This post is a little late…
On Tuesday morning, February 2nd at 7 a.m. Holly, our Jersey cow, had her second calf, our first here at Heart of the Garden Farm. What a blessed event. We were awakened by the shouts of Jack, our eight year old son, shouting “Calf, Calf, Calf is here. There’s a calf! Mom! Dad! CALF!” We all scrambled to get dressed and ran outside to see a small, wet bundle of fur lying beside Holly. She was gently cleaning him off, and all was peaceful in the early morning light. The birds chirped as we all just silently gazed in awe at what had happened while we slept unaware of the miracle happening just outside the dining room window.
As we watched, within minutes, Bull Winkle, as he had been named, son of Rocky and Holly, scrambled up and began to totter around his Mama, around and around and around, leaning against her to steady himself. He stopped to suckle at her knees, determined to find milk somewhere near, as the children laughed and said “You’re close buddy, keep trying!”
We were all mesmerized, and the sweet little fella spent the next hour in Holly’s loving protection learning to walk. We watched as he went from tottering and stumbling to trotting along beside his Mama, who mooed and purred at him in their own little language. We giggled as he ran around and around the inside of the trampoline, just out of Holly’s reach. Holly, unable to get under the trampoline herself, ran along the edge of the trampoline, keeping right alongside her boy, quietly mooing. You could almost hear her saying “Now young man, you come out from under there this instant.”
That first day passed uneventfully and we were all happy and content. Enter day two, a beautiful sunny day. I sighed contentedly as I watched Bullwinkle trot alongside Holly, going out to the back pasture. I had a moment of concern, as there is a lot of standing water, and a long line of marshy swampy area they had to walk alongside to get out further, but thought, no, they’ll be fine. I watched as Bella led the way, and little Bullwinkle trotted along behind, with Holly at the end, keeping watch over him.
Several hours later, I happened to look out as Holly returned from the back pasture, appearing along the path, ambling slowly, tail switching. I held my breath, waiting, why didn’t I see Bullwinkle, right at her side? It quickly became apparent, that Holly had returned with no calf. I was alarmed, but still confident that he would appear. Putting on my boots, I kept scanning the path for a tiny figure which did not materialize. I quickly ran down the steps of our deck and sprinted out past Holly, shouting “Hey Holly where is your calf?” She stared at me, unmoved and unimpressed.
Running down the path, I have to admit, I suddenly saw all the hazards. The line of swampy marshy area was deeper and more menacing than I had remembered it being. Yes, we had a lot of rain, it was very wet and overgrown, hard to tell where land ended and water began. I knew that during mating season, we had seen alligators in this area…why had I not checked on them? Where is the calf? I ran further and further, my heart pounding. By the time I got to the back of the ten acres, I was scared. I saw no sign of the calf, and there was water, a lot of standing water. I had not been back here in quite some time. Everywhere I looked I saw somewhere he could have become entrapped, stuck. Maybe he had stepped off the path and fallen in? Oh please stop it, I thought, stop thinking the worst. I looked behind me and there was Holly, following me. I decided to stop and see if she would lead me to him. No go. She just reached a certain point, and stood there, calm. I realized that perhaps something had gone terribly wrong. I began to back track, looking into the water that had accumulated, I stepped in, oh no, this is deep, I went in past my knees, I fumbled and got stuck. I stepped right out of my boot, struggling to pull myself out. By this time, I was very concerned, and wet and not thinking clearly.
I took one last look, walked to the point in the swampy line where it opens up to the other side of the pasture and saw to my horror, that the little mud bridge, which connected one side of the pasture to the other, was non existent, it was completely covered in water….I attempted to cross it and became stuck, clear past my knees the water rose. I managed to get myself out, minus one boot, which I then turned and pulled out with my hand. I ran as fast as I could to get Rick to help me.
I pounded on the door to our office and Rick quickly jumped into action telling me pretty firmly to “GET A GRIP!” Yes, get a grip, I should do that. Right after I pass out or my heart stops, I’ll do that. I was hyperventilating from the exertion of running in boots and yelling for help for ten acres.
Rick disappeared after asking where I last saw them. He marched off calm and determined, and fifteen minutes later, he appeared, still calm and determined, with nothing. I called my best friend Lori, the cow whisperer, and she gave the best advice of the day, she said “No, it’s ok, he is out there, he is curled up sleeping somewhere, you just don’t see him, trust me, he is ok. Look for dry areas, behind tree stumps, tall grass, just keep looking” Ah, a voice of reason. Thank you God.
So out we went again…nothing. He had seemingly vanished. I began to look into the murky, dark water for legs or fur. My heart was sinking, I was praying for help. I turned around and saw Lori and her seven children coming out to help look. My spirits rose. My heart stopped pounding and I began to see that we were going to win this. I believed God would not allow that innocent calf to be harmed on the second day of his life, and if it had happened, I had to be a good example to the children. Lori asked me to call our dog Daisy. Perhaps she would find him by smell? So I did. Daisy raced around the pasture, frolicking and not looking for the calf.
The children went to the front of the property to see if he was asleep up there, and we continued to look at the back ten of the property. Suddenly I heard Lori call “We found him!” Their voices came from the other side of the pasture beyond the swamp line. Rick had found him, curled up sleeping, just to the right of the washed out mud bridge, I must have walked right past him. It flashed in my head that Holly had been standing right near him, calm and confident. He is so tiny, and sandy colored, he blended right into the surrounding grasses. Oh thank you GOD!
We all surrounded him as he yawned and struggled to stay awake. Precious little fella. Daisy sniffed him and tried to get him to play. Leaping and jumping around him. No go. He was one tired little guy. Ah, we all sighed, he is ok! As we stood there, he got up and began to amble out towards his mama. In a flash, as we watched in disbelief, Daisy shot out after him, wanting to play, but she startled him and in one instant, he leaped into the swampy area, hidden by tall grass, just beyond our pond. Was that a splash? Jack sprinted forward and yelled out “Oh help, Daddy, he’s drowning!” Rick shot forward, and stepped into what he assumed was knee deep water. Wrong. Instantly he was up to his neck. Boots firmly stuck. I saw a look pass through his eyes. I knew it would be ok. My goodness….One minute earlier we were all jubilant and now the calf was drowning and my husband is in nearly six feet of water, unable to move his feet or turn his body toward the solid ground. Rick said firmly, “Help me please!” and Lori jumped into action and tried to help Rick. She stepped right into the water, up past her waist, keeping one foot on land. As she was doing that, I put little Brody down on the ground, I had been holding him as he is scared of Miss Daisy, and ran to the edge of the swamp area. Rick struggled, and held onto the calf. All that could be seen of the calf was two nostrils. The rest of him was under the dark water. He didn’t even try to swim, he just sank. Rick grabbed him and held him up, Lori took him from Rick and I took him from Lori and put him on dry land. His little heart was pounding a mile a minute. He was shaking from the cold and obviously scared. Rick let us know that the water was probably no warmer than 50-60 degrees. His boots filled up with water, and broke the suction, and he was able to climb out. We ran and got towels and covered little Bullwinkle, all of us in shock at what had just happened. The children all sighed in relief and little Hayley said “Oh my, I was about to cry.” I laughed out loud and realized….It’s just another day on the farm.