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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chicken grows up and Mocha dreams of apples

The daffodils at the end of the driveway are done or, as the English say, spent. The Farmer can continue his lawn mowing there now without getting yelled at. The apple tree up by the road is in full bloom. Mocha the red cow can smell its perfume from her side of the electric fence, nose raised in the air. I wonder if she associates that scent with the fruit that will come later. Apples are her favourite food.

Last year Mocha went down to the bottom of the pasture and found an apple tree, just outside the fence. She stretched her neck out as far as she could, leaning on the fence, until the cedar rails snapped beneath her weight. Then she delicately hopped over the broken barrier (I imagine) and ate her fill of apples. She spent most of every day there, wandering up to the barn at noon for water and a nap, then heading back down for the afternoon. This continued for close to a week until the Farmer caught on to what she was doing and repaired the fence.

The next week I found her in the front yard, under another apple tree. She had obviously broken through the fence in another weak spot and wandered through the forest and up the road, into the front field where the apple tree, heavy with fruit, was waiting. I had to lead her back into the barnyard every day until the Farmer eventually discovered her escape route and repaired it again. Feeling sorry for her, I filled a wheelbarrow with the fallen fruit and dumped it into her barnyard where she snuffled and slurped up the fruit like a vacuum. I was amazed she didn’t get a tummy ache from all that acidity. All she got was apple breath.

Through the winter, every time I had overripe apples in the house I would snap them in half and bring them to the cows. Mocha was always front of the pack, running like a dog to greet me.

Spring and fall are probably the animals’ favourite time of year, as everything is fresh and green and the sun isn’t too strong. The bugs are another matter, however. One of the new calves was in the barn making a sound that sounded more like a scream than a moo. I climbed the ladder into the loft and sat there for a moment, watching as the dozen head gathered in the barn. They were taking refuge from the swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes that come out as the sun lowers in the afternoon. The bawling calf was just complaining about the bites.

The lamb I named Chicken is still on the bottle but now he follows the rest of the herd down the meadow in the morning. I hope he is eating grass and not just waiting for his bottle twice a day. I haven’t seen any trace of green on his muzzle yet though. His back is still ridged and bony but his sides swell out like a barrel so I don’t think he’s starving. He knows my voice and comes running from the depths of the barn or the other side of the yard every time he hears me. He baas to me in response. Try not to get attached to that.

Other than checking the water and feeding the dogs and cats, there isn’t much to be done in the barn from now ‘til the fall. Our attention and energy will turn to the vegetable garden, which will get planted this week with tomatoes for sauce and salsa, potatoes, beans, beets, carrots and turnips. We usually stick to root vegetables as I can’t seem to keep on top of the lettuce bugs without pesticide.

The hostas are halfway up and the peonies are ready to bloom. They came up in about two weeks total. I’m a little worried about my Rose of Sharon though. That’s the last time I order from a catalogue. I will wait a bit to choose annuals from the nursery for the porch containers; I’m growing flowers for a friend’s wedding this year. Good excuse to surround the house with colour.

My biggest surprise this spring was the claret lilac bush that burst into bloom in a rock pile beside the driveway. The Farmer says he found it out back and transplanted it a couple years ago. It’s halfway between red and lavender and I can’t stop staring at it.

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