Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cows on the Run

Having come in from my afternoon chores, I was about to sit down to write about the very unromantic malaise of March. Farming is occasionally painted as Renoir would - all gaiety in pastel hues - a harmonious overlapping of the farmer and nature - interdependence at its best. My recent observations don't conform to that aesthetic. The egg mobile sits above a thick swamp of soaked feed and poop that the chickens leave their tracks in after pecking after the edible bits. The winter's compost that they didn't consume lies bloated and gray on the saturated ground. The cows mull around in their own wet waste, churning the soil to its own detriment. The grass that does show through the swaths of snow is the color of mulch hay and mice. This was all about to pour out of me in greater detail when Garth swung open to the door to tell me that the little cows had broke through the gate and were on the loose. I tied my boots, grabbed a long stick and hustled outside. 

Garth had been suspicious of their intentions every time he would see them congregate at the lower gate, sniffing and licking the metal chain that keeps them in their place. It's unclear how they actually got out, but three of them were on a mad dash toward the main road. I ran after them, trying to hedge them into our neighbor's field to cries of Garth yelling "don't chase them!" As I hoped, they turned right and galloped off over the sloping hill toward the tree line. I followed them at a great distance, trying to make out exactly where they were. The cows that remained within our fence were getting a kick out of this, bucking and jumping in the air and hollering to them desperately. Within minutes I saw the escapees at the edge of our fence again, as Garth tried to open the gate for them in time. They didn't take the bait and ran up the road instead. Garth followed after them. They meandered across the road to the other field when I saw Garth running down the hill toward the gate ahead of them as they followed behind. On occasion Garth will get them all running by sprinting down the fence line to close in the chickens. Apparently this was good practice for today. But soon the  forward motion sputtered and stopped as they careened around to go up the hill again. Garth ran after them and cut in across the stream to force them to run down along the fence. I stood with the gate open, but moved away from the gate and onto the road as they approached. They stopped dead in their tracks when they saw me and made a few vain attempts to prolong the chase. Finally the youngest of them noticed the open gate and the lack of human intervention beyond it and trotted in with the others behind her. We ran them up to the top of the hill to join the 'big' cows. We had been wanting to merge the two groups for a week now, and I guess we were just waiting for them choose it themselves. It is blowing snow now, but I think they are old enough to handle it without the comforts of the barn. I am just grateful to have them all back in one place because the thought of the sun going down and missing a handful of cows makes me sick. I would take March any day in comparison with that.

- Alanna