We all know (even though we don’t dare say it) that there are just some babies that only a mother could love. Whether it be the amount of screaming, the consistency of spit-ups, or a lack of the cuteness factor…sometimes, it just can’t be denied. Of course we would never say it aloud let alone, say it in front of the new, proud mother. Instead we think it silently, shamefully; ‘Oh, you poor, poor child. Maybe you’ll grow out of it someday. Hopefully. For everyone’s sake.’ But what happens when these thoughts are in reference to your own child? Ok, calm down, I’m not talking about actual children here. I’m talking about calves. My calves. And the fact that even I find it hard to love them on occasion….
The Acre is growing. We are entering into a lease on a little over 100 acres of beautiful ground consisting of highlands, lowlands, wetlands, and dryland. It has a creek, a seasonal ditch, a geothermally fed hot spring, and a pond. The worn hay fields will require gentle restoration and the old barns will require a quick slap on the ass. The owners of the property are kind and just as eager as we are to see new life in the fields. There will be a delicately conducted dance of grazing, fertilizing, seeding, and watering before we are to see the true potential of this new venture. To be trusted with the healing of the land and its future success is humbling. And just like looking from the depths of the creek bed to the towering height of the peaks above, I can see ours is a long road ahead. But the opportunity, the animals, the land: it is all, quite simply, heaven.
We spent the weekend walking fence lines and hauling our large animals over from the Acre. Well, everyone except for Miss Deluxe. She has a date. With a boy. All of which cost me $100 and a turkey. So I hope she’s happy. Anyhoo, we hauled over Alan the Scottish Highland bull-calf, Honey Bunny the Jersey heifer-calf, and Yak the one-eyed horse. (We’re a motley crew.) As soon as they saw the new space, they scattered and promptly buried their heads in the tall grasses. We stuck around to make sure everyone had settled in and soon drove home to what felt like an empty house. The next day, we met with one of our business partners to walk the fields and make plans for the overhaul of winter and the hustle and bustle of spring. That’s pretty much when it all began.
We started off walking through the old barns, eyeing up the squeeze chutes and sweeping away glass from the busted window panes. Then we continued across the creek, through the horse fields and down to the low-lying paddocks. Of course the calves followed us. As we made our way to the southeast corner over by the pond, we noticed some deadfall pinning down a portion of the fencing wire. Neither of us had brought any fencing tools, so we made a note of it to come back that afternoon and make some repairs to keep the cows on the correct side of the fence. We checked to see if the cows were still following us and realized that they had been distracted by the very, very tall grasses of the wetland and had gone back to ignoring us altogether. We continued around some towering brush and made our way up to the old dry hay fields on the western side. We took a few minutes to eye the ground and consider the work it would take to make it fertile again. Then we continued back down towards the barns and before crossing the creek one last time, we checked to make sure the cows hadn’t moved through the brush to find the small hole in the fence. All was good. We left, and I went back home to grab some temporary fencing materials to make a patch with.
I made the quick round trip and returned to find little Alan exactly where I had left him. I made my way over to the fence line and started running my wide electric tape fencing across the gaps. Alan walked under it towards the pond. NO! I brought him back and lowered my strand and was walking it towards the next post when I turned back to see Alan dip his head and walk under it again. DAMNIT! I ran a higher strand back on itself to the original post. Alan gently stepped between the two strands back into the paddock. SON-UV-A-! Ok, let’s face it; I have to go get t-posts, new fencing wire, a decent pair of gloves, and a….wait a second….where’s Honey? I slowly scanned the paddock, ran my eyes over the pond, looked towards the creek….and that’s when I saw her. She wasn’t “in” the paddock. She was “in” the landowner’s yard. Eating their grass. Pooping by the swing set. Happy as a clam….Shit.
I wrapped up my electric tape strands so as not to entangle “Alan the Fencewhisperer” and made my way over to Honey. I clipped the line onto her halter and slowly walked her over to the nearest gate and into the paddock. Then we made our way over to Alan and I slipped his rope halter on and weighed my options, of which I had two: 1. Make a quick-fix on the fence knowing it wouldn’t do a damn thing to help my situation, then go round up the equipment I needed while merely *hoping* that they would be good little babies and stay in the paddock by mere magic, or 2. Move them alllllllllll the way across the horse paddock, over the creek, through two gates, across the drive, and into the holding paddock over by the barns which has absolutely no holes in it whatsoever. By myself. With no bait. And no lunch in my belly. C’est la vie.
Ok. These calves are not what some might refer to as “halter-trained” though they’re not halter virgins, either. Despite being fully aware of this fact, I decided to make the long haul across the horse paddock, over the creek, through two gates, across the drive, and into the holding paddock over by the barns which has absolutely no holes in it whatsoever. Deep breath. Go…..Okay, okay, they’re both moving in the general direction that I want them to go in. We’re crossing the runoff from the ponds. We’re exiting the tall grass and into the horse padd…no, no, NO! What is Honey doing?! WHAT is Honey doing….Oh, great, she’s lying down. On. The. Ground. We made it a third of the length of the entire paddock and she is sprawled on the ground, on her side, in the last clump of tall grass with her eyes rolling back into her head, and she’s munching…she’s MUNCHING?! Ok, yeah, she’s munching on the last little bit of tall grass before she is forced to travel across the desolate wasteland otherwise known as “horse pasture.” Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
What is a girl to do? No, not HONEY…ME! I did the best thing I know how: I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone, called my husband, and bitched about it. With hand gestures. For, like, a minute straight. Well, I guess she got the picture, because she stood up outta nowhere and shot me a look kinda like my husband does when he knows (and I know) that he is doing something partly to appease me, but mostly just to stop me from bitching any longer about it….which is totally acceptable to me. So on we went, across the desolate wasteland, over the creek, through two gates, across the drive, and into the holding paddock over by the barns which has absolutely no holes in it whatsoever. Done and done.
Ok, well, not entirely done. I brought Yak the one-eyed horse over to round out the herd, then I tossed some hay to try to bridge the gap between the tall grasses of the lowland paddock and the scraggly weeds of the holding paddock, and went down to the creek and filled a bucket of water since they no longer had access to the pond or spring. (I mean, can you imagine how Bad-Baby-Honey-Bunny the drama queen would react if I actually forgot certain necessities like food or water or belly rubs?!) As I pulled the bucket in from the creek, I brought it over to Honey to let her take a drink from it. After she was done, I took it over to little Alan and squatted by his head and rubbed his ears while he drank. I felt Honey Bunny nudge my back gently, then she slowly walked to my side and licked my ear. ‘That’s more like it,’ I thought. We’re going to be fine here after all. We’re going to slowly learn the lay of the land, then we’ll stretch out our legs and before you know it, we’ll be calling it ‘home.’ Yes, we’re going to be just fine. She gave me another sweet kiss and just as I was beginning to think she was back to being the Good Baby, she bit my shoulder, just for good measure….