success and failure

I completely underestimated the stress of moving. The stress of moving is heightened when 31 weeks pregnant (holy lord I move more slowly now) with a cow in milk, calfs being born, a garden to put in NOW, 2 new baby goats and 1 goat-in-milk on the way and pigs and chickens and sheep and dogs and cats that cry their everyday demands.

We still have not closed on the property. (ARGHHHHHH!) But progress in that direction is promising and imminent and the owner has been very kind as to let us move animals and garden over there. So thus far our "move" has been a series of successes and failures punctuated by dreamless deep sleeps and meals brought to us by our neighbors.

Thursday afternoon Winnie (our milk cow) calved. We were there to see it and her last several pushes. It was insanely inspirational.  Success!

With dairy cows you need to separate them from their calves almost immediately (but of course giving them a good dose of colostrum) to reduce the chance of bond and to ensure you still have a milk cow that works for you. It is awful and torturous to do so and I offer no excuse except that we really like to drink milk. If you drink milk I can 99.999999% guarantee this happens to mama cows who make your milk. Failure.

Normally this means we would bottle feed the calf kept in a stall separate from his mama and the rest of the herd BUT we were able to graft him onto Bella who had calved just the day before. Now she was feeding two calves! Annabelle and a new Ted. Success!

Friday we built fence at the new farm and tried to set up the new water pump for cows we had purchased. This water pump, ostensibly, is actuated by the cow's nose and as the cow pushes in for water it pumps via a hose water from the stream up to the pasture. (If you are at all interested in what I'm talking about you can see it in very grainy film action here.) But we couldn't get it to work leaving us with the option of bucketing water from the stream to the pasture or running a half mile of hose from house. Failure.

We did get a nice tight, hot (powered by solar) fence up and ready for cows. Success!

Saturday we borrowed a farmer's large trailer and made to move our two yearling steers and one bull to the new farm. One steer and the bull hopped right on the trailer thanks to our crudely made corral  Success!

We locked those two in and spent the next 2 hours chasing the remaining, terrified, and half feral steer around 6 acres of pasture attempting to persuade him into the trailer. Failure.

He was so frightened of the trailer and so determined to stay he broke through the hot fence at least 17 times. I'm not exaggerating. Failure.

We left for the new farm without him and released the 1 steer and 1 bull into their new pen. First animals at the farm! Success!

It started to pour rain and I walked the fence and made it tighter and hotter as Nick fixed the water pump! Success!

We came home to the old farm and decided to give the remaining steer another try. 3 hours of chasing and running and attempting to manipulate and outsmart left us exhausted, and the steer more determined than ever. We gave up and discussed the benefits of shooting him dead the next day and eating beef all summer. Failure.

Sunday morning we wake up with a plan. Nick goes to the new farm to check on the cows and I do morning chores and meet him on the road south to head to Luke and Louisa's to buy a pair of doelings. Not 15 minutes after he leaves he calls me, breathless, with the news that the cows we brought to the new farm are gone. Disappeared. No trace. Failure.

A bull and an unsocialized --for all purposes feral-- steer are walking or worse, running, somewhere in the woods and pastures around the farm we don't actually own yet. Perhaps terrorizing neighbors we haven't actually met yet.  Failure.

I race to the new farm and we spend the next 2 hours following hoofprints through the mud and communicating via walkie talkie of potential trail leads and cow sightings. I'm wearing a skirt because it was a beautiful day and we were intending to visit friends for lunch. Not the appropriate choice for chasing cows through forest. My legs were literally bleeding and throbbing from the berry bushes afterwards. Failure.

Nick found the season's first morel in the forest! Success.

We find the rogue cows, lose them. Find them. Lose them. Find them. Lose them once more. Find them and walk them gently back to the new pen. Success?!

Nick stays behind to work on fencing. I continue to Big Picture Farm without Nick and 2 hours late for lunch.  Compromise.

I have a beautiful lunch with Luke and Louisa and return north around 5pm with two of the cutest little kid goats sleeping in the back of the Subaru. Success!

We meet at home to find Bella has broken out of her stall and abandoned Winnie's calf. He is near starving. Failure.

But! The lone steer who evaded the trailer on Saturday is sleeping in said stall making him perfect for capture. We close the stall door, swing the trailer around and give him no option but to walk on. Success!

Nick brings final steer to new farm uniting the three yearlings. Now we have 3 of 11 cows at the new farm! Success.

I milk Winnie. 3.5 gallons. Success!

We are an hour late to dinner with friends. Failure.

Around 11pm we return to the barn to check on Ted. He's sleeping outside the fence as coyote bait and Bella is totally uninterested. Failure.

We lock Bella and babies into a stall and bottle feed Ted. This morning he looks even hungrier and we bottle feed him again. Bella has given up on her charge, and now we have to bottle feed a calf. Failure.

We get a phone call at 6:30 am from the tenants living at the new farm to say our cows have done another runner. They are gone. The fence is down.  Failure.

Nick races to the farm I race to milking. Racing is dangerous and makes your heart pound and your shoulders tense and your mind dark. Failure.

He calls to say the cows were just hiding from view behind the apple trees and it looks like a deer broke through the fence. We won't spend the morning chasing cows. Success!?!

Nick and I will spend the rest of the day building a robust perimeter fence at the new farm. I'm headed to give Ted another feeding as we are now his only source for food. It is May 13th and it is snowing. Failure.

We are exhausted. It goes back and forth like this all weekend and I imagine will continue like this all week until we have moved every cloven hoof across town. Moving animals piecemeal sounded like a great idea initially but is just totally consuming. Why isn't there a PODS or U-Haul service for farm moving?

Also, this is a disgusting FAILURE that isn't mine to own. A petition to allow aspartame in milk and milk products (yogurt, cream, half and half, etc...) without being required to disclose the addition of the sweetener on the milk carton. They argue that milk will taste better to consumers if it is sweeter but...

"the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can “more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

Good lord the regulation on our food system and the system as a whole in this country are so preverse. So much so that I am willing to put up with the challenges our animals throw at us on weekends like the above if only so I can drink milk free of rBGH and aspartame and eat beef free of corn and veggies free of pesticides.

(Thank you Patti for sending this article along!)


  1. Oh you poor dears! It definitely sounds like one hell of a weekend and I can only hope that this new week will find it at least a little easier on you two. Good thoughts being sent your way!

  2. oh gosh! (i have no other words for this right now...) thinking of you and hoping you're getting a little bit of rest in the quiet moments.

  3. Oh my goodness! I can not even imagine you doing at 31 weeks pregnant. We need to get you one of those 2 wheel stand up scooter things - what are they called? The name escapes me.

    Bless your heart. I hope at some point a good hot bath is on the docket for you.

    Wishing I was there to help in some way. Missing the sound of your voice. I left a message at the house yesterday but had no idea what you all were dealing with.

    Love you!

    SEGWAY! It's called a SEGWAY! (I had to ask Brent)

  4. I'm sure that if you hadn't been chasing cows all weekend, you would have had nothing to do. :)

  5. Oy, thanks for sharing that article. I've commented on it, but do you know if there is anything else we can do to ensure that we don't lose yet another scrap of our right to be informed consumers?

    Either way, congrats on the victories and the biggest victory of all, which is to recognize and appreciate them along with the failures. That's the hardest working baby I ever heard of.

  6. Wow - this is hilarious and insane and you are a hero. Way to go. I call the whole thing a success because you are still sane and writing amazing stories. My thoughts will be with you this week as you continue to move your animals. Thanks for keeping us posted!

  7. Oh, I also wanted to say, your little baby is going to be so impressed with all the adventures he got to go on while he was this close to you :) you'll have so many good stories to tell him!

  8. Ah, you've had some "fiasco farming." That's pretty much the only kind we know how to do here ;) It's going to all be worth it, though, once you get settled on your very own land!! Take care, you three.

  9. Hi there,
    I stumbled upon your blog a week ago and have since...read it all. I'm hooked!
    I went to Mount Holyoke, spent my teenage years in the Lower Haight, and moved to Southern Vermont last summer. Your journey rings a bell. Your story and your voice remind me of me, thus providing me with an honest image of what it would look like if I finally got around to spending time working on a farm.
    Thank you, thank you for finding time to share.
    P.S. Y'all should definitely consider becoming a WWOOFing farm!

  10. I am exhausted just reading your post. And aspartame in milk???? I had no idea - thanks for sharing. Very disturbing......

  11. I'm totally exhausted just reading this, thanks for reminding me why we farm again at the end of the post.

    I hope you are getting some time to put those feet up and relax, your baby will think he's inside a whirlwind with all this activity.

    At least you know now that your new neighbours are keepng an eye on your stock, and you can't beat farming neighbours who look out for you and yours.

  12. Hope you're feet are up and you're relaxing after all this! It must have been one tiring day. I hope the rest of the move is more casual.

  13. Oh my god I just read this and was up then down then up, up, then down! Get some rest! What a great story (stories) you have to tell!


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