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Behind the Hedges: Is your garden safe?

Behind the Hedges: Is your garden safe?

When I was young, I disregarded cows. Actually, I thought they were pretty stupid. Big slow animals and not nearly as interesting as dogs or cats or even the ducks that lived on the dam. They grazed placidly on the side of the road, wandered over it, were an obstacle to be avoided on a bike. Part of the landscape: trees, cows, yawn…

Many years later, coming back to Norfolk from the city, I began to take a new interest in cows. I noticed that they travelled in groups and had a patch of territory. The mixed bunch that grazed up Sewlyn Pine Road, the “Black Power Gang” that grazed around the DCA circle and leaped out at you (it seemed on purpose) at night so that your car went careening up a bank, and the fluffy calves that appeared in spring and were looked after in creches by a mother while the others went off to feed.

“How cute!” I thought, my city brain (long hardened by concrete and rush hours) being sublimely enchanted by curly coats and eyelashes and soft brown eyes. “How benign!” I mused, becoming very fond of certain cows with a raffish tilt to their forelock or soft mouse-coloured coats.

And then we started building a house, and more to the point, planting a garden. We didn’t have a cattlegrid, but rather a gate, and lots of people coming and going. The approach to the gate was on a hill, and sometimes it didn’t shut properly. The first time the cows got in, I could see from their footprints in the new earth that they had had a lovely wander, as if they were browsing through a supermarket. A little nibble here, a bit more of a feed there, and then: Hibiscus! I stood on the hill in the evening light amid the destruction and howled and swore never to be taken in again by appearances.

Soon after, I noticed that the local mob was starting to hang about my gate. They knew it was an entry to paradise, but one that was cruelly denied to them all over the island. But if they came by often enough there might just be a chance of admittance. Sure enough, there soon was, and this time I saw from the footprints that they hadn’t wasted time, but had RUN to where their favourite plants were. The passionfruit was stripped clean and the hibiscus chewed to stalks. Wholesale destruction! And then they had made good their escape, back to looking demure and photogenic on the roadside.

“Oh no, you must be mistaken,” they blinked at me when I shook my fist at them as I drove past. “We much prefer dry roadside grass, maybe it was the other cows…possibly the bad ones from the airport,” they mooed gently when I swore at them. I wasn’t taken in though. Far from the obstacles of my childhood or the more recent doe-eyed visions of loveliness, they had become single-minded-eating-machines with the cold killing eyes of death row inmates with no mercy or remorse. The day we installed the cattle-grid we did a victory dance on our side of it, and the next time I caught the cows investigating it I taunted them, ”ha-ha make your way around THIS you beasts of destruction!” They looked shocked, for they were merely taking in the afternoon air and there was no need for this unprovoked attack, they felt.

Time and a sturdy cattlegrid have softened my hardline stance, and from time to time I can be caught admiring a calf galloping around the common (for no good reason except that it’s spring and it feels good). We may even be back on speaking terms. I mean, you can’t blame a cow for trying. But don’t even talk to me about the quail in my ransacked vegetable patch, with their deceptively jolly topknot and their beady little sociopath eyes…

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Article content disclaimer: Article first published in 2899 Magazine V1 Iss1, 2008. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.

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