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Monday, April 4, 2016

Springtime is for babies on the farm

So the good news is the calf that was born just over a week ago is still with us. She actually does eat. She is very delicate and discreet and she just doesn’t like to eat while humans are watching.
For the first three days of her life we worried she wasn’t eating, because we never witnessed it. That feisty little calf fought us every time we tried to feed her a bottle. She drooled out most of what the Farmer pushed into her mouth with a syringe and kicked her little hooves at us before rushing over to hide under her mother.
The calf was still kicking at nine days old, so her secret feedings were sustaining her. Thank goodness.
The Farmer let the cow and her calf out on Saturday because it was beautifully warm in the sun. The cow couldn’t wait to get out of the horse stall where she had been in holding for the past week and a half. She could smell spring through the door. Every time I went in to see her, she would press her nose up against the bars on the window as if to say she wanted to be set free. Of course we couldn’t let her go, until we were sure her calf was feeding.
Finally, she was released. Last year’s heifer calf was waiting for her outside the stable. She was still nursing occasionally from her pregnant mother, right up to the birth. It’s something that I’m sure was a real drain on her resources. And I know exactly what that feels like because I went through the same thing when I was pregnant and still nursing a toddler.
Lucy shoved her yearling calf out of the way but there was no real need. The young heifer seemed to understand that she had lost her place at the udder.
Lucy led her little mini-me over to a dry, sunny spot and started her bath. She had a lot of work to do after a week-and-a-half in the muddy, mucky horse stall. The three other calves padded over to see what she was doing. The little bull calf tried to help wash the new baby with his tongue. Mama put her snout under his belly and lifted him off the ground, pushing him gently away. He collected his hurt pride and returned to the kindergarten gathering of calves near the fence.
I watched as Ginger, triple her usual size, waddled over to investigate the new calf. Lucy allowed her to sniff her newborn from head to toe. Then Ginger lifted her head, closed her eyes and breathed in the fresh, spring air. And turned to go back to her favourite tree. It took her a full minute to lower herself to the ground. She took a couple of different approaches before she finally opted for a full-on, ungraceful flop. Then she stretched flat out on the warm earth, and slept.
Everyone was enjoying the first warm weekend of spring. The barn cats came out of the hay loft to stretch out and simultaneously scratch their backs on the warm, dry gravel of the driveway.
A romantic pair of robins hopped across the yard to check out the bird feeder on the side of the house. The chickadees screamed a proprietary warning.
Chelsea the sheepdog hopped up onto the fence of stones that had been collecting heat from the sun all day. She slept so soundly that she didn’t hear our dinner guests’ cars pulling up. She missed her cue to identify, announce and otherwise audibly protect the house.
As we sat in the dining porch eating our dinner, another expectant mama came out to warm herself in the sun. The groundhog who lives under the playhouse is very round and heavy now. I hope she has and relocates her little family before my garden starts growing, or my veggies will be in trouble.
After dinner, the younger generation walked off their meal with a leisurely stroll over the rocky field and past the stone fence to the meadow. The cows followed them, but they stuck to a diagonal path that had been beaten into the earth with their hooves.
The geese followed the line of the creek, looking for a place to rest at sunset. Their song provided the soundtrack for another perfect spring day on the farm.

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