Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't Have a Cow Woman

Claire and her hay say "Buh-Bye"

There are some things I will miss about no longer having cows.  And there are some things I will never miss.

I will miss sharing my garden extras with my eager bovine family: corn, corn stalks, apple pomice, onions, kale and also kitchen orange peels!  I will miss the hilarity and pure joy of large dancing cows in spring.  I will miss the tender baby calves slipping out into the world. I will miss pure, raw milk.  I will miss the odd sense of identity I found in being the only person I knew with a family milk cow.  I will miss the large brown eyes, rolling in circles to see it all. I will miss naming my cows: Hendrika, Sukey, Ginger, Beignet, Chocolatey Claire, and Yoda.

Hendrika and Sukey
I will not miss having to make hard choices every year about who to keep, who to sell, who to kill.  I will not miss trying to amass a chunk of change for a years worth of Timothy-grass-free hay (Timothy Grass puts Huck in to anaphylaxis... so you see, it's kind of inconvenient) and trying to time it right: after it's been harvest, before everyone else buys it.  I will not miss tripping over baling twine in the barn.  I will not miss cows in winter and sick cows, or the constant fear that I'll need to call a large animal vet out here (because I don't have the truck or trailer to deliver a sick cow to the vet) and since they live so far away and charge by the mile, by the time they'd get out here, before any treatment, our budget would be busted. 

I will not miss killing birds with my electric fence.  Example: I pulled my Spokesman Review from it's yellow road-side house and turned back to my house one recent morning.  And that's how I saw the Harrier's hawk, diving through my field, close on the heels of a group of house finches.  The finches easily flew through the hogwire fence, but the hawk could not.  So it slipped up, and landed on my electric wire.  Being too large for such acrobatics, it wobbled, connected with the hogwire, flailed out it's wings and plunged forward where it hung upside-down, sizzled feet still clinging to the wire.  I screamed and ran in my slippers to unplug the fence.  Even without electricity, the hawks hung there, wings unfurled and upside-down.  Devastated, I collapsed on my pile of useful pallets and mourned.  My farm, basically me, killed a beautiful bird.  All for the cow. How many birds would this cow cost? Would I bury it?  Would I call animal control to remove the carcass for me?  Would I have to saw off it's scorched claws to get the body?  I certainly couldn't leave it there, a coyote-popcicle.  I would feel like shit for a couple days.  Actually I would feel like shit for the rest of my life about this, whenever I remembered it.  I stood from my fetal-like-crying-pose to see if it had fallen off the fence and at least I wouldn't have to operate on a dead hawk.  But it was gone.  I walked the whole fence line.  The bird was gone.  Maybe just to nurse it's singes and die in privacy, away from the prying eyes of taunting finches and the devil's own farmer girl.  Or maybe to live a long, and smarter life away from human endeavors. For that one bird, I won't have to feel like shit for the rest of my life.  For all the others, yes, I will.

I will not miss the constant, and I mean constant, NEED to maintain my fence. At one time, I enjoyed it, but like all such chores, it was getting old. About a month ago, I dreamed that Chocolatey Claire had gotten out again.  I awoke a bit panicked, but realized I'd just checked the fence a few days before.  It must have been her heat-stoked moo-ing all night, implanting her in my dreams.  But you know what comes next, don't you.  You've read this blog a time or two.  And you know that after I returned home from dropping the kids off at school, I looked out into our field and there I saw Claire, well contained.  I went inside, got myself a glass of water and then noticed the neighbors car driving up.  I met him on the porch, "Can I help you?"
"I think that's your cow down the road."
"Oh, that can't be, she just out there in the...."  No, that CAN beWith cows there is no "can't".
"Is there anything I can do to help?"  He asked.
"At this point, No.  I don't even know what to do.  She's in heat.  Jim's got a bull."
I grabbed my grain and headed out without a plan. That girl was running down the road.  She was already 1/3 mile away. Some of my outstanding neighbors stopped to help.  One just happened to have a couple riding crops in her car to help herd.  But I could see that Claire wasn't going home. We gave it "ye ol' college try and fail" until I decided to go with the flow and opened up Jim's fence.  Claire ran through, and ran and ran and ran across his field.  And within 4 minutes, we'd gotten a call that the girl had done got herself a boyfriend and they done consummated.  The kids and I went to apologize to Jim for the unexpected visit from the eloping horny heifer. And while we were there for ten minutes, discussing what had happened and what to do about it, Claire and his bull mated about 20 times.  And the other cows were all excited about the new arrival.  And so they got in on it too.  And it was a veritable cow orgy.  We are normally rather sanguine about farm animal copulations, but even I was wide-eyed.

I took a picture of the orgy.  Maybe that wasn't right.
Jim, yet another of my wonderful neighbors, got around to returning her to me after about a 3 week honeymoon.  She didn't go in to heat again, so there was some point in returning her to Lucky Farm.  And during those three weeks, I realized I didn't need a cow any more.  I didn't worry that the phone was ringing because my cow was a mile away, or the car in my driveway was there to report an escaped bovine.

It's going to be alright
Claire is a unique cow, a miniature, just perfect for our acreage.  She eats next to nothing.  She's the cow I originally had in mind.  Instead I bought what I could get my hands on, and bred her into existence from that.  And now that I finally have the cow of my dreams, I'm done. I could keep her as a pet.  But I'm looking at my life today, TBI and all, and she doesn't fit here anymore.  Honestly, I'd tried to sell her last fall when I realized my cow joy was over, but no one sane buys cows in the fall.  And now, I'm really in no shape for this kind of work.  Huck's not in to cow-husbandry it turns out and I respect that. I'm certainly not going to demand that he spend his 3 seconds off a week doing my hobby for me. So, there goes my perfect cow.  Let's feel sad for a moment:

(Sad moment)

But I am certain that when the time comes, if I feel like it again, the cow or pony or goat or pig or camel of my dreams will be there, waiting for me on Craigslist, when I'm ready.
That is the End, my friend

As for Claire, she's on to new adventures with a farming family of six, ready to love and treat her right.  I hope you enjoyed some parts of the link-retrospective of moi and my moo cows.  Now what am I going to write about?  Those chickens better get a lot more interesting!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Coyote has a new teacher.  And it's not me.  Thank god.  I home-schooled him for 6 days, straddling spring break and it became obvious that I could either home-school him or get better (which is so depressingly slow, I can't even tell if it's happening or not), but clearly the both weren't going to happen at the same time.
the tool box he made himself

We'd had issues with his teacher all year, a few snarky notes home, and some bizarre responses to playground issues.  But, you know, teachers are people too.  They have bad days and get stressed out and have lots of pressure to perform while coping with nearly 30 (thanks budget cuts!) kids.  And I was in this fog (it's actually black, not grey, so maybe it should be called "outer space" instead of "fog") and so we let things slide.
a small rock in the fire pit

Coyote had been having issues and I'd blamed myself, as any good mother would.  It was my head injury.  How could he be happy when his mother packed his lunch with a can of olives and a socket wrench?  Who wouldn't have anxiety when their mother has to pull over every five minutes to rest her eyes and and stop feeling crazy with all the "zoomy stuff"?  All winter he was denied sports and Cub Scouts  (the decision to sign him up for that could fill several blog posts!) and skiing and having friends over and speaking in a normal voice winter because his mother can't drive at night or in snow and can't handle sounds, particularly the sounds of children having fun and/or fighting.  But then his anxiety was worse on Sunday nights and Monday mornings.  So... if it was me, wouldn't it have been worse all weekend?  We were reading books, developing plans, we had a list of therapists and brought him to the doctor to make sure there wasn't anything physical.

But then he says to me he thought he'd figured out what was causing it all: not learning anything at school.  Now that I'm a gifted-education reader-upper-er, I have some exposure to the research. Statistically, he should only be a few IQ points lower than his sister, and should match the IQ of his genetic contributors.  (Reminder: IQ does not make a person better or worse, it's mostly just DNA expressing itself; IQ has benefits and issues just like most traits; IQ is a cultural estimation of a complex concept.) Also, since he's second born, statistically he would be hiding it (since the family niche of brainiac would seem to already be taken).  This might explain why "the brightest child I've ever taught" in Montessori school never showed up for regular school.  And depression and anxiety are very common in underperforming, unidentified "gifted" children.

The Genetic Contributors

So, all that to say, that I wanted to rule out "underperforming/unidentified gifted" as our problem. So I opened up a conversation with his teacher about improving his opportunities for learning and initiate school IQ testing.  That was on a Monday. What followed was a string of unprofessional and snarky emails, most of which I didn't bother responding to. A bizarre "time out" on Wednesday.  The revelation that despite all A's and a fairly high standardized test score, she'd plopped him into the lowest track for reading and languages and there he'd languished all year, not learning anything.  She never told us. Embarrassed, he never mentioned it.  And I was in a deep deep fog/outer-space of disability.  And Huck was out of town too much this winter.  And then on that Friday she publicly moved all of the other children from the track 1 group into the track 2 group, leaving Coyote and the kid who's never ever done his homework in group 1.  Coyote: "I get 100% on all my tests. How can any of the kids who got moved up be doing better than that?"

And so we pulled him out.  And Coyote immediately returned to equilibrium.
looks like a head injury to me

Thanks to amazing advocacy from other professionals at his school (one of which is a particularly amazing friend), and thanks to the history of this happening last year in the same class, and that child was pulled from the school, the school somehow managed to clear the legal hurdles and do the right thing, placing him with a new teacher.  And now he's happy. And IQ testing has revealed killer mama-instincts continue to be one of the most powerful things this world has known.

Random Updates: I cut my hair in hopes of fewer headaches.  The pulling has stopped, but there are still these sensations all over my head.  I am trying to keep myself from shaving my head entirely.  I liked my long hair.  It was one of my favorite things.  And I'm kind of sad it's not on my head.  But also, it's just hair. People keep commenting and marveling on it's absence.  That's just part of the process, I know, but I can't wait until that part is over.

And my speech therapist was worried about why I wasn't making any progress, why the better I get the worse I feel, so she did some tests and apparently my vestibular system got shattered.  I start barf-inducing vestibular rehab on Monday.

The Opa-rator oversee-ing the BB gun
And spring break was awesome.  My dad came for a visit and rocked the grandpa role with b.b.gun shooting, bon fires, fixing every mechanical thing I own, putting up Blue's basketball hoop, making an amazing pot of Chiopino, kite flying, and all that.  My uber-busy mother flew in later and we all spent the weekend at a nearby cabin and I found out that I'm almost as bad at riding in a car as I am at driving.


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