Saturday June 24……..a typical atypical day of being a farmer.
5:45- Alarm goes off and we get up to do chores before loading the pick up truck and heading to work the 9:00-1:00 Farmer’s Market in Columbia.
1:00- Break down the tent, tables and remaining produce for the 50-minute drive back to the farm. It was an awesome morning of chatting with CSA members and meeting new customers, but working a market is tiring so we were looking forward to doing minimal chores in the afternoon. Maybe we could even find time to enjoy a glass of wine poolside this evening!
2:00- Arrive back at the farm to unload the truck before doing the afternoon chores (watering the greenhouse, harvesting, moving the guineas to their outdoor brooder, moving the cows to fresh pasture, feeding critters and performing any odd jobs that come along…….and unexpected “chores” always come along).
2:45- Walk out to the pasture to prepare the posts for moving the cows to fresh pasture while Steve heads over to the guinea coop to give them water. ”Ummmmmm Steve”, I yelled. ………”Why is there a newborn black calf wobbling around the field?!”
2:46- We both stared in amazement as we stand over a beautiful black heifer calf just delivered by a mom that we had NO IDEA was even pregnant. My God, she had just had a baby nine months ago!!!! We thought that mama, a pretty thin cow, was just finally filling out after her last birth. We looked at the baby, looked at each other, and then back at the baby. Speechless. I announced her name…..Irish…..as in “Irish twins”.
2:50- Our trance-like state didn’t last long. We heard the low, loud moo of a cow in distress. We hurried through the tall grass to find Foo, a pregnant heifer we actually knew was pregnant, on her side, obviously in labor. The telltale sign of a hoof kept peeking out as she uncomfortably alternated between laying down and slowly wandering the pasture.
3:30- We decide that Foo was stable and not in any apparent danger so we left to do the chores that I thought would already be done and I would be sitting on a lounge chair under an umbrella……hahahaha……dream on Karen…..dream on.
5:00- Chores complete and we head back out to check on the new baby and also Foo’s progress. The newborn baby is doing fine, but Foo’s labor has not progressed much since we left. We decide to head in to shower so I could start dinner before our son and daughter-in-law arrive.
6:00-7:30- We take turns walking out the pasture every 15 minutes to check on Foo. I can see the hooves, nose and mouth as Foo tries to birth her baby, but I hesitate to call in the troops to interfere with her difficult labor/delivery. We decide to eat quickly and then make a decision if Foo has not yet delivered. Did I even taste the food?......not really.
8:15- Steve and I head out to check, promising to text the kids inside if there is a baby. Foo, looking exhausted, was laying in front of a perfect red angus heifer calf, still wearing her birth sac. We let our granddaughter come out for a peek and then left to give mama and baby some privacy. We know mama still has a lot of work ahead of her.
10:00- With our company already asleep, Steve and I feel compelled to check on the mama and baby one more time before heading to bed. We grab flashlights and head out to the pasture. We become alarmed when we don’t see Foo and baby with the herd. We find her still laying where she delivered, her baby still mostly encapsulated in the birth sac. Shit. Mama cows are up within a few minutes of birth and have that baby cleaned and walking within 15 minutes. The baby was weakly baying and shivering. Mama had yet to deliver the placenta. Shit, shit, shit.
10:05- With no time to get extra help or to change clothes, I start working on the baby wearing one of my favorite sundresses. I peeled off the birth sac and began rubbing the little girl as hard as I could. I grabbed her with both arms and forced her to get up. She was weak and her legs kept collapsing underneath her. Steve was standing over Foo coaxing her to get up. He was nudging and shoving. Steve and I knew that both mama and baby would be dead by the morning if this situation didn’t change.
10:45- Foo is finally up and her baby is leaning against my legs, standing. Foo has yet to deliver the placenta, but I resist the temptation to assist. My hands, forearms and dress are covered in afterbirth. We plead with mama to come lick her baby. As she makes a move towards her baby I see the placenta ease out and land on the ground behind her. Foo approaches and smells me, then her baby. She is reluctant to get involved, but Steve keeps coaxing her.
11:00- Foo begins to engage. At first, she tentatively licks her baby, but she quickens her pace and I can feel the pressure increasing as I continue to hold the baby up against my leg. She is being a mama!!!!!! I gently let go of the baby and mama takes over.
11:30- We finally feel it safe to head in to bed, although we had yet to see the baby nurse.
11:40- I must admit that a shower never felt this good…….ever.
6:30 a.m.- After Steve telling me right before we fell asleep that there was nothing more we can do so should just let nature take it’s course and sleep in, he was up and saying he was too worried to stay in bed. Steve fully expected that he would be preparing a burial site for both mama and baby. We quickly threw on some work clothes and practically ran to the pasture. There was mama Foo, nursing her babe. She gave us a heartfelt “MOOOOOOOO” as if to announce to us, and the entire world that she had had a baby. We named that baby “Fighter”.