Last week I wrote about calling a steer a bull. I was told that was insider slang for oxen, but an email from Art Pease made me wonder. This week Art shared this message from a man who worked oxen teams long ago.
"I don't know when the reference to steers and oxen as bulls started; I know it was very well accepted and used in the New England ox pulling community when I pulled cattle in the '70s. The generation ahead of me used it at that time. The generation behind me continues to reference steers and oxen that pull as bulls. My guess is, it makes them sound more masculine? Regardless, the terminology is well-rooted in the Northeast pulling community for over half a century."
It's sweet that teamsters want their activity to seem more masculine as if commanding a few thousand pounds of oxen to pull a heavy load is not macho enough. I work oxen, and whatever you call the yoked beasts, I think of controlling them as my super-power.
Now let's talk about my cows' super-power; giving birth. It's April, and that means 12 bundles of joy are due. Nine months ago, Blain, the bull (yes, he is all bull), was pastured with the Highland cows while Larry (a Hereford bull) wooed the Hereford and Angus girls. All are pregnant and due soon.
It would be ideal if the calves were born a day or so apart, but they may arrive the same day.
Meanwhile, my rescue puppy, Flora, is learning how to be a farm dog. Each morning and evening, she walks with me to check for newborns; has learned not to bark at the cattle; and discovered that chasing chickens is fun. When I'm not paying attention, she'll dash at the birds, chasing them off. I'll have to study Cesar Milan's writings to learn the dog psychology needed to stop that behavior. In other areas, his advice has worked. For instance, she no longer grabs a tissue from my hand. Wow, is she fast! To correct this behavior, I dropped a tissue on the floor and stood over it until she backed up. If she circled trying to get to it, I stood my ground until she moved away and gave up "pursuit." It took a few sessions, but now I can drop it in front of her, and she'll leave it alone. Now to get her to ignore the chickens.
Thanks to the irresistible lure of homemade liver treats, Flora comes when called; most of the time. Making dog food was my choice. Flora's too. I figured dogs thrived for thousands of years without kibble and, after online research, came up with a meat/egg/rice diet. It takes minutes to prepare, she loves it, and it's local.
Flora and I will keep checking for babies, and if you have calf-name suggestions, let me know. We need 12 of them.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, N.H., where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products.