What a day we had yesterday! It started out peacefully enough. I got up a little after 6:30 (Gayle had the day off, as the day after Christmas is also a national holiday), and had my quiet time. Seth showed up in the living room at 7:15, so he went out with me to milk. Our first hint of trouble was when I saw that the gate to where the cows were was–OPEN! Oops. Last night I moved their fence, then came to the house a different way, and forgot to latch the gate shut. They obviously shoved it open and went off exploring. They were nowhere in sight; they had all night to wander whereever they wanted to go. We quickly checked, and no, they were not near the calves. Uh-oh, now what? I got my keys, told Gayle what was going on, and we got in the van. Which way to go? No tracks anywhere to be seen. I had a hunch that they might go north; we’ve pastured them in a neighbor’s paddock in that direction and they know the cow there. We went that way, checking for tracks in the driveways we passed. No clues till we got beside the paddock they wintered in. Finally, we found tracks in the dust on the road, going the way we were going. Thank God, we were on the right track! We went on; at the end of our road is a paved road and I knew we wouldn’t be seeing tracks there! Well, Lord, which way do we go now? Right towards Cheviot, left on Munro Road towards the railroad track, left and then right to Sinclair Road, another gravel road, or right and then left onto Factory Road? I decided to check out Sinclair, turned that way–and we saw them! They had found a herd of beef cattle and were visiting with them over the fence! Thank you, God! We drove around them, and Seth got them moving–but they went the wrong way on Munro Road! He stayed at the end of Sinclair while I went around them and got them going the right way again. They fairly willingly turned onto Homeview Road and headed for home, but while we were following them home, I saw something I was not happy about. We were thinking that both cows were pregnant, but on the way home Chessie was very definitely showing signs of being in heat. We thought she was six weeks pregnant, but by the time we were home it was pretty obvious that she was not.
After we got the cows home and Chessie milked, I started making phone calls. First I called the man who AI’d the cows, and as I thought, he no longer had the gear to do it; mating season is over here. So, I called the other man in Cheviot who does it; he’ll have the gear again in 3-4 days–otherwise no one is closer than Culverden. Neither one had any suggestions of a bull to use. We called a number of other people, and the boys and I went to the neighbors who had the Belted Galloway cows and bull, but she sold the bull. We did get to meet her husband, and that was quite interesting. He is a deep-sea fisherman, working near Heard Island, halfway between Australia and Africa and way south. He goes out for six months at a time, catching Patagonian Toothfish–in South America they are called Black Cod. The ship takes all supplies needed for six months, and freezes the catch onboard; they are not resupplied the whole time. Next time he goes out he’s going with a different company, on a ship that only carries enough fuel for three months, so that’s how long he’ll be out then. These islands are volcanic, but totally covered with ice except for a little spit that has a tiny bit of vegetation. The only time they were inhabited was about a hundred years ago when some sealers lived in holes in the ground for five years, catching elephant seals and putting the blubber in barrels. Very interesting–I was glad the boys got to learn about it. They couldn’t help us with a bull, but gave us a phone number of someone else to try.
I made more calls, and finally about 1:00 the man whose number the neighbor gave us called back and said he did have a bull we could use, a Belted Galloway, out at Manuka Bay. Manuka is two bays south of Gore Bay, a few miles. It’s probably 10 or 15 miles from here. Too far to walk the cow! We needed to find a horse float, now. Well, the neighbor who lets us use her paddocks has a horse float, right? Gayle was in Cheviot, so I called on his cell phone and asked him to stop by and talk to them, since their number is not in the phone book. Just before he got home, a friend and her daughter stopped by for milk, and I asked if they would happen to have a horse float–no. Gayle got home with the report that the neighbors sold theirs, but had a truck–but were using it today. Our friend called about that time to say that they had a trailer that might possibly work. Gayle talked to her about it, and she talked to her husband. She called back to say that their trailer would not work, but she had talked to someone else and they had a horse float we could use! Finally, everything was lined up: bull located, and horse float organized.
Gayle picked up the horse float after finishing the project he was working on. Finally, at 4:30 we were ready to go. We had decided to take both vehicles so we could all take the cow to the bull, thinking that we could spend some time in the water while we were there. We found the paddock the bull was supposed to be in with no trouble, but no bull in sight! We followed Chessie up the hill, and gates opened into two paddocks, one sort of open; the other thick bush. A couple of boys went into the bush to search for the bull, and Gayle and some other children went up the other way. I stayed near Chessie and followed her as she wandered up the hill, grazing. It took an hour and a half of searching through a maze of paddocks and cow trails over hills, through thistles and springs and deep bush, to locate the bull! In the paddock Chessie spent most of her time in, there were tall hummocks everywhere, and they were quite soft. We figured out that it was many year’s accumulation of dead grass–each year the grass dies and falls down, and then more grass grows up through–as well as thistles! There are thistles everywhere in that paddock, too–and springs of water flowing across and down the hill. The view from that hill was absolutely gorgeous; quite a view of the ocean, and we could even hear the waves breaking. Lovely place to spend a summer afternoon! Finally they got him down to the first paddock, which was wide open, however, and we directed Chessie down there as well, then all sat back and watched to see what would happen. It took about half an hour, but the job got done. Then, we got to separate Chessie and her new boyfriend to take her home! Even a Belted Galloway bull is massive, and that was a bit nerve-wracking. He quickly realized we were trying to get her to the gate, and kept himself between her and the gate! It took 10 minutes or so, but we finally got them separated enough to get her through the gate and lock him in. Sure hope this works! We’re praying for a Galloway/Jersey calf about the first of October. Quite the adventure–but as I told Esther, our life here has seemed like a long series of adventures.
There were several definite blessings yesterday. #1: This is THE week I really wanted Chessie bred, as if she takes from this time, which we’re praying for, she’ll go dry the week Chrissie calves and we won’t be without milk. #2: Gayle was home yesterday; he rarely has a day off, and I could not have done the job myself. #3: The calf should be a good dual-purpose calf, good for meat if a bull and milk if a heifer. Wonder what a black-and-white Belted Galloway/brown Jersey cross calf will look like?