Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Loading the Bull

Scrunched on the full-size mattress between Joe and Phil, I'm finding it more difficult to fall asleep these last few days. I don't know how early Phil woke up, but at 7:30 I heard running footsteps: "Get the older boys, and come out! The bull has escaped."

My thought was that Clover had bolted through the electric line, but I found out later that Phil, single-handedly, had managed to corral him within four gates. Satisfied that there was nothing left to be done before pickup, Phil went down to print out the butchering directions. When he returned a few minutes later, the gates were twisted and the bull was gone.

Thankfully (truly!), Clover had headed down to be near Belle, and not bolted into either forest or neighbor's land. In some ways, it was an idea setup. We had fenced Belle out of the asparagus patch, but not taken down the cattle panels on the far side of the asparagus, so Clover was trapped in a V-shaped area, with cattle panels on one side and Belle's electric line on the other. I was more than happy for him to trample around the asparagus, so long as he was contained.

Phil quickly set up a lane down the driveway, and with the boys and I running support, we soon had Clover back where he began.

Our friends up the road, the Bessettes, were bringing their bull and had graciously (truly!) agreed to take ours, too. Their bull loaded easily, and they came within about five minutes of Clover's re-containment.
Compared to loading a pig, a bull is—not easy, but manageable. The men set up a corral and squeezed Clover down until he had no way to go but up the ramp.

Or so we thought. Just as Phil said, "Amy, come stand on the far side," Clover got his head underneath and lifted.

That must have been what he did earlier.

But the Lykoshes now had practice with Clover. He, predictably, went back to his lady friend. Since Phil had already gathered the posts for the lane once, and the boys had picked them up and left them in the barn, gathering materials took little time. And so the lane was once again extended down the driveway, and we again pushed Clover back up. Once he reached the last 30', the electric line lane ended and the gates began. Michele stood on one side, and I stood on the other. We were instructed to kick near the eyes if he attempted to go under. Happily, he didn't.

The men tied the back of the gates together, then took a piece of rope and put it around his back side and pulled. Inch by inch Clover moved ahead. When he reached the ramp, he so did not want to go forward that his four hooves were so close together he looked like he might sit on his haunches like a dog. And at one point he almost slipped his legs out of rope, so Michele and I pushed on his backside. (This was more a push-ass operation than a kick-ass operation, if you'll forgive the crass expression.)

Then he was loaded, and the gate was closed. Phil and Dennis drove the two hours to the butcher without mishap. When unloading, Phil said that the two bulls were, inexplicably, put in the same pen initially. The Bessette's bull probably outweighed Clover by 50% (he's a BIG bull!), but Clover had horns and plenty of experience clashing heads with Charlemagne, so the competition was not going to end happily. They were separated out.

My part of this process was over by 9:30, though when Phil took the bull off the farm, I needed to open up more of the lower pasture for the cows. By 9:45 I was ready to milk Belle, but when I tried to pull her upslope, she wouldn't come readily. She had given only 3 cups last night (probably a bit dehydrated), and I realized I had absolutely no reserves to pull her upslope, milk out whatever bits she might give, and bring her back.

So I went and ate and cooled off. And I just milked her once today. (She gave 20 cups, so a goodly amount, but not so much that I felt bad for not milking her this morning. There's only so much of me to go around.)

Phil took the boys over to go swimming this afternoon. So, again, no building progress. We're stuck with the window center post and that's about it.
But we're on track to have our first farm beef later this month, and that is a great feeling.

As a funny aside, Joe's middle name is "Asaph," who was a psalm-writer and sort of worship leader. So it's ironic to me that, since he could first speak, he would tell me not to sing (maybe he has perfect pitch and it's painful?). He's shown no musical interest or aptitude whatsoever.

Imagine my surprise, then, that he created a guitar out of Duplos and has carried it around, with minor modifications, for the last two days. He'll have the stuffed animals "play" and make the musical sounds, either piercing for the "less talented" or more musical for the more capable.
I love that, even after eleven years of parenting, the boys still come up with surprising and creative new ideas.

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