The colors of fall have mostly come and gone. This autumn was not as vivid as last year’s. The hues were out of sync—disjointed, discordant, and fleeting—like a John Cage song, or a middle school band concert. A few stubborn trees yet cling to a fading green, but most have already begun to cast off their curled, lifeless leaves. With them, the memories of summer’s warmth scatter, fragment, and will soon decompose beneath the coming winter snows.
Meanwhile, this cow is about to pop.
We had figured (and hoped) her due date would be in late-August or early September, based on a nine-month gestation period, and figuring she was bred sometime in early December. She’d gone to visit her boyfriend around Thanksgiving, and we brought her home in late January.
It’s the antepenultimate day of October, and no calf.
But there’s do doubt that she’s pregnant. She’s nearly as wide as she is long, her udder has swelled considerably, and her… er… backside has clearly begun to prepare for the upcoming passage of a large animal.
She has also entered the waddle stage. And she’s almost too big to walk through the gate of the corral!
The weather is forecast to grow especially chilly tonight—we’ll likely see our first frost—and that makes me think we may have a calf in the morning. From what I’m told by more seasoned farmers, cows like to give birth in the worst weather possible. Murphy’s Law appears on the farm more, I think, than anywhere else.
Which brings me to the chickens. Those devils.
I don’t remember this from previous years, but the onset of fall has sent the biddies into a scratching, digging, hunting frenzy. And it’s not as though we don’t feed them — I daily sprinkle a bit of cracked corn around the areas where Gertie has recently defecated, to encourage scratching and dispersion of the good stuff. To their credit, they’re excellent scratchers and diggers, and this summer they made the richest soil/compost that I’ve ever seen, in Gertie’s corral with her manure and remaining straw/hay. I grew some of our fall garden in it.
Which brings me back to the chickens.
They had mostly ignored our garden and the various planting beds we have around the front yard, throughout the summer. But now, those succulent little fall lettuces and cilantro and brussels sprouts were just too much to resist. The evil queens took their growing chicks right on through our beds while I wasn’t looking, and scratched them all to pieces. Some of the rows were salvageable, but the brussels sprouts were doomed, the cilantro was severely crippled, and the lettuce suffered a temporary setback. I built some frames out of PVC and attached chicken wire, to set over the beds and keep the worthless birds out.
“Worthless” because they’ve stopped laying eggs. And yes, I know, I could keep them on high-protein feed year-round, and hook up a light in their hen house to trick their bodies into laying through the winter. I’d like to, but it’s too much trouble. I’d rather just complain about no eggs.
I snapped a quick photo of one of our now-empty flowerbeds that they’ve had a heyday in. In which they’ve had a heyday. It’s really incredible, and I’m not sure what they’re finding in there. But considering the ferocity with which they have been tearing our homestead to pieces this autumn, I’m sure whatever it is they’re finding is plenty tasty.