Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Calf Yet

Or what my cow likes

I have probably made it pretty clear that I am a little afraid of Violet, and it's hard to really love something you're afraid of. I think yesterday, I kind of fell in love with Violet.

(For those of you who don't like lots of hokum about communicating with animals, you might want to stop reading.)

On Sunday, I was busy burning brush close to one part of the pasture that Violet has steady access to at the moment. She spent much of her time pretty close to the fence where I was burning brush. I always chat with any animals who choose to keep me company, so I greeted her and asked her rhetorical questions and went about my business.

Then, I suddenly "knew" she wanted fresh grass. Yes, yes, she's a cow and cows eat grass and all that. Naturally, if there was grass available, a cow would want it, but this at least felt different. Maybe all that pine smoke was getting to me. Anyway, I opened a gate that let her onto another section of pasture and she left.

She was at the fence again around chore time. This was my cue to feed her apples or a pumpkin and to throw her some fresh hay. That's our routine; I did what she expected. I was still tending my fire, so I just stood and watched her while she was eating. And again, I just "knew" she wanted me to pet her, so I went into the fence and petted her. She obviously enjoyed the contact and gave me an appreciative lick, which is much different from the thorough salt-seeking lick I often get from her. After a couple of minutes, she seemed done with petting and I left to finish the other evening chores.

Yesterday, I was gathering leaves from around the edge of the pasture. Little enough light gets to those areas, that it hurts nothing for me to steal those leaves for the garden. Also, we've placed long pieces of pine along the slope of one hill. I wanted to stack leaves against these to help create a mound that will slow down the water in that part of the pasture. The plan is to put waste bedding on top of the leaves and see what happens. We hope we see a change in the grass just below these mounds.

Anyway, I had the garden cart to haul leaves to the garden, and as I pushed it through the gate, I wondered where my cow was. She poked her head out of the barn and followed me. When she saw me going through to that new patch of pasture, she picked up the pace. I think she hoped I had apples in the garden cart, but I do not like for a cow to run after me. So I stopped, held my rake up in front of me and waited to see what she was doing. She sniffed around the garden cart, and then sniffed the rake, and then began to graze about five feet away from me.

Maybe you're not at all afraid of huge animals like docile cows. If so, then you're not like me. Her grazing that close made it very difficult for me to focus on raking. Then, when I got ready to move the garden cart, she did her rodeo routine. Have you ever seen a very pregnant cow bouncing around on the tips of her hooves? It's a sight.

I stopped everything and waited for her to calm down. Then I talked softly to her as I moved the garden cart a few feet, giving her a very wide berth. And I kept raking, and she kept very close to where I raked.

It was soon obvious that my cow was just spending time with me, though not me in the specific, probably. She just liked having company in the pasture. I raked leaves for two hours and for the first 90 minutes, she stayed within ten feet of me, grazing. Then, she slowly grazed her way back to the barn. And I felt such warm affection for my cow who is so slowly teaching me what it is cows like.

Yes to petting
Yes to company
Yes to soft voices
Yes to apples, pumpkins, and hay
Yes to brushes
No to wheels
No to loud noises
No to dogs
No to sudden movements

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Violet is so round and ripe looking. She's a little irritable, but still quite cow-like in her ponderous way. She has her winter coat and is all shiny and sleek and soft. The barn needs some prep work, but I feel much better prepared a week before this birth than I did a week before the last calf was born. I am a little concerned about having a calf this time of year, but the real cold won't hit for a couple of months. I know other people have calves this time of year, but it isn't ideal.

What I need to figure out is when to breed Violet back. I really liked not having to mess with milking while Jason has been so busy with catalog stuff. It has also been very nice having end of summer trips and things. Maybe we could plan for a September calf next time. Best laid plans..

I think one perk of farming is that there are often new babies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fragmented TIme

I'll admit that I cannot stand to be interrupted when I'm involved in a task. It's part of the reason I find parenting babies so frustrating; babies really will need you just as you get 5 minutes into any project or book.  I figure it's part of what makes new mothers lose IQ points. Fortunately, we get them back or at least we think we do, but we're so far gone we cannot actually tell.

So back to this fragmented time thing.

I was recently staying with a friend who I think is actually less busy that the average mother of three, and what I noticed is how rarely she has a solid chunk (2 hours or more) of time to follow a project. It could have been because my tongue is attached in the middle when I'm with her, but it did not look like it was ALL my fault. And it made me realize how our culture really deters this kind of long, reflective time.

As I watched her, I thought of how I actually work more like a sci fi ray gun- you know the kind where the ball of energy coalesces and only when some critical mass of swirling color is reached can the gun actually fire. Well, that's how I get things done, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I can storm through some things when I get to focus that way.

On the other hand, the past few weeks I haven't gotten anything done- what with starting school and Jason working on the catalog and the trip to New York and visitors and another car trip and making applesauce and getting into our extra-curricular activity routine. My energy is diffuse. There is so much to do and so few blocks of time to do it, that I'm not actually accomplishing anything. The garden is not tucked up, no leaves are raked and resting on my garden beds, my pile of compost is still in the completely wrong place, none of our house projects are finished, the cow shed is not ready for the new calf, the chickens don't have roosts.

And I'm someone who DOES have at least a few chunks of time.

I send this thought: Be kind to yourself. Try to find a piece of time that society has not already allocated and guard it; it is your life.