Sorry to have neglected my blog. I’ve spending my writing time on a creative piece that I am not quite ready to post yet but will.
But tonight I need to vent about Bonnie. What a naughty, naughty girl she is being!
Okay that is not fair. I think the problem is this: she is one hairy cow. Including her undergarments – if you know what I mean. I can’t grab a teat without also grabbing a few hairs. Undoubtedly this hurts. Surely it hurts. So she kicks. And she is getting good at kicking. At first it was little stomps and stamps. Now it is – without a doubt – a full on attempt to take my head off. POW!
So I bought these nifty little clippers. Battery operated. Pretty quiet. I tried it on my leg and didn’t feel anything. Not saying my leg is as hairy as her teats or my legs as sensitive as her udder. These are pretty good clippers is my point.
She let me buzz the first teat with no problem.
The second teat I successfully dodged multiple kicks to the head and shoulders, I got some hair off but didn’t complete the job. I left off with the shaving and milked her out. This morning I just milked, she kicked some. And I’ll admit it – I am getting scared of her hooves.
This evening was a nightmare. It hurts her to milk her. I need to get the hair off. She doesn’t like to get buzzed. And though I don’t blame her, I don’t want to get kicked. How embarrassing would it be to show up at my orthopedic doctor’s with a broken collarbone or wrist!
I tried to hobble her with rope. Fail. Scared her. Angered her. Puzzled her. But didn’t stop her from kicking.
So I brought out my last resort. THE KICKSTOP.
This tool is designed to stop cows from kicking. It catches under a leggish part and catches up on the spine. When the cow kicks they are thrown off balance and in theory they stop kicking. First attempt and Bonnie flipped. A couple kicks later and the kickstop fell off. I tightened it up and put it back on. She stood and thought about it for a while. Still. Her breathing calmed. We decided that given my broken ankle issue I might not be able to get out of the way fast enough for a second time. So Eric leaned in with the buzzer to get some hair, she didn’t move. He took off a bit more hair. She drove a foot into the air – at head height. Again, and again, and again. She swung her whole body around – continuously kicking.
This was not going well. And I still needed to milk her.
This is when it is handy to have a handy husband. We decided that if we couldn’t stop the kicking we at least had to block the kicks. Eric grabbed a few two by fours, some tools, and some decking screws. In no time at all he built a small sturdy wall that prevented her from landing those hooves on humans. And prevented her from swinging her body around.
I managed to milk her out. She threw her hooves into the wall a few times then switched to half hearted attempts at kicking. I tried to not pull hair. I can’t say I look forward to what the morning will bring. I’ve got to buzz more hair off. Just hope I can keep myself intact on that adventure.
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.
Yesterday was one of those days. My to-do list seemed so long I didn’t know where to start. I hadn’t slept really well. I felt both restless and useless. I did the morning chores, did my PT stretches and took Dory for a walk/run at the state park.
When I got home I wandered aimlessly, knowing that I had umpteen things to do and but not wanting to do any of them.
This is when Discipline comes into play, right? I hate that word – it smacks of smackings and anger. But it has it’s purposes. “Okay Kelly – time to be disciplined. Here’s the deal – make two wreaths, finish making and ironing the guestroom curtains, and prepare dinner. Go get it done!”
Number one on the to-do list – make wreaths. I like to make wreaths in the field, it means one less mess for me to clean up. Bonnie and Dizzy happily eat the leaves, versus me collecting them and moving them. I cut a bunch of vines, threw them over the fence, tucked the nippers into my jacket pocket, grabbed a five gallon bucket and jumped over the fence.
I seated myself on the overturned bucket and began to cut off golden grape leaves. Within seconds Bonnie left her birch tree bed and ran up to me, Dizzy chasing her.
According to Hobbes, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, animals have words for smells – brumbly being one of them. I wish had Hobbes’ words. The oily grassy dirty furry smell of Bonnie could be bottled and sold. Forget lavender as aromatherapy for relaxation, Bottled Bovine would fly off the shelf. I can’t quite say what that despondent feeling had been about, but with every breath, inhaling deeply, I felt myself melting, relaxing, forgetting about the to-do list and becoming present, finding myself right here – in the moment, in that space that doesn’t hold overwhelming to-do lists, doesn’t hold impatience, doesn’t hold discouragement, doesn’t hold despondency.
Dizzy began to nibble on me. First my pant legs, then my sleeves, then my hair and head. I pulled her close and hugged her, rubbing my lips on her wiry mane, then on her velvet muzzle – every last knot of tension gone. Equine Elixir?
As far as wreath-making – the Critters can be a real pain. After munching leaves for a while Bonnie wanted to play. Pushing on me, pushing on the bucket. Trying to rub her head on my wreath-making hands. Trying to grab the wreath I was working on. A few minutes of ignoring her and she grew bored and wandered off to graze.
Dizzy is happiest when people are her height, she wasn’t letting this moment pass. She continued to nuzzle and nibble me, occasionally grabbing a leaf to eat. I did get my two wreaths made, but the second one is probably not sellable. Too many Dizzy distractions and interferences.
I stuck to my plan and finished the wreaths then my guest room sewing project. And dinner – a standing rib roast, white beans with garlic and rosemary, and brussels sprouts roasted with garlic and onion, and of course, a bowlful of cherry tomatoes.
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.
Not kicking is great
Peeing and pooping I hate
Soft mmm… mmm.. I melt.
On August 25th Auker went to the butcher. I scheduled Bonniebelle for pregnancy testing with the expectation that I’d have a positive confirmation by the 23rd of August.
I scheduled Auker’s appointment for the 25th.
The pregnancy test was negative.
So why is he gone?
The first week of August he broke through a weak spot in the fence and visited my neighbor. The weak spot being a spot that none of my cows of the past five years found. A huge bush had grown itself into the the 48 inch heavy duty mesh fence. This bush had lots of branches radiating from its center. Thick sturdy branches. Auker went through the an ‘off’ electric mesh fence, the branches, and the wire.
He then walked over a three foot mesh fence used to kennel my neighbor’s small breed dog. And Auker was stuck. How he managed to get out of my rather sturdy fence and over the dog’s fence and not get out of that is a mystery.
He was easier than my lab to bring home. Fortunately.
But then he broke a gate in the barn, and began to just randomly push on fences and gates. Grrr.. Some weird hormonal thing I guess.
Back to August 23 rd. Negative pregnancy test for Bonniebelle. Shoot!
Unbeknownst to Auker I cancelled the appointment with the butcher.
Then August 24th, Saturday night I went into the field to find that Auker had broken through a four foot electrified mesh fence, used for grass rotation. He had to have taken multiple shocks before he killed the fence.
I couldn’t sleep that night. My cow is not bred. My bull is becoming a danger to the neighborhood. A loose bull, even of the good-natured mini version… not good. So not good.
The next morning Eric came into the barn while I was milking and quietly said, “He has to go.”
“Yes, a lot easier to get this cow bred than to undo an accident or fix a broken child.”
I put him into the trailer and Eric drove him to the butcher. No more sleepless nights.
Random side note – the large bush he went through smelled like dill pickles! I had to cut off branches and branches and branches to fix that stretch of fencing – just thinking about it makes me salivate!