Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows?

And what's on the other side?

A smashed up chicken tractor, thats what.

So we were minding our own business, planting grapes, raspberries, blackberries, mulching blueberry bushes, you know, gardening. We had just had a nice visit with some neighbors who have three young children and live across the road. These neighbors have chickens also and have a nice organic garden too. We showed them the new lambs, the calves and cows, and the chickens and they went home. A very nice visit. We continued gardening for an hour.

AD then noticed some rumbling and said, "Was that thunder?", "Nah", I says, (use Chicago accent here) "Theres no thunder, its actually probably just some trucks, " I says. Then the skies darkened, and the weather threatened. We started to put spades, tools, and various garden implements away and I got on the tractor to put it away and as I looked up, I noticed...GASP!!!! THE COWS ARE OUT OF THE PASTURE!!!

We had failed to secure the gate after the neighbor visit. Its all my fault. I should have known and double checked it. Ill never make that mistake again.

So AD proceeds to run to head off the cows, I race on the tractor to get some hay bales, (the cows always chase me down when I have a full load of hay) and just then the storm hits. The cows start to race in a circle around me, bucking, kicking, snorting, fire and brimstone sorts of evil cow behavior, and the lightening is flashing, thunder, heavy rain, Frank the border collie racing, following furious commands, all to no avail. The cows are heading for the woods. They somehow stop at the edge of the woods, and I tear in behind them and turn them back. In the rain. In a thunderstorm.

Now, these cows could care less about a border collie. They pay him absolutely no attention. But he is all I have. So I use him. I send him around Come By! He heads clockwise and cuts off the Belties. AWAY TO ME! He heads right and cuts off two stray black and white mamas and one steer. He runs circles around them, in a last ditch, final assault, Bruce Willis Vehicle sort of slap dash fashion. He knows he is beaten. He is climbing Mount Vesuvius looking down behind him at a vibrant Pompeii in the distance. We manage to start the animals back to the open gate where AD beckons with a tractor. She makes a fatal mistake. She heads toward the feeder to put in the hay. The feeder is way up the hill. The cows turn back once again.

This time, there is no stopping them. They take a left and start heading down our driveway. All the way down the driveway. Probably a quarter mile down the driveway. Now, all this time, Im racing to keep up with the cattle, and everytime the see me sprint, they stampede even faster. Calmness begets calmness, but there is no time for calm. They are almost to Cross Section Road. And if they get there, the next stop is Tyrone Road. And then, perhaps 2 miles to Rt. 140. And then its either Taneytown or Westminster and probably a run in with the local sherriff's department who are itching to try out their new riot gear. It doesnt get any uglier than that scenario. HELL BENT FOR LEATHER! WISHING MY GAL WAS BY MY SIDE! MOVE EM ON!




Fortunately, I see a car. A toyota. For a fleeting moment, I think they are going to pass by. But...they stop and go into reverse. And they turn into the driveway. And the start honking. And miraculously, the stampede comes to a halt and the cattle reverse course and its full steam ahead back towards the farm.  Shirley, 80, and Cyrus, 94 have saved our cattle!!!  I wave my thanks and an OK sign and head off back down the driveway, which is a gravel road in the middle of a corn field, with Frank the border collie in hot pursuit. I walk. I aint got it in me at this point.

The cows head back and as they turn the corner down the driveway they start calling for their calves. They head back to the open gate. And they stop. To graze. The damn things are hungry.

I slap and push and prod, and FINALLY, one of the cows heads in to the pasture, and the rest follow. With me pushing them on the behind.

And thats when I notice that the brand new hoop house, chicken tractor that I built on Friday has been tossed like a kite about 50 feet and there is a pile of 50 chickens sitting in the middle of the garden. And the chicken tractor is smashed up. So we spend the next hour chasing down White Rock chickens who are in heaven foraging for worms and the peas we just planted, and picking up the Cornish Cross who are too heavy to move, and putting them back into the chicken tractor which now is in need of some serious damage repair. Its not quite totaled, but its close.

And thats when I notice that Im out of my mind with this hoop house stuff. Im going to switch gears and go to a day range model for raising these broilers. Im going to have some semi permanent range houses built and Ill pull them once a month or so with the tractor to a new paddock. I dont want to deal with anything that blows over in a tiny thunderstorm ever again.

Shirley called us to ask if our cows were ok.  I thanked her profusely and we had a great laugh. Cyrus isnt getting along too well lately, he is 94, but he used to be a hog farmer.  They knew the former owner (before the owner we bought from) and were extra glad to hear we were farming. Of course, Ill be calling them again the next time our cows get out.  They are calm under pressure, Shirley and Cyrus.

And Im getting a beer.


SteveandAlina said...

We took both kids to Ikea today and I was exhausted when I returned home. Can't even imagine how you feel, Farmer Mike.

SteveandAlina said...

PS: What is a chicken tractor? said...

This is Annette---- chicken tractor is just a structure that the broilers (chickens that you are going to slaughter for meat in 10 weeks) live in while they get to 10 weeks old. Many varieties but you just put the chickens under it and then move it everyday. So it's a relatively light structure--- hence the reason why it flipped. I have no idea how it flipped over or how it was even standing because it was literally 20 feet from where it started and it was the right direction. And all the birds survived.

Man-- thank goodness it was warm outside because we were soaked, just soaked --- coaxing the cows back into the pasture. what a day.....

SteveandAlina said...

Annette, thanks for clearing that up! I love reading your blog. I am learning so much. Your dog sounds very smart and impressive, by the way. It's a shame those cows ignored him! said...

He is a sheepdog. He doesnt see the cows. He doesnt even really know he can move them. If he were trained with them, he would bite them on the nose and get their attention. But he isnt a cattle dog, even if he comes from cattle dog lines.

Oh well.

he doesnt "see" the goats either.

He only sees sheep.

Sutton Family said...

Oh my God! You are bravest couple I know! I am so proud of you guys for even attemping this life!