When I was a child, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown stories. I moved on to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. All of these children solved exciting (but not dangerous) mysteries and were admired by everyone. Nancy as a teenager even drove a blue roadster. It all sounded highly desirable. For several years I thought it would be great to grow up to become a detective. I went to the police station and an obliging officer showed me how to take fingerprints.
There were only a few problems. One, I was not daring, but worried. Two, I’ve always been unnerved by any suspense. I was the child who stood up during games of hide and seek when I couldn’t stand another moment of the heart-pounding strain as a searcher approached. But most importantly, I have always been supremely unobservant, at least where people are concerned. I once told a teaching colleague after summer vacation, “You look great!” and added vaguely, “Did you get a haircut?” She replied, “Selden, I lost fifty pounds.”
So I have always been slightly amazed to find that without any conscious decision on my part, my brain is observing and recording details about my animals. Without counting, I almost always know when one of my chickens has not come in for the night. My eye registers that there is something wrong with the row of birds settling to roost and nudges me until I go looking for the errant hen.
Over the past few hectic days of frozen water hydrant at the barn, frozen truck battery, and frozen water pipes in the farm apartment, I’ve realized there is something “off” with both my ewe Geranium and my cow Moxie. Neither problem seems to be an emergency — they each continue to eat with gusto — but both are worrying me. They are “off.”
Geranium is moving slowly and limping. She is round and pregnant, due four weeks from yesterday, and inevitably the last sheep to go out or come in every day. I need to catch her and sit her on her rear end, part the thick wool, and figure out what’s going on. Is it a foot problem, a leg sprain, or something else more dire?
Moxie is also moving slowly. She suddenly objects to the foster steers nursing — Moxie, who allows any passing stranger to suck on her teats! — to the point where she does not want to go to the stanchion for her grain. I suspect something is hurting. I can’t feel any heat in her udder, but it has been -26° F. I’m not sure anything would feel hot. Last night her back quarter did seem meaty and thick. I have to get a milk sample and get it cultured by the vet (45 minutes away). Once I have results I will probably need mastitis meds (an hour away).
I hate having anything “off” with my animals, especially when I have no time. Thank goodness the weekend is almost here.