Most days I love being a farmer. I get to work outside, usually by myself or with a faithful dog or two tagging along. I keep my own pace and follow my own schedule, within reason. I understand my cows who like to keep to the same routine, day in and day out. Things go smoothly that way. And life is peaceful.
And then, some days I think it would be better if I weren’t a farmer. Those days when the morning starts off iffy and heads downhill picking up speed before you realize you should have gotten off when you first had the chance.
It started as soon as my car cleared the top of the driveway before the sun was even up. I could see the light was on in the milk shed. It should have been off, because I turn it off each night after haying the cows. That meant one of the cows, probably Violet, had pushed her way through the stall, snapping the chain and forcing her enormously pregnant body into the stall. When I didn’t show up to give her a treat she used her tongue to flick on the light. Signalling me that I’d better hurry up and feed her. Sometimes she will use her tongue to flick on the switch that turns on the pump. Kind of like Pavlov- treats happen when the pump is on. If I turn on the pump I’ll get treats. Cows are clever that way.
So I parked the car and jogged out to the shed. Sure enough, the chain was snapped and she had left me a huge calling card in the stall. Luckily I keep extra hooks on hand for just such an occasion and I was able to quickly fix the chain. Score one for the farmer.
But wait- what is that snapping sound I’m hearing? Electric wire. Electric wire that is now wrapped around and under the giant metal hay feeding ring. The cows had pushed the feeder to the very far corner and then flipped it partially up, just enough to get it tangled in the electric perimeter fencing, before dropping it back down. Hmm. This one is tricky. I look down at my shoes. I look over to where I need to unplug the wire. A lot of mud between here and there. And a lot of grumpy cows who now can’t eat their hay. I’ll be back.
A few hours later I glance over to my raised beds. The garlic is coming up nicely. I spent hours planting it over the last few weeks. Already there are lots of green spikes poking out of the dark soil. I look again, is that a calf? Two calves? Are the stinking calves really in my raised beds? How did they get over there…the hot wire is supposed to keep them out.
Now I’m stomping mad, because the calves just look so darn happy running all over the place. I arm myself with a section of PVC pipe so I can shoo them back across. Only it’s not that easy. When they broke through the hot wire on their way over they got a good shock. It wasn’t enough to keep them on the right side but it was enough to make them hesitant to go through again. So there we were. Two calves with no sense to stay on the paths and out of my beds. And the farmer who had had just about enough cow antics and nowhere near enough coffee.
Around and around we went. Me chasing, them dancing, the dogs barking. Me praying no one would drive by and see me completely losing my cool, jumping up and down, waving my arms and yelling at the two cute little calves. I couldn’t get them out of that area for anything.
That was it. I’d had it. I was long past questioning why I had decided to keep the pair. My husband had told me they were awful. But I thought I was the calf whisperer. They just needed training. They needed more time to get used to me. They needed to get out of my garden.
I finally called my husband needing him to tell me how to load the gun so I could put them down. At some point on my way back to the house to fetch the gun, after I lost my cell phone, I had a brief moment of sanity and realized the last thing I needed in my hand was a gun.
So I took a few deep breaths, punctuated with a few well-chosen words and stopped. I stopped torturing myself thinking about the damage they were causing. It really wasn’t all that bad and I was making it worse by chasing them. I stopped shouting because it was really starting to worry my dog. I just stopped everything. And instead of a gun, I put a steaming cup of hot coffee in my hand and welcomed a brief moment of sanity.