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Why Farming is a Labor of Love...

…and why sometimes you just shouldn’t get out of bed.

George the Geriatric Emu

I started out today knowing it was going to be a tight one. I had 2 meetings scheduled back-to-back first thing, no Garett to help (working other jobs) which meant I would be milking and doing the extra feedings, no Owen (online school) and a busy weekend to catch up from. This was a day that needed to go according to plan.

I started off completely focused with utter confidence that I was going to own the day. You have to start out like that on days like today or you’ll just crawl back into bed.

Both meetings stayed within their allotted times and I was successfully able to get some packing done during my second Zoom call (I love how efficient video meetings allow you to be!). After meeting number two I headed out to feed and milk, already planning out my afternoon for peak efficiency.

I should probably stop here and describe our current naughty cow situation. We have a woven wire paddock behind our large pole barn. We refer to it as “jail”. This is where new animals get quarantined and where the escapees get housed while we fix fences. Its only permanent inhabitant is George the geriatric emu, because he easily jumps out of the electric fence surrounding the larger pastures. He is currently paddock mates with our 4 new sheep from Reverence Farms who are still in quarantine for another 2 weeks, Imogen, Izzy and Beatrice (3 of our Jerseys).

Izzy and Beatrice are in jail for repeatedly stepping over the electric fence, walking through the woods and eating the neighbor’s fields (our neighbor isn’t OK with this). They will stay in jail until we get our permanent fence up along the west side of our property (which will hopefully be within the month)….they deserve to be in jail they are naughty cows!

Imogen is in jail because she thinks Holly’s baby, Hazel, is really her calf and that Holly stole her. Seriously…..she won’t let Holly near Hazel. If Imogen was human, she would probably be in therapy, or maybe an institution. Since cow therapists aren’t easy to find she has to be separated from Hazel until she delivers her own calf (hopefully within the next few weeks) then she will receive a full pardon and be released. Hopefully, she won’t decide she needs to raise twins, maybe we should put her on parole.

Feeding is always a challenge with 3 different species to work with. The cows want to eat George’s and the sheep’s food, the sheep want to eat George’s food and poor George just wants to be left in peace to finish his meal. As is usual, I locked George in a small section using corral panels so he can eat, locked the cows in a larger section so they won’t eat, served the new ewe mothers in the open area so they could eat with their lambs and headed across the pasture to change to gosling’s water and fill up their feeders.

In the 3 minutes I was gone, the cows had broken George free and had him cornered. That stinker Izzy had every intention of whacking our old man with her head and was just ready to swing as I ran into the barn yelling for her to stop. As I opened up the smaller people door I had a second to regret the decision as I felt George’s feathers on my arm as he sprinted past me through the open gate. After not so silently cursing my stupidity, I ran after him hoping to catch him before he hurt himself.

Poor old George was seriously freaked out and did what all freaked out prey animals do, he ran. He was full speed when he got caught up in the fence, legs scrambling undignified in the air as he face planted into the main pasture and a cow pie. He was up and off in an instant without a peak over his wing, luckily unharmed. George is tough old bird.

This had not been part of my well-planned day. I should’ve crawled back into bed.

After about 5 minutes of trying to slowly walk him back to his area the cows caught sight of us and ran over to see what was up. You could feel the ground shake.

I started yelling for Owen (who was inside attending class.....we're still COVID online learning) to help (I wonder if he told his class why he had to leave….I bet “I had to chase our emu” isn’t an excuse his teacher gets very often). He came out just as George was headed for the front pasture and the road.

The cows thought the whole thing was a grand game even letting out the guttural moo I always associate with a cow’s version of “GET HIM”. Owen saved the day by shutting the gate to the front pasture just in time and chasing the cows away.

Emu aren’t known for their intelligence but they are known for their speed…..that is, they are known for their speed in the prime of their lives not when they are coming up on 3 decades around the sun. George was wiped and ready to lie down no matter the consequences. It took everything Owen and I had to keep our old man moving forward and not dropping to the ground, all the while trying to keep the cows at bay.

Just as we were getting George closer to the gate and his pasture Scott showed up….yay Scott! I love that man! At just about the same time, we realized I had left the people gate open and saw, not surprisingly, the 3 jersey inmates (along with a ewe) happy grazing in our back yard. Today was looking worse and worse.

Finally, we got George back home, got the cows and ewe back in, sent Owen back to class and Scott asked how my day was going! He thinks he’s funny……….

Just as I gave him a scathing look in response to his question, I heard the distinct noise of hooves crunching on gravel. I had forgotten all about the open people gate AGAIN, but Imogen, Beatrice and Izzy hadn’t. 20 mins later all were back where they belonged, Scott went back to work and Owen went back to his 2nd missed class of the day. I was left seriously contemplating giving up on the day, jumping into bed and pulling the covers over my head. Instead, I rallied, went out to finish my original goal of feeding and milking then sat down to catch up with emails.

This, my dear readers, is why my store isn’t open yet, why I still have sausages than need to be wrapped, I have no plans for dinner and my foot hurts from where Imogen stepped on it.

Sometimes a desk job looks very appealing.


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