's get into the buckets and guzzle whatever they found there before she could get her act together. So she covered the food in the buckets with a bunched up hessian sack, so they could not get to the feed before she was ready to dish it out.
She'd hang around to see that each got a fair share; that her favorite steer, Gunyah, did not wolf down the whole pile of grain by keeping the others at a distance. It did not take long for Katerina to handle the goats, the rams, and the cows in the same manner as she handled the dogs, big as they were. She fed them, hugged them, gave them a friendly rub, and she immediately attended to them, if one of them seemed to be hurt or not well. If it was something she could not handle there, she would coax the goat or sheep onto the jalopy and off to the house for the Farmer to manage. If a cow or a sheep was down, she'd call the Farmer on the two-way system and he's take the big bike and come up. A farmer had to have all the skills needed to grow the crops for their food, the genetics to enable successful breeding, how to act as a midwife when required, how to stitch up a wound safely, and how to diagnose what is wrong with an animal.
He taught Katerina to observe each animal and to know its normal behavior, the stance, the way they moved and the posture of the back and the ears. Only that way, would she know that something is different and check it out. She became familiar enough with each animal to be able to run a hand over it and check that all is well with it.
She gave each bunch their rations and then onto the next paddock, and the next one, until she got to the top of the hill where Gunyah lived most of the time. She always had something special for him, to be offered only after they had all eaten their share. He knew this and would hang around until she sat on top of the rock for a spell. Then he'd approach, gently, tentatively even, and sometimes she'd make him wait. He was just as happy if she just rubbed his head and his brow, but lifted it up very quickly as soon as she put a hand in the pocket. He was waiting for his special tidbit. A carrot, a piece of cabbage, a piece of bread, or yum, yumm, a stalk of celery.
That usually signalled the end of feeding time for Katerina, and she liked to take some time to herself. She'd sit on the rock up on the hill, and gaze on the beautiful scenes around her. She 'd cast an eye on the paddocks below, where the goat kids would still be wanting to play, but their mothers would butt them into position for them to have their milk before they settle down to sleep together with other mothers and babies.
She would often look up at the formation of geese going to their resting place in synchronised formation, or a babble of starlings, darting aimlessly it seems, but in fact heading in the same direction.
From where she sat she could watch the sun imperceptibly inching down towards the horizon and casting a golden glow on the rolling hills around them so that they were now lush green on one side and a deep amber where the sun's rays rested on the lush grass.
She could hear the turkeys far away in the distance, settling down for the night, and the maggies jostling for room on the branch of a tree, despite the fact that there was plenty of room on other branches.
Sometimes she'd hear the scurrying of tiny feet on dried out leaves on the ground as some creature scurried to its night time hole.
She'd sit there drinking in the beauty and the peace of the place, feeling like a queen surveying her limitless domain. Enjoying the wide open spaces, and the mantle of peace that drifted gently onto her shoulders like a protective cloak.
Katerina had found her home.
#1 ---Sunrise on The farm - Priv Collection - ML Drive
#2 --- Old house in the Laneway.- Priv Coll - ML Drive
#3 --- Boxed Gardens -Set design Ideas - http://blog.totalprotect.com/lawn-and-garden/diy-building-a-raised-garden-bed/
#4 --- Busy Traffic - CC - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/
#5 --- Farmer proud of his cattle -CC0 -http://www.public-domain-image.com/free-images/
#7 --- Meadows +sheep+goats - flickr -CC0 - public -by Ben -https://www.flickr.com/photos/24016756@N03/3451637859
#8 --- Sunset in Green and Gold -Free To Use on blogs & websites. - https://nature.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/1034532/