Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scary Mixed Up Day

Over 40000 hectares burning (98000 acres). 46 active fires.

The closest one to us is about 30 minutes away, as the crow flies, with a highway to cross. We've been watching the updates daily, watching where it was headed, watching when the wind shifts, celebrating every drop of rain that's fallen on our dry land.

Yesterday the wind shifted. Wild and crazy, 45km/hour winds. A couple of trees fell. The sky turned dark. It looked like a storm was moving in.

And then we smelled it. That overcast sky wasn't overcast at all. It was smoke. Dark heavy smoke that makes you feel like the flames of doom are just over that hill. I called the police. I didn't want to disturb our already overburdened fire departments, but I needed info. Where was it coming from? How much time did I have? Thankfully, it was just smoke. The wind shifted a couple hours later, and blew it all away.

 This smoke is from the big fire. The one you may have seen on the news. It's over an hour away, and has many lakes, streams, and creeks to cross before it gets to us. It's over 30000 hectares in size. It's putting out a lot of smoke.

For now, we are safe. Our area isn't even on alert, let alone evacuation orders. I finally got my butt in gear, and backed the bug out bags. I haven't worried about it before, because a forest fire is the only thing that would drive me from my land. This is the first year that we've had a fire this close, this out of control, this scary. I decided I'd rather not wait for the police to knock on my door and tell me I have to leave.

When the boys were little I kept a bag in the car for each of them with a couple of changes of clothes, jackets, extra diapers, blankets, candles, granola bars, water. Mostly it was because we always seemed to be out later than expected, with no coat for the chilly night air. Also because I worried about my crappy car breaking down on the side of the road. As the years went by, the boys grew, they remembered to bring their own coats, we bought a better car... and the stuff just sat there taking up space. I remember the last time I sorted through those bags, and finding that the Bigs would have to go naked, but the Littles could wear the stuff I had packed for the Bigs. Their appetites had increased, the trunk space had not. They were involved in more activities, with equipment and supplies to cart around. I took the emergency supplies out, and never looked back. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I dug out some old backpacks and packed everyone two changes of clothes, hooded sweaters, and an extra long sleeved shirt (for the bugs), and each bag has a water bottle. The bags are on the bunk in the trailer, along with extra pillows, sleeping bags, and tents. One quick and easy stop, grab, and go. I know there are a million other things I should pack, like knives, flash lights, rain coats... But at the moment I don't have extras of those. Time to get off the pot.

In other news...
All of my cattle, nonchalantly chewing their cud. Where is that baby? I gave up looking for her and went about stringing new barbed wire. I think we may have missed a few things on Thursday, when Sharlotte arrived.  I found her tucked up against the fence napping, a good hundred feet from the nearest cow (Mindy, on the right).
In the excitement of Sharlotte's arrival, we may have failed to register some important facts.
First of all, #1 found her between the barn and Dorie at 6am.  No signs of any after birth.  She was clean and dry.  Dorie was engorged.  Mindy was in the barn.

A couple of hours later, when I went out to check on them, they were in the trees in the west side of the pasture.  Sharlotte was out in the open, not hidden.  Unusual for Dorie.  Dorie wasn't that interested in us, petting, cooing, taking the weight measurements.  Sharlotte got up and walked away from us.  Dorie came over, and Sharlotte backed away from her as quick as her little legs could move.  Sharlotte mooed in distress, and Mindy started mooing in distress.

Mindy was at the back of the pasture, on the WRONG side of the fence.  Dorie spun around and gave her an evil look.  Mindy came running up the north side of the pasture and I sent #3 to open the gate and let her back in.

Dorie started in with her soft, gentle, talking to my baby moos.  Sharlotte settled down and I finished my examination of her.

#3 came back and told me that Mindy had gone up the road and into the bush on the other side.  We checked the fence and made a couple small repairs.  I drove around a bit, checked with the neighbours.  No Mindy.  We stretched barbed wire for bigger repairs once the Bigs got home.  Mindy never returned.  Sharlotte was up and active, and nursing, although not with much vigour.  Dorie was much more casual with Sharlotte than she ever was with Casper.  We tagged Sharlotte with little more than casual interest from Dorie.

Yesterday morning Mindy came home.  She was out on the road talking to Casper over the fence.  I walked up and talked her into coming back into the yard.  #3 cut her off before she could get into the bush, and opened the gate.

Mindy had red fluid dripping from her vagina.  She looked thinner.  And she was starving!  She chased everyone off the hay bale and gorged herself.  Not exactly the behavior of a cow who's been out all day and night grazing on the long grass and forage in the bush.

At first I thought she must have calved out there.  My dad, former ranch hand, said if she's calved out there she'll be back through the fence to get to her baby, and we better be prepared to follow her, because we won't be finding that baby on our own.

Mindy never attempted to leave the barn yard.  She settled down after awhile, and eventually joined the herd and had a peaceful afternoon.

Which is when I started replaying things in my head.  Dorie is still pretty huge.  Mindy is definitely thinner.  Dorie has been trying to wean Casper in preparation for her new calf.  That could have caused her engorgement.  Mindy is engorged (full of milk).  Dorie was out of character in her mothering.  Mindy seems spaced out and depressed.

Last year when we got Steaks he was more interested in Mindy than Dorie.  We thought Mindy was in heat first.  Last week, Mindy was swelling and red.  Dorie was not.

It's possible that Mindy calved in the woods.  It's possible that Mindy was in labour yesterday and I might find a calf this morning.  But I think it's also possible that Dorie stole Mindy's baby!

So what's to be done?  I have no idea.  Mindy was a heifer (first time mom), so she's probably not going to take Sharlotte back (if she is hers).  Dorie will probably be fine raising two calves (if she's still pregnant).  But Sharlotte likely didn't get any colostrum (first milk, antibodies), and Mindy is engorged, and will probably need milking.

On a positive note...  Mama knows where her children are!  Cute and growing kids!


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  2. i deleted my previous comment since i got your email. oh my goodness - what a scary mixed up day you have had. i am glad that you got the bug out bags ready - i agree , the only thing that would get me off my land is fire. and that is one raging inferno going on up there - very scary. i can't help you with trying to figure out whose baby is whose or if there is a baby in the woods. please keep us updated on the fire and figuring out the babies!

    glad that you all are safe and ready to go if you need to evacuate. one other thing - have all of your documents in an envelope or bag on hand...SIN cards, insurance, ID, etc. and make sure you have a current list of medications is anyone is on any medication. there's a bunch of other stuff but i don't want to overwhelm you. if you have that stuff handy to grab and run - that should do!

    keep us updated k? your friend,

    1. Check, lol. Thanks for the tip. Important documents are now in my purse, and I packed a 'communal' overnight bag- extra toothbrushes, combs, razors, deodorant, band aids, soap, wash cloths, allergy meds. No other meds to worry about, luckily. Next?

  3. Wendy,
    Way down here, I have not heard of your fire. We have one out west that covers six states! I will have to google your fire. I am afraid for you. but, at least you are taking this seriously. Can you take any of the animals? Maybe you should have one of the kids pack all that in the car, just in case you don't have much grabbing time. It would make me feel
    Got extra glasses for anyone that wears them? Don't forget to grab your computer/laptop. You need only the box if it is a pc. Fire terrifies me.
    Mama had two cats when I was gone from home and an adult that stole kittens. She had two cats that gave birth within a day of each other. She watched out the kitchen window as she could, and each time she saw a cat carrying a kitten. back and forth, all day long, they both carried kittens back and forth to their boxes Mama set up for them. After a full day of kitten stealing, the two cats got them divided up where each mother was satisfied. She had never heard of that or seen it. But, a cow stealing a calf? That is funny, sad, and what on earth? Has your dad heard of that?

    1. Here's the current news report

      The dogs would go with us. The rest would have to fend for themselves. I'd leave the gate open for them.

      Nope, not packing the car. Which car to take would depend on where Husband is when we got the evacuation order. He could be trapped in town and we'd be separated, which wouldn't do us much good if he had all of the stuff.

      No, unfortunately, the only glasses he has are on #1's face, and #4's last pair sit on the desk until it's reading time. He only has one arm left. I need to get them in for check ups.

      I had a dog once who wanted to be a mother so bad she stole a litter of kittens. That was one angry cat. Your story sounds cute.

      It happens. More often the actual mother will reject the calf and the farmer will try to get another cow to take it.

      Still only one calf in the pasture today.

  4. Wow! what a day! Just reading about it has made me on edge so I can only imagine what you all are going through. And to have the calf mystery ta boot. Well, all I can do is prayer for you and your families safety (home and animals too). Stay safe and we're all thinking about ya.

    1. Thanks herdog. We appreciate your kind thoughts.