After two wet, cool days, this morning it was sunny and warm, and by 7:00 AM I saw (from my bedroom window: how great is that?) the cattle in the back field stamping, flicking their ears, and lashing their tails against flies. By 7:15 they were making their way to the barn. I told myself, Today’s the day.
I had decided that somehow I would get Katika’s old halter on Flora. I have haltered a number of recalcitrant animals and now that Flora’s protective new-baby hormones seemed to have settled down I decided this would be no different. It took me half an hour and being dragged almost off my feet around the stall but at last the halter was on.
I then took a short break to think about my next move. Poking around my stacked garage I found a heavy 20-foot nylon strap that fell off a straw delivery a few years ago. I tied the strap to a lead rope, threaded the strap through the stanchion, and snapped the lead rope to Flora’s halter. Then I opened Flora’s gate and, holding the end of the strap, stepped back.
It took ten minutes but with every move she made in the right direction, I shortened the strap, hauling her step by step to the stanchion. It was a bit hectic to keep Riggins, the calf, close so that she did not panic. At last she spied the grain and bread in the stanchion and put her head through the bars to eat. I pushed the bar against her neck and slid the bolt home. She was caught!
Flora struggled to rear back and the stanchion (made of 2x4s) creaked under the strain, but thankfully it held. She was surprisingly calm when I began milking the huge front teats.
It was a strange thing. There was no milking motion necessary. The teats were simply vast balloons that had to be drained by squeezing. There was also no visible sign of mastitis. I had seen the massive teats dripping milk as she walked and my only explanation is that perhaps the constant drip had relieved enough pressure to keep mastitis from starting.
At last the teats were reduced from summer squash to long fingerlings.
The left teat was hot and bloody and I worried about infection, but she let me empty that one, too.
Her udder conformation is certainly poor, and the calf has not tried to nurse the front teats, even after they were reduced in size. However I feel sure he will in the next couple of weeks as he grows. In the meantime I am greatly relieved to have a means to empty them. I imagine as we go through this routine every day Flora will gradually become tamer and trained to the stanchion. I spent five minutes currying her after milking as a reward for her good behavior, and when she was safely returned to her stall my mood was triumphant.
* * *
I had hardly washed my hands before Colin arrived to work. While I gathered our tools, I watched through the window as he dug a hole in the future front lawn with his boot. “Please don’t dig holes in the lawn,” I said when I walked outside.
“That wasn’t me!” he exclaimed, stepping away from the hole.
I led the way down the driveway. “Colin, lying is a bad habit and one that makes it hard to have friends because they can’t trust you,” I said briskly. “Now, today we’re going to fix sheep shelters and move the sheep.”
Over the next two hours we removed from one of the shelters the wire fencing panel that had been flattened by an unexpected snowstorm two years ago, and replaced it with another. All of this required towing 16-foot panels behind the mower, and screwing and unscrewing 3″ deck screws and 4″ Timberloks. It took a while for Colin to get the hang of using the DeWalt, keeping it perpendicular, and holding pressure on the screw so the bit did not chatter and strip the head. I did a lot of steadying and pushing his hands, but eventually he got the idea.
I mentioned later to Colin’s mother that he’d learned to use a screw gun.
“It is a drill,” Colin corrected me in a sharp tone.
“Actually, lots of people refer to them as screw guns,” I said mildly. “For example, today, we were driving screws, not drilling.”
“It is nails that have nail guns,” he insisted.
“Yep, and screws, screw guns. I don’t know why they’re so often called guns. Maybe it’s a guy thing.”
Colin frowned. Winning is extremely important to him. But he let it go.
Today he also fastened zip ties and drove the speedier John Deere mower.
He seemed proud to help me move the sheep fencing and drag the shelters to the new spot.
Still, when we took our water break on the porch, he held up the Rice Krispie treat I gave him and snorted. “It’s not even real Rice Krispies. It’s the store brand!”
“Yep,” I said, rocking.
It was a good day.