Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cow and Sheep Chores

Sunrise over the pasture. One of the best things about chores this week was getting up with the sun each morning and driving over to where the cows are currently pastured - a gorgeous field at the end of a dirt road overlooking the surrounding hills. In the morning and afternoon the whole pasture is lit up with brilliant light, and all week the trees have been blazing red and orange on the edges of the fields. There is nothing as satisfying as spending the first hour of the day in the pasture with the cows. The work in the morning is easy - fill up their water and give them minerals. It was brisk all week, and everything glowed: the silver splash of the water from 5-gallon buckets into their huge water tub, the sun on the brown and white herd, the lush grass, the clear sky, and the hedgerows of fall trees, like this one:It has been really rewarding getting to know some of the herd - every cow is different. PB is the sweetest cow I've ever met, always coming up to you for a cuddle or to scratch herself on your side. #4 is very skiddish. This week she had some gunk around her eyes, so Jennifer, Olivier, Sara and I went to check it out one afternoon. Jennifer spent about 15 minutes trying to get close enough to her to wipe her eye with an antibiotic gauze, but she wasn't having any of it. Since her eyes themselves weren't swollen, Jennifer wasn't too worried, and the next day her eyes were much better. All of the calves are shy, and absolutley adorable, like #14:We move our cows every afternoon, which involves herding them into their new paddock taking down the old paddock, and setting up a new one for the next day. The cows are on an intense rotational-grazing system based on temporary fencing that is easy to take up and down. Depending on the pasture and the grass, we create paddocks that they'll graze for a day and then move on to the next, usually about a third of an acre. By the time we come to move them in the afternoon, they're ready, and usually greet us with a chorus of bellowing. All it takes is taking down two fence posts and calling 'come girls!' and they're happily chomping new grass. The sound of a herd of 15 cows eating fresh grass is one of the most satisfying sounds in the world, a rhythmic wave-like symphony of soft, even, munching. Wouldn't you want to eat it too, if your grass looked like this?

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