Saturday, August 24

This is It

It's after 7 and the sun should be up by now, thankfully the heavy fog has kept it tucked away for a bit.  My partners and I are headed to work for the day, and I am reminded of their presence by their anxious panting from the backseat.  They love going with me, running alongside through the fields or riding shotgun, they look at me with "thank you" in their eyes and I smile back.
My route is different this morning, due to tasks which I have given myself the day to complete.  It's my time to use as I like, but always wisely.  "You reap what you sew" they say, and I want to sew nothing but trust between my new employer and I.
Winding through country roads, I head to Prospero, where the steers are kept, hoping to find that my set-up has worked.  The evening before, I loaded the mineral feeders in the corral with extra kelp, a.k.a "candy" as far as bovine are concerned.  As I round the bend, and signal to turn, I let out a soft squeal of delight as I notice the steers indulging in the bait.  I pull up to the curb, the girls whine because they think they are getting out, and I respond with a firm, "stay", which puts rears where they should be.  I quietly hop out, pause to grab my Muck boots from my tool box, and exchange comfy slip-ons for heavy rubber.  The steers don't realize I have arrived, and I proceed to slip through the fence unnoticed and close the gates to the corral.  One down, I think as I get back into the truck. 
The second stop is the most important.  In the cattle business timing is everything, especially when you rely on rotational grazing.  This way of farming is new to me, however cattle are not and I pride myself in knowing them.  Making a habit of watching them has taught me more than any book could.  I can anticipate what they are going to do, and for the most part get it right.  Scars and stories will tell that I am not always 100%, but I own it.
The cattle at Sheets Hollow are my cows and calves.  My mama's and babies.  They have quite a bit of acreage on which to roam, and through extensive fencing paired with strategic planning, I am able to rotate them to fresh pasture regularly.
As I wind through the hollow, my dogs become more anxious, and so do I.  Gosh I hope this works.  I park at the gate, let the girls out who jump and bark in response, and continue on foot.  It's gorgeous out. My favorite part of every day.  The fog is lifting as I make my way through a series of gates, and I notice 6 turkey feverishly running through the field after spotting me.  The dogs are running in front of me, noses to the ground and soaking wet from the dew.  I smile as I walk and close my eyes, drawing in a deep breath until I have no room and think, this is it.
As I come to the top of the hill I see my herd.  Swimming in new grass, babies curled up in nests they have made, and content.  They found their new field, and I am just in time.  I smile, stop, and extend my hands out to my sides and look at the sky, thank you.  Thank you for giving me this.  
The mountains are blue in the distance and the sun is trying its hardest to peek through the clouds, which results in orangeish-pink rays that only make this morning more perfect.  This is it.
The cows spot me, but only long enough to pause, mouths full of grass, before moving on.  I turn to leave, then turn back to snap a picture with my phone.

I love taking pictures and sharing them, because my days don't necessarily look like everyone else s.  I holler at my dogs to follow me, and we head back to close the gates which will prevent the cows from returning to their previous field.  Had I waited another 30 minutes, they would already be heading that way and my efforts would have been for nothing but the experience.  I know my cattle, and I take pride in that.
People often ask me, "What do you do during the day?" and I generally respond with something vague like, "I farm" or "I take care of cattle".  But for me, experiences like the morning I described, are what I do.  I live and I breathe and I farm.  That's it.

Wednesday, August 14

In No Particular Order

 I have a guy working for me, I may have mentioned him a time or two.  This guy, we will call him 'Chatty Chip', tells me everything.  I mean everything.  I don't ask questions, I don't stir up conversation, that's not me!  I need him to come to work, and...get! 

Anyway, Chip tells me whatever is on his mind, whenever it's on his mind.  I believe that silence is golden, but he sees it as an invitation.  The never-ending invitation.
I know everything about Chip.  He knows nothing about me. 
Occasionally I will get an inkling to add to the already electrifying conversation, maybe a personal tidbit or two?  BUT by the time I have made the decision, Chip has plowed right over me, and I am left with my mouth open at which point I usually just say, "well, I gotta go!".  And I do. 
The problem, if you could even imagine there being one, is that he tells me things that stick with me.  Weird things.  Yucky things.  Gruesome things.  Things I need to tell someone!  So here ya go, in no particular order, "The Chronicles of Chip";

1.  Chip tore his ACL in high school, and a couple of weeks after surgery his knee was really throbbing.  He decided to take his brace off (which was apparently a no-no), and take a shower.  While in the shower he thought that bending his knee in a 'squatting' position was the best thing to do, and when he did the stitches busted open and what he described as, "off-white, blood covered infection" splattered all over the shower.  "It looked like someone blew up!!!", he enthusiastically told me as the blood drained from my body...
P.s. This jewel has been with me for TWO weeks.

2.  One time Chip was headed to the barn and had to stop to put his boots on.  He felt something 'pinch' his ankle as he pulled them on, however it stopped so he didn't think anything of it.  That evening he took his boots of and discovered a big knot on his ankle.  The next morning the "knot" had turned black and his foot was twice it's normal size.  "I thought that was pretty weird, so I went to the hospital" he said. 
That "pinch" was a Brown Recluse, which "after they dug it all out" required a skin graft from his upper thigh and fifty-two stitches.
Crocs it is!

3.  Chip had to stop going to his best friends' house recently.  He told  me that the last time he went over there, he "sat on the couch and 3 cockroaches crawled across my lap".  "Heck, you could move a picture on the wall, and under it would be filled with roaches", he elaborated as I threw up onmyfeet.

4.  During a brief stint as a groundskeeper at a high quality apartment complex, part of his duties were checking smoke detectors and changing air filters.  "Some people hated me coming into their apartment, a few older ladies would always bake cookies or brownies, and the stripper always came to the door naked...she didn't have cookies though", he stated matter-of-factly.

I really don't know how Chip has made it this far, but thanks to his willingness to tell-all, I am putting the puzzle together nicely.

Oh, don't worry you can thank me later for ALLLLL of those mental images....I no longer sleep at night.

Love and cookies!

P.p.s We got kittens!  I'll tell you about them later, promise!

Friday, August 9

The 'Switch'

We have this heifer, and she', how do I say this?  Bat-poo crazy.  Yeah, that's it.
Anyway, this heifer has won an all-expense paid trip, here I am the FDA!  Yeah, sure!
Now, don't get all sad, grumpy cat on me.  She has earned this trip fair and square. 
Back when I began managing the farm, I inquired as to why there was a random heifer hanging out in the bull field?  Hard breeder?  Freemartin?  No, my boss told me that she was "wild".  Pffffftttt, I thought.  She's never met me, I'm the Queen crazy heifer around here! Our relationship has bloomed ever since the first time she ran wildly through the barbed wire fence....for NO reason.  Nottomention she has followers.  Some of the others think she's all cool and want to be just like her.  Not gonna fly girlie.  You see, I have built corrals, carefully constructed traps, jumped like a maniac screaming my head off from behind so many inanimate objects, and for what?  To end up in a head-to-head(literally) stand-off where, the craziest strongest female always comes out the winner.
It's like standing in an alley, alone, sweaty, and deliriously waiting to play chicken with the Mack truck at the other end.
Thetrucksgoingtowin!  I mean, I've got heart all the way down to my toes, but she's got that other thing.  The 'switch'.  The "I don't care if I die, lose an eye, never reproduce OR eat another Sonic onion ring" switch.  I enjoy living...with both eyes...while having the option to reproduce...and drive to Sonic anytime I want.  Maybe I'm just selfish.
This morning I expertly derived a plan.  A GOOD plan!  I had feeders positioned, gates precariously placed, and alllllll the bulls were eagerly chomping away at the delicious grain I offered.  This is going to work, I convinced myself.  While flossy was making her way, VERY cautiously toward her impending doom, I slipped away and tiptoe-ran (you know how you do when your wearing really heavy rubber boots, and they kind of get ahead of you, so you're kinda leaning back trying not to breath for fear of a strange throat-noise coming out? No? Me either...) to the big green tractor beside the fence.  I could feel the excitement welling up inside of me, as I held my breath, as not to be exposed behind the tractor tire I was hiding behind.  (D-r-a-m-a).  I saw her slide into the corral, Now's my chance!  I SPRANG from behind the tire, climbed flawlessly through the fence, and RAN to shut the gate!  She saw me...inmybrightorangeshirt (I'msostupid)....spun around, but before she could take a step there we were...mano y mano.  She was facing me with her front feet spread, and her head almost to the ground...looking for a gap.  I, on the other hand, was wildly waving my hands and screaming HEYYYYY! HEYHEYHEYHEYHEY! HEEEEYYYYYYYY! She went left, so did I.  She went slight right, then left...I matched her pace.  (Basketball playa from JV right hea...oh yeah).  Then she stopped, I screamed cuz I was kinda scared to be honest, and that's when she saw it.  Her freedom.  There's really not much to me, you know, other than talk.  Suffice it to say that my wingspan doesn't really cover a 10-foot gap, hence the waving hellloooo! I saw her intent in her eyes.  She was going to go straight.  Here cheeken, cheeken, cheeken....  I had a thought.  It was brief, I was going to call her bluff.  But my dad paid for a lot of edumacation see, and I figure I'd rather waste it on grammatically incorrect blog posts, thanks.  So, as she dove straight ahead, her aim betwixt my legs, I jumped out of the way.
And now she's eating grass.
The End.

For the record, I'm giving her the next 2 days off to think about her actions, and then we will see if her attitude has changed come Monday.
Until then, if you want to loan me a tranquilizer gun, I can assure you I will return it in mint condition.