Saturday plans thwarted

Last week, as the temperatures plummeted again, we told ourselves to look forward to Saturday when the mercury would climb. Saturday was supposed to be a lovely warm day to reward us for battling another cold stretch. Saturday was supposed to be a day to get all my chores done and bust a move toward town to cheer Finley and his team on while they played basketball. Saturday was supposed to be a day when we celebrated Stacy’s 40th birthday with a fabulous surprise party.
Saturday rolled around, and quite the opposite happened.
Ira has become the chief feeder on Saturday mornings. It gives Peter a day off, and I know it makes Ira feel good that he is trustworthy and capable of being the guy that can fill in. As I was getting layered up for chores, my phone buzzed: “Mom, you have a cow down in pen five.”
“Are you sure?” I replied. “I don’t really want a down cow today. Ask her to change her mind.”
“Mom – (exasperated sigh) – her back legs are going different directions. She’s by the gate.”
Is it better to know what a disaster you are walking into or better for it to be a surprise?
I hastened my steps to the barn, then grabbed a halter, the hobbles, a bucket for throwing sand under her and extra muscle in the form of José.
Poor Natasha, a beautiful first-calf heifer, was definitely split and uncomfortable. Her back was rubbed off, so all I can assume is that she was in heat and things got too rowdy.
After securing the hobbles on her back legs, we tied her head to her leg so she could not wiggle into a more precarious position. In that position, she was set up perfectly for a skid loader bucket transport to the straw pack pen. Ira delivered us the skid loader then had to doctor the radiator on the mixer tractor that decided to overheat on him.
We carefully rocked Natasha forward then back into the biggest bucket and headed off to the pen. She may quite possibly become meals for a neighbor. Her legs do not seem to cooperate with her about getting up as she maneuvers around on the pack. It bums me out; her mom was a favorite of mine, and she was looking to be just as big and productive.
It was milk tester Saturday, which of course I had forgotten all about until I rounded the corner heading to the barn and spied their trucks. I groaned. I had no treats for them, and this meant popping cold hoses on and off for me this morning.
After milking and sampling my hospital pen, José popped into the milkhouse distraught because the calves in the pavilion had no water and were being vocal about their thirsty throats. He had tried all the normal tricks to thaw the water and nothing was working. We filled more pails of hot water, and José left to try again. I called my dad, and he said we had to tear the panel off the waterer and pour hot water over the pipe underneath. So, my Saturday sidekick, Gerald, and I dropped our vaccination supplies and ran to stop José from his Plan B of filling a water tank for the calves and running a quarter mile of water hoses to do so.
A solid 40 minutes later, crouched on my knees on frozen (thankful for that) manure, Gerald and I heard that wondrous sound of water finally coming back out of the spout. The calves were as overjoyed as we were as they fought to gulp the water down. Gerald and I headed to move the dry cows and said farewell to the notion of making it to town to watch Finley play ball.
Stacy and the crew stopped by at the house for birthday cake festivities before she went to nap. She caught the “crud” that all three of our big boys had over the past week and was looking forward to passing the day on her couch. The surprise party was called off. You can’t enjoy a party when you feel awful on top of trying not to give it to anyone else. As the boys curled up on the couch, José popped in the house after feeding the calves in the old barn and asked if I wanted to go fishing. I was perplexed.
Turns out the first two calf pens in the barn were flooded. There was standing water in the main alley. It was a mess. He grabbed lunch then headed back out to jump in the skid loader to start the task of cleaning the pens. I put Cora down for a nap then suited up to try to figure out how this could have happened. Two hours of cleaning and close inspection later, all we can figure is that the float must have stuck in the waterer. This could explain why I had low water pressure in the house when I first came in for lunch. Uffda. We’ve never had that happen before. It must have been the luck of the day.
By day’s end, it was indeed warmer out. I was thankful I had good help around me all day to assist with the unexpected problems. And as we always say, “It could have been worse.”
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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