great American pastimes

Tuesday, May 29:

Our church league softball plays two games back-to-back.  Not subsequently, although we do that too sometimes, but two games simultaneously on a field just larger than a normal baseball field, with infields in diagonally opposite corners.  Center field and second base defy physics to occupy the same space at one and the same time, and a fly ball from one game might not infrequently be mistaken for a high pitch in the other.  The tension infield may be ruptured at any time by two or even three shouting outfielders pursuing a high ball right up to the opposite backstop.  It makes for interesting games.

The little steers on pasture at the monastery are in grass over their heads.  When we shift their paddock every day or two, we have to keep a close eye on them for the few minutes when they are contained neither by the new paddock nor the one we are replacing it with, or we lose track of them in the high grass.  Clumps of raspberry cane dot the neglected meadow, and while we are circling each one individually in search of a strayed calf, there is every opportunity for the animal in question to make good his escape into the woods, where tracking him down would be a feat for Daniel Boone.  This fact makes for a certain stridency of voice when a young cow herd – seven, blonde, and female – gets the polywire reel tangled in the middle of the operation.  Big people close in on the operation in a hurry, not doing a great deal to improve things but making sure everyone knows we’re on red alert.  You have to be careful with those reels; the wire gets wrapped on the spindle very easily.

Baby Belle’s udder is so full she has to swing a back leg out and around it in order to walk.  The birth of the new calf can’t be too long now.  Perhaps a desire for privacy explains why when we went down to milk this evening neither she nor Isabel was to be seen; we tracked them into the pine grove on Jeddo’s run and up the creek into the woods.  They had been turned out of their hillside paddock at midafternoon to find shade grazing along the lane, and made use of their freedom to skedaddle.  D-1, part mountain goat, climbed up the steep hill south of the run and spotted the straying cows, but before we could get behind them they cut south and returned to the barnyard on their own, knowing it was milking time.  Like the outfielders, they show up suddenly in unexpected places.

The corn is up!  We took great care in the planting, four seeds to a hill, hills eighteen inches apart in thirty-inch beds with twelve inch paths between, two scoops of compost in each hill.  The two-inch monocots stand at attention like green exclamation points, up and down the rows.  The old chicken wire we spread over the perimeter of the rows to deter the invasion of any chicken which might succeed in penetrating our outer defenses will have to be taken off soon, probably tomorrow, before the sprouts become entangled in the wire.  Then we will have to be vigilant until the stalks are too high for the hens to scratch out.

Yesterday morning our early cup of tea on the porch was interrupted by an announcement from six crows on the power line.  Thinking to find them mobbing a late owl or an early hawk, we discovered instead their attention focused on something on the ground below them which turned out to be a large tawny fox.  Halfway up the fence line he was stopped to face them down, and there was nearly time to get the rifle and a dark-haired son dressed only in boxer briefs and Justin ropers before the chicken-thief disappeared into the woods behind the blueberry bushes.  Life is not without its little excitements.

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