Nothing can quite prepare you

My oldest child moved away on March 11th for college and her Grand Adult Adventure. She graduated High School at semester, and to her credit, has a plan in place for her future. I knew this day would come from the moment she was born, but even after 17 years I wasn’t quite ready for it to happen. I think I thought I had an endless amount of time with her before she chose to fly the nest. I would bet all parents feel like this – I know I am not the only one – it’s just my first time experiencing it. The days and nights seem so long when you are raising children. But, like the old cliche, in the blink of an eye it’s over. 

17 years seems like an eternity for a 24 year old new mom who doesn’t even feel grown yet herself. But now, at 42, my baby grew up and moved away to follow her dreams. I am so proud of her, but I miss her. We all miss her. 

She wasn’t the best at finding a trash can, and I would get so aggravated at the Jolly Rancher wrappers strewn about the house, but like Hansel and Gretel and their trail of crumbs, those wrappers meant she was home. Now – and it’s only been a week – all of those stray wrappers have found their way to the trash can and there are none to take their place. 

With three remaining children at home we are now moving bedrooms around, creating new spaces for the ones left behind, and making a new haven for the one who moved away and will only return as a visitor from now on. It’s such a bizarre feeling I haven’t quite grasped the finality of it yet.  

She is an award-winning artist, and her artwork adorns the home. Her sculptures that once were displayed behind a protective barrier at museums around the state sit on the shelves, safe until she is ready to create her own home to take them to. Her drawings are waiting to be framed and hung up, yet they still sit in my office because I am not ready for her to not be here. They become a constant reminder that she’s gone, but I am not prepared for them to leave as well. 

One of my proudest moments with her, of which there are too many, was at a portfolio review for college and she was offered a scholarship on the spot, and she didn’t even have a complete portfolio. The little bit of art she had with her was enough to earn her enrollment at that college. Eventually she will come for all of it, like we did of our things as we grew and moved on from our family homes.

When the U-Haul trailer was loaded with all of her belongings she would need in the future I realized the finality of the situation. Living on the adrenaline of packing and cleaning and getting her ready was enough to keep my anxiety and thoughts from overwhelming me, but when the door rolled down over almost all of her worldly treasures it hit me that she had grown up. She will always be my baby, but I had to let her go, because that is what you do. 

She will soar farther than I ever imagined, of that I am certain. But I don’t think we are ever ready for when they finally spread their wings.

Raising puppies isn’t for the faint of heart

On Nov. 23rd one of our dogs had puppies. Nine were born. The last one was born sleeping and mom wouldn’t take care of number eight so I did my best to hand feed him, but after a couple days of her rejecting him I figured she must have known something was wrong. He passed away between 3:00 and 4:00 am when I was asleep; between attempts to get him to eat and stimulate his digestive system. It was very sad but we had to focus on the remaining seven puppies. Three girls and four boys. And oh boy were they cute! The first couple of weeks weren’t too bad, I didn’t have to do much except listen to what sounded like a pack of ravenous coyotes when they all woke up and wanted to nurse. We had them in a kiddie pool in the bedroom – it seemed like a good idea but in hindsight I would never have had them in there. 

At two weeks old, mom decided she was over the whole thing and refused to take care of them. So … that left me. My husband works out of town so he couldn’t help. If you have never had puppies before it’s like having seven infants that don’t wear diapers. Week two to three wasn’t so bad. They couldn’t get out of the pool and I could sometimes get mom to nurse them. 

Then week three started: she flat out refused to even look at them. Growled and ran away. At this point they could get out of the pool so they were all over the place. I couldn’t let them out into the rest of the house because I didn’t want them getting hurt, or risk their dad killing them or mom biting them. It was a lot. A lot of poo. Luckily I am not that squeamish – I was a kennel girl/vet tech for years and I have a pre-vet degree. I can handle a lot. But THIS? This was too much. I was afraid to get out of bed in the morning to take care of them. On more than one occasion I did cry. I debated whether or not to drag a hose into the house and spray it all out the front door. For once I managed my impulse control and didn’t do that. But boy oh boy did I want to!

The other thing working against me is my ADHD. My life revolved around puppies. They slept. They woke up. They went to the bathroom in the house. I had to keep chasing after them. We also had that cold snap when they were a month old. I tried. I tried so hard. But I couldn’t get seven puppies outside to use the bathroom at the same time. So my floors were the collateral damage. By this time I was letting them into the living room so I was mopping every two hours while they slept. This doesn’t work for a person who can’t keep a schedule to save her life. 

I couldn’t keep them in a kennel or they whined and cried. I decided for my sanity the mess was worth the noise. But really, I had no sanity left, so there we were. I have a new mop now, tho, since the other one literally wore out during the last two months. Bonus! 

Initially I likened them to ‘accountants who’s sheets don’t balance’ when they were in the bedroom and wandering around whining for who knows what. By the time most of them went to their new homes I was referring to them as the ‘Walking Dead’ because they could be dead asleep and as soon as I walked into the room they were up and following me around in their lurching, wobbling manner. When I filled the food bowls it was like seven ravenous gray sharks swarming around my ankles, biting and grabbing at my pants. 

By week five I felt like their mother had run off to a rave, was drunk, and had left me with seven toddlers that kept removing their pants – and she was never coming home.

I am really thankful for my bearded collie. She may only be five months old herself but she stepped in as a ‘super aunt’ when mom stopped taking care of them. I can’t teach them to be dogs, but I guess she can. And my husband, who wanted to ‘experience puppies’ learned he maybe didn’t want to do that again.

Our house is now quiet. We ended up keeping the runt because I think he has more health problems than being just so tiny. I do miss them, in a way, but I sure love my house staying clean for more than a couple hours…

All in all, I know that being a dog breeder will not be my future career. And hats off to those of you who can do it!! This was a pupocalypse of epic proportions I don’t care to repeat without proper dog runs. And only in the spring and summer.

You Never Know With Cows

The other day we had to separate the steers to take some to the butcher. I love the process of separating the cows, this reason being less so, but it’s still exciting to me because you never know what’s going to happen. Who will throw a fit and break down a fence or gate? Who’s just going to do what you say and make life easier? You never know with cows. 

This time the steers just decided to cooperate. It boggled my mind – these same steers broke down the fence last summer and before I could blink were half a mile away in the neighbor’s alfalfa field – and here they were just paying attention to us. Last summer when they broke that fence it was so bad we had to build an entirely new one. It took almost two hours to get them back, minus the one that decided he could make it on his own until he couldn’t. Our neighbors found him after he got tired of hanging around their cows. 

In this round-up they just calmly walked into the trailer without a fight. I didn’t even get to wave my flag and tell them to get on with it. But I did get to watch, so that’s fine. Sometimes I don’t want to exercise anyhow. 

Since the steers were obeying us, my husband took the time to pick up an old empty bag of ‘cow cookies’ (range cubes) that had blown in the corral at some point, and handed it over the fence to me. I crinkled it up and just held on to it since we were mostly done. 

I hear a huff-huffing sound to my right. I look over and there is a cow booking it towards me at full speed. I am a bit wary of them on the loose anymore because of my experience with Bully Bull so I was immediately on the defensive. I couldn’t tell which cow she was, but I knew it was one of the older pregnant ladies, with her huge belly swaying side-to-side as she lumbered towards me. I could see her eyeballing me as she ran. I took a quick second to put a tree between the two of us. She kept looking around the tree at me, switching sides every few seconds, staring at me with those big brown eyes. It felt like a game of hide and seek, or tag, with the kids – whoever can get around the tree faster wins. 

As I backed up towards the gate, careful not to let her out of my sight, I realized it was Gigi, the tamest cow of the bunch. But I still couldn’t figure out why she was chasing me down like an angry bull. I slipped out the side gate with her gaining on me. She kept stretching her head out and licking her lips. It occurred to me that I was holding an empty bag of cow cookies and she knew, from across the pasture and behind a barn, what that sound meant. She loves her cookies! I ran to the garage and grabbed the bag of treats to share as more cows from the herd pressed against the fence. They recently came home from the summer pasture and it’s been a while since they had their beloved cookies. They were pretty happy to have them.

I felt so silly when I figured it out, but you never know with cows.

Bully Bull

I had a fun-filled weekend as usual. Saturday morning some of the cows were out – they decided they preferred the alfalfa field – and then spent an hour running all over the place before politely going back to the gate to the pasture. What nice cows. On Sunday morning, with that nice cool weather, I decided it was time for some exercise. I put my hiking boots on and went for a wander but the universe decided it was time for more cow capers. The pleasant walk lasted all of maybe 10 minutes. Apparently the bull didn’t like the fact I was in ‘his’ yard. He was stealthy as a ninja about it though. By the time I noticed him I had to go pretty fast to get back over the fence. He was a good 500 feet from me when I think he noticed me (if I look closely in some of the pictures I took he is pretty far away and I had no idea he was there) and he covered that distance quickly. Got my heart racing a little and I decided to scratch professional bullfighting off of my list of future career endeavors.

He is 3/4 mile away – black speck to the upper left…
1/2 mile away just a few minutes later
I looked up, he was not happy and almost in my face. Hoped the fence and on to a hay bale… he hates me!!

I I learned that day that cows can run 35 mph. I have no desire to test that again.