Yesterday it was in the low 40s with a cold rain and winds gusting at 35 mph. However I was snug because at last I had broken down and bought myself a set of Carhartt rain gear.
This stuff is tough. It is also large. I found a men’s small on sale and it is huge on me. As I am taller than almost all the men I work with, I continue to wonder where is hidden the race of Adirondackers who fill out the 3XL Carhartts I see hanging in the hardware stores.
I am still trying to finish planting my two hundred daffodil bulbs. My long-time dream has been to plant the entire top of Allen’s stone wall behind the house — an area that is narrow, bumpy, and hard to mow — with a mixture of daffodils and daylilies.
The famous White Flower Farm nursery sells this combination and promises months of carefree bloom. The daffodils are bright and cheery, and just when they fade, the daylilies come up to hide the spent leaves. Unfortunately White Flower Farm charges a couple of hundred dollars for each collection and I’d need a dozen to finish the length of the wall. And though the folks there were grateful when I politely pointed out a proofreading error in their catalog text, they sadly did not reward my eagle eye with a truckload of bulbs.
So instead I picked up plain old daffodils from Costco and have been trying to get them into the ground before it’s solid ice. I have been stymied by rocks. Though I knew the wall was built of boulders, I hadn’t realized the back-fill behind it was more stone than soil. I can barely force my father’s old bulb planter the necessary seven inches into the ground.
After fighting with frozen hands to tuck 125 behind the first section of wall, yesterday in the drizzle I began planting the rest in a drift under the birch trees along the driveway. Whenever I struck rock I just gave up and moved over, excusing the erratic pattern of holes by murmuring to myself, “It’s drifting! It’s drifting!”
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At evening chores, my friends Alison and Tom stopped by the farm. Alison is a nurse and had cheerfully agreed to take a crack at drawing blood from my cows.
In the last couple of years a new company, BioTracking, has come up with a inexpensive blood test for pregnancy in ruminant animals. A starter test kit costs $15.00 and contains enough supplies for ten tests. For me, that works out to five years’ worth of testing. You mail a blood sample Second Day Air to the company and for $2.40 they will test it and email you the results within days. Even with shipping costs, this is much, much cheaper than having the vet come to the farm.
It can also be done earlier. The blood test will pick up pregnancy in cattle after 28 days. Palpation by a vet is risky if it is done before 90 days post-breeding. For large dairies, BioTracking’s two-month advance notice is extremely helpful, because if the test is negative they can arrange for a cow to be re-bred.
For me, it’s more in the nature of a sop to my impatience. If Katika or Moxie is not pregnant, I can’t do anything about it. My bull Duke is in the freezer. But at least I will know and can make informed decisions going forward.
The only part that concerned me was the blood draw. Here’s where dear Alison comes in. Nurses aren’t worried by needles.
I held Katika’s tail high (cows can’t kick if their tails are held up) and Al expertly jabbed the vein running invisibly along the underside of her tail. The vacuum tube immediately filled with blood.
I think we were both a little startled by how simple it was.
“I did it!” Alison exclaimed.
We put Katika back into her stall and I brought out Moxie. Moxie isn’t familiar with a stanchion yet so I simply tied her to a post and pushed her against the sheep stall. I pulled up her tail. A prick of the needle, a jump from Moxie, and it was all done.
Hooray for Alison, my hero!
The whole operation took about ten minutes, and then Alison and Tom were driving off to their next busy commitment. Aren’t they great?
This morning I put the marked blood samples in the mail to Idaho. If it weren’t for the holiday, I might have the results by Friday. As it is, I will probably hear in a week.
As my friend Susie says, I’m “keeping fingers, toes, and eyes crossed” — that both my girls are safely in calf.