“I don’t know what lies around the bend,
but I’m going to believe that the best does.”
~Anne of Green Gables
I have blogged only twice in the past two years, and life has changed a lot during the passing of that time. I’ve discovered that for the most part, for me, growing and changing and grieving is best done offscreen. Yet, at the same time, I have had a nagging sense that I miss writing, a sense that I needed to find my way back.
Several months ago I traded beef in exchange for web-design with a talented gal I know. I desired to shut down my blog and create a website using a domain name (goodgiftsfarm.com) with a slightly more polished presentation, but to what ends, I wasn’t sure, and am still not. It has been completed for 6 months, yet I have felt paralyzed to begin again. It felt like my re-start should be monumental and meaningful, but (spoiler alert), it’s not. I just simply experienced something that felt like a bridge between the hard times and the healing and I thought I’d take the opportunity to plunge back in. So with that: Welcome to my brand new website: goodgiftsfarm.com. If you’d like to receive updates in your inbox, please click the Subscribe button on the right column and enter your email.
Sunday, I stepped out of the shower to get ready for church and Caleb announced, “We have a calf!” I shrieked in delight, threw on my robe and ran out to the pasture. I definitely knew our heifer Cocoa was close to calving, but I did not see the typical signs that she was that close. When I saw a beautiful, healthy bull calf standing next to his mama, I breathed a sigh of relief. He was born and I didn’t have to stand vigil with my finger on speed-dial to the farm vet in an anxious panic, as I’ve done during every previous calving.
(As a side note, every aspiring farm-girl should have a neighbor that she can text close-up pictures of her calf’s private bits to in order to confirm gender. My cow-savy neighbor agreed with my assessment: definitely a bull calf! I’ll spare you that picture.)
This gift of life, and the sweetness of it’s arrival without stress, and even it being a bit of a surprise, contrasted sharply with my experience one year ago. My mom was in her final stages of ovarian cancer and my brother and his family were staying with us, basically as a last chance for my mom to be with her entire family.
During that visit, our cow Nutmeg went into labor around 6 am one morning. Caleb excitedly woke us all and the 11 of us lined the fence expectantly. After an hour of pushing and us being fairly certain that things were not as they should be, we sent the kids, who were pretty bored by this time, off to have breakfast.
After a very long, excruciating process of Nutmeg pushing and Caleb pulling, the calf was born dead. It had simply been too large for her. Nutmeg was an Irish Dexter, which is a small cow breed, and she really only should have been bred with her own kind or another very small breed. We had our doubts about the size of the bull but decided to roll the dice as breeding our cows is such a headache (really, I cannot overstate what a pain this aspect of farm life is) and our neighbors had brought in a bull they were kindly willing to let us use. Sadly, a couple months later we ended up having to put Nutmeg down as a result of complications from that birth. (If you follow me on Instagram you may remember a [tasteful, I hope] post about a prolapsed rectum and uterus. Yep, that’s a thing and I [lightly] assisted the vet putting it back in place. However, it didn’t last and she couldn’t be saved. Shame on us!! We definitely learned our lesson.)
Last summer was a blur of heartache and loss and hard decisions, and the anticipated arrival of new life seemed like a bright spot – something to look forward to and something to point to and say, “See, there will be life.” But there wasn’t life, not then. That calf’s death was hard for me to reconcile with what I expected and hoped for. I cried all day.
But now, from the place where I stand in my pasture a year later, watching Cocoa lick her little white-faced boy and hearing him nurse with greedy slurps and attempt to frolic on unsteady legs, I realize that as Eclessiastes 3 says, there truly is a time for everything:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Last summer was the time to die and weep and mourn. It seems fitting, now, that the calf did not survive. Birth and laughter and dance have slowly returned and it feels that much sweeter because of the experience of life without it. And today that little bull calf reminds me: indeed, there will be life.