Fog has the wonderful feature of closing off the world. A good hour before sunrise I was walking to the barn. There was a light fog across the valley, heavy frost on the ground and trees, and the just-past-full moon competed with the dawn even as it began its exit. The fog and the light gave my world a feeling of seclusion, creating a private landscape for my own enjoyment.
My purpose at this early hour was singular: to hook the trailer to the truck and haul a steer to the butcher. It’s a task now routine, having been performed so many times these past 15 years. The butchery I have done, but it’s a job I usually leave to more capable hands. The delivery of the steer was itself uneventful, and on my return home, my enclosed, private world had vanished with the fog.
Turning to the work of the day, I counted a full slate of tasks—14 to be exact. I finished the morning, instead, having accomplished only one: the futile search for a sick calf. Over the span of several days, we had been trying to pen the calf for treatment. We have always taken husbandry of our animals seriously, often without regard to the cost or benefit to the financial life of the farm. But, with the price of replacement steers these days equivalent to a small mortgage, every calf has acquired a make-or-break status to the bottom line.
The morning’s work ended with all the steers up in the barn, except the one we wanted. Fears that he lay dead in a brush patch were pushed aside; we had a houseful of guests arriving in a couple of hours, friends we had not seen in 20 years and a dinner to be prepared.
My take-away from the morning was a frustration that bordered on anger at not completing my list and not solving the problem of getting up a sick calf. Later that evening, after our friends had settled in, we pressed-ganged all seven into a search party. In short order we found the calf, very much alive, and moved him back through three fields and into the inner corral.
We have already started our ministrations and will continue to keep him in a pen in the barn for the next week. Once he shows clear signs of recovery, he will be turned back out with the herd. Hopefully, a trouble-free 24 months lie ahead before he makes the inevitable journey, a couple of years for him to enjoy his own private landscape without interruption.
Reading this weekend: Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the spectacular rise and fall of the railroad that crossed an ocean. By Les Standiford.