Saturday, September 8, 2012

Leave them alone and they will come home.......

....wagging their tails behind them.  Oh, wait, that song is about sheep.  How's that saying about cows go?  Isn't it something about something happening, "when the cows come home?"  and isn't the meaning something along the lines of, "once in a blue moon?"  Yeah, I think it is.  There is a reason those old sayings developed.

So, we spend an evening earlier this week getting the wandering sheep contained.  That night, we saw the cows in the lower bottom.  I took note at the time because they've been hanging out in the upper bottom, so it was a bit unusual, but I wasn't too worried.  The next day, Steve worked on the fence, and I asked him he'd seen the cows.  He said yes, last night.  I clarified to mean that day, and he responded in the negative, so I suggested that we should probably go find them.  That was a twilight.  We went out in the pickup, and headed up onto the hill so get a vantage point of the bottoms.  We drove upstream and down.  We drove up through the CRP to take a peak at the alfalfa field they love.  No cows.  By now it was getting dark, so we came on home and I decided I'd go out in the morning, and we settled down to watch a truly abysmal movie.  Really, the movie was awful.

I get up and head out the door at 6:00 this morning.  Steve is charged with transporting Sarah to school for the volleyball tournament in Condon, and off I go.  I walk down to the lower bottom and along the creek up to the schoolhouse.  No cows.  I walk back up the hill so I can get a bird's eye view of the upper bottom.  No cows.  I get back home and take off my boots an hour and 15 minutes later, in time to watch Steve drive off to work.  He calls me on my cell phone, and we decide to let Mom know the cows have wandered.  I slip on shoes (not boots) and walk down to Mom's house.  Mom asks if we're ready to sell the cows yet, and then suggests that we call the Mooth's (up the creek near the alfalfa field) because that's where the cows went last time.  She calls, but they don't answer, so I drive up.  No cows in Mooth's yard, so I drive past and turn around.  And see the cows.  They are in the alfalfa field after all.  Zeke and I pull in and unload.  We have to go through a couple of animal pens with sheep in them, but we make it in and start to move the cows. On the way, I call Mom to let her know I've found the cows. 

I'm thinking that the cows will go back in the same way the came out, like the sheep, so I'm not too worried about the road, and am on the phone with Mom, confident that I've got the problem solved.  The cows try to turn around and not go through the gate a couple of times, but between Zeke and I, we get them headed in the right direction.  They go out through the gate, and turn up the road instead of going through the open gate into our CRP.  Mom & I develop a plan that involves opening the gate into our other CRP.  All the cows have to do is turn right at the corner and follow the road down.  Zeke and I are walking behind and to the left of the cows to encourage the right-hand turn, but they are a ways ahead of me because they move faster than I do.  Zeke is not liking walking through the weeds and stickers, but we all do what we must.  Mom, in the meantime has woken up the sleeping nephew, and they've gotten the gate open.  She drives up to block the left-hand turn, and the cows go straight across the road into the neighbor's CRP field.  Now, this CRP field has no fences - not one, and the neighbor's house is right in the middle of it.  Mom darts her car into the drive way and tries to head off the cows.  They go around and head off into the CRP.  I send the nephew for my pickup, and waive Mom off down to the corner, and go after the cows.

Now, at this point, I have been walking for a solid 3 hours.  I'm wearing slip-on clog-type shoes of heavy leather and decent quality, but boots they are not.  I'm also walking through CRP, which is kind of like native grass-lands but with furrows from the field prep and planting.  And native grass-lands are not grass.  They are nasty stickery thistley things that leave pokeys in my socks.  Walking is really not the appropriate term.  Hiking off-trail is closer.  Stumbling is probably the most accurate.  I walk wide around the cows to try to turn them around.  They are headed in generally the right direction, so I'm still hopeful.  No longer optimistic, but hopeful.  My biggest concern is that they need to turn before they get to the other road.  I keep trying to send Zeke on ahead to turn the cows, but he's been going for 3 hours by now too, and he's tired and doesn't really understand, so he's pretty much just walking at my side.  We get close to where I want the cows to turn, and I pick up the pace to a run.  So do they.  I quickly realize I am not getting ahead of them, and hope for the best.  I see Mom standing in the CRP where she has had the same idea as me.  She is already ahead of the cows, so I hope, futilely as it turns out.  The cows see Mom and turn - away from home. 

About this time the nephew shows up with my pickup, and we regroup.  We come up with a plan that will involve using two pickups to herd the cows out of the field, and one car to block the corner.  About this time Mom points out that she got a flat in that maneuver at the neighbor's and offers to have Grandma come out with her car.  I suggest Mom could just drive my car.  So we all pile into the pickup (Zeke is in the back seat), and drive home to get the vehicles.  I drop Zeke off at the house, 'cause he's done for the day, and stick my head into the house to let Monica (the foreign exchange student) know where everyone is.  She's calmly eating breakfast and wishes me good luck.  Zeke stays on the run and we all head off in our respective vehicles.  Cooper and I devise a strategy which involves him on one side to turn the cows and me on the other side and behind to move them along.  I go push them out of the corner they've settled into against another neighbor's fence, and for once they move the direction I want them to.  They are doing pretty good, and only try to turn around a few times, but in general, they are headed home.  We get all the way to the edge of the field where they need to go down a little bank and cross the road to go home.  Cooper is parked a ways off, sort of watching.  I get out of my pickup to try and gently encourage the cows to move.  They do - right around me and back into the CRP.  I dash back into my rig, Cooper realizes what's happening and tries to turn them, but it's too late.  They're back out in the middle of the field.

We try again, and this time we've got both pickups moving with the cows, and again we get them to the edge of the field (there were only a few times we drove with reckless abandon in reverse to keep them going the direction we wanted - it's a good thing there was nothing else around).  This time, they reconsider and decide to go down the bank.  Yay!  And, they actually turn the right direction on the road.  Double Yay!  And wonder of wonders, they actually go in the gate.  Hip Hip Hooray!! The cows are home.  We close the gate behind them, decide that they can make their way through that field on their own, and head for home.  It is now 10:40.  Remember that I started this adventure at 6:00 and hadn't even had breakfast.  Mom brings my car home, and calls to get her tire repaired, and I come home to eat breakfast and shower, not necessarily in that order. 

For now, they are relegated to the pastures that are within constant site of a house, and if that means we have to feed earlier, then we'll just have to get more feed.  No more using the upper pasture until the fences are all repaired.

Mom asks again if we're ready to sell the cows.  Steve says not yet.  Of course, he's not had to get the little buggers back in yet.