Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Some days...stink

Ice. Everywhere. I put on two layers and get ready for what I know might be a long day. 

I shed a tear early for a new one who didn't make it though the night. I try hard not to let the cold work it's way into my heart. Keep going...keep going...

As I feed, it rains. And then rains harder. 
I check all the girls. Some are dry, some are not. I worry about them in the cold, but one reassures me with her happy demeanor as I pass by. 

There is steam rising from them and I am reminded their bodies are warmer than mine. 

Mmmmm, they leave me as their fresh feed arrives. 

The day moves on, the rain keeps falling. By lunch I am ready for dry clothes. By 4 o'clock I am ready for more dry clothes. 

I finish feeding calves as darkness falls. I pick up my buckets to leave. Oh, I forgot to feed the cats. 

"Come on kitties" I say as I walk quickly towards the cat food dishes. They are under my feet, they can't contain their excitement! I reach down to pet one as we arrive at the bowls. 

Eeeek!! I jump away! One of the "cats" running along in front of me is none other than a huge, bushy tailed skunk. 

I run half way back through the barn. I wait for it to run out. It doesn't. 

I slowly creep back to the "cat corner". I am tip toeing, holding my breath. 

And there is the skunk, patiently waiting with the cats, for me to put out their food. 

In that moment I start to decide I might not classify this day as "good". 
I am ready to go home. 

I only have one last thing to do, check for new calves. Surely they would at least calve in the barn on such a nasty day.

With my light, I spot a cow at the gate. All the others are sleeping cozy in the barn, and here is this girl outside. As I get closer I see she is leaking milk and has obviously had a calf. Where is it? In the barn? No. Has it slipped out the gate? I don't see it. I bet I just missed it in the barn. Hmm. Not there. 

In fear, I began searching around the corners, down the hill. Oh no it's so cold and raining harder than ever. I worry every moment I am looking. 

 I need a brighter light and more help, both of which I find and continue the search.
After a few long minutes of flashlights beaming through the dark, I hear words of relief.
"Found it!"

And there around the corner, under a bush, sopping wet, is a very small new baby heifer wobbling towards us in the rain. 

The bad parts of my day begin to wash away as we carry her in a blanket towards the barn, where she will sleep warm and dry. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Drip. Drop.

Drip. Drop. I am startled awake by the feel of tiny drops of water hitting my face. I open one eye. There are a set of little green cat eyes looking at me as if saying “oh, were you sleeping?” While waiting on me to wake up, Lola the cat seems to have found an abandoned glass of water on my bed side table and proceeds to bathe her tiny paws in it. She is intrigued by the way it sloshes in the glass. 

 I walk into the living room to find the dog sleeping more comfortably than he should be on the couch. At least someone else is getting a slow start to the day.

 And then it starts. The list making in my head. I wonder how many things I can cram into today. There's the feeding and the breeding (cows that is). This group needs to be moved here and this other one there. I need to go to the grocery store and then get back in time to feed again. I'm sure tonight I'll have plenty of time to cook dinner, maybe even dessert.  So I guzzle the rest of my coffee and I'm off to complete the tasks I have decided I'm sure I can accomplish in a day.

But a funny thing happens. Things that weren't on my list.  

There was the sweet girl who takes longer than I think to eat her bottle. She's brand new and I stand hunched over close to her, patiently waiting as over and over she attempts to learn how to adjust to her new world. Slowly she succeeds.

Then there was that cow in the wrong group. I put her back. Again.

There is the one who you didn't think was going to calve today and the one you didn't expect to get sick.

There is 1823 who you have to stop and pet because you have been too busy to notice her lately.

There are phone calls and emails and “oh no I forgot to send you that yesterday”.
Something breaks, “okay I'll be right there”.

And, at last, that beautiful sky with a slowly sinking sun. How I did not plan to be so captured by its beauty. So I watch it set.

And in that moment, my list is suddenly forgotten.
It’s then I realize how blessed I am to live a life with cows and sunsets, and all the things that weren't on my list.

Car rides

Moon rise

Feeding buddies

Lunch in the field
Coffee breaks

New friends


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New Girl

10:45 p.m. Checking on the maternity cows. Waiting on one to calve, so I'm sitting in my car eating goldfish crackers. While I wait I'm checking Facebook, looking at Pinterest, ya know the usual farmer things.

I check again, not much progress. I'm afraid to lean my head back and rest in fear that I might wake up in the morning sleeping in my car. So I keep waiting. Five minutes feels like an eternity when your eyes are getting heavy.

Again, I go back, shining my flashlight in anticipation. Still no progress so I tip toe closer. I gently put my hand around the tiny foot. It jumps! I can't see much now since I had to put my light down.

Mama cooperates and in just a few short minutes our herd increases by one.  A tiny baby heifer! Wet and warm, the wiggly baby sucks in a deep breath, and then another. She picks up her head, looking for mama. All is well. My work is done.

So at 11:15 on a Monday night I get in my car to go home. My hands are cold, but I am smiling.

9 hours old. Taking a nap in the leaves.

All settled in at the calf barn. Friends already.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Happy Chorus

All is quiet. The sun is making it's grand appearance, again too astonishing for words. 

I take my last sip of coffee and inhale the still for one more minute. I get out of the car, put on my gloves, find my Tingley boots. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term they are the black, over the shoe boots necessary when your daily routine takes you to "deep" places if you know what I mean. Next is the usual routine of shaking them upside down to make sure I don't squish a woolly worm, or more importantly end up with a spider on my leg.  And then, I'm off on my trek to the barn. 

First is Teddy the cat, waiting every morning under the same tree. I would love to have a picture of him there to share with you but as soon as I am in sight he runs to me. I guess I got the name "crazy cat lady" for a reason. Then there's Junie the cow, perching at the water tank. She is standing there looking like you must ask her permission before you can enter the barnyard. I pass the test. 

 I walk on, a few more cats have filed in behind me now, like a small parade. Up to this point it's still quiet. You can hear the birds, the parlor equipment running it's cleaning cycle after the morning milking, the small sounds. But for me the day hasn't yet begun. It's like when you can see the light but not yet the sun. And then, they see me...

My happy little chorus! They shuffle their feet as quickly as they can in the straw to jump up, like it's a race. I have never seen such excitement at once, a whole barn comes to life in an instant. A little moo, a big moo, someone stretches their tongue out as I walk by. The quiet has been replaced by noise. All kinds of noise. Noise that I have come to love because it means they are happy and well, ready to eat their breakfast and they are waiting on me to bring it to them. 

So on I go, carrying buckets, feeding bottles, all the morning chores. The song of the day has begun, I have to keep up.