Alex James: Don't risk causing bulls any trouble

Rural Notebook

These cows in the front field: They have no udders. Something I only realised when I took the children in to say a friendly hello. The entire herd, maybe a dozen of them, had been lying down and it was only when they started to stand up and stare, looking moodier than Chipping Norton hoodies, that it dawned on me they must be the other type of cow.

In any flock of sheep there is always one that is slightly braver than all the others, but when a lamb starts staring and trying to look tough it's usually more comical than scary. There are mushrooms that are more frightening to behold than a sheep with attitude. It's hard for something so soft and fluffy to come over as tough.

In the large scheme of God's creatures though, sheep – especially really young ones – are comparatively bold and inquisitive. It's nice being tailed by large groups of them as I walk around the place: Most things one encounters in the fields are very timid. All one usually sees of deer and rabbits are their backsides. They live on their nerves, wild animals.

Fear is not something these daddy cows live with. I could tell that straightaway, so I dispatched the children and went back later with Paddy. "They definitely had udders before, when they were in the barn." I said, "They were pregnant, too." "Yes, the pregnant cows have gone," he said. "These are the steers. Beef. It's best to have a large-ish stick when you approach these boys." We had no stick, and stopped walking towards them when they were all on their feet.

The bull is the undisputed king of the agricultural jungle: The biggest, strongest, toughest thing in the kingdom – and they know it. They didn't want any trouble, but they were ready for it. They speak fluent body language. "Come on then, just try coming a bit closer and see what happens." They were saying. We kept a respectful distance: Absolutely magnificent.

An expert tea towel

A house martin flew through an open window into the lounge yesterday. It was keen to be on its way and flew again and again into all the closed windows as we tried to help it escape. It was heartbreaking: So hard to catch. Fortunately there was an expert present. A tea towel deftly thrown over the bird, which was then easily dispatched back into the great outdoors: Works every time, apparently.

The great outdoors

Gardens are so much nicer than houses. It's not just house martins that think so. It's lovely being able to throw the doors open and live outside again. I've yet to hear the cuckoo, but I had my first strawberry this morning. So sublimely delicious it's hard to believe they grow on trees: Trees, bushes, cows, bulls, it's all good.