Friday, March 28, 2014

Farming Calamities

Calamity #1
Tuesday morning and I've just turned off the pump, the second cow being done with milking.
I can hear whining coming from somewhere in the barn. Like a cat? What is that? A puppy? It is a puppy. That's weird. I've never heard them whine in the morning. They are in a separate but connected barn. How am I hearing this? I start to hear Eden whine a bit too. That's really weird.
I leave the cow and walk towards the back of the barn and the whining gets louder.
I decide it's worth pausing on the milking routine to investigate why this puppy is sounding so desperate.
To make my trip more worthwhile (and honestly, to distract the pigs in the pigpen I have to go through), I grab the pigs food. There's three breeder pigs, so I get about 8lbs of food and go through the first door, putting me in the "Middle Barn" with the chickens that will start laying in another month or so. I can still hear the whining and now the pigs have started snorting, anticipating my arrival (or more accurately, the arrival of their grain).
I go through to the door leading to the "Horse Barn" (no, we don't have horses or even a horse), right into the pig pen. I can hear the puppy crying and it's definitely outside. I quickly move through the pigs (or as fast as you can move through pigs who are trying really hard to help you empty the bucket of grain), aiming for the pigs food bowl. The food dumped, and pigs distracted, I go to the exterior door in the pig pen. It's tied shut, and even if it wasn't, the ice and snow dammed up against it makes it immovable. But I can hear the puppy right there! I can't make the door budge and I'm feeling slightly desperate.
I turn to the pigs internal fence and jump it (well, climb not-so-graciously over it, trying not to kick the chicken that his roosting on it) and Eden follows me at a distance. I go through the pen adjoining the pig pen -where the calves and sheep live. Their exterior door is permanently open (thank you, ice and snow), and my plan is to jump an exterior fence (now rather low - thanks ice and snow) and get to the puppy that must have squeezed through the tiny opening in the pig pen to the outside. But how it got in to the pig pen is beyond me (the pen wall is solid and even though the gate is not, the slats of the gate are close together), never mind how it got past the pigs - they could have gobbled up the poor puppy! As I round the door to the outside, I stop up short. There he is:

I scoop him out of the cold snow and bring him back inside, much to his mother's relief. And he isn't the puppy I consider the most daring! That was a long way for a little guy to walk!
If it helps - here's my quick photoshop attempt at a barn outline (the two little red x's are where I first thought the puppy was - the big one is where he actually was):

Calamity #2
Because that wasn't exciting enough ... when my dad came back from an eye appointment later that morning, I met him at the car and asked him to go and plug in the tractor. This is something Ren Man asked me to do on Tuesday mornings when I'm done with chores, in a hope that the tractor will start when he needs it Tuesday afternoons. When I went to do that this morning, I realized the two prongs that attach to the battery were hanging loose, so what's the point of plugging it in? When I pointed this out to him, he said they would never be attached ahead of time.
"Well, how do you attach them?" I asked.
"The red one goes on the red part of the battery," he said in his condescending way (it happens, it drives me crazy).
"And where is the battery? And what part of the hood do I have to lift up? Is it even called a 'hood'?" I asked.
He might have rolled his eyes at this point - and he started to walk away.
"See? You have to show me," I said to his back.
"Maybe ask your dad when he gets back?" he suggested kindly.
So that's what I was doing.
I came back in to the house shivering shivering.
The phone rings.
It's my dad.
"Are the cows supposed to be out?" he asked.
"The beef cows?" I asked, concerned that the cows might actually be out, but not sure how.
"Yeah, the calves," he confirms, "they are in the hayloft having a feast."
I quickly run through options. Last time they got out of the pasture, we penned them in the barn for three weeks so we could beef up the fencing in the pasture - the change in season (ie mountains of snow) can lead to shorted out electric fencing among other things. But now the door to the pen the beef cows would use has been blocked with the chicken plucker and a pallet. And that would be a pain to move. And these guys are going to be moving!
"Let's try to get them back to the pasture and see where the fence is down," I decide.
"Okay," my dad says, "come quick, they are following me."
"NOAH!" I call out, hanging up the phone, "watch the younger two!"
"I'm having thinking time!" he calls back from the couch. That kid!
"I will, I will!" Del calls out.
I make for the mudroom and I'm throwing on snowpants and boots.
"Mom!" Del calls, opening the door, "I said 'I will!'", she says.
"I know, I heard you," I assure her.
And booted up, I throw on a hat and grab my coat, whipping my arms in to it as I make my way through the not-garage quickly. I can hear the dogs barking outside in excitement.
Outside I can see the beef cows following my dad enthusiastically.
"He should have asked me to bring the camera," I mutter under my breath, taking large strides to catch up with the last cow, but being careful not to get too close to spook them.
The cows follow my dad past the electric line that is down on the ground. I see the two bales of hay that were neatly stacked this morning outside of their paddock, now strewn across the walkway. I see. I didn't feed them this morning because I noticed they still had plenty from last night. Apparently they didn't agree and broke through the fence to get to it - and more!
The cows follow my dad all over as he leads them away from me, giving me time to repair the fence.
I realize that in their enthusiasm to break free, they've snapped two step-in-posts, the supports for the electric line. I grab the fence, assuming it's off because I haven't hooked it ... but somewhere lower down the pasture it must be attached because I get a shock.
"Run back to the barn," my dad says, "or hold the fence and I'll go get the posts," he offers.
I vote for that plan. I'm not sure where the extra posts are!
I hold the fence up in view of the cows to keep them back in their paddock, the electric line resting on a hook on a piece of post I have, maybe 6" long.
I see my dad off in the distance go in to the milk house.
Huh. Maybe there are hooks there! We have used it for storing gardening supplies.
But then I see my dad leaving empty handed. Ren Man cleared out the milk house a while ago, thinking we could use it to store blown in feed (but realized we couldn't because we noticed leaking after a rain - wet feed=ruined feed= money wasted). I see him head for the tool room (where we have some fencing supplies and the two non-momming dogs are fed), and then he leaves that room and heads for the hayloft.
Finally he's heading back to me! While he was in and out of various rooms of the barn, one of the cows jumped the back of another one, making the front one burst forward and through the fence I'm holding. It waits for my dad on the flat, about 30 feet from me.
As my dad comes back, it follows him and I lower the fence, hoping the cow crosses into the paddock instead of the other three crossing out.
It works!
My dad hands me a post, and we each wedge one in to the snow as far as we can. I make note that we'll have to check them regularly as they aren't pushed into the ground and will lose purchase as the snow melts. I throw the rest of the hay strewn across the path over the electric line and back to the house we go. Beef cows back where they need to be.

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