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Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Holiday...?

Just as I was filing my last column, Big Betty decided to follow Ginger’s lead and had a calf of her own. I guess she was pregnant after all, and not just extremely fat. She hadn’t grown much of an udder, so we weren’t convinced there was a baby in there. On Saturday morning, just as the men were coming in from their wild turkey hunt, Farmer Fisher noticed two feet sticking out of Betty’s behind. He gave them a light tug and swoosh! Out came a beautiful brown bull calf with a white face mask just like his mama’s. The Farmer christened him “Tyson”.
Tyson likes to lie about in the sunbeams all morning, like a lazy teenager. Betty is new at this motherhood thing herself, and still has enough of a sweet tooth to be lured away from her maternal duties by the call of the sweet feed hitting the feeder. It was funny to watch her raiding the lambs’ grain supply, then wandering off into the meadow, happy, satisfied, and calfless.
“Betty!” I hollered after her. “Aren’t you forgettin’ something?” She turned and looked at me. Then, as Farmer Fisher would say, that one neuron she has in her brain fired off and reminded her that she had left her precious newborn in the barn, untended. She picked up her hooves and literally galloped to the barn, stopping at the door. When she let out a low “mooooo”, her little one shook the sleep off, struggled to his feet and mooed after her, out to the meadow.
All of our lambs are in the pasture now. It was getting awfully warm and smelly in that lambing room and the layers of manure and uneaten hay had piled up about three feet so that the lambs could just step over the barriers of their pens and fall four feet onto the concrete floor below. Some of the four-week lambs look pretty tiny out in that big pasture, so I’m still planning to go out there with a milk bottle every evening, for the next little while. They are with their mothers until they are old enough to wean, but I still have some loyal customers who run across the field when they see me and my canvas liquor bag chock full o’ bottles.
Donkey is an ongoing problem, but without him we would definitely lose lambs to coyotes on the prowl. We often have visitors to the farm on the weekend, and when they walk past Donkey without so much as a “howdy-do”, he gets mighty jealous. Last weekend he decided to push on the door to the shed until it opened. Then he led all 35 of the ewes into our front yard. Some of them went straight for the long bales in the front field. Others went for the bright colours of the tulips in my front flower bed. They must have been out there for some time when I pointed them out to my husband.
“Um…are there supposed to be sheep in the front yard?” (I know, I’m brilliant sometimes.) The Farmer assured me that no, they were not supposed to be there, and went to get his trusty sheepdog, Chelsea.
Now, Chelsea is more than a bit nuts. All day long she runs in circles thinking, “herd the sheep, herd the sheep, herd the sheep…” When someone makes the mistake of walking too closely to her, they might get themselves herded, with a quick nip to the ankle. That doesn’t make her the most popular of the farm animals, but we surely are grateful for her assistance at times like these. I don’t know what we would have done without her. The farmer put her on her leash, led her out to where the sheep were calmly grazing on the front meadow, and let her work. Within minutes she had every one of them in a tight group, shuffling toward the barnyard gate.
Donkey was a different story. He evaded being led back to the barnyard until Farmer Fisher rounded the corner of the house with a big stick. Then he kicked up his heels and took off for the gate.
It would seem as though life on the farm is going to get much quieter over the next few months, now that the sheep are out of the barn. Whatever will I do to occupy myself in the evenings? That’s a joke, of course. We have pens to shovel out: I wish someone would invent some sort of hydraulic shovel so that my husband’s back will be saved some pain. I have a vegetable garden to plant, and flower beds to weed. We need to take the canoes down to the creek for a paddle down our shoreline to see how it fared during the flood, and we need to have another look at our fence line for gaping holes.
Soon there will be an acre of grass to cut at least once a week, and a pool to clean. We have to assess the seasonal damage on the barn roof, and make repairs. Next week, our baby chicks arrive so we’ve been cleaning out the chicken coop for them. And each month, we have to herd the sheep and cattle into the chute for their preventative medicines and checkups.
I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface here. I haven’t even mentioned the housework when you live with a bunch of teenaged girls. There’s always plenty to keep you busy and tire you out so you sleep well, on the farm. But according to the Farmer, we’re pretty much on holiday.

The Accidental Farmwife would like to thank those readers who took the time to write letters or to stop her in the post office with their comments about her stories. This column is a lot of fun to write, and I’m glad you enjoy reading it.

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