Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oh the places you'll go! And the things you will tow!

A V6 and a four-body truck (five if you cut them up right)
I am clearly not in compliance with the unstated bi-laws of blogging here.  It's been, what five weeks? six?  I have a fiduciary duty to provide you with more entertainment on a more regular basis than that, correct?  Flog me if you must.  But I've been working hard, full steam ahead on another dead-lined project, the outcome of which we will not know for another agonizing five weeks.  This is the time during which most artists begin, or increase their dosages of valium et al.  That is because the moment between when you give the world a creative effort and you receive a response about that creative effort are excruciating, filled with self doubt, re-tracing steps and finding the flaws and ways you could have improved everything.  Ah, yes, but there's a wine sale at Fred Meyers!  (Actually, alcohol is a very bad way to manage emotions, as two million AA members can attest.  And although alcoholism can run in my genes, I personally have an aversion to any extreme behavior, tea-totaling or excess.  Except when creative endeavors are concerned, then I will not pick up the phone and my children will run out of clean underwear and my garden will be overrun with weeds by the time I'm done, at which point it will become very cold and will rain for two weeks and I will blog in JUNE! with a heater on my feet, a blanket around my shoulders and beanie on my head.  I missed all the sunny weather staying indoors to work and now when and who will plant my pumpkins?)

nostalgic dreadlock shot plus chunky baby Coyote
So. It's been a very tow-y couple of days around here.  Friday, high noon, Huck's car, the Oldsmobile, finally died and vultures did not even bother to circle because there's nothing left on these bones.  We purchased this white '94 that looked like an '84 (but got 25mpg!) from my grandmother 9 years ago, for trade-in value: $1800.  Other than oil changes, tire repairs, duct tape, and a single starter, we never put any money into it.  And really, we hadn't given her an oil change for years either as she kind of had her own self-changing method. The transmission started to go years ago and after a long, courageous battle, it succumbed on Friday and Huck was towed 60 miles home, an event for which we have been prepared with deluxe AAA for several years now.  Today, the undertaker will come and remove the corpse, and bring her to that giant car graveyard by 1-90 and there she will donate her organs so that other cars might live.  Meanwhile, Huck has our very awesome CR-V for work and here I sit.

She held her own against larger trucks
Huck felt pride in using something all the way up, juxtaposing himself with our culture's obsession with possessions and the latest and greatest.  But recently, I couldn't handle it.  It was a humiliating little car.  There's pride in stewardship (if you can call our recent treatment of her that) and car husbandry and then there's the car version of a rag bin. 

And so Friday afternoon we got pre-approved for our first EVER car loan: Welcome to America, baby!  And have been shopping ever since.  Craigslist, FYI, is full of garbage people call cars, scammers, and rebuilt titles.  There have only been a few actual cars, with real titles.  But the stickers on the 15% of real cars have been about 2k over what I think they're worth and have not been exciting, or interesting.  For example, the car we might be buying tomorrow is an '05 Corolla with close to 100,000 miles on it and HAND CRANK WINDOWS and no automatic locks.  But, I guess we're used to driving around in a '94 that looked like an '84, might as well be comfy in a '05 that looks like a '95 (but even our '95 had automatic windows!)  I would like to be excited about buying a car, a big purchase for which we will pay for the next 5-6 years every single month money that we don't know where it will come from.  But it looks like, at best, I am just looking for a reliable work horse that won't make me cry.
many trips across the state

The other thing we towed this week was a bovine-y.  Yes, we towed Beignet.  We'd promised him to the neighbors in a trade that, amazingly, was bad for ALL of us.  I fed him $300 all winter to fatten him up.  Being a miniature and diary breed, he didn't fatten.  And I got all attached to his fabulous personality.  The neighbors gave us 14 gallons of honey (for our 7 year old Pooh-Bear and Huck's cider siezers) for a tiny steer.  I had been clear since the beginning of this ill-fated trade that Beignet was a miniature and that he'd be killed on their property, not ours, so no punches were pulled, but we all feel like we got a bad deal.. 

And so on Saturday morning, a list of car owners waiting for us and my neighbors preparing to host a baby-shower, we tried to transport him away from our house, from his family unit, from the new baby (did I tell you Hendrika had her first boy?  Yoda is the tiniest cow we've ever had: not even going to try to trade him but I'm crying already about the day he has to go) who Beignet thought was his, down 1/4 mile to their place, where they plan to make an attempt to fatten him up over the next month (if he stays put in their non-electric field). 

He'd been such a great guy, that I assumed he'd just follow us down the road, no problems.  But we soon realized that sweet though he may be, he's not compliant.  After an extended wrestling match, that had me rolling around the floor of his stall, I finally slipped the halter over his head and then he ripped my arm off and mailed it to a major political figure. I'm exaggerating (slightly) but still, he wasn't going to go gently to that orange house.  So Sergei fetched his minivan and after several more hours of wrestling, we tied him to the back of the car. 

And then Sergei began to move, to drive the van AWAY.  And ALL the cows and horses in the neighborhood went CRAZY.  Moo-ing (or neighing as that case may be), bellowing, foaming at the mouth, running back and forth, trampling everything, as if to voice the question that was on the whole world's mind: what in the name of Govinda were we doing? Actually, towing cows behind minivans is a time-honored way of moving cattle going back several hundreds of years to the original birth of minivans, then known as covered wagons.  The cow is, ideally, supposed to pick up it's feet and trot behind.  It is a recommended method for halter-breaking and harness-breaking cattle from time immemorial, from the invention of the wheel and harness and halter and immemorial.  The Oregon Trail was one large minivan caravan with cows tied to the back.  And in most cases it works great, the bovine, feeling a gentle and yet powerful tug forward picks up his feet and moves, admits that he is powerless over his husbands, moves toward the higher power, seeking guidance and strength.  But Beignet... Beignet did not get the AA memo.  Instead of halter breaking the boy, we broke the road.  Beignet did not pick up his feet once.  He skied all the way.  Our tiny, private road now has four ruts all the way down it (except the part where we drove in the shallow ditch; there the ditch has four ruts).  His cloven hooves filled with asphalt. 
Reliable through five years of Pullman

And so Maria and I decided that some sort of stick to swat his behind was in order.  Conveniently, since I don't weed every square inch of our five acres, I found some long sticks of last year's mullen.  And so we were beating this boy's legs with large, black, spiky-looking (but soft as Charmin') sticks to try to induce a single step.  Note to world: stop fighting it and just move forward.  It's so much easier for your handlers when you take the necessary steps to your slaughter by yourself.

So here we were, beating one of my favorite cows who was biting off his own tongue, foaming at the mouth, locking his knees and occasionally falling down in front of the entire neighborhood who all came out to gawk like it was a parade of torture. The abusive part of this really was his own doing. If he had just picked up his feet! But/And THERE WAS NO WAY OUT.  We could not turn around.  We could not stop. We could not get him to step.  It was a nightmare.  Maria and I were in distress. Not only did we not have time for this, we felt trapped in this situation.  And so, to help ourselves, we began cracking jokes and laughing hysterically.  Which I'm sure did nothing to assuage the reservations of the neighborhood about what was going on.
Beignet lickng Yoda clean

To compound the distress, my cows stood at the corner of our property, watching the torture, and they cried.  I know they did. And for the next day, they moped around and sulked.  And now they are fine.  

But I had nightmares about it. 

But Beignet seems to be great and happy now.  I believe his tongue is okay.  I hope his feet don't hurt too much.

Yoda believed Beignet was his mother at first
But my desire to husband cattle is dented and bruised.  We have so few of them that they become more like pets and that makes the necessary business moves more painful.  It could really be true that cows work best as an economy of scale.  Both monetarily and emotionally. When you have even 50 cows, you are that much less attached to each one and their fate.  But is that better or worse?  Perhaps I simply feel uncomfortable with truths about what it means to live, that things must die, that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and so I think it must be better to just not know the consequences of milk-production: that a cow must give birth every year to produce milk and that half of those calves are boys and that so long as dairy and meat cattle are such separate breeds then the dairy calf boy will be meatless and bony and must still be slaughtered, but for no useful purpose. It's easier for all of us to avoid those facts, let someone else deal with them.  But then we end up with inhumane farming practices which insist that employees become calloused and shut down that part of themselves that would have cared, as they deal with animals like they're resources, tools, just a pile of work.  Ah, survival, such a tricky, heartbreaking, and exhilarating privilege.

Please enjoy the photos as we say farewell to two pillars of the community here on Lucky Farm.

1 comment:

  1. Sarajoy, I love your blog. I read it every time you post something new. I used to spend summers on my uncle's dairy farm in Chino, California and have such fond memories of feeding and milking. Your blog renewed my sense of absolute and complete bewilderment that cows have managed to keep from going extinct.



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