Confident with these assurances I was cool leaving the cows out. They've never tested any fences and had plenty of delicious grass to keep them happy and fed for quite some time. So it was a teensy bit alarming when they never showed up at the trough for breakfast, a ritual they have yet to miss. In fact, Maddie Cow is a precise alarm clock should we - on the rare occasion - ever sleep in. That cow will not miss a meal unless she's found something better. On the other side of the fence. Down the driveway. Across the street. On a neighboring ranch.
Needless to say, Easter morning was spent hunting cattle instead of eggs. We spent a good long time getting acquainted with the sheriff's department who helped with the search, and with the neighbors who contributed grain and buckets to the cause, who drove up and down our road looking for a tiny cow and her tinier calf. Losing livestock is a foolproof method for meeting the neighborhood. In the end, our tiny cattle were found mosying casually from the wooded ranch across the way. They were herded into another property, safely enclosed behind a shut gate and I was called on to come fetch them with lead ropes and grain. It was a little nostalgic, actually, to be strolling down our country road, two lead ropes draped over my shoulder, a bucket full of grain - waving at neighbors - stopping to chat with the sherriff deputies to explain that, no sir, I don't need help - the cows are found. Reminiscent of previous, cunning escapes from the original three. Such a stupendously different way to spend a Sunday morning compared to years past.
On my long walk from the barn to collect the cows, I thought a lot about the vast differences. I imagined the pre-farm Jenna lounging in a robe on the couch on a Sunday morning. Hell, it was 9am - I probably would have still been in bed. Such an existence sounded luxurious and relaxing, I thought this as I casually stepped over road kill, as I eyed the brush alongside the road for rattlers. Then a truck drove past, the man behind the wheel tipped his cowboy hat, not bothering for a second look at the woman in rubber boots, wrapped in lead lines, carrying grain. Just another Sunday morning out here. Through a stand of trees and behind fencing I saw my two cows, kicking and mooing: cow joy. I sighed heavily, walked through the gate, shook the bucket. They came home safely. But they're not allowed in the front pasture again until we figure out how exactly they tripped the electronic gate.
One week later, I stood in the back of the truck, chucking a load of mulch onto the garden. Hope springs eternal when it comes to me and gardening. Actually buying and applying mulch represents a monumental, notable effort on my part. I followed this event by lining the new flower bed in front of the house with a row of pretty rocks picked up from around the property - pulled from a pile I collected over the course of 5 years tossing them into the tractor loader as Jeremy drove the thing around behind me. Compared to Easter, this Sunday felt incredibly conventional. Gardening! Flower beds! Mowing the lawn! It could have been any weekend, circa 2007 - just on a grander scale. It beats the heck out of a cow search and rescue party - even though I find that preferable to lounging in my bathrobe at 10am.
Spring is a busy season in any backyard, but especially on a farm. The animals seem to wake up overnight along with the vegetation, and the new variety of tempting treats can cause digestive upsets in the sometimes hardy/sometimes delicate goats. The snakes I have forgotten since October are lurking again. I nearly stepped on a coiled rattler last week who was sunning itself on the driveway and was startled to be awoken by the vibrations of goat hooves and a curious, sniffing puppy. Which reminds me - have I mentioned the puppy? Hugo hardly fills the void or heartbreak of losing Lu, but he's a new little life bouncing and jumping around the place - and that's something I can't live without.
A big order of chicks arrive at the beginning of May. A new little goat comes home this weekend when the bucklings go to their new families. When friends come for a visit and we hang out into the wee hours, it's hard to explain how accutely a late night will impact the following day which will likely be full to bursting with dirt and manure, water buckets, feed hauling and constantly caring, caring, caring for something. Even on a small scale, I understand that farming is a little like parenting a place. No more sleeping in or carefree late nights. And, not that I miss them, but no more suburban Sundays.