The animals eat an awful lot of food. In the cold weather they require more because they burn up more energy keeping warm. With the current load of lambs still growing, if they're not all to end up as bags of bones we have to give them supplimentary feed at certain times of the year. This is one of them. The days are so short and often overcast so the grass does not photosynthesize, produce carbohyrdates or grow. Short, watery grass is fine for a salad but not the main meal. Carting hay is now commonplace.
Our main source of all things on the animal menu is the local fodder store, two towns away. It is more expensive to buy one or two bags, bales or sacks of everything retail, but it saves on storage, enormous unloading times and feeding all the mice and rats in a 2 km radius. We keep as much as we can store in a series of battered steel drums otherwise the rodents break in and eat most of it, soil the leftovers in the bag and spread the remainder over the shed floor. Our occassional forays into the wholesale hay territory have been successful but require time and effort. Working full time as we both do, our time is at a premium. So it's off to the local fodder store about once a fortnight to stock up. If we remember to do it on time.
On landing home after a spell of work, discovering there isn't enough in the larder and everyone is protesting the fact, demands that the shopping be done that day. So I thought on a leisurely Saturday when, paid work complete for the week, I had time to do shopping in about half an hour after some other chores and a cup of tea. Something nagged that perhaps I had to urgently go out? On a Saturday... well I don't play sports so I didn't have to be anywhere at a certain time. No, I don't play sports, but the Fodder Store Family do. The Fodder Store Family most of whom represent half the members of their sports clubs and the the rest go along as supporters. The hardworking Fodder Store Family who's only concession to R&R is to close early on Saturdays and make for the playing fields. The Fodder Store Family who would not be there, in their Fodder Store, in 20 minutes. That Fodder Store, about 20 minutes away.
I flew out the door, keys and purse dangling, sporting the "through a bush backwards" look, to get to the Fodder Store before they closed and I was left to face the music. The noise of hungry animals anyway, hardly musical. Our trusty utility vehicle - the ute - is a noble beast, capable of chugging up hills with more rocks, hay, sacks, wood, dogs, furniture, fencing gear and assorted tools than nature intended, but it does only chug. I really tried to get the most speed out of it possible, but the bit just before the summit of the steep hills had it defeated. There are a lot of steep hills on the road to the Fodder Store.
I passed a lot of other smallholdings with their various animals, cows contentedly chewing their cud, their owners inside for lunch having already fed them. Goats nibbling happily at large piles of hay that their owners had provided, horses with noses in buckets whose owners had already stocked up. Happy animals, owners who actually had some time management skills. I tried to keep to the legal speed limit on the flats.
Just out of the town with 3 minutes until closing time I encountered a large group of cyclists. Doing just a bit less than a quarter of the posted speed limit. On a blind corner. Illegally clumped in a great, big, impenetrable group. No overtaking. Ok, I thought, I'll just get round them in the town. The town with the Fodder Store, mercifully close now. The town that was also hosting the day's cycling event in the main street. The town that, where I'm usually luck to see two or three other cars, now looked like a commercial car park in a pedestrian mall.
Suppressing the urge to scream the ute and I crawled the last kilometer to the final goal, the Fodder Store. No cars there. Deserted. No pallets of fertiliser, chickens in cages, seedlings on racks or the usual paraphenalia out the front. Drifting sand. Tumbleweeds. No lights on.
The front door, however, was still open. Pulling up in a cloud of dust and scattering gravel, I lunged out of the ute leaving the door open and ran into the cave of an warehouse, always gloomy, now very black. Silence. I call out hopefully. "Hello," said a voice in the darkness, the same friendly, unhurried voice there always is, "How are you today?" I'm worred, were they still open? Yes, they're always open for me, the dears. So sorry but I urgently needed some things, I explained, flustered and rushed. No worries at all they reassure, and placidly go about filling my order, and subsequently the ute, will all things required to sate cold animal appetites. This requires the opening of several doors previously shut, the undoing of packages previously done up and the onning of lights previously off. Still calm and cheerful, their very, very last customer attended to, they finally locked up 15 minutes after closing time to go to whatever sport is playing currently. I hope all their teams won magnificently. On returning home the animals were as hungry and impatient as ever but they could be silence with the plying of food. Fodder Store angels.