Those naughty naughty girls! And they KNEW they were being bad too! The looks on their faces and the way they trotted off, tails high and grins flashing... they knew what they were up to and they intended on getting away with it for as long as possible.
The heifers had gotten out before, from their stall into the greater part of the barn. But that was at night, when the barn door was closed. And everyone assumed it was human error that let them out. Yesterday, after the morning chores, I double checked to make sure I'd slid the bar into place and then I left the barn door open, as usual, to maintain good air circulation.
An hour later, something moved in a shadowy corner on the dark north side of the house. I swear, they were tucking their butts in to make themselves appear smaller (I know that trick too!). And then Hendrika tossed her head up, her mouth sprouting iris plants, like a misplaced bow tie. Sukie looked over her shoulder and giggled, her eyes sparkling with the glee of badness. It's not that I couldn't relate. But I JUST put in those flowers.
It was just me and little Coyote with some misbehaving fly-addled cattle. How could we herd them back in?
I spent a lot of time uselessly, but calmly, trotting around the yard, trying to think what needed to be in place, what needed to happen and how to go about this. I eventually flung open the large gate to the pasture and rattled a grain canister as a lure.
But the pitter patter of a handful of grass seeds is NOTHING compared to the joys of a vegetable garden! They'd moved south of the house and were inhaling my vegetables! I tried walking behind them, but they were very excited and easily excitable, kicking and tossing their heads. And Sukie, dancing like an onery ballerina on her dainty, pointed pink hooves, was leaping and hurling her body about at if in some avant-garde production of moshpit ballet. I ordered Coyote to stay safe on the porch.
I thought I'd bring some grain to them in a classic Hansel/Gretel enticement, but then I remembered how Hendrika has used that gargantuan, hard, and meaty head of hers to toss me out of the way when I've stood between her and grain before. And I didn't like the memory of that. But then, I hadn't really, actually, been harmed by the experience, in fact it was much like a roller coaster and if I'd been strapped into something and had paid $6, I might have thought it as fun as the Belmont on Mission Beach. "So," I concluded, "I might get tossed a little. Se la vie! As long as I'm not trampled or broken, what's a little flying through the air? If Amelia Erhart can do it, why not me?" And I approached those gals rattling my can of oats and barley.
But what are dried seeds compared to Crocosmia, Daylilies and Irises?
What made them even more uncooperative than usual is that they were covered in 1000's of manure flies. Funny how NONE of the books I read even mention flies. I re-checked them ALL. Not one fly to be found in those books. But suddenly, these poor cows were swarmed and very very miffed about it. I'd brushed them off morning and night. And the girls have switches to swish. But nothing was helping. I'd stopped brushing them because being in the same stall with them was getting dangerous. Hendrika jumps and thrashes and pounces and basically looks like she's having a cow or a seizure. And they're angry. I would be too. At the feed store, we got some insecticides, which is NOT what we wanted to do, but mercy me, those cows NEEDED something. Dear Peta, they are fine now, we got them covered until we can come up with a long term, non-toxic solution. Unfortunately the flies are dying. Hope you don't mind.
So this is the state they were in, thrashing in fury over flies, and yet prancing with unfettered glee in my new flower and/or vegetable gardens. They could see me with the canister. They could see the field and wide open fence behind me. But they were not so easily tempted into goodness.
From around the corner, came another naughty one, my Coyote. He did not stay on porch. No. Not him. He got a stick and he stood between the cows and the road. And he swished his stick a little behind the cows and they began to walk towards me. From where he pulled this herding instinct, I have no idea. But the boy knew how to herd those heifers! They walked steadily towards me. Once out of the delighting temptations of my Eden, however, they broke into the agitated run they've been up to lately: STRAIGHT TOWARDS ME! I ran faster (advisably or not) into the field, tossed my can of oats away from me, and climbed up the metal gate. But where did they run? Not into the field after me, no. In to the barn! I cautiously climbed down the fence to peek into the darkness to see if they'd gone back into their stall. But instead of a vision of two cows peacefully recuperating in bed, I got an eyeful of feisty heifers running back out, straight at me again! I hopped back on to that fence, they charged passed me, onto the oats, and I swung that gate shut! Whew!
They inhaled the oats then bolted and careened around and around the field. I'd read that once they're in a lather, cows can take 1/2 hour to calm down again. And that's about what it took. We stood back. Way way back.
But with the flies poisoned (an industrial sized fly trap is on order which will also, yes PETA, kill the flies), the cows are calm. The stall door is both latched and locked. And Huck is home this weekend, so he gets to muck out the stalls today. And later, my man, who inherited his dad's construction perfectionism, will over-build me a stanchion. I feel so helpless waiting for him to do it. But I come from the school of "cut twice, measure later" construction, so it's just a waste of resources and time for me to build anything out of wood and saws and nails. Once I've got her de-flied, and fully restrained, I think I'll start milking again. Honestly, I just want to get her a cow straight jacket, or a concrete mold with openings for her teets, mouth and butt sticking out. OMG, Peta, I'm just kidding!
Next time, I'm getting a cow that isn't wild-caught, free-range.