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Monday, February 13, 2012

The true romantic life of the farmwife




My calf is doing quite well, all things (damp cold and a mama who won't feed him) considered.

He gets just over seven litres of milk replacer a day, which is what the latest research calculates is the optimum amount for growth. I hook two 2-litre bottles of formula to the side of his pen in the morning and another one and a half bottles at night. When he reaches about six weeks of age (I think he is three weeks now), he should have developed his rumen (so he can chew his cud). At that point we can start him on some solid food.

I'm thinking we need to close off half the cattle area in the barn so that only the calves can get in one side, through the little sheep door.

They can go in there for shelter and we will put grain in the feeder to fatten them up. We can't give the mama cows or the bull access to the grain or they will eat it all.

If the Farmer goes for this plan, I get the credit. Ten points for me for coming up with a calf-feeding plan all on my own. Hopefully the bull doesn't take it upon himself to remove the barriers that we build. He certainly is strong enough.

Someone told me the other day that they thought the life of a farmwife was 'romantic'. I looked up romantic in the dictionary and this is what I found. Something is 'romantic' when it is 'impractical or fantastic in conception or plan'.

Well, farming is not for the pessimistic or easily disappointed, that's for sure. You have to be a dreamer and you have to practice looking on the bright side of things.

Because nature has a sense of humour and it doesn't always work in your favour. But I wouldn't say that farming was based on fantasy.

You can also say that something is 'romantic' when it 'has no basis in real life'. That just makes me laugh. Because there aren't too many things that are more 'real' than farming. So I guess I would say that I disagree with that particular definition.

If romance is 'a narrative dealing with characters involved in heroic, adventurous or mysterious events', however, I would have to agree that farming is indeed romantic.

As farmers we are adventurous, because we invest in nature and all its unpredictability.

We take risks, plant seeds, encourage animals to mate, and optimistically prepare for the fruits of our (or their) labour.

The growth and development of everything on the farm, from lamb to lettuce, is a mysterious event, indeed. And finally, the Farmer is definitely my hero, when he does everything he can to save the life of a weak lamb and it slowly comes around to the land of the living.

I too feel heroic when I rescue a sheep from its strangling web of baler twine, or find a newborn calf in the snow and carry it to the barn in my arms, or feed a bottle of milk replacer to a baby farm animal that cannot live without it.

I think also because we live off the land and we operate in tune with the elements of wind, rain, snow, sun...this makes the farm life romantic. There is a primal, meaningful, and very real sense of what is important. If you don't do your farm chores, something dramatically negative will happen. Something will be spoiled, or broken, or harmed. There is purpose to our daily life.

This is what I was looking for when I lived in the city.

When I woke up on Saturdays, with the long weekend stretching ahead of me, and thought, "Now what?"

I wanted my activities to mean something. I didn't want time to be wasted. I wanted the romantic life of a farmwife. I just didn't know it yet.

Now, I have to point out that a synonym to 'romantic' is 'glamorous'. I find this truly hilarious. Because when I'm up to my knees in sheep manure, covered in sour milk or sweating under the weight of a bale of hay, I do not look or feel glamorous. When I'm trudging through snow, no makeup on, hair pulled back in a ponytail under a toque, in milk-stained barn coat and manure-caked snow pants, glamorous I am not. But I clean up good.

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