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.