Luella, dam of our hearts, queen of the barnyard, was called upon yesterday by the good bovine doctor. The sight of his white pickup pulled into our drive left me feeling relieved and regretful all at once, a symptom of having never once called the vet without thinking that I have both waited too long and called too soon. I have to I wonder if I'll ever be good enough at any of this to warrant some surety? Anyways, we've been battling a mild and persistent case of mastitis, the calf and I doing our best to keep our old girl Well Milked, and Luella doing her best to allow such a thing even when the flies are more than seems reasonable for one cow to bear. Regardless of good efforts and best intentions though, there must come a point when antibiotic-free is less an important medal for her to wear than, say, is the one that reads healthy. And if I'm being honest, there are only so many mornings of my life that I can, with my pleasing personality intact, watch the cats and chickens bathe themselves in her milk while my dairy fridge hums along empty and waiting. Lovely and selfless though the thought may be, I do not milk for the pleasure of her close quarters company alone.
After deciding to treat her, our vet, competent as they come and more traditional in his care than most, suggested real fly spray now that we had un-organic-ed our milk cow. Hunh, I thought to myself as the expanse between our philosophies opened wide. A man who eyes your cow's heaven-thrust horns and reminds you there's time yet to choose otherwise for her calf, he is not the man to have faith in the potency of apple cider vinegar and essential oils. I barely even do myself. I took Luella's box of get well guck and laughed a thank you in his direction, grateful for his advice and happy to take from it only what serves. Glory be to the Milk Cow in Conflict, teats flush with antibiotics and flanks awash with some backwoods fly-shoo kitchen brew.
In the time between my last correspondence and this hesitantly sunny July day, I'm happy to say that, among other great feats, I have rediscovered my milking muscles. The house sparrows in the rose bush took themselves from brown-mottled blue shells to gape-mouthed bobbling heads; under threat of barn cats and to varying degrees of success, chickadees and bluebirds built their summer houses outside our kitchen windows. What's more important- a rodent free barn or the safety of our local songbirds? We're a house divided on that front.
A fox picked off wild turkey poults right before my eyes (and flailing arms and cursing lips) the other day. The poultricide was near enough to the road that when I bounded out with one of my Intimidating Hounds, it was with a leash between us. I ran along screaming and gesticulating, only to realize the Intimidating Hound had slipped her fetters at some point and remained yards and yards behind me, lazily eating a patch of hairy vetch.
There have been loons and mama snapping turtles to join us at our favorite swimming holes. And for enquiring minds, that calf did slip-slosh earthside at the tail end of Mother's Day. Nests have been near literally stumbled upon in the middle of cow paddocks and down at the old mill where the earth is soft and crumbly; I've thusly held lectures on that which we cannot morally or legally plunder for home incubation. Unlike the neighborhood hawk, I've decided never to steal a blue jay's hatchling, lest a deafening band of jays makes me their enemy. And then there's that goddamn fleet of roosters led by the menace dictator threateningly referred to as Soup. True as true, you can stanch my bleeding heart with a merciless rooster any hour of any day, even if he's real pretty (and this one's real pretty).
Just a few days ago a streak of perfect peachy-tan flashed in the periphery of my vision seconds before the dogs came completely undone at the big kitchen window. The calf had liberated herself, and in doing so answered the most pressing question of the One Strand of Hot Fence Experiment. In days prior when we had worried aloud to one another that, That calf might be able to duck under that One Strand of Hot Fence, we found comfort in dressing her up as Mama's Girl.
She won't go too far.
She'll be bawling to get back in with Luella.
Well. Edith Applelonia, known affectionately as Ediebaby, daughter of Luella the Family Cow and Hardwood the Absentee Sperm Donor, that girl was electrified by her new circumstances. She huffed and frothed at the mouth. She did not come for snacks, she did not frantically return to her mother when the One Strand of Hot Fence was lifted high in the air, she did not care that she trampled and took a piss on my lovage. She was free, thankyouverymuch, and acutely aware of who had the upper hand. In the end, long after I also began huffing and frothing at the mouth, she just strolled back into her paddock, so damn casually as to make the whole thing seem accidental. It was at that moment that a single file of chickens began what appeared to be a choreographed jump and fly! jump and fly! jump and fly! escape routine, one right after the other, over their fence. Even then I knew it was funny.
This summer. It's felt better and brighter and wilder than the last. Are my eyes just opened wider? Or was it clear we needed it?
It's wet and raw, and raw and wet, and I haven't been outside once today where I didn't seize up like honey in a cold drink. Not to mention, that cow in the barnyard is giving me carpal tunnel just from looking at her. Somehow it escaped me that in the coming days I'll be called to resume my low perch under that sweet-breathed beast and god damn it, where did I put that behemoth of a milk pail? It's not something one could easily lose but here we are. Anyhow. I've got reason to believe we'll have a calf by morning, but you know how hesitant I am to attach myself with any certainty to Birth, Animals, and The Like. Instead I'll say, there's talk of ropy discharge and it's hellish weather out there. So, odds are.