The Bull is Out
“The bull is out” is a line I always remember from Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm because it happens to us, like last night.
Whenever we hear people say “I want to live in the country where it’s calm and peaceful and raise animals” we laugh ourselves silly because it’s nothing like that. Living in the country and raising animals is one long string of disasters, interrupted by maddingly brief periods of opportunity to say “good Lord, what next?”
Kyle and dog and I walked out back to see the new beehive. Kyle looked over at the old hay field, saw the bull and steers and asked if they were supposed to be there. Um, no. The bull had melted a fence, found an open gate and headed straight for the unbred heifers. This is not the time of year I want heifers to find love since their nine month gestation period means we’d be calving in February. The worst weather of the year with cows who have no experience with being moms. They need all the help they can get and learning in a blizzard is far from ideal.
It should be noted at this time that Tom was at work during all of this and the building he works in gets zero, zilch, nada for phone signal. So he is unreachable. So we called Josh, but he was still a half hour out before he could get here.
In the time it took us to open a gate farther away from the bull, rattle the gate chain and have the cows come a running the bull melted another fence and was at the gate we’d just mercifully shut behind the cows. The cows, bless them had gone up the hill and behind trees so they were at least out of sight.
Next was 20 minutes of trudging up and down the field through ankle deep mud (note: not all of this is mud) to get the three escapees back to the gate to the lane so we could herd them up to the barn. We’d just get 2 headed in the right direction and the third would double back behind us and be at the gate to the cows. Finally. Finally, all three went through the gate and we couldn’t slam it behind them quick enough. Now we’re in mud halfway to our knees and if you pause between steps to keep your boot from being sucked off you get bogged down.
Getting them up the lane was just an exercise in patience since someone would have to stop to scratch on a tree, or try and push his buddy through the fence. At the head of the lane was another gate to slam shut behind them. We’re now 3 gates away from the cows but the bull keeps trying to circle back and fix that.
Got the gate to the elephant pen open and started herding the bull in that direction without his friends. We call it the elephant pen because it’s built of steel I-beams bolted to huge railroad ties. It was built by someone tired of rounding up his bull. The gate is steel slabs so heavy it snapped it’s railroad tie in half so we don’t use it, we hung a normal gate in its place. We tied a hog panel over the top of the regular gate to make it as tall as the rest of the pen and look unassailable. Not wanting to leave anything to chance we wrestled the elephant pen gate shut too. If he wants out of this pen he’ll have to either wittle a gun from a bar of soap, have someone bake him a cake with a file in it or start digging with a spoon.
We had everything in place just as the last of the daylight faded and discovered the basket of eggs Kyle had set down on the tack trunk had been attacked by the chickens. For some reason eggs left alone in the nest box are fair game in the egg basket. They’d succeeded in breaking most of them and made a mess of egg on the carpet covering the box. Yuck.
Once it’s daylight again we’ll fix fences and figure out where to put the steers and should we leave the cows where they are or find someplace else. This is how we’ll be spending our 39th wedding anniversary. Welcome to the country where everything is calm and peaceful. All the time. Candy