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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cooler weather makes the farm animals frisky

There are several simple things I wish I could do better. I wish I could drive a stick shift. I’m very proud of all my three daughters for learning how to do this. Maybe some day they will teach me. I wish I could wash floors and windows without leaving streaks. My husband is a master at the former, my mother the latter. I wish I could maintain attention span long enough to cook a meal without burning or over-boiling something. I get bored by cooking, and I lose confidence because it never turns out tasting the way I planned.
There are some things I have recently come to realize I am good at, however. After eight years on the farm I am getting really good at thinking like the animals. In the late summer, the apples on the trees just outside the barnyard are over-ripe. They get soft and heavy and fall from the trees, smashing into the ground and releasing a perfume that floats over the fence to reach the cows.
This is why I was not at all surprised to hear a cow during the middle of our movie the other night.
“What was that,” I shushed the Farmer. He seemed annoyed that I had stopped the movie we were watching, mid-scene.
“I swear I heard a cow.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s a science fiction movie. There are no cows on this planet.”
A few minutes later, another distinct “moo”. It seemed to be coming from directly outside the window I was sitting beside, as if a cow was on the front lawn, and had just recognized me through the glass. I got up and stepped out onto the back porch, just in time to see Big Betty skipping through the open gate onto the lawn.
Running back through the house to pause the movie yet again, I prodded the Farmer off the couch. “Cows on front lawn!”
He grumbled something about forgetting to shut the gate and said he would take the ATV down the lane to get them off the road.
I ran out the front door into the pitch black, just as the Farmer took off down the lane. A black mass burst out of the wildflower hedge, heading straight toward me.
“Watch out for the bull!” the Farmer called.
I hopped back up the steps into the house for a flashlight.
When I got back outside, the Farmer on his ATV was herding a steady stream of protesting cows off the road and up the driveway toward me. He hollered into the darkness, “turn your flashlight off and get outta the way!” I switched off my light and hid in the trees beside the lane. A wave of cattle stampeded by, just a few feet from my hiding place. The last one, a straggler, spotted me standing there. I guess cows can see in the dark. She padded over and sniffed at my leg. Then she jumped, startled, and took off after the others.
The beasts didn’t mess around the yard or trample my vegetable garden. I guess they knew the gig was up. Back in the barnyard, gate firmly locked behind them, the cows protested loudly. Mocha stood in front, the spokes-animal.
“I know it was you, Mocha,” I scolded.
She never could resist the smell of ripe apples. Thank goodness we don’t live closer to a busy road.
The sheepdog is barking a lot more at night, so there must be a lot of activity in the dark. I think she is worried about the turkeys in the stable, who are big enough to defend themselves now but starting to think about escape. We can hear their musical gobble-talk from the house. I think they are attracting wild turkeys with their song. The Farmer thinks I’m nuts but how else do you explain the return of the wild turkeys to the Fisher farm? The first year when we had a corn crib next door I counted forty wild turkeys strutting along the stone fence for breakfast each morning. When the corn crib came down their numbers dwindled and finally they disappeared from the property. Now, suddenly, they are back. I watch from the kitchen window as the males fan their tails and strut around the females in their seasonal dance. The babies sit and watch the display, amused.
The cooler temperatures are giving the animals new energy to get into mischief. If there is such a thing as spring fever, we must be heading into the fall friskies.

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