Warning: Farm Post Ahead!

esterday was a great day on the farm.

I was late moving the cows to their new field. They were due to move Sunday morning but I had not yet subdivided the next field. They knew it was time to move and when I passed through their pasture on the way to check on my baby guinea keets, they protested loudly when I wouldn’t let them follow me through the gate. I explained that they would have to wait until after church. They were not pleased.

At some point Saturday night, one of the cows had pushed over the jerry-rigged hatch I had built to keep the keets in the coop. They are really curious creatures and I am sure there was no malice; they just wanted to know what was going on inside the barn. The opened hatch allowed the keets to escape into the pasture. As I tried to gather up the three-week-old delinquents, the cows kept coming over to push and rub on me. Annoying and highly amusing at the same time. I couldn’t keep from giggling as Bonnie knocked me out of a guinea-pouncing squat right into a manure plop.

I had people stop by after church to get vegetables. I gave away tomatoes, potatoes, basil, peppers, artichokes and parsley. Particularly tomatoes. I have them literally coming out the wazoo! (And boy is it painful)

The minister’s wife wanted to see the guineas, so we walked out to the barn to the accompaniment of bovine bellows and other forms of protest. I didn’t completely shut the barn door behind us to Bonnie, the Ayrshire Heifer wanted in Washington state, decided she was going to move herself to the next field whether I like it or not. I was inside the coop part of the barn when she nosed open the door, brushed past the startled preachervvs wife, and ambled out the other end of the barn into a new pasture, swinging her tail back and forth, pleased as punch with herself.

I joined her in the field and proceeded to cut back the lower limbs of several cedar trees in the new pasture. I like to get the limbs up high enough that I can mow under them without ducking and so that the ticks that like to live in the cedars (the ones not eaten by guineas) have a farther drop if they want to dive-bomb the cattle. The bare trunks also allow more sun penetration, increasing the growth of the undersown grass. Finally, it allows the shadows to shift around during the day so that the cows don’t congregate and pug up one spot. Bonnie watched my chainsaw work curiously in between bites of bluegrass and clover.

Once the lower limbs were out of the way, I strung three electric wires to subdivide the paddock. I usually only run one or two wires (depending on the topography) but will put in all future subdivisions with three wires since I will be acquiring sheep in a couple of weeks. With the gate installed and the electric connections made, I let the boys join bonnie and much adolescent frolicking ensured in the new pasture.

My next job was to tackle the multiflora in the next paddock in the rotation. Over the last couple of years, I have made a serious dent in the stuff, but there is an overgrown fence line, thick with cedars and big multiflora that I haven’t yet conquered. I can’t believe this noxious stuff was once purposefully introduced to farms. Kind of like Kudzu, I guess.

At any rate, the conventional wisdom is you have to bulldoze the plants and then spray the hell out of the exposed roots and any regrowth with herbicide. But I don’t have heavy equipment and won’t use herbicides. So it’s just me and my trusty shovel and pick against Lucifer’s own plant spawn. I use the shovel and clippers to cut the cane at ground level and then go after the thick, woody root crown with a pick. Some of the root crowns are solid wood about as wide around as a five-gallon bucket.

Even after this treatment, the stuff keeps coming back, so part of my every-other-day routine is to shovel out any regrowth in the just vacated paddocks. I do it at the same time that I am refilling the water containers, kicking manure, and checking for other weeds left behind by the cows.

I was cutting, hacking, and dragging vines out of the cedar canopy when my neighbor stopped by at about four o’clock. He had to get his hay up before it rained. Could I help?

Sure, I said.

Farmers will drop most anything to get a crop of hay in the barn before it is spoiled by precipitation. “Make hay while the sun shines” isn’t just a cute saying to us. I figured we would do a couple hours of work. Heh. We didn’t finish until midnight.

I’m no longer at my high-school fighting weight. Throwing the forty-pound square bales onto the back of the trucks and hay wagons didn’t turn out to be too hard (though it was a bit tricky on the fifth row up). What wore me out was walking behind the truck. Bales come out of the baler at about thirty or forty foot intervals. One person will drive a truck down the center of two rows and the bucker will run back and forth behind the truck, throwing (”bucking”) the bales on from either side. This was hard work. If any readers have ever done this job, you know what I’m talking about.

But hard physical labor can actually be fun and I really had a sense of accomplishment when, fifteen minutes after we had closed the barn door on the stacked hay, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour drenched the Batesville environs.

The only downside was waking up at five this morning.

But, tired as I am today, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I pity the ants of the world:

He wakes up in the morning
Does his teeth, bite to eat and he’s rolling
Never changes a thing
The week ends, the week begins



Driving in on this highway
All these cars and upon the sidewalk
People in every direction
No words exchanged,No time to exchange when…
All the little ants are marching
Red and black antennae waving
They all do it the same
They all do it the same way

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