|Little Chocolatey Claire|
Then, in the early hours, early in September a frozen finger of death descended upon our garden and took out 20 pepper plants, 10 tomato plants, 3 watermelon vines, 5 cucumber vines, a row of beans and 7 summer squash bushes. There were reports throughout the region of a few select households, like ours, hit by random acts of Jack Frost. For a light frost, it would have been early, for a hard freeze it was a full month ahead. And what was the likelihood of this happening again? Zero. Zero, I tell you. Feeling slightly ill about a year's worth of loss (I'd also lost my carrots, most of my potatoes and ALL of my garlic to ravenous gophers. I did get a haul on onions, peas, kale, favas, and corn, however), I fell in to a fitful sleep that night. I awoke at 4am, sure the frost had returned. At six, I finally ventured out and witnesses all of my winter squash frost damaged. ALL of it.
This would not have been a problem in other years. Annoying, yes. But I would have pulled them all in and spent a day or two cooking them up to freeze. But alas, no oven. I would sell my cow and we would buy an oven.
|Hendrika, the big red cow (with cute tiny Yoda!)|
The second thing I noticed was that cow-husbandry involves quite a bit of heart ache. There was the shooting debacle, of course. But every year I had to sell a cow, a cute one, a nice one. And I had to decide who to sell and when to sell it. And it broke my heart annually.
Third: expense. Like most hobbies, it's more expensive than not doing the hobby. Take knitting: you could buy a sweater on clearance from Target for $15, or you could buy $100 in yarn and spend a couple months making it yourself. Or para-sailing: you could jump off the high dive at your local pool. But the stress expense of amassing the chunk of change for a winter's worth of delivered hay was feeling tiresome.
I felt a little guilt. Bonds had been made and they felt like commitments. But cows aren't pets. And I didn't marry Hendrika and I didn't give birth to her. I have struggled with the boredom inherent in providing a stable home for children and in maintaining a monotonous marriage. But I realized that I this level of commitment is not required of absolutely every endeavor. In fact, in order to maintain the commitments I have, I will need to make sure the rest of my life is constantly fresh and moving and flowing with new things coming in. That's not flaky, that's taking responsibility for my needs for adventure and novelty before it explodes in my face.
It took a few weeks to sell Hendrika. We had a vacation in there and one buyer had his truck break down. But eventually she (and her bull calf) went to a beef farm as a nurse maid. I was somewhat relieved no one was going to try to work with her by hand. But the look she gave me as the trailer pulled out shriveled my soul: betrayal, disgust, fear, shock.
|a neighbor's beet, organic?|
Images of that stainless steel glass top oven vanished. And now I have a cow I don't particularly want and I am done with this selling roller coaster. Perhaps I will try in the spring, but by then we'll have bonded. My friend says, "Seems like the universe really wants you to keep that cow." "Well it seems a little non-consensual of the universe," I pouted. Ah, but Sarajoy, darling, that IS life. The whole thing's been fairly non-consensual from the get go. No one here asked to be born, not even the cows.
While trying to sell her, I figured I'd try again to get her bred because anyone would want that in a heifer, plus we need her to shut up. The neighbors were commenting about her noise, and when I explained she was in heat, the lady said, "Oh I get that! I understand where she's coming from now!" So the breeder came out on Friday, in the middle of the daily morning mayhem. And we head out to the barn only to find the stanchion destroyed, strewn all over the field. I have no idea how petite and demure Claire pulled that off. But after discussing our options, the main one being roping Claire and having me use my body to pin her against the barn wall while he inseminated her with his arm, I decided to pass this time.
I asked him if I was asking too much for her. My price had started at $2500, because the closest available cow of this rare sort was now Virginia, for the same price, same level of "purity" of breed. After the buyers at that price dropped off. I lowered it, got a buyer, she lost her job, lowered it, lowered it, got a buyer who emailed me daily for a week with silly questions then dropped off, got this latest buyer and here I am at $800. It makes me sick. And the breeder said I could get more than that if I just had the slaughter house pick her up! Being a miniature, she's cheaper to keep than cats, and now that I think of it, cheaper than getting the field mowed. And if I do ever get her bred, once she calves, she'll more than pay for herself milk-wise. But then there I'll be with another calf to hurt my heart as I sell it.
As Artificial Insemination Fred left, I collected the pieces of the stanchion from the field. As I collected them, I noticed that it would only need a few screws and ten minutes to put back together. As I noticed this, the AI guy I found on Craigslist disappeared around the corner. And the whole hobby farming fiasco reached shitti-cane status and I got the giggles.
|Chase of butternuts|
Let's recap: this year I grew a garden and got little for my efforts.
I have a cow I don't want and
an oven I hate that still doesn't work.
But what am I, some conditional lover of life? If it's conditional, it isn't love. If I have the right conditions, I'll "love" it? So if anything isn't precisely as I ordered, I'm sending it back to the kitchen? Ah, no. I'll call this all an (mis)adventure, and I'll say I'm happy on this bull-ride o'life. Who the hell knows what's coming down the pike? Today, unplanned cow-husbandry and a garden robbed by weather. And tomorrow? Get ready, could be your wildest dream, hard times, frustration, thrills, spills. It's wild out here in unpredictable life. And maybe that's all I want really, maybe that's what keeps me happy and rocking along, all this unpredictability even in the midst of what seems like boring old stability.