Farm life has it’s disadvantages. You’re miles away from anything. You often work alone and the work doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. or when the week is finished.
But this week my husband and I both realized how wonderful all the hardships of farm life can be when you are living through a pandemic.
While on our way to South-Central Kansas Saturday morning (and by morning I mean pre-7 a.m.) my husband asked if he should feel guilty that this was the third day in a row he was going to spend the day working cattle in the Flint Hills. (And for anyone who has not experienced the Kansas Flint Hills in the spring, you are missing out). It’s ironic that a routine, annual trip east to work cattle is now a “luxury” of sorts, an opportunity to get out of the house, experience nature at it’s finest and, for at least a few hours, forget about the pandemic rocking our world.
Saturday’s trip to work cows turned into a family affair, with all four of us getting an opportunity to watch “real cowboys” rope, drag and brand cattle. They are our cows yet we appeared to be the city slickers of the bunch. Regardless, a day among cows, cowboys and clear blue skies was wonderful. At some points, I almost felt guilty for spending a day outside the confines of my home, enjoying sunshine and fresh air.
For the rest of the farming world, the routines of spring planting fall perfect in line with the suggested social distancing techniques – field work and planting are basically social distancing exercises in a tractor going back and forth in a field. No mask required – because there often isn’t another person within miles.
The hosts of a podcast I listen to religiously – Advisory Opinions – pondered if or how coronavirus will alter people’s living arrangements and political views. I can’t say that everyone will be running to buy a section of ground, but I do believe more people will see the value in small town life, of community and having a bit of space of their own. It’s not a fancy life, but it’s a good life.
While we’re on the topic of ranching, I want to take a moment to explain what we do with our calves each spring.
On Saturday we headed out to a pasture where our momma and baby calves live full time. The calves we rounded up Saturday are 2-3 months old will be spending the summer months with their mothers on grass. That means they need to be vaccinated for a few different diseases that can be transmitted via the soil and flies. Additionally, we brand each animal as a way to identify the calf if it goes missing or ends up in a neighbor’s pasture.
The cowboys were in charge of rounding up the cows and calves, leading them to the pens set up at one end of the pasture and then roping the calves so they could be vaccinated and branded.
The whole roping, branding and vaccinating process takes less than a minute and does provide some level of discomfort for the animal but once the ropes are pulled from its feet the calf is up and running and back with with its mother in no time.
This level of interaction allows us to look at each calf and determine if anything else is wrong with the animal before it’s allowed to roam free for the spring and summer months.
I don’t normally help work calves – I often describe my role as nutritional support meaning I bring the meals and snacks – but the opportunity to administer shots and be part of the process was a nice change from my day job.