Fun on the farm

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I really wish I didn’t suck so much at blogging. I’m constantly noticing, even photographing, things I mean to tell you about, and then I forget or get distracted and don’t write them down. Meanwhile I’ve reached that life stage where you start reconnecting with your old (holy cow, some of them are ooooold) friends from school and university years, and they say, “So what are you doing these days?” and I want to say, “Oh, too much to squeeze into one Facebook comment – but go take a look at my blog!” So this post is for old friends.

Vos rolling

Vos takes a bow on my hugel-mound

Right now it’s about noon on a pleasant summer day – not too hot, a bit windy. Sitting at my computer I can look through my window and see, in the distance, the Columbia River with its fringe of trees … closer in our north pasture with cows lazing about on the green … and, closer still, an expanse of dirt that will, when we get around to planting it, be lawn, because the Hubbit doesn’t share my desire for wild grasses and other native plants and I’m tired of arguing about it. In any case, to be honest, when it comes to gardening I’m better at conceptualizing than doing. Meanwhile, we have a flat expanse of dirt that the horses visit about once a day because they’ve decided it’s the best place to roll. In the middle of the flatness is a mound – dirt piled on compost piled on logs – because I read about hugelkultur and wanted to try it. Vos loves rolling up against this mound, the better to scratch his back, and he really doesn’t care if it gets flat and misshapen in the process.

1779 Pond excavation (2) - Copy

I’m quite sure digging the pond had nothing at all to do with a boyish desire to play with a large machine…

I can also see what we call the pond area. When we bought this property the Hubbit took into his head that he wanted a pond. A big pond. I mean, he was talking a quarter acre, and although he didn’t quite manage that he did his best. He spent an entire day digging dirt out of the pond and dumping it in a large pile in the middle of what is now the south pasture, and then we got involved in a whole lot of other things, and there the hole in the ground and its matching heap still sit, waiting for inspiration to strike, energy to surge, and pennies to rain down from heaven. One day we will have a swimming hole, and also a raised up picnic spot. For now, the cattle mosey up to the pond area to get water, hay and attention, and it’s where we keep them in winter.

We have seven cattle at the moment. The three cows are Tumelo (Faith), Tshepo (Hope) and Lerato (Love, who is also Tumelo’s mother). Last year Tshepo and Lerato gave us two heifers, Obie and Kitty-Kat. This year we were expecting three calves, since Tumelo was old enough to be bred, and I was all excited to blog about it, but thought I’d wait until the third one came because I just knew that, sooner or later, I’d get to be up to my armpit in a cow’s vagina – which is exactly the sort of experience one wants to blog about – and I didn’t want to jump the gun.

Jonathan, Pi and Lerato

Our young helper Puck, with Pi and Lerato. Pi is maybe 10 minutes old here, and weighs around 100 lbs.

Well, first Lerato gave us Pi (born March 14, aka Pi Day), and he was huge. It took two of us to pull him out of her, and she’s a big cow. So I was worried sick for the following couple weeks, waiting for Tumelo and Tshepo. It was Tumelo’s first and Tshepo is a small cow, so there was real potential for trouble. Every night we’d go out several times to check on them – and this was in March, in Washington, so we were sliding and crunching through ice and snow. One evening I went out and nothing seemed to be happening, and quite by accident my flashlight illuminated a small black creature who had arrived with no fuss at all. So that was Tumelo’s rent paid; I named her calf Eezee. Two down, Tshepo still to go. Every day I fed her treats to win her trust, so that if she had difficulties she’d let me get close enough to help her. Day after day, her belly got bigger and bigger. And every day nothing happened. Nothing at all. Eventually we realized she was just fat. The bull had stayed only three weeks instead of the usual four – we let him go early because he was bored with so few cows and kept breaking out of their pasture – so evidently he’d missed her Magic Moment.

I was going to tell you more, about chickens and plowing and other fun farmy stuff – but that will have to wait. There is a Smell. On a farm it is not unusual for things to smell, but this is different. This is a Smell riding a Harley. It rumbles. It is going places.

Aaand … here comes the Hubbit to tell me about it.

So apparently the pump in our septic tank has died, and he is going to fix it, which will involve crouching over the open drain with his head inside … and this Smell isn’t merely riding a Harley; it’s wearing a Hell’s Angel jacket and carrying a ball peen hammer. Therefore I have to be there. To fish him out, if he falls in.

This is what happens when you marry Senior MacGyver and then go live on a farm. He can still fix pretty damn near anything, but his knees don’t bend as well as they used to, and sometimes he gets a little unsteady. It’s just as well I still think he’s cute.

 

So what are you doing these days? Have you ever been tempted to give up city life and go live on a farm? If your significant other fell into a septic tank, would you pull them out?

 

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About Belladonna Took

Into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, at constant risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic. A wife, a mom, a daughter and sister, kind of a grandma. Until recently a full-time dog rescuer, now more concerned with rescuing myself. User of dog hair as accessory, decor and garnish. Technical writer, strategic thinker, occasional entrepreneur. Voiceless poet and storyteller. Born again Christ-follower and former missionary schoolteacher chewing on some uncomfortable questions. Ignorer of rules, challenger of assumptions, believer in miracles. Skeptical libertarian, equal opportunity despiser of politicians and assholes. Gonnabe gardener, wannabe beekeeper, Monsanto-hating tree-hugger. Morbidly obese chocaholic, with a horse I don't ride because I might break him, and if not he would probably break me.

33 responses »

  1. You were my nighttime read, before bedtime pleasure. I loved reading about faith, hope, and love-though I can’t remember the more exotic names–besides Tumelo–but which is which escapes me. I like the name Eezee. Sounds like one I could remember. I’m not tempted to run away to a farm but I’m cultivating the most impressive crop of crab grass right now. Oh, and the birds and rabbits appreciate my attempts at growing strawberries. My farming skills are nothing to write home about. But now, I’m ready to sleep. So, perhaps I’ll dream of success!

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    • The Hubbit can’t remember their names either, so you’re in good company! When I talk to him they are “Big Red Mama”, “The Baldy” and “Mama’s Oldest Daughter”. Boring, so although I know it’s foolish to name your dinner, I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am thinking, why is the pond unfinished?

    And if Google knows what it is talking about, the cows have African names. In which case, how lovely – bringing two worlds together.

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    • The pond is unfinished because it turned out that underneath the Loess (wind blown silt) topsoil, it has a Class 1 subsoil (coarsely granulated sand interspersed with rip-rap). The percolation rate thru the subsoil was such that after filling the pond to a depth of 5- 6 ft of water, it would be bone-dry in less than 24 hours. The ‘fix’ ??? – line the pond with Bentonite clay… but a bit spendy ‘cuz we’re talking about 3-4 tons of the clay.
      Maybe someday ? ! ? !

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    • Well, that’s another story, but I’ll give you the condensed version here. When Jim and I bought this property we knew we’d be rescuing dogs – it’s an area where they get dumped, and we’ve never been able to just drive on by. But we didn’t expect to get sucked into full-on dog rescue, and even when the sucking began we had no idea how consuming it would be, or how hard to extricate ourselves. We just blithely started a rescue, and it ate us alive. Eventually, after six years, we handed off to a new team … My health (physical and emotional) was shot, Jim had gone through knee replacement surgery AND a serious motor cycle accident, the dogs had pretty much trashed our house, we were six years older, and we were broke. Over the past few years we’ve been putting ourselves back together one piece at a time, but we’re still doing things – like putting in a front lawn – that should have been done YEARS ago … only you can’t put in a lawn when (a) you’re exhausted, (b) you have no money for seed or turf, and (c) you have up to 23 stressed out, undisciplined dogs rampaging everywhere. The pond is in our future – I hope getting closer – but it’s a lot of work and we’ve had to focus on more urgent projects.

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    • And yes – they’re South Sotho names… 🙂 I used to run a mission school, which was called Tshepo – “Hope” … and one of my grandbabies (the daughter of a student with whom I’ve maintained a relationship) is Lerato. Our farmlet has a Zulu name – Siyabonga, “We are thankful”.

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    • Full disclosure: We didn’t actually weigh him. But the Hubbit is pretty good at eyeballing weights, and Pi was a CHUNK. Still is – he’s considerably bigger, and maturing a lot faster, than Eezee, who is only 10 days younger. I’m very glad we were there when Pi was born because he was in distress – eyes bulging and tongue sticking out … He’s fine now, but I don’t think Lerato would have managed it on her own, and even pulling him out took some doing.

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      • My experience of childbirth is zero. Both personally and that of pets or farm animals. Is that unusual? I don’t know and it’s really beside the point. Which is: I have a friend who has a small cow-calf operation on her hobby farm and she shares some of the more dramatic stories. All this to say: you have my utmost respect for taking on animal husbandry.

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        • Well, thank you, Maggie! And I’m not in a position to judge whether or not it’s unusual… but watching and engaging in a birth is an amazing experience that can’t really be captured in a YouTube video. I’d encourage you to go visit your friend during her next calving season!

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  3. No. No, nope, nada — never tempted, and if my main squeeze ever falls into a septic? Well, nothing lasts forever and how wonderful to know we’ll always have that memory of that thing we did that time.

    Plus I might lower in a care package of some snacks. I’m not entirely heartless!

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  4. Pingback: Kill day | American Soustannie

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