Comedy of Errors

written by

Drausin Wulsin

posted on

August 21, 2020


As dawn broke last Wednesday, it had not yet become clear I'd visit with Mr. Shakespeare by the end of morning.

Last week it was Dante; this week Shakespeare. On Wednesdays, I relieve Clark of his duties, in theory, so that morning I headed out to move the cows. The first matter of note was the empty water tub. Given the priority of water for livestock in summer, I headed back to the barn and pump house, checking all water tubs on the way for leaks. None were found and the pump showed full pressure, which was puzzling. I then mused that the problem had to be somewhere in the 3,000 feet of above-ground hose connecting the underground hydrant to the water tub. I began checking the couplings between sections of hose to see if they were plugged. On the third coupling, I found a wad of leaves in the reduced aperture, which was blocking flow. The pocket knife dug them out, couplings were reconnected, and water then began flowing into the 150 gallon tub. But the refill rate was slow due to such a long stretch of 3/4 inch hose. 

The cows began drinking down the refill before the tub was full and then began to knock the tub around with their heads. I was able to distract them by providing their next break of grass, which lured them from refilling water for a while. But I returned to the tub to protect it from the odd cow, while it refilled slowly. As I stood there, impressed with my patience, I glanced over my shoulder to see a cow from the herd walk by, outside of the paddock, with a number of others in tow. She was on the far side of a line of brush and pin oaks, which was interwoven with 4 strands of barbed wire. She and they were in an alleyway, contained by a woven-wire fence in the next field and the brush and barbed wire. 

But we had cut a few gates through the brush, so I left my patience with the tub, dashed through gate 1, hurdled over the woven-wire, and grabbed a reel of polywire, with which to direct the following cows back into the field. The lead cow got by me, but I was able to divert the rest of the group back into the field through gate 1, which I had opened in the dash.

In the meantime, two cows had found the slowly filling tub and were drinking it down and trying to move it about. I ran to it and pulled it under the hot wire, so it could refill in peace. Being observant, I then noticed nearly the whole herd exiting out of gate #2, which was left unintentionally open, as occasionally happens. So, I dashed to that group, and was able to close the gate there, keeping 1/3 of the herd in the paddock. In the meantime, the first group had run into the polywire, and instead of following it through gate 1 as planned, some were returning along the alleyway toward gate 2, which was now closed. So, I shooed the enclosed cows standing near gate 2 deeper into the paddock, reopened gate 2, and said a quick prayer that the cows in the alleyway would chose to bank to the right to enter gate 2 and rejoin compatriots, rather than go straight ahead into 30 acres of woods... They banked to the right, by the gods. 

I closed gate 2, and then went into the alley to direct the remaining dozen cows back toward gate 1. I met them head on, meaning they had to reverse directions, which would generally not be a problem, because there was plenty of room. But suddenly they began bellowing and turning and banging into fence posts and stepping on woven wire, as if they had unearthed a swarm of bees. I found out soon enough that is exactly what happened! The bees were suddenly upon my bare legs and arms. In the meantime, the cows did find the open gate, flowed out of the laneway and into the paddock, and I followed quickly, allowing me to out-run the bees, sort of. These weren't mean-stinging bees, but they still stung.

I returned to the slow-filling water tub, to note reluctantly that two cows remained out beneath the shade of the brush and pin oaks. So, again I re-opened gate 2, ducked into the shrubbery filled with poison ivy and barbed wire, and awkwardly drove those two through the open gate... Finally, all the cows were back in place, and calm began returning. 

But the flow of water in that small tub was going to be a problem all day. So, I decided to fetch the 300 gallon tub from yesterday's paddock. Once it was full, they wouldn't drink it down and couldn't push it around. I did so, switched it with the 150 gallon, and then sought the elusive patience to stand by as it slowly refilled. By this time, the sun was up and the cows had moved to the opposite end of the pasture to repose in shade.

While standing there, I looked out to find Phil had appeared, with a long pole and a 5 gallon bucket. He was probably curious about the rukus. He is a wonderful neighbor, who knows the land and waters. I inquired about his equipment in tow, and he said he was hunting for snapping turtles in the creek. Apparently their meat is quite a delicacy. We talked for good while, and slowly that tub filled up.

The visit to the cows that early morning was expected to take no more than 15 minutes. It ended up taking more than three hours, highlighted by a comedy of errors, in which Shakespeare would have delighted. I awoke the next morning, scratching legs and arms, gratified that cows had been appropriately taken care of, and amused at the predicaments in which we periodically find ourselves on this journey. 

Yesterday we were visited by Jill and Mary, who run Crane Dance Farm, near Lansing, Michigan. They bought a bull from us five years ago, and were in the area picking up a stock trailer, so asked if we had any beeves to sell. We haven't sold live beeves in the past, because we needed them to grow the herd, and weren't as far along the learning curve in terms of having good genetics to sell as we are now. We have sold eight head this year to fellow farmers. Jill and Mary picked up these two yearling steers. We probably won't sell any more this year, for wanting to hold the rest for customers at farmers markets. We sent Jill and Mary home with six grilled Vietnamese Sliders for lunch. 

This is curried chicken salad on Blue Oven croissants. The salad consists of pastured eggs, aioli, curry, raisins, cilantro, and celery, with a wedge of tomato on top and a leaf of lettuce beneath. One never knew egg salad could taste so good.

We are considering making it for sale, but are not sure of the logistics of making and delivering it fresh. I might be simpler if you made it in your kitchen.

We are also considering making hard-boiled eggs for sale, if there would be demand for them.  Let us know if that interests you.

We find ourselves, for the first time since Covid-19 changed the supply of meat to the outer world, arrested in our flow of inventory. This weekend, we will be out of both steaks and pork chops, but will be resupplied by the following weekend. We recommend Short-Rib Burgers as a surprisingly gratifying alternative, which we frequently employ.

In the comedy!

                            A sliver of moon winks at this lone tree

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