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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Badly Behaved Beasts on the Farm

The girls and I pulled into the yard last week just in time to see Donkey leading several dozen sheep through the open shed door. We had just had a freak storm and the wind had blown the door off its latch, tempting the animals to venture through.
I don’t think the beasts had been in the yard more than a few minutes, however, because although my Brussels sprouts had taken a beating and my spinach was no longer in existence, the rest of the garden was pretty much untouched.
As Paulina, Annie and I scattered and took up posts around the munching herd, Donkey looked up from where he was sniffing a bunch of cosmos. I guess he knew he was in trouble, because he turned and kicked up his heels before leaping over the lawnmower and crashing his way back through the shed to the barnyard.
Polly surprised a bunch of sheep over by the tomatoes, and I blocked them from running down the drive. We opened the barnyard gate and a smart one went through. About a dozen sheep followed him, while the rest tried to go back the way they came, through the shed.
They crashed around in there between the tractor and the workbench for a few seconds, and then they discovered a stack of turkey feed bags. Just a few quick bites with those sharp sheep teeth, and the feed was spilling out on the garage floor. We rushed the sheep, forcing them to the back of the shed and out the door.
One ewe panicked, running back out into the garden.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Paulina cried, skipping over sheep landmines to cut her off on the other side of the swimming pool. She turned the sheep and led her back through the gate to the safety of the barnyard.
“That was exciting,” I smiled at the girls, who have surprisingly good shepherding instincts for city folk. I now have more manure on my lawn than in my garden.
Betty and Ginger, our two cows, must have been thinking the sheep were having all the fun, because the next morning they thought it was their turn.
The phone rang at six a.m. “Good morning, Mrs. Fisher,” my neighbour said. “Your cow is on my lawn. No, she’s fine. She’s just munching away.”
We have very understanding neighbours. Not only do they get unsolicited manure deposits and shrub trimming, but occasionally they get a Donkey peering through their kitchen window while they are trying to enjoy their morning coffee.
The cows have escaped before, when the fresh spring leaves were busting out on the trees just on the other side of the fenced barnyard. The Farmer took a roll of barbed wire and reinforced the fence then, and they have pretty much respected the barrier up until now. But now, apparently, Ginger and Betty are in heat. All’s fair in love and war. All bets are off. These are no longer good cows. They want a man, and they want him now. They’ve tried to tell us with their recent bawling and bellowing, but we haven’t delivered a bull to keep them company. So they have decided to go out and find one themselves.
Betty and the two calves were temporarily distracted by the shrubs on the neighbour’s lawn, but the older and wiser (and obviously more frustrated) Ginger was already across the road (much to a passing motorist’s surprise) and into the next field by the time we arrived in the yard. She was on her way to see the bulls on County Road 20, I think. She was heading in their direction, anyway. How she knows they are there, I have no idea. I suppose they’ve been bellowing messages back and forth.
My husband looked a little worried as he faced off with the cows. Betty and Ginger stared with glassy eyes past him and down the road.
“Come on, Diana, this is your thing,” the Farmer said, handing me a bucket of corn. My thing? I wondered if I could get back to the house before Betty bowled me over for my bucket. I trotted just ahead of the four cows (Ginger had decided to join us) and tried to lure them through the fence into the barnyard.
But just then I was spotted by the sheep. They saw me with corn bucket in hand, and the open gate into the yard. I got swarmed. One lamb put his sharp little hooves on my backside, and another nibbled at my pantleg. I was being mobbed by sheep, and the ones that weren’t attacking me were heading off toward the open gate. The cows looked decided there was too much competition for the corn, and started off toward the garden again. Ginger took a big bite out of my prized hosta.
Finally, I scattered the corn over the ground to distract the sheep and the men (two neighbours had joined my husband) managed to usher the cows through the gate. Safely locked in the barnyard, Ginger and Betty watched as the Farmer reinforced the gate with a bar and a chain. ”Moooooooo!” bellowed Betty, in defiance to her captors. I told her what a bad girl she was, and all four cows turned to look at me.
Then they turned around and walked the worn path along the fence, searching for another opening.
Hoo boy. This is going to be a challenge. And this happens for a couple of days every month? I think we need to dial 1-800-BULL. In a hurry.

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