Monday, February 27, 2012

To Catch a Family Cow

Yesterday, I went out to milk and Hendrika had crapped all over the stanchion (farm vocab moment: "stanchion" is the 2x4 structure Huck built to hold Hendrika somewhat still while I milk her; it is a common farming device and not a method of torture.)  I have always suspected her of having a passive-aggressive personality disorder because she usually craps right where I sit on my bucket to milk her.  But yesterday was rather astonishing.  She crapped at least six inches higher that her dairy-air.  We cannot imagine, nor should we try, how she got that pile of crap all the way up there on the top rung of her stanchion, right where my FACE goes as I sit down to milk. You could see her smirking as I exuded profane shock at her accomplishment.

I recently spent two days in the snow-blowing cold fixing fences. I did this for two reasons.  1) I LOVE fixing fences.  There is something about fiddling around with a pliers and some fence parts that makes me feel unbelievably alive.  I am not actually lying or being sarcastic. This is perhaps the #1 reason I have cows.  When I don't love it: full installation and full removal... those jobs are just too big and long to love.  Reason 2)  Hendrika was getting out.  Twice.  Two days in a row.  While Huck was out of town, obviously.

Once I caught her and penned her again (tip of experience: catching a cow is a slow, patient process.  Do NOT rush.  Do NOT scream.  Do NOT loose any amount of patience.  Lure into barn with grain, but do NOT get between the cow and the grain.), I instituted an all-cow lock-down and cased the premises.  Where she got out was obvious as it was covered in cow hair, long and thick (NOTA BENE: Hendrika has very very hairy teets in the winter and I have almost lost fingers while hand-milking because it tangles around and tightens as I pull down).  Where she got out was a mere 6" gap under the hog wire. Hendrika is hugely pregnant, so pregnant I get kicked in the head by an unborn calf every time I milk. And she limbo-ed her massive bulk underneath that fence.  If my cows are going to commit these incredible, acrobatic and controtic feats, I think I should get to see these miracles, front row. But I never do.

The good thing about her getting out is that I got some spring-hope.  As she munched the old tufts of grass down, you could see the green at the bottom, juicy and ready to bolt.

So I spent two frozen days walking the line, getting that electric fence working a little better.  It's got a lot of room for improvement, so it's kind of easy job to fix it.  Anything helps.

I remembered to unplug it this time.  It was so cold, the wire snapped a few places just when I touched it.  Any breech of electric current anywhere and the whole thing goes down.  Once the cows realize it's dead, they have at it, unleashing all of their aggression on the wires and creating even more areas to fix.  I have no idea how long that fence was dead, but those cows had made a mess of it.  I let Beignet join me cuz he's a fun, cute little doomed guy.  But he was really crazy, charging me and kicking at me and just plain nuts. I kept shaking my pliers at him, wondering if I could aim into an effective area of his skull if need be. I think he was "protecting" his herd, or something instinctual like that.  "YO! Beignet! Check it out, you ain't got balls!  Stop acting like a bull when you're just a steer."  I had to lock him up too.  I didn't feel safe turning my back on him. 

When I was sure I had everything fixed (har har), I went back to the box for my moment of brilliant success.  I plugged the fence in and here comes Beignet, he's going to try it out and I wasn't going to stop him, he'd ticked me off by then.  He rolls out his long long tongue and starts licking the fence.  And just to get back at me for the way I teased him, just to show me what a moron I am when it comes to fence repair, he rolls his tongue around the wire, like it tastes good, like I coated it with molasses just for him.

Son of Gun!  What's one got to do to get a decent charge around here!  And that's when I notice the yellow box that's supposed to be the off/on switch, but one time I turned it "off" but it stayed on and that is why, to this day, I twitch every time I reach out to touch the wire, even if I know intellectually that it's dead.  Thinking it didn't work and that no one had used it ever, I never checked the switch.  That's the thing with electronics, my friend reminded me, they need to be plugged in and turned on to work.  So I switched in on, right there!

Poor Beignet.  He was clear across the field in a split second.

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