Before Gardener’s ministrations this week the garden was rather colourful, ash tree and ornamental cherry had left the ground and small shrubs covered in a layer of gold and red. I felt almost sorry when this glorious carpet disappeared by means of his rake. There are plenty more leaves to come, of course, it’s just that the early drop-outs are particularly pretty. But they need raking and collecting, otherwise they’d soon turn mushy and slippery. I do, however, leave them lying on the borders for worms and beetles to dispose of during the winter months.
When tea break came, Gardener told me a story which is too good to leave unrecorded. In a past life he was the cowman on one of the oldest estates in the county, dating back to the twelfth century, which is still owned by the original family, although the current branch can ‘only’ trace its roots back to the 16th century.
© Gill Cardy ARPS
PLOWDEN HALL, LYDBURY NORTH, SOUTH SHROPSHIRE,
Gardener has often told me about his cows; he knew them all and they recognised him as their master. He took care of them, called the vet when they needed attention, chased them down the lane when one or two decided to go walkabout and played them loud music. “They loved it”, he said, “well, I did, anyways.”
Every morning the Lord came to the milking parlour while Gardener was in the pit between two rows of cows, attaching the cups for milking. The Lord kept a record of the previous day’s yield and while he made notes, he and gardener discussed general matters pertaining to the herd. One morning the Lord was in a hurry. He turned up in his hunting pink, obviously ready to join the hunt as soon as he’d finished in the parlour.
“He always came through the dairy”, Gardener said, "and stood in the entrance to the parlour near the head of the first cow and wrote in his little book. This day he tried to come in past the cows from the other end. He must have pushed the last cow as he tried to squeeze past. They don’t like being disturbed during milking, I never spoke to them loud, just kept quiet and steady.”
“So, there he was, all shiny and clean and polished,” Gardener continued, “ and when he pushed the cow, she coughed. Just the once.” Gardener’s face cracked into a wicked grin. He pursed his lips and blew a gigantic raspberry, much as the cow must have done from her southern end. “Oh, he didn’t like it at all,” he said, “ all down his front it was; she was a bit loose too, nice and wet.”
“Furious, he was.” Gardener chuckled, and then his face became thoughtful. "He should have known what would happen, him owning a large herd and a landowner and all. No, I tell you, cows don’t like being disturbed during milking. Nice and steady is what they like.”