It happens at times without explanation, and it can seem to be catastrophic. Around here, catastrophies tend to happen whenever I (Daniel) am at work at the fire station and Katie is managing the farm alone. Escaped pigs, loose rabbits, and attacking roosters have all created havoc for Katie when she was here alone, this time it was the death of a cow.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I was on duty. I was checking out my fire engine when the station phone rang. My Lieutenant answered, looked at me and said “It’s for you and it don’t sound good.” On the phone was Katie, near hysterics saying that she found Rosie, our yearling heifer, dead in the pasture. Those words hit me like a truck load of lead on my shoulders and I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. I felt sick, confused and angry. I told her to cover her up with a tarp and I would take care of things when I got off duty, which would be 7:00 this morning. For several hours I operated in a pensive, melancholy manner questioning myself, my abilities, what I was doing and even if I should just give up. I know that to many, that may sound extreme but there comes a point when one gets weary of roadblock after roadblock.
I’ve dealt with death a good bit. I’ve had several dogs in my lifetime, and when they passed away, I buried them. I grew up with horses and a number of them I knew for large portions of my life. I recall when 20 years ago or so, my mother’s first horse Tony died. He had been her 14th birthday present and she was his only owner since. I learned to ride on Tony and he was very much like a family member, and it was like losing a family member when he died. When I was about 12 years old, one of my mother’s mares foaled a colt she named Hagi. I literally grew up with him and when he died last year, it was again like losing a family member. When my sister’s horse had to be put down, I was there to hold her by the halter when the vet euthanized her, and then I dug the hole to bury her. These losses had emotional value because these were animals that we had a bond with, they were companions and cohorts. Now that I’ve transitioned to raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs, a sudden loss has a completely different significance. Every time I find a dead broiler on the pasture, a hen in the coop, a rabbit in the hutch and now a cow there is more than just the sadness at the untimely loss of life. The investment of time, money, energy adds a very different aspect to it. These were animals that were part of a dream for creating a community hub that revolved around locally grown food that is untainted by cancer causing, petro-chemicals. Losing one is an blow to self esteem, the heart, as well as the pocketbook. The loss of a chicken or a litter of rabbit kits are not too hard to absorb since these are short lived animals that frankly are not always that personable and at most it’s a loss of $20 (not counting what our potential return would be had they lived and thrived). It was very different with Rosie. She is Rachel’s daughter. She was to be one of our next milk cows in less than 18 months. She represented future hope and success. Losing her is extremely hard to absorb. I buried her today among our young apple trees and so in a way, she is still a part of our farm’s future.