(Oh) Dear Moxie

December 15, 2018

I had planned to put Moxie down this fall. She is nearly ten years old. Her udder suspension is almost completely gone; in 2017 I had to sling up a pulley system to lift her bag high enough for calves to nurse her back teats. She has had milk fever and ketosis, twice, and the likelihood of another traumatic, exhausting birthing seemed high. The decision to put her down made perfect sense. Unfortunately the fall with all its builder stress got away from me, and when I looked up I realized Moxie was pregnant.

Although I’d assumed that my teenaged bull Red had probably bred her before he was shipped in July, it became apparent that in fact he bred her much earlier. I know there are tough people out there who could put down a heavily pregnant cow, but I am not one of them. Sometimes I wish I were, but I am not. Thus my old friend Moxie is due any day now.

Any minute, in fact. I have been checking her through the night for the last three nights, at 8 PM, 10 PM, 2 AM, and 6 AM. I taught my daily classes in a slightly altered state.

The first two nights were particularly nerve-racking because I could not find the IV set I will need if she falls into a coma from milk fever.

I last had it at the time of her last calving — July 1, 2017, moving day, when I moved us into the farm, which unbeknownst to me would be a construction zone (and briefly a flood zone) for the next five months. Clearly in all the stress I had stashed the IV set in an open box. Though I now ransacked the remaining 50 boxes in the garage and basement, I could not find it. I tried to purchase an IV set locally. None. Finally I ordered a set from two different places.

In the meantime I nervously laid out a fistful of 20 cc syringes and 16 gauge needles on the cookstove, ready to hand. It would certainly be unpleasant to deliver 500 ccs of calcium gluconate in 20 cc doses — twenty-five needle sticks per bottle! — but it would save her life and I was ready to do it if needed.

(Apparently there is a new supplement, X-Zelit, which can be fed to cows to prevent milk fever. I had written to the inventor in Canada to see if I could buy some. He told me there was a dealer two hours away, and I was ready to hop in my car. Unfortunately he also told me it was too late. To work, the cow has to have the supplement for two weeks before calving.)

So, no easy answer and I’ll just have to deal with whatever happens. The IV sets both arrived. I have set up one, and will keep the other in reserve in my medicine cabinet. I’ve got a stack of clean towels. I’ve got four bottles of calcium gluconate. I’ve got strong iodine for the navel.  I’ve got molasses for her water. I’ve got propylene glycol for ketosis, and will pick up some corn syrup just in case.

The only thing I don’t have is energy, but I always find that.

Wish us luck.


December 9, 2018

The past month was a challenge. It seemed as if it was non-stop work, punctuated by exhausting alarums: 20 tons of gravel dumped on the septic tank! house water pump fails! pump is replaced and we have iron-red water for a week! excavator to fix the gravel problem breaks down! barn water trough fails! electric in the barn fails!  Constant emergency problem-solving… all while skies were gloomy, snow was falling steadily, my teaching schedule was pressured with evening activities, and I was not sleeping due to the time change.

However yesterday afternoon I finished my fall term reports and today I have surfaced into calm. I still have plenty of work to do but the heart-thumping sense of scrambling to outrun an avalanche has passed.

Among other chores, today I will spend a couple of hours drilling holes and running wires to set up our old stereo system in the living room. It’s not really the season of joy without Christmas music! Hallelujah!

(I’ve always wished to be surrounded by a singing flash mob, but sadly never have. Clearly I don’t shop enough.)