Saturday, January 29, 2011


There are those who have lived in this long and lovely valley who will not call this paradise today.  Rain is turning snow to slush, soon to become another inch of dangerous ice.  But it is still a stunning view of mountains laced with snow around tall fir and pine, larch and cedar.  I have yet to see an ugly day, but I'm just a dumb tourist.

I was in my PJ's this morning, cutting up 1/4" plywood for various purposes, substitute canvasses for paintings.  It's a lot cheaper than artist's canvass.  I could tell that the knock on the cabin door was the Boss's wife.  She pushed open the door and had her arms full of old bathtowels. 

"We had a baby last night, and I need to keep her warm until she gets colostrum from her mother.  Would you warm these up in your dryer for her?"  After I hugged her in congratulations, I pulled put her towels in the dryer and said I would being them out to the barn in five or ten minutes.  Meanwhile I went looking for more warm stuff for the new little girl/heiffer.

I found two bathsheet towels, one beige (matches her fur) and one red (doesn't match anything).  Then two throw rugs in blue (do not match anything either).  Then I remembered the 110-year old Scottish wool blanket that my grandparents brought to the country just before the turn of the 20th century.  This tough old wool is a wonderful peach/apricot color, with a new binding I put on it.  It has had no serious call for its warmth since my children were busy puking and pooping on it a half century ago.  What better use for a vintage, indestructible blanket than to warm the new little girl!

I warmed it all up in the dryer and took it out to where she lay on some straw in a manger.  The Boss's wife protested, then laughed at me (you can laugh, too).  I assurred her that nothing could damage this old wool.
We put the blanket down, then towels and rugs, all warm.  She was shivvering a bit after drinking her morning miracle cocktail.  The Boss told me once that you can feed a new calf normal milk and it will die.  Yes, DIE!  The colostrum is miracle food and causes them to progress and thrive the first couple of days, with no ill effects.  The stuff is deep golden, darker and more intense than the richest cream in the world, that from Jersey cows. 

I petted her head a lot, and rubbed her fur with the towels to get her dry and warm.  After she had her bottle (over a quart), she lay down, shivvering again.  They do that.  Sometimes they actually look like they are going to die.  But they are fine.  It's not a simple job for them to get all the internal stuff up and running.  Before too long she started to doze off. 

I was afraid to move and wake her, but the baby who was born on January 3, was jealous and was chewing on my blue jean-covered rear end through the fence to get attention. 

"I didn't get an antique Scottish wool blanket," she pouted.

"Yes, but YOU were in on the porch by the fire," I countered.

She curled up after licking the nose of her new friend, and went to sleep without further complaint.

I sang a song to the new one, to quiet both of them.  It's an old song mothers would sing to babies in the seafaring isles of Great Britain.  Mothers, if you are not singing this beautiful old tune to your babies, they will surely grow up to be cold hearted stock brokers.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me,
While my little one,
While my pretty one,

You may be thinking that it's not an appropriate lullabye for a young heiffer, but they both liked it and drifted off to sleep and dream of ancestral Jersey grasslands.

Sweet dreams to all of you, too.

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