Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Cows

I moved to Taiwan in February of 2003. After just a few months, daytime temperatures were passing 30 degrees and I realized that summer had arrived. But what had happened to spring? We went straight from a damp, uncomfortable chill to a humid, oppressive heat. Perhaps the biggest thing I missed was the fresh smell that accompanies springtime in Canada. You know it: the smell of green busting out all over.
Well, now I live on a 200-acre farm and I can smell green (among other things) any time I want. I stand on my back porch at sunrise and just suck it in with a deep breath. It’s invigorating. Rejuvenating. Life-giving.
Unfortunately, I am not the only creature on the Fisher farm who loves the smell of all things green. Betty and Ginger, our cows, and their two wee calves, Tyson and Mocha, have been out on promenade every day, sniffing apple blossoms and nibbling new leaves along the fence line. Our recent attempts to contain the bovine brood to one field were dashed within hours of us raising the fence, as Ginger discovered that she was plenty heavy enough to just lean on the cedar rails and bust them all to pieces. The clacking of little calf hooves against wood could be heard over 50 acres away, notifying us at the farmhouse that our cows had escaped yet again to a greener pasture.
Perhaps they have been discussing the merits of marauding with Donkey, who has oft been found visiting the horses down the road on a dewy morning. Just last week, Farmer Fisher was heading off to work when he paused at the end of the lane to look both ways. He did a double-take as he noticed a familiar reddish-brown head bobbing beyond the lilacs on the other side of the road. There was Ginger, in the neighbour’s alfalfa. We are NOT going to be popular. She had already eaten her fill by the time the Farmer managed to shoo her back toward the barn. She stepped Ginger-ly over the fence she had broken on exit, and looked back over her shoulder with disdain at her captor as he repaired the damage.
Within minutes, she was out on another adventure, having broken an equally brittle fence down the field. This time, she had her best friend Betty and their two offspring in tow. The Farmer headed off to TSC to buy some barbed wire.
We had been warned last November when we bought the cows that they would be testing our fences at every opportunity. We raised and tightened the rails but cows aren’t really interested in breaking out of a resort where they are fed and watered daily. Unless, of course, there is a sweet-smelling crop growing on the other side of the fence. By the end of the summer, we’ll be surrounded by them. The scent of warm corn, beans and alfalfa will be impossible for our cattle to resist.
So, instead of settling in to watch the finals of American Idol, I wandered out to the back pasture to find my husband. He was up to his eyebrows in thorn bushes, trying to stretch a heavy coil of barbed wire along the cedar fence. I climbed in there and lent him a hand, and I only once hit myself in the head with a dead branch that was hanging low.
The cedar rails there in the shade of the trees are covered in a thick carpet of Kelly-green moss. It’s absolutely beautiful. The coyotes find it quite comfy, too, I guess, because their droppings are scattered all over the place. As we worked our way down the fence, we found remnants of barbed wire from decades past. In some places, the wire had been wound tightly around a young tree trunk that eventually grew and thickened around the wire, swallowing it whole.
Our farm, which is known as the original “Old MacDonald Farm”, was once a piggery, and more recently a nuttery (which, apparently, isn’t a real word but you get my drift). There was once a large variety of nut trees on the property, as evidenced by the shells strewn on the grown. Many of the trees were removed for some unknown reason, but a few unidentifiable species remain. Note to the reader: identification by licking the fruit of a nut tree is NOT recommended. The bitter sap oozing from said nut can put your tongue to sleep for hours, cause your throat to close up and send you running to dial the poison hot line.
Apparently, neither a pig farm nor a nut farm poses a need for strong fencing. We pretty much have to start from scratch. And I do mean scratch. By the end of this weekend, I expect to be covered in my very own kind of barbed wire tattoos.

No comments: