This Izola of mine is a play of shadows and light. Her brindle coat tells this clearly but so does her behaviour. I’ve never had such an affectionate calf, I’ve never had such a fence jumper either! She is crazy! Very goat like in her ability to propel herself over a vertical.
BonnieBoots is back!
Mud season is in full swing – so the pasture is shut down. If Bonnie steps out there she will ruin the field. And the grass and clover. In June she won’t remember her confinement but right now…..oh is she getting upset! I spend a while each morning brushing her – this morning she twirled mid-brushing and kicked a back foot at me! Very naughty! I knew she was fidgety so was prepared to move. If she hits me I’ll be some mad! (Cows aren’t really the best kickers, they don’t kick straight back, just to the side, she does have an impressive side kick though!)
I’d love to let her out – but just can’t. Am trying to think of something to entertain her. She has a lot of barn and an eight foot by twenty foot run outside – but this is a cow who didn’t sleep in the barn all winter – this a cow who only comes into the barn for milking and grain. This is one unhappy cow.
Well, I have some catching up to do here with my Bonnie news. Considering that I still can’t drive and am not too stable on uneven ground it is amazing how busy I have been. I have been making wreaths, bags, and Christmas costumes for the church pageant. Have also cleaned and organized an extraordinary number of floor-level shelves in this house. Have also organized over 3000 photos into some sense of order. Digital photography is great but too many bad pictures taken, too easy to download them here and there and not label them etc.. all this to say that I’ve not let this broken ankle time go to waste.
And I’ve left you wondering what on earth is going on with Bonnie Boots! I’ve almost lost track myself. The Thursday before Thanksgiving Sarah and I had a hard time convincing her to come into the barn. In fact each morning and each evening she took longer and longer to appear at the barn door. Thursday evening she was particularly slow. Friday morning she marched right in, I opened the gate leading to her stanchion and waited for her to come in. Remember there is grain awaiting – cows love grain. Candy to kids – grain to cows! She just stood there. Looking at me like I was a complete dolt, an idiot at worst, a very slower learner at best. Animals speak clearly if you take the time to listen and the time to hear. Bonnie distinctly said, “I don’t want to be milked anymore.”
I heard this message on November 22nd. Her calf, Stormy, was born May 22nd. Six months of milking. Exactly.
Beef heifers often wean there babes at six months. How? By kicking their calves’ cute little noses away. Yup. She has been trying to say she was done. I wasn’t hearing it. Didn’t want to hear it. Bonnie has a fair dose of beef in her, Bonnie has low milk production which is what I wanted and I knew and overall she has given me more milk than I expected from her first freshening.
All this to say, I’ve stopped milking her. It’s is terrible thing to wake up to no cream in my coffee. And I miss those moments under my cow. I do not missing the kicking.
Such is farm life – highs and lows, abundance and scarcity, etc… Eating in rhythm with natural cycles is probably a good thing. We are so spoiled or perhaps I should say confused by the transportation of food. Having a few months off from dairy products – probably okay for the body. Going from fresh raw milk to store-bought milk is a bit like buying ‘fresh’ tomatoes in New England in February. An ‘iffy’ proposition!
Bonnie is now happily coming in for a tiny bit of grain, she is happily being brushed, and she is ever so happy I finally stopped and listened to her!
Life with Bonnie is settling down. I’ve made two modifications. One I am trying to spend more time with her. I normally am out and about in the barn, field, and backyard for several hours a day. That has not been the case for a few weeks. Cows are herd animals and I am a part of that herd, but haven’t been acting my part properly. This matters. As my ankle is healing I am increasing the weight bearing and much better able to move – went all the way down to the barn and back this morning – sans crutches. The second modification is that I am finger milking – just using less of my hand, grabbing fewer hairs, hurts my fingers, doesn’t hurt her as much.
I’ve also attempted to use a sound-free shaving device, taking this very slow and easy.
Poor Bonnie, she lost her calf one week before ‘losing me’, plus growing that hair…. Been a difficult month for all of us here at Penny Tree Farm.
Here is a great picture Sarah took of Bonnie and Dizzy the other day. Notice Dizzy’s grouchy look – she does not like Bonnie sneaking up behind her – I’d be willing to be this picture was snapped two seconds before those back feet kicked up into Bonnie’s face.
It’s been a week since I resumed some barn chores since ‘the break’. Milking has finally sorted itself out, Bonnie is back to her sweet angelic self, munching her hay while I milk. Haven’t been kicked for a couple days. Not even this morning when the time change gave me the excuse to sleep in a bit, getting milked an hour later didn’t bother her in the least. Whew! It is so NOT fun to sit under an unhappy cow. It offers that weird conundrum of having to be a calm bull’s eye. Egads! What did I just write!? I will be right back once I know.
Okay, I googled it, and here is what I found on Yahoo Answers!
“The English longbow yeomen were directed to practice frequently, and it has been stated that there was often a practice held immediately after church services in small hamlets, the only time during the week when many of the archers would gather. A common target was the white skull of a bull, and the greatest skill could be illustrated by getting a “bull’s eye”.
Another common shooting term derives from this activity, when the archer is far from the target, the arrow must be pointed high, due to the arched trajectory of an arrow. When the archer is very close to the target, then he may point directly, without aiming above the white bull’s skull, hence “pointing at the white”, or “point blanc” as it was stated in those times. The term is now an established military term, “point blank” range, or the distance at which a firearm can be directly aimed at the target without consideration of the arched trajectory. Modern firearms often have a point blank range of a few hundred yards. ”
Hmmmm… very interesting. So here I am saying I have to be a calm bull’s eye… it’s funny how these terms come to mind without any point of reference for them. Now I’ve totally distracted myself from my point, which was being calm when being vulnerable. It is hard! What I have found with cows is that you can’t respond with tension. One day this week I lost my temper; the milking had been going okay, a few tail whacks to the ole nose, but no kicking and then Kapow! she kicked me in the rib cage – hard. Off my bale of hay. Granted, I am not the most balanced milker at the moment and I was more concerned about protecting my leg than balancing my seat, so off I went. I came up MAD. I gave her a good whack and said NO!!! She kicked at me again and again and again. I yelled, NO! and NO! and NO!, I let the first few kicks pass – then grabbed her leg and held on. She is a little cow, so this is not as exciting as it might have been if she were a twelve hundred pound animal. I held her leg and quietly told her this just can’t happen. She gave me another good whack with her tail. Evening the score sort of thing. We finished the milking, not in peace, rather a reluctant truce. Neither of us happy.
No cream in my coffee from that milking.
Twelve hours between milkings gives a person time to calm down. When my babies were babies I’d sing to them and to myself through the stressful moments. At bedtime that meant rounds upon rounds of Hush Little Baby or Baby Beluga. In the daytime that meant either Garth Brooks or Annie Lenox,. Mind you I can’t sing worth a hoot but it usually worked. So the next milking I started to sing Hush Little Baby to Bonnie. Couldn’t do it. Too tense. Counting works wonders, too. I ditched the singing and started counting, in French. The need to focus is greater, the calming results faster. I forgot all the forties entirely and messed the seventies up pretty badly, perhaps beyond recognition. A lot was tumbling around in my head. I did not want to get kicked off the bale again – a) it hurts, and b) it makes my milking with a broken leg SO not a joke. As my brother said when I sent him the pic of me milking,” there is a fine line between stupid and hard” – and I was starting to think I had crossed it.
What on earth am I going to do if this cow can’t be milked? Get the calf back? Get rid of her? Dry her up? Buy a machine?
It’s hard to shut up inner dialogue and be in the moment. By the time I got to the nineties in French I could feel hints of calmness returning to me. I ditched the count in favor of making up my own song. It went something like this,
“Here I am milking my little cow,
my little cow,
my little cow, my little cow,
Here I am milking my little cow,
so early in the morning,
this is the way we milk a cow,
milk a cow,
milk a cow, milk a cow,
this is the way we milk a cow
so early in the morning!
Here I am milking the one white teat,
the one white teat,
the one white teat, the one white teat,
here I am milking the one white teat,
so early in the mornnnn-ing!
Now we milk the little black teat,
the little black teat, the little black teat,
Now we milk the little black teat,
so early in the morning,
Now she whacks me with her tail,
with her tail,
with her tail, with her tail
now she whacks me with her tail,
so early in the morning.”
Pretty soon both Sarah and I were laughing. And yes – the rest of the milking went fine.
That was all a few days ago. After that there have been good milkings and okay milkings. Then we had that warm day, Thursday. In a farmer’s life, warm means flies, and flies mean switching tails, and switching tails hurt. I’ve tried tying up Bonnie’s tail in the past, this just makes her really mad, she stomps and moves around – A LOT. Fly bites hurt and the tail is a very effective tool against them. I can’t blame her.
Thursday night the milking went okay, I took some hard whacks to the head but oh well. We made it through it. My husband had work issues and was in a bad mood. But we made it through it. That night I didn’t sleep well, the cast was loose and uncomfortable, my leg throbbed, my shoulders and neck were in knots from the crutching around, from the weird milking position, from the weird sleeping position, but I made it through it. The dog had leaned on my bad leg and hurt it. I wanted to cry, but I hadn’t cried once during this whole saga and I wasn’t about to start crying six days into it. My upbringing had never suggested that one should, or even could, cry over spilt milk, the mantras in my family were: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves; No Pain, No Gain; You Gotta Be Mentally Fit To Be Physically Fit, You Gotta Be Physically Fit To Be Mentally Fit; MIND OVER MATTER ; What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger; etc- all those wonderful New England/Yankee ways to the tenth degree. I was not going to start crying now.
I sat down to milk. My wonderful assistant Sarah was tending to the pigs and the chickens. I settled in to wash Bonnie’s udder and WHACK! Her tail, not the nice fluffy end of it – the bone of it, hit me in the forehead. I cussed under my breath. Then KA-WHACK! that Gosh-Darn-Dang tailbone hit the end of my nose.
I burst into tears.
And sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Poor Sarah. She knelt and hugged me. Mothered her mother. Petted my hair, told me it was all going to be okay. Petted my hair some more. I had myself a good old fashion cry. Then I milked my cow. I angled my head into Bonnie’s body so the tail-whacks missed me or hit the back of my head. By the end of the milking I was leaning heavily on Bonnie and she was leaning heavily on me. When I finished I slowly pulled away so she wouldn’t fall over. Ahhh…
I’d love to say the milkings have been flawless since then; they haven’t been bad, last night and this morning was flawless but they haven’t all been great. What I will say is this, it never ceases to amaze me how my cow makes me the best version of me. When I left the barn that tear-filled morning I left it with a new sense of power and hope. I left it feeling like I had won, I had been pushed hard, I had cried, but I done the job I meant to do, and I had done it well.
Friday morning I got up and finished the barn chores early. Time to take Stormy to his new home a little West from here. I was unsure of how Bonnie would react to this change. Losing her first born calf. Her only bovine companion. For the last few weeks Stormy has been living separately from Bonnie. She and Dizzy have had the field and half of the barn, he has had the backyard and the other half of the barn. I have been hoping that Bonnie and Dizzy would bond and that weaning gradually would be easier on Stormy. Until he left I gave him half of each milking. I’ll admit to another motive for weaning. I wanted some cream and as long as he was nursing she was holding it up for him!
So Friday morning I easily put Stormy into the trailer. Bonnie realized right away that something was amiss. She bellowed loudly and ran to the pasture, angling herself for a full view of the trailer. She mooed, “NOOOOOO!!!!” At least four times she yelled this deep heart-wrenching “Noooo!” Then she ran back to the barn and mooed again. She tried looking out the doors but couldn’t see anything so she bolted back to the field. “Mooooooo!!”
Stormy didn’t answer, he as he was busy eating the hay and a little grain I had put down for him. Bonnie didn’t stop calling him so he finally answered. “Blahhh.” Then we drove off.
I stopped a few miles down the road to fill up the tank and check Stormy. He was laying down and chewing his cud. I worried about poor Bonnie back at the house.
Less than four hours later I returned. I had hoped to drive further and pick up the last bull’s meat at the butcher but decided not to, driving an empty trailer an extra hour and half seemed unnecessary. When I came into the barnyard there was Bonnie laying in the field. She was laying right in the sun. She never lays in the sun, there are noticeably less flies in the shade. I watched from a distance at first. Her tail was swishing and she had her chin tucked low. Flies were definitely bothering her. When I came in close I could see tons of flies on her. She got up and followed me into the barn. She had not eaten the hay I’d put in the field nor the hay I had put in the barn. I freshened the hay and got out the brush. I began brushing her, starting at her tailhead and working towards her ears. She began to eat. I brushed her for a good half hour. Then Dizzy came and stood next her and they ate together. Good.
At evening milk she seemed fine. Until her second let-down. She looked around for her calf and began to moo softly. I’ve always kept Stormy clipped near her head so she could lick him while I was milking her, this time I held out my hand to her. She gave me a thorough cleaning. When I unclipped her she promptly went to the spot where he has been bedding down. She sniffed it carefully, mooed again and walked away.
She hasn’t looked for him or called for him again. Not until tonight did she need to lick again mid-milking. This time she quickly turned and licked my head.
Nor has she plopped herself down in the sun as one big fly attraction.
She and Dizzy are doing really well together. Yesterday we were in the barn showing the animals to visitors and Dizzy was grooming Bonnie’s head. Horses don’t lick, they nibble. Bonnie was thoroughly enjoying her head massage. Cows are herd animals, so it makes me happy to feel that the two of them have created their own version of a herd out there.