Learning to Read
Mid-February, sparkling 50 degrees but snow still 2 feet deep. Sandy’s udder is huge and taut, her breathing fast and shallow. Though she’s not due till March, she’s been butting Beefcake away from her all morning. I put her in the barn and sure enough, 3 hours later we have a bull calf, our first, and way too cute to think of as food, yet.
The following day its 20 and snowing, blustery, then two warm (30) sunny days with below zero nights. Cow and calf go out to soak up the sun, and the steer minds his manners. I relax, and leave them out until dark, when coyotes may come calling.
I’m helping my neighbor tap his trees on the warm afternoons. On showshoes, through the hilly sugarbush and the flats along the river, our tracks overlapping with turkey, fox, coyote and fisher, we drill and tap, drill and tap, singing “bang, bang Robbie’s rubber hammer came down….”. We replace tubing chewed by squirrels, and dig out buried lines. 1000 taps in 4 days.
Today, before the blizzard, I let the cow and calf out. In light snow the calf goes between the fence wires and under the barn, cow on the wrong side. I turn the fence off, crawl under the barn and push him back though. Next he gets stuck under the ramp, and I push him out with the broom. Snow falling hard. I shovel the pathways again. Hundreds of bohemian waxwings stop high in the big cherries in the hedgerow, coming down to feed on frozen buckthorn berries. The regulars are at the feeder, along with the lone female cardinal I haven’t seen in weeks.
Driving back from Elizabethtown this morning I noticed another old barn down, so take the dogs for a ski up to the old summer house to check the snowload. Its light and dry, and dumps off the hemlocks as we pass; so far the roofs are holding. The smell of onions browning in the oven for soup hits as I enter the house, and soon I’m busy in the kitchen, next year’s onions sprouting green on the windowsill, ready for a haircut.
Weather and food, tap, tap. Pick hay from your underwear. A friend wonders if I’ve ‘gone round the bend’. Today the calf is running up and down the ramp to the barn, in the sleety rain, kicking up his heels. Has he gone round the bend?
Stay dry, little one. Find the teat.
See the calf run. Run Shortcake, run.