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23 May 2014 10:10PM
Mark Scherzer

After arguing in my last post against perfection, I find myself these past few days unhappily living on a highly imperfect farm. As Oscar Wilde observed, “The only thing worse than not getting what you want, is getting what you want.”

In fact, it is “Little Boy Blue” time here at the moment, as in:

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn
The sheep’s in the meadow
The cow’s in the corn
Where is the boy
Who looks after the sheep
He’s under a haystack
Fast asleep

We actually have more than one Little Boy Blue here. The day before yesterday, Boy Blue Mark was in his haystack (i.e. law office), Boy Blue Peter was in his haystack (i.e. the gallery in New York), leaving Boy Blue Kyle to deal with the growing chaos at the farm.

Actually, the chaos began almost a week ago with the pigs (as it always does), who, in their usual rambunctious way, have undermined their pig pen fences and challenged the gates.

A few weeks ago, we had successfully managed to confine one pregnant sow, Jane, in her pen, enabling her to produce ten healthy piglets. But her pregnant cousin Charlotte managed to vanish into the wilds of the winter piggery pasture and create her own birthing nest in the brush, where she produced five piglets. After several days of coaxing, Boy Blue Kyle managed to get her and her piglets up to the safety of the pen, but not before I was awakened in the middle of the night by her outraged snarls, as a predator carried off one of her piglets.

But to return to the day before yesterday: In the City, I received the alarm from Kyle that Alicia, one of our British White cows, seemed to have abandoned her beautiful white calf born only four days ago. He felt the calf was weak and had not really been allowed to nurse. Not only was Alicia rejecting her calf, but Alicia’s calf from the previous season, now a young heifer, was jealously head bonking the tiny calf when it approached its mother.

Kyle followed my advice to move Alicia and the new calf into the main pasture, away from her older calf, thus enabling Alicia to bond with her new calf. And the fall back position, if the bonding (and feeding) did not take place, to move the calf up to our mudroom, mix up some calf saver formula, bottle feed her, and let her overnight there.

As I pulled up to the farm late yesterday afternoon I was horrified, but somehow not surprised to see about fifteen of our lambs outside the electric fence, some of them wandering on the road. Like a good Boy Blue, I blasted my horn, and they all scurried back under the electric wire of the fence, as I drove into the driveway with increasing trepidation.

In the mud room, I found the calf placidly ensconced in a corner but already she had left evidence of her wanderings on the floor. Kyle had managed to get her to take a good amount of calf saver formula around midday, but our attempts to get her to take more were largely unsuccessful. The next morning found the mudroom awash with calf poop and pee, and a calf who was lively, but totally uncooperative about nursing.

I decided that now that she seemed stronger, she needed to go back up to the paddock and be reunited with her mother, in the hopes that they would bond, only to discover that the older calf had somehow gotten over the fence and rejoined Alicia. To top it off, the young heifer had already attracted the advances of our bull, Titan, who had his upper lip curled back in mating mode.

There followed a great muddle of cows, bull and calves. but we finally got everyone sorted out, only to find that once Alicia and the calf were alone together, Alicia seemed totally indifferent to the calf, and would not let her nurse.

As I am writing this, Kyle has just called from the barn to let me know that, good news, the calf is finally taking the bottle, but, bad news, the cows from the neighboring pasture (feeder cows on the way to market in a few weeks) have forced their way through the fence to join Alicia, the bull, and the rest of the gang. How will all this increasing farmyard imperfection turn out? Stay tuned while this Boy Blue crawls under a haystack and falls fast asleep!

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