Life in Community

The Farmer and His Wife

November 19, 2020 by

You haven’t heard from me in a while; I used to post the occasional pen-pal letter telling stories of childhood – and young adulthood – adventures that I thought might bring a smile to the faces of other readers. The joy of exchanging letters can ebb and flow as the pace of life changes. But last week I received one from a good friend, now a young bride, and it made me sit back and laugh, and then call her to ask if I could share her story. Luckily (I think you’ll agree), she said yes. Here’s a letter from Kayla Rimes, who just married a farmer and is finding out rapidly what that entails. (Hypocalcemia, otherwise known as milk fever – severe low blood calcium – is a common condition in a cow around calving, but can lead to death if severe and untreated.) Kayla and Eric live at Woodcrest Bruderhof.

Dear Eva,

As of now, we’re taking care of our cows, who are having calves, and milk fever!

Picture this: Eric heads off to milking while I start cooking dinner on Saturday evening. The phone rings, and it’s Eric: “Can you come up now?! Brandy has milk fever and I need your help!” So I drop my dishes and run for the pasture, where Brandy, our sweet Jersey cow, is lying on her side and barely breathing. We hack open a quart of calcium supplement, attach the IV line, and stick the needle into her milk vein. After about ten minutes of a steady drip Brandy decides she wants to get up, but we’re pinning her shoulder and hip, so she can’t. (From my position kneeling on the cow’s shoulder, I am also a stunted IV pole.) Eric runs over to the barn to fetch a trash barrel for me to stand on so the calcium runs faster, and Brandy seizes her chance to try to get up. (Mind you, her calf is lying three feet away, poised to be crushed by its half-ton mother the minute she stands up and faints again.) She gets her knees under her, but wisely decides not to go further.

CowsBrandy and Guinness. Photo by Kayla Rimes

Meanwhile, I’m holding the IV line and the calcium bottle, trying to convince the cow to lie down again when Eric comes running back. I clamber onto the trash barrel, and we have a new Lady Liberty, only this one is standing on a barrel squeezing a quart of calcium into a cow’s vein! Eventually Brandy wobbles to her feet, and I fly off the barrel into Eric’s arms. When it is apparent that the needle didn’t come out and that Brandy won’t fall over, Eric hands the calcium back to me, convinces the calf to lie down farther away so it doesn’t die if Brandy topples again (it chooses a convenient mud hole), and directs me to follow Brandy around the field with my IV line and calcium. And to stay far enough away so that if she falls over again, I don’t get crushed.

Brandy proceeds to stagger over to the fence, where she leans on the wire and tries to figure out what the HECK the farmer’s wife is doing, following her around the field. Her hoofs are dragging with every step, but she doesn’t go down again. The other cows, Belize and Acorn, take great interest in the IV’s entry site, and I’m constantly waving them away with my free hand. As soon as Brandy has moved away from her calf, Cow Number Four (named Heaven) sneaks over and gives him a quick snack. Obviously she feels his mom is falling down on the job.

Eric takes Heaven inside and milks her, and by the time they come out again, I’ve managed to squeeze all the calcium into Brandy, and she is able to go in and be milked. Totally amazing! The only ongoing effect is that now Heaven thinks that the calf (named Guinness Stout, by the way) is her calf, and Brandy doesn’t really care who takes care of it. I guess she lost the plot for long enough that she forgot that she had a calf, and just joins all her sisters in caring for the one that somehow showed up in the herd!

Anyhow, life is exciting these days for a newlywed farmer’s wife!

All best,

Kayla

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About the author

Eva Hormann portrait

Eva Hormann

Eva and her husband, Hans-Peter, live at Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England.

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