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Monday, February 14, 2011

Let me call you Sweetheart on Feb 14

“Will you have a tea with your meal, sweetheart?” the voice of the elderly gentleman sitting beside us in the diner caught my ear.
“Yes, I believe I will have a tea. To take the chill off,” answered the diminutive blue-haired woman.
I smiled at the Farmer, tipped my head and rolled my eyes in the direction of the couple beside us.
“What?” my partially deaf husband asked.
The woman spread the Ottawa Sun on the table between them.
“Is there anything in the newspaper, sweetheart?” he asked his wife.
“Nothing,” she answered.
I smiled, catching the Farmer’s eye.
“Stop,” he hissed. “You aren’t supposed to be listening to them. They think they’re having a private conversation.”
I knew it. But they spoke loudly and I couldn’t help tuning in.
“Are there no headlines, sweetheart?”
“They say B.C. is still the best Canadian city in which to live.”
“I once wanted to live in B.C.” (pause) “I suppose it’s too late now.”
“Yes. We’re too old to pick up our lives and move to B.C.”
“We would have to tell everyone where we moved to. We would have to change all our identification, health cards, cheques.”
“And as soon as we got there we would have to find ourselves a doctor.”
“Well, sweetheart, I suppose we’re okay right where we are.”
“Yes, we’re okay.”
Their meal came and it was quiet for a while. The Farmer and I had our own conversation, centred around plans to wean lambs, and to train our children to take care of things while we are gone on our long-awaited honeymoon. It’s been three years since we married. I’m pretty sure the honeymoon never would have happened if I hadn’t taken the lead and bought the package as a Christmas gift to my husband.
When we were married, we were far too busy merging families and moving me into the farm to go away on a trip. But this year we have the lambs coming in April and the foal coming in May. Our calves have all been born and they are thriving. It’s the perfect time for me to kidnap my husband and take him somewhere warm. And I think he’s getting excited about it. He’s already sporting a tan, as I convinced him to visit the Silver Bullet at Du Soleil once a week before we hit the beach.
The couple beside us had finished their meal, and their conversation started up again.
“Will you have some dessert, sweetheart?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
She started leafing through the paper again as she sipped her tea. “Here’s the Sunshine Girl.”
“Well now. She certainly has long hair. Look. It goes all the way down to there. That can’t be right.”
“It’s probably not her hair.”
“Well, sweetheart, I do believe we are finished.”
“Yes, we’d best be goin’.”
I watched as they slowly got to their feet and he helped her on with her coat. He led her down the restaurant aisle with one hand on the small of her back.
I looked at the Farmer. “When we’re that age, will you call me sweetheart six times in one meal?”
He winked at me. “Come on darlin’. Let’s get back to work.”
“Thanks for lunch, sweetheart,” I smiled, as I felt the pressure of his big hand on the small of my back.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Young Angus Admires His Growing Brood

In the last month we have had three lambs and four calves born. Thankfully none of the births were very difficult (the Farmer only had to pull one of them). After we figured out that the calves were lacking selenium, we got everyone back on track. Except for the one lamb that we lost to a squashing incident, everyone is doing just fine.

Which is a good thing, because I don’t know what we would do if we had a real problem with the cows. We just aren’t set up for it. Thankfully, when the calves wouldn’t suckle, our cows stood fairly still and allowed the Farmer to steal some of the colostrum to feed their young. If they didn’t stand, we would have had to put them in some sort of stockade until mother and child each learned their role. We don’t have a stockade. Most of our feeders in the lambing room have now been busted into toothpicks by the cows and their big blockheads. What we need is some kind of heavy-duty metal apparatus. It will take a while for our herd to grow, especially if our cows keep having bull calves instead of heifers. But we need to be ready.

Each mother and child duo was kept inside for the first week after the birth. Our lambing pens are so mucked up now; you would think a rodeo happened in there. This gorgeous mild winter weather is perfect for introducing the calves to snow. They jump and play and moo with delight. And they are learning not to stand too close to the barn, where snowdrifts occasionally slide down off the roof onto their heads. So far the bull is very attentive but the Farmer says he isn’t really connected to his young; he is just curious of the newcomers to the barnyard. I’m not sure I agree. After each birth, Young Angus spent at least an hour pawing at the door to the lambing room, mooing to get inside. I think he knows they are his babies, and he is interested in them. Now that they are all outside, he seems to check on them, as if he is counting heads. If everyone wanders out to eat from the bale and one calf remains inside the stall, he moos for it to follow. I don’t know if it is routine to separate the bull from the new mothers and calves, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a problem. If Angus starts “bullying” the babies or harassing the mothers, we will have to put him somewhere else. That should be interesting, because he hates to be alone.

When we got Angus, Dennis Wilson the cattle drover delivered him to our farm. The back of the truck opened and out hopped wee Angus, our little black bull. The Farmer was a little surprised by the bull’s diminutive stature, but he figured the bull would grow quickly.

That first night, the Farmer put Angus in a stall that he had specially reinforced for the young bull. The cows were on the other side of the barn, in a separate area. Whenever we get a new cow, we always keep them in the barn for the first week, so they learn they are home. That was the plan with Young Angus as well.

Later that first night we went out to the barn to check on our new bull. He was no longer in his pen. We shone our flashlights in corners around the barnyard, searching for the newcomer. Finally, when we approached the line of cows lounging beside the hay feeder, we noticed a small black lump tucked tightly in the middle of them. Angus had found his new home. And he hasn’t left his girls since. I hate to think what would happen if we had to separate him from his new family. He would not be happy.