Cows on the Cabin Field

Last night I got the cattle on the small cabin field. Again, the grass looks deceptively lush because the cows are standing on the exact spot where my friend Larry and I dropped tons of manure compost in 2010. The sour, acid soil doesn’t naturally want to grow anything but balsams and briars. Here’s the “cabin field” in 2011.

The summer before, Lucy and her cousin Lizzy had helped me pick up rocks, broken logs, roots and stumps.

I’m glad to have these photos to remind me of how far the farm has come. I have grubbed and cleaned every inch of this land. The grass is still not great — still mostly weeds among many bare spots — but it is there.

I have not been able to get Flora and her calf into the barn. The days have been cool enough that the cattle would rather stay out.

I have shaken a grain can but the cattle have just lifted their heads and stared at me. No dice. Flora has been particularly shy, keeping her baby far from the paparazzi.

I did follow her around the backside of the cabin field and was able to sneak close enough to ascertain that the baby is, indeed, a bull calf. DH suggested the name “Riggins,” after a character in the television show Friday Night Lights.

From the look of Flora’s udder, Riggins is nursing only the back teats. The front teats are jutting stiffly, swollen to the size of giant kielbasa. I imagine they are sore, and with Riggins avoiding their size and Flora undoubtedly increasingly reluctant to have them touched, I’m not sure of a solution. Flora has never been in a stanchion. (At this point I can’t even get her into the barn!)

Though I tell myself all beef cattle must have this problem, it worries me. 

*   *   *

Yesterday the little white hen took her brood of five chicks outside for the first time. Over the course of the day, one of the white chicks disappeared. I don’t know the culprit: a raven? a hawk? However I was glum, thinking how I proud I had been to have saved the chick from death against the odds.

I was reminded of the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Against the advice of Ali (Omar Sharif) who tells him, “It is written,” T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) risks his life to go back to rescue an Arab lost in the vast furnace of the desert. He drags the man back to camp on his camel and says in a cracked, triumphant voice, “Nothing is written.” Later, however, the same man is condemned and Lawrence must be the executioner. An Arab shrugs: “Ah, it was written, then.”

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