“Welcome to farming” my neighbor’s wife yelled, as she left through our barn door.
It happened yesterday afternoon, when I got a text from a different neighbor that said “Hey, just drove by your place and saw one of your cows down. You might want to check on her.” I looked out the window and saw all four of the girls lying in the pasture. They are sleeping much more these days, as we are less than a month away from everyone calving. Patsy’s head was on the ground. I almost messaged my neighbor back to say “Oh, that’s O.K., that’s just how they look when they pass out.” But for some reason I decided to go outside, put my boots on and walk down to the pasture.
Every once in a while Anthony and I will call out to each other and say “Loretta’s down” or”Junie’s back up.” And we do that mostly because it’s pretty freaky to see a cow laying all the way down with their head flat on the grass. Quite frankly, they look like they’re dead.
I saw Patsy laying down when I was on the way and I yelled out “Patsy – GET UP.” And then I heard her moaning and saw all four of her hooves in the air. I started running and got to her – I saw she had crapped all over the place, she was moaning and her eyes were bulging out. She had basically turtled herself, but because her belly is so round and full of a calf, she couldn’t right herself. I started trying to push her when she was rolling around and that was absolutely ridiculous. She’s at least 1400 pounds. I’m not sure how I thought I could move her, but I had so much adrenaline running through me, I wasn’t thinking I wouldn’t be able to move her. I called Anthony from my cell and told him to meet me in the pasture RIGHT NOW.
He got to the pasture and I called my neighbor Kevin and told him what was going on, I wasn’t sure what to do. He was too far away, but told us to try and get her feet under her by bending her legs at the knees. Anthony started doing it and the other cows finally noticed something was going on. At that same moment, yet ANOTHER neighbor and his wife showed up out of nowhere. My neighbor’s wife yelled to me “Do you have a halter – go and get it!” I started running up to the barn to get it when I heard them yelling “She’s up!” I stopped and turned around and saw Patsy standing up.
Then even more fun began. Junie started kicking her legs in the air and running around. That set everyone else off. Patsy was walking quickly ( I think she was still in a daze after her episode) Loretta was running and Dolly started chasing me. I started running away and she kept chasing me. I was half laughing, half running and looking over my shoulder, expecting her to stop. Then she started chasing my neighbor and his wife. When he stopped to try to calm her down (he and his wife show cattle and own LOTS of cattle and have years and years of experience with cows), I yelled “She’s mean, WATCH OUT!” Then he and his wife started running and hopped up on a gate to get out of Dolly’s way.
I’m pretty sure I was just swearing a lot at this point, and my neighbor’s wife (I keep calling her that because I don’t remember her name) yelled out “Welcome to farming!”
That really struck a nerve with me. Welcome to farming? We’ve been living on this farm for 4 years. We’ve had calves born, we’ve raised bees and extracted our own honey and have successfully grown and sold cut flowers for the past two years, amongst other things. But she IS RIGHT. Sometimes – lots of times – we don’t have a clue as to what we are doing. We rely on our neighbors and friends to help us with so much. And we are soft when it comes to our animals.
We are just poseurs, “hobby farmers”, amateurs and ridiculously green at this farming thing and yesterday was a tiny reminder of that. This is the reason why, when people ask the size of our property, I say “Oh, just 5 acres”. Because we AREN’T real farmers. We don’t own hundreds of acres, we only have 2 cows and 2 heifers. We don’t grow crops, don’t own tractors and don’t even have a damn rooster crowing at 4 in the morning. But we are in love with this farm life and we are determined to learn. To try and figure out how to do what we are doing, at whatever scale that may be.
The greatest reminder in all of this? How unbelievably generous and caring our neighbors are. If not for them, who knows how long Patsy would have laid in the field. I’m still so worried about these girls – and I will admit to waking up at 2 a.m. this morning and walking out to the pasture to make sure everyone was still alive. AND looking outside every 20 minutes from 5 a.m. on. AND contemplating not leaving the house today for fear of coming back and finding one of them stuck on their sides again, or something even worse. But I’m trying to fake being a farmer and letting go, figuring what will be, will be. And if I’m here and I can intervene, then so be it. If I can’t, then that’s just what is going to happen.
Welcome to (our version of) farming.