Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh my oh my oh my

Well, we're here. Been offline for a while... no computer, then no time. :-)

So we didn't exactly EASE into farm life. My first full day here:

1) I discovered the house was full of fleas thanks to the kitten
2) the cows got onto the lawn
3) one of the horses trapped me in the barn

That was nothing compared to day 2, the drama of which was centered around the cows being back on the lawn. On day 1, I had come home to them on the lawn (gate was closed thank goodness) and they actually followed me up the road (on the other side of the fence) into the upper pastures, hoping for a snack. They recognize our truck, as it has been the bearer of all things delicious since we got them in January, so they get quite excited when they see or hear it. They stayed up there since it was dusk and it is a long walk at a cow's pace to get back to the lawn.

Anyway, come morning they meandered back down to the lawn (now we're on day 2). So we were in Farmer Boy's room working on school work, when I noticed something big and brown out the window. They saw me too and greeted me ("Mooooooooo" which means "You sneak, where are our cubes? We ran all the way up that hill and you disappeared. We are not amused.") Note that I had no cubes (range cattle supplemental feed), which is why I didn't give them any.

This lack of cubes proved to be my undoing as the day wore on. The girls were well aware I was there, and the leader (whom we've cleverly taken to calling Scarface, due to, well, the scar on her face) watched me through the windows constantly. I had to go out and get them to stop eating the pool tubing, stop drinking the pool water, stop eating the flowers, stop eating the fishing poles.

You are now wondering why I didn't just go out, herd the cattle through the gate to the pastures, and fix the fence. Here is the tip of the iceberg of reasons:

1) there are 15 head of cattle
2) I have no experience with cattle
3) they are big
4) I had nothing to feed them
5) I was scared

:-) You get the picture.

Now it is late afternoon. The cattle are still mowing the lawn. I have no feed. I have no fencing materials. I am expecting a washer, dryer and fridge to be delivered at 8:00am the next day. I need to get these animals OUT OF MY YARD.

At one point they were mostly in the back yard, so we got into the truck to go get those cubes, but alas, dilemma... have to open the gate. The cattle follow the truck. I wasn't about to have my 7 year old stand at the gate to open and close it against 15 cattle. The gate is not electric, so I was going to have to open the gate, get in the truck, drive out, get out of the truck, and close the gate. It also swings much wider than the truck, so the cattle could come out next to the truck if they wanted. As soon as I started the truck they came running. They were right behind me so I was STUCK in the yard. I realized I was just going to have to give up and try something else, when Scarface herself stood in front of the truck and would not move. I drove toward her, nothing. Honked, nothing. So I ended up backing up, parking, going back in the house, and freaking out a little. ;-)

I thought and thought about who could help me and thought of Ruth Noel, whom I had just met at a homeschooling group. Ruth and her husband Denny run Tesoro Tierra Farms and raise organic poultry, cattle and pigs. Ruth was very sweet and gave me a few ideas, most of which I could not implement because I am, um, clueless, basically. Mostly she offered moral support. Which I needed. Probably the most valuable four words she said in that conversation were "You are not alone." Mind you, Ruth lives 45 minutes from me, so she wasn't saying "I will be right over" she was saying "You are in the country now. Your neighbors WILL help you, even if you have never met them." She's right of course. It is remarkable... all those cliches are true. People ARE nicer here.

I digress.

After hanging up with Ruth I heard a suspicious noise, looked out the window and realized that the bull across the street (the little dirt road "street") had caught a whiff of our cow who was in heat, and he and our bull were talking rather loudly about just whose cow she was. Our bull started to paw at the ground under our puny barbed wire fence, and this, this was the moment at which I lost it. Yes, I went striaght to the bathroom and bawled my eyes out. I did mention to God in this moment that this was not really looking like it was going to work out for me, I just might have to live in the 'burbs after all, and was He really sure that I could handle this whole farm thing?

Then I took a deep breath, said to the kids, "Let's pray", sat down in our big empty living room and prayed. He knew our situation. He knows what I can handle. So I asked Him to just help us figure out what to do next.

A few minutes later, I looked out a front window, and where there had been 15 cattle, all clustered around the bull who was digging up the ground at the base of our fence, there were none. Looked all around, and found them all, every single one, in our back yard. Our back yard is not big, AND it has a swimming pool in it. I said to the kids, "This is our chance, don't make a sound." I grabbed my purse, carried The Princess and her shoes, and got the kids in the truck. Not a cow in sight. I ran to the gate, propped it open with a garbage can just enough for us to squeeze through, jumped in the truck and sped out. As I ran back to the gate to close it I saw a cow rounding the corner of the house. Miracle! We were out and they weren't!!

Now to the next scary question... would the feed store still be open? It was after 7:00 and I was 15 minutes away. Thankfully they were open until 8:00! But they were out of cubes! Aaargh! I was able to find something comparable, chose some fencing, then back we went.

The trick of getting the cattle to follow the truck up the road to the upper pasture worked again, and this time I had food for them. We headed home for a very late and very exhausted dinner.

That night I explained to the boy that I was going to have to get the fence fixed very early, before the cattle made their way back down again (and before the delivery guys showed up). I told him I'd take a walkie talkie and leave the other on the bed next to him. I didn't have an alarm clock (we still had almost none of our stuff in the house... that would come several days later when we rented a moving truck), so I just prayed that God would wake me up early. And He did.

At sunrise, I got up, got dressed, grabbed wire clippers, pliers, the walkie talkie, a bb gun (we have coyote and bobcat, and I just felt more confident having it) and a cattle whip (for making noise, again a confidence booster), and headed out. I got the roll of fencing from the truck and began to search for the break. Didn't take long to find it. The fencing around here is all so old, it needs to be completely redone, not just repaired. In this case, a tree had grown up, weakening the wires' attachment to a post, and either the tree or a cow, interested in the grass on the other side of the fence, had popped the wires. I ended up having to go back to the house and get a saw, and took off about a third of the branches in order to get the new fencing I had bought to attach. It took about an hour and a half to find it, fix it, and feed the horses. Near the end of that time, I got a call on the walkie talkie from my children, who had awakened, dressed and gotten themselves cereal. I was SO proud of them!!!

And I can't tell you the feeling of joy that shot through me when I heard mooing an hour or so later while the delivery guys were here. I looked up, expecting the onslaught again, to find the cattle instead quite contained behind my makeshift patch. I couldn't believe it! I had solved the problem! I, with no clue about fences, had actually fixed a fence that was now keeping many tons of cattle out of my yard! It was not a permanent fix, but it did what I needed it to do (and has continued to do so for 2 weeks!).

Over the past 2 weeks, my confidence has been growing. I have an insane amount to learn. Before me lie challenges I can't even imagine yet. But the events of my first week - while challenging, exhausting, and downright scary at times (did I mention I also saw and killed my first brown recluse spider (the deadliest spider in the US)?) - have shown me that I am capable and resourceful, that I can be brave when I have to and creative when I can't, and reminded me that I am not here by mistake. There is a design, there is a plan, and my job is to walk on, and to trust.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

1 comment:

mudmom said...

To all at JoyfulFarm:
May God daily bless you with abundant joy, stamina, vision, safety, patience, laughter and peace. May even the rainiest days be radiant.
When you have time, tell us about the horses too. And a little about the herding dogs and the kitten with fleas would be lovely.