All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.
Cows have their own head and sometimes act out of order. It is funny to experience and observe it. I remember when we left the shed and saw an old cow that must have jumped the fence and wandered around, outside from the fenced trail. Sometimes cows don’t want to enter the milking platform, so we have to push them with two people and press our back against their butt, as strong as possible to push her onto the platform. Some of the cows like it on the platform and stay for another round or even a third one. In that case I had to stop the platform and push her out. In general cows on our farm were scared of us, but did not always showed respect and it felt like some cows provoked you. But usually they obeyed. Except for the heifers.
Heifers are the new generation of cows, 2 years young, and will experience their first time getting milked. We had around 40 cows of these kind. That was the first time where I properly felt like a cowboy. These cows are fast and full of spirit, not broken and wilder. We had to chase them on bikes by 3 to 4 people and in divide them into small groups that we lead out from the paddock over the fenced trail into the yard. These cows jumped around, and usually it is not allowed to push a cows stamina too much, because she feels stressed and that again will influence the milk quality. But we had no choice. Even if those cows were grassing on paddocks and seemed calm and peaceful we had a hard time bringing all the 40 cows into the yard. The last two, were to hard to catch so we left them for another hour, and caught them on the second try. While you’re chasing after them, you have to shout and accelerate, make noise with the engine, do quick turns, group up and chase. The system is that you try to keep the cow half circlet in between the cowboys and the fence, and slowly push her from the back of the paddock to the front (400 meters), through the gate. Easier said than done, since the cows tried to break through our lines. I cried, ‘Ay,Ay,Ay!’ and accelerated my bike from left to right, pulled the clutch and accelerated to make more noise, like the rest of my colleagues, but still some cows were just to wild and broke through our line. After we caught all the heifers, and brought them in the yard, (an hour work) we had to bring them careful onto the milking platform. On the platform there is not much room to move and they get scared, like me watching them and trying to cup them on, since they kick and move around. Some ran around in the yard and pushed the massive pipe on wheels back as if it was a sack of feathers. That was when I realized how much power these cow have. Another cow jumped on into another part of the milking platform so that she climbed on another cow, over the metal pipes. After a week, those cows finally got used to us and calmed down.
Another great experience was when I was allowed to pull a calf out of a cow. The calv turned the wrong way around, and would stay in the mother womb. It will break apart in her, smelling disgusting and maybe will infect the mom and kill her as well. We managed to rescue some calves, but for others we were to late. In my case, I was equipped with sterilized chains, and a long clove up till my shoulder and a Calf Puller, kind of a hoist. My clove covered in Vaseline, I pushed it far into the cow. My whole arm was gone. Inside was a lot of room and it felt warm. I could feel the calf and the heart beat of the cow. Her head was fixed, she was scared but calm. It seemed like, she knew we try to help her. Trying to feel the legs of the calf I moved my arm around and visualized the calf. It is not easy and often I thought that I got the legs but it was its nose or another part of the head. When I told my boss I found the legs I pulled them with a lot of force but gentle my way. We fastened the chain around its legs and when the cow strained we pulled the Calf Puller a bit closer, like the rope for a slack-line. It was hard work for the mother but in the end we got the calf out. We were to late, it was dead, it is always touching and sad to see a dead calf.
Its blue tongue was hanging out of the mouth and I carried it by the feet into the one wheel. It is harder to carry a dead calf than one alive, because it fells like moving a wet sack around. Following I moved it on the place where the dead calves were. We had one calf that was brain dead. Its heart was beating and it was breathing low, but it never woke up, for a whole afternoon.
One sunny morning I was allowed to watch the pregnant cows. Big, round and fat, moving around as if they swallowed a whole wine barrel. The ones that are close to giving birth, separate themselves from the group and while moving around with their tails pointing into the blue sky. So I was lucky to see a calf being born on a natural way. Calves kind of dive into the world with their head in between its legs. It was amazing to see it. 15 minutes took it from seeing a small feet to the calf, falling out of its mother with a ‘SPLASH!’ onto the soft grass. Covered in blood and afterbirth, the calf lays on the ground and gets cleaned by its mother, who also eats the afterbirth, (choke) but apparently it is supposed to be healthy. As soon as the kid was a bit cleaned it approached slowly standing up. With a couple failed tries, it finally worked and the calf made its way on shaking legs towards the shade of the big hedges. The mum still busy to consume the afterbirth. As soon as it touched the shade it moved shocked backwards, since it never felt shade before. Slowly moving on leg after another into the shade, it made itself a comfortable place in the cold shade to rest for a while. Others that were a couple hours older, struggled to find the way to drink milk of the odder of its mom. Pushing its head with force a here and there into the odder it tried to find a solution. The mom was patient and pushed the kid to the odder, with the help of its head, or completely changed its position, while grassing. I am very thankful to my boss, that he gave me the opportunity to see this phenomena, and when ever you get the chance, don’t say later. Do it now, there might be no later, considering our busy lifestyles.
Some weeks passed very fast others took longer, and we approached slowly summer, that means my end on the farm. Sometimes I had to work 11 days straight without a day break, long exhausting weeks, my best was a 72 hour week. But it is beautiful, I was outside almost all the day, driving around on the bike, quad or tractor setting up Rotorrainers (to wet the grass) or the big heavy metal roller to make the ground even. My view was a five star alpine view. Odd jobs, like cutting the lawn, picking thistles and setting up fences were part of my every day routine. Later on we let the calves out, from their tiny shed onto grass, in the first time of their lifetime (3,4 month). (Except the time when they were born)
Living on the farm was cheap as, I spend my money on food, petrol, the electricity bill and WiFi, that we shared through two people. Sometimes the mom of my boss came and invited me for a snack or brought eggs and some meat. Eggs were for free, since they kept chickens on the farm. Sometimes I was allowed to feed the calves or at some days move the cows from their winter paddocks over the street to their new green grass paddocks and also their first approach to electric fences ‘MO!, that hurts MO!, it still does?!’, haha.
Closer to summer the days were getting really hot and all I wore was a shirt, and shorts. The water tasted very refreshing and unprocessed. It was a good life. Some days my boss got angry at me and shouted at us, which is normal on a farm, because its hard work. And for him especially, sometimes he worked 2 month without a day break.
In my free time, I mostly converted Emma into a van in that I lived later. It was great, since I was allowed to the tool shed and able to use good tools for free. I also found my favorite shirt in the rubbish of the tool shed.
I am wearing it while I am texting these lines. Handy was that my boss was a carpenter before he became a farmer and taught me some good advises. Accompanied by ‘chicks’ and the two dogs of the farm, ‘the headhoncho’ and ‘Franky’, I worked with a cold beer until the sun set on the van, made dinner and hung out with my flat mate watching Rugby, Cricket, NBA or dog/horse racing or just being on my own and reading a book in my room. The more I rad the more I got into it, in the beginning I used to fall asleep.
With my beard growing, the days getting longer and a lot of new skills and experiences, my time on the farm came close to the first of December, the day I left the farm and headed straight to Christchurch, Akaora. There are many stories on the farm, how we tackled a big cow to the ground and lay on her tummy to give her medication, how the bulls were introduced and chased after me during mating season, artificial pregnancy, rainy days, bike crashes, bike stunts, Asian TV advertisement on our the farm, colleagues bitching around, cows acting silly, me hanging out with the family of my boss, sunsets and sunrises, stars at night, being far away from family and friends, flatmate discrepancies, dirty disgusting households, yep not everything went easy and was fun, but all in all I would motivate everyone to get these experience and this beautiful time outside and with animals.
Emma – my first little van in blue
Here I am again, Friday 4 p.m. in my favorite library. Today it is sunny and warm and I enjoyed my cycle to town. Tomorrow, the weekend I will volunteer at Lentils again, and wish to stay longer here in Melbourne to have more days, working there and the opportunity to continue my blog. But I feel like being out there and closer to nature again. I miss it. I hope I can find a nice range to work for or a fishing boat, to get my second year Australia fixed and than see experience Nature before joining my french friends, in south France.
The next time I will tell you about parting from the farm, and starting to explore New Zealand with Emma, and later with my Argentinian brother Lean.
Today I’d like you to listen to some nice music and just let your mind relax and go where it wants to go. Kia Ora!