Things are moving along. Slowly. Crutching around is hard work. Getting down to the barn and back is slow going but worth it. It amazes me how energy and clarity come with those moments out in the barn. By the time I get back to the house my arms are tired, but I feel so much better.
Bonnie Boots, as my friend Monica dubbed her after hearing about poor Kathleen and Sarah, is being a bit of a dic-a-doo. She is lifting feet more than she should, not really trying to hit me but clearly trying to get out of being milked. Don’t tell my mother or my doctor but her hoof has landed on my right leg a few times, nothing below the knee but still… so not cool. I can’t quite figure it out. Perhaps some tenderness from the ‘holding up’ over the weekend, perhaps the idea that kicking might have gotten her extra grain or less time in the stanchion, perhaps simply the change of routine, I wish I could understand her language better. In the past I’ve been able to make eye contact and chat with her a bit; with my back to her I can’t. Before I was ‘flapped’ she would often stop mid-way through milking and lick my face or hands, perhaps my back offends her? I just don’t know.
The other character that has been interesting to watch is Dory. When I’ve been laid up in the past she has been right there, laying near my bed or door, watching and waiting. Until today she has been watching and waiting patiently. Just as Bonnie decided to give me one full day off before I had to come and milk, Dory decided that today was the day I had better play with her. From the moment I got out of bed she was crazed, she put on her whole wiggle-butt, tail-waggety-whack routine – “we are going for a RUN!” Food didn’t satisfy that itch, a quick trip out to pee didn’t either, she was certain that today was THE DAY that we’d be on the move again. So, after William got on the bus I spent about half an hour outside throwing the ball for her. Now she has calmed down and is napping. And once again, her medicine was just what I needed.
What happens when people are stuck in nursing homes, houses, hospitals? I can’t possibly be the only one who benefits from fresh air and outside activity. Convalescing without clarity and energy hardly seems like it can be convalescing.
I have not been able to visit Abba and Per yet. I miss rubbing their ears and bellies. I have to go through a mucky spot so haven’t ventured there yet. I’ve thrown apples over to them but that’s it. They are surely missing our excursions. They got out of their pen on Saturday so Eric and Sarah had to move them and set them for being penned pigs, at least for a while. Poor Per must be losing his mind, he is one high-speed pig, her run circles for the sheer joy of it, his little piggy spirit must be suffering a bit. Their new pen is nice and big and all un-rooted ground, for the moment that is the best we can do.
Naughty Abba broke the chicken pen wire a couple days ago. She and Per have absolutely loved ‘cleaning’ the chicken pen out.
The pigs were great today. Emma was home with a cold so she went with me and babysat them while I worked on widening the path and making wreaths. I need a nice swath clear of multi-flora roses before I bring my cow back there. Since I got whapped a few years back, taking a thorn between two knuckles, sending a red line up my arm within hours I am a little paranoid of multi-flora roses. Didn’t help that while I was buying arm length rose-trimming gloves a nice lady stopped to tell me her husband had died – DIED! from a rose thorn infection.
The image of my dear Bonniebelle dragging me through a path of roses and killing me keeps me widening that path!
This morning I didn’t feed the pigs anything before we went into the backfield. The little dears were competing to see who could follow me best. We were quite the sight. Dory in the lead. Then me closely followed by the pigs, with Emma taking up the rear. When we got settled. me with my clippers, Emma sunning in white plastic Adirondack chair, the pigs happily poked and rooted around – perfect! Per has this know-it-all attitude now. He is so proud of himself when he comes when we call. His legs and length are so much longer than Abba’s he is always in the lead – which he is sure makes him my new favorite. Abba just about kills herself running to keep up, poor thing is going to be fit! Good thing she is for breeding not eating.
I sprinkled bits of fine cracked corn here and there – they had good fun finding it and digging it up. Emma did a good job checking on them and calling them in if they ventured too far. Made it easy for me to work.
After a while Emma headed back to the house, the pigs quickly decided to take advantage of being unattended and wandered off pretty far. I didn’t call them but stood watching the grass wave well over their heads as they meandered through the meadow. They weren’t eating at all, just enjoying their freedom. When I called they grunted and came running.
I got them back into their pen with no problems, giving them a quart of clabber and a little grain.
Poor Per will likely have a little surgery this afternoon. I picked up the ‘tools’ to castrate him.
I’ll let you know how that goes.
This morning I decided I had to get ‘move the willow starts’ off my to-do list. Abba and Per were in their pen and sure that I wanted them to join me. So I gave into their squeals and cries and let them out while I finished the barn chores. Abba is never more than ten steps behind me – except when a gate prevents her. She can squeeze under a couple of gates, unfortunately Per can’t do the same. And when he can’t follow her – wow! Temper, temper. Poor Per. He had followed me and Abba over to the site where I am moving the trees to, I had to make another trip back to the barn for my saw, so had stepped over the mesh electric fence – thinking the pigs were so busy rooting around they hadn’t noticed me. Abba did notice, she circled the electric fence and went under another fence to stick with me. Per, then noticed she was missing and decided to go through the electric mesh fence to get to us. He got stuck – and yes the fence was on. AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I was near the charge box – unplugged it and ran to untangle him.
My ears are still ringing from his squealing – I don’t know much about decibels and pitches but he would surely have broken a wineglass with his screaming. (I had always assumed that the saying ‘he screamed like a stuck pig’ referred to some antiquated butchering process – perhaps not.)
Abba was unfazed by all this – in fact nothing fazes her.
She is quite certain that with some gentle persistence all the animals on the property will be as attached to her as I am. I have seen her repeatedly approach Bonniebelle. Tip her head up to make eye contact, tip her nose up to sniff Bonnie’s nose. Bonnie isn’t sure what to think. She’ll lean to sniff for a minute and then tip her head down to brandish the full expanse of her crown – a cow’s deadlist weapon. As if to say , ” I could, I might not, but I could kill you.” Abba eases back without breaking the tilt of her head. As if to say, “I know you could and I know you won’t, in fact, I think if you really thought about it you’d kind of like me.” This interchange has happened at least four times since Sunday.
As has her friendly, fearless advances to Stormy and Dizzy. Stormy has much the same response as his mother, but done in fast-quick motions. Despite his abruptness, Abba doesn’t treat him any differently than she treats Bonnie.
Dizzy is another story. The second she senses Abba’s approach she turns her backside and begins to feint like a boxer – with her rear feet. She has not kicked, or given swung a leg into a kick. She warns. Interestingly Abba reacts as gently as she does with the cows’ front-side warnings. She doesn’t run off, she eases back, keeping her head up and her demeanor open.
Per, poor Per. He has decided that perhaps he should follow Abba’s lead and make friends with his neighbors. He moves in fast and promptly gets chased. Bonnie gave him a run for his money this morning. I can’t imagine all this exercise is good for building up his weight, though perhaps it is adding muscle mass. Certainly must be healthier meat production than the poor pigs raised in no-move pens.
I am not sure when we’ll get to the backfield again. I have to head into Boston tomorrow afternoon for a doctor’s appointment. I hate having a deadline to my adventures – if I run into some kind of problem I’d rather not have the added stress of meeting a critical deadline. I have waited for this appointment much too long to be waylaid by a runaway pig. And then we are heading out for the weekend- leaving the farm in the care of my backup farmer.
I almost forgot -the willows – with an enormous amount of effort I managed to move one willow-start – start my foot- the thing had roots several deep and who knows if it will in fact survive this transplant.
PS Sorry to have no pics – Sarah ended up losing her smart phone in the Atlantic. She capsized, got tangled up a bit and somehow the zippered pocket unzipped, the phone is in a nice expensive water proof case… perhaps it will show up someday, somewhere. She was so relieved to live through the experience that she was not as upset as I would have thought she’d be. And oddly enough even after such an experience she suggested that if in fact we parents were contemplating buying her a new phone (she had paid for the phone she lost) she’d rather have us buy her a sailor’s watch. All this to say – I will have to resort to an old fashion camera and get some pictures posted.