30 October 1998



Ive never been to a farm sale before and I was quite surprised at what an Aladdins cave ours turned out to be.

Tools and equipment that hadnt seen the light of day in more than 20 years suddenly appeared in the back paddock, and Fred and friends stood huddled together in deep conversation trying to decide just what was that box thing with a handle, and was that piece of metal a spare for an old grey Fergie, or for the newer MF35, or maybe it wasnt part of a tractor at all.

A scythe that had seen better days, old milk buckets and an ancient oil pump; everything was dragged out from the dark recesses of the barn and laid in neat rows on the grass.

I love listening to auctioneers. It amazes me how they manage not to trip over their own tongues; and would anyone notice if they did? Somehow, with friends and neighbours milling round and chatting, it was almost turning into a fun day out. At least it was until the tractor came under the hammer.

I had a wild urge to shout out "You cant sell that. We need it!" But of course, we dont. Not any more. Wed decided to let Blue go too. Hes far too young to retire, and anyway he wouldnt be happy as a pet. I suppose the worst part of the day was watching him peering out through a car window as he was driven away. Neither a rather wavering chorus of "Bye Bye, Blue" or the fact that hed nipped his new owner on the bottom, managed to raise our spirits by more than a half-hearted smile.

So now the farm is deserted. No dog. No sheep. Even Michael and Emma have left us, to go off to university. Theres just Fred and me, and a lot of tidying up.

Live and deadstock gone, mostly for around half of what it would have fetched last year, we still have the farm itself to sell. Were getting all sorts coming to view; lawyers, surveyors, engineers, City types, even the occasional farmer!

Our last viewer arrived, with his wife, in a four-wheel drive and they set off with Fred to do the guided tour. It had been a rather wet day and the ground was muddy and slippery. In a field aptly named Stocky Knob, the driver lost control and slid down the bank. The car spun and tipped over onto its side. Luckily no one was hurt, other than a few bruises. Fred had a soft landing, on top of our visitor!

The problem was how to get the vehicle back onto four wheels. Who said we didnt need a tractor any more?

OK, so I was wrong. Yet again our neighbours came to the rescue and within short order the car was righted; and the trauma of a badly dented wing and door didnt seem to put the couple off as they carried on looking round, before driving off to have words with their insurance company. The same couple have been back since, for a second look. I do hope that they are the ones to buy as I rather took to them. It may sound silly, but leaving my home of over 20 years (and Freds home of a lifetime) doesnt seem quite so bad if we are handing it into the care of someone we like.

So, now we have to wait; and in the meantime theres still plenty of work to keep Fred occupied. He may not have any sheep to look after, but he still has a little while to go before he can fully retire.

Margaret Quartly

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