Thursday, February 08, 2007

February Evening Chores

Mine are almost the last chores. It is dark and with the moon waning half full, it hasn’t risen when I head outside. I have two coats, boots, gloves, the omnipresent hat, a milking bucket and a grain bucket. I stop by and put four scoops of beef mix in the one.

She’s standing by the fence, near the gate. The stars shine and twinkle, the planes stand out. The gate is held shut with a bunge cord that I pop loose. She has walked up to the gate now, almost but not quite in my way. I rub her shoulder and she moves on, slowly, to the shed. Her bell rings with her movements. I set the milk bucket down, make sure the stool isn’t covered with snow (and if it is, I brush it off -- nothing colder than a wet frozen butt), pick up her fortex bucket and put the rocks in it, then half the grain. She sticks her nose in as I take off my gloves and lay them, palms down, on the stool. Insulation. Then I take the rope and hook it to her halter. The snap is broken but sorta kinda works without actually snapping. Works good enough anyway.

I arrange the stool and sit down on the flashlight in one motion, noting how hard the ground is, how I will place the bucket. I brush her teats off and squirt the first few squirts from each on the ground to clear any bacteria that might be hiding near the opening of the ducts. Then I put the bucket under her and go to town squirting. How fast her milk comes down depends on many things -- how full she is, how relaxed she is, if she is mad at me for something or not. Usually it is after 100 squirts and before 200. I work the front teats first, then the back, then the front again, then the back again.

Usually about here she needs her seconds of grain. With her seconds she moves over, always does. I move over and milk alternating pairs of teats until there is no more. Then I pat some roast part of her, stand up, put my teat warmed hands into my sat on gloves, release her halter from the snap, pat her head, tell her I love her, pick up the buckets, look for the dog and head back to the house. She mostly ignores me as she finishes up her grain.

At the house I say, “If you will drain the milk, I’ll get the other animals.” The horse and donkey are turned out and then put back in our field at night. It makes me feel better. They could get out of the other one, given enough time and a full belly. One afternoon the donkey got a full belly and did get out, discovering the pig and bellowing heartily that he did not approve of this pig thing. I pick up the pig bucket that has somewhere around a gallon or so of liquid plus any scraps from the day, and an empty bucket and head back out. It is so quiet in the cold. I get a couple scoops of corn for the equines, a couple scoops of pig feed for the as yet unsalted pig. If it is really cold, he’ll get a scoop of corn too.

The dog, knowing the routine, is off barking the pig. The pig, knowing the routine, is oinking and squealing. I pour a little in the trough so that the pig positions himself and I can figure out how to get the rest in there without spilling it all. I pat the pig and head on down the hill.

At the wide gate I stop. The moon has risen but I can’t see any sign of anything, just grass rising on the hill to the woods. No movement. No nothing. I whistle the distinctive horse whistle then call the horse’s name in a certain way. Then silence once more. Only after a few seconds there is a rustle of grass. Then the sound of mass softly hitting the earth. Usually after than I can detect his movement, see his light mane and white blaze moving through the darkness, catching the moonlight. The donkey is invisible but I can hear him. I go in their field and put their corn down, look them over always watching for any lameness or sign of sickness, and go shut the wide gate.

I cover the germinating plants in the greenhouse and walk back up the hill to huddle in the warmth of the stoves. It is a movie night, the popcorn is popped, and they are waiting for me.


El said...

There is such beauty in your routine.

the Contrary Goddess said...

As Deepak said, if a miracle happened to you, would you notice? Something like that anyway.