Sometimes on the farm, you have to suck it up and admit that the trade offs that you made were in the long run, just plain dumb. I had been letting the cows wander out into the unfenced grassy area, because my fenced paddocks were eaten down and I didn't want buy feed. I also feel like the cows eat more and are happier when they are out on the grass. It's very dry here at Lantanaland, I will have to buy water this week, there is just not much grass around.
At first, they came back every night readily enough. A few times I had to chase them down the hill but they mostly came back. The times they had to be chased was usually when they got two days out in a row and I thought I had cleverly solved that problem by locking Dolores up in the home paddock on the days where I didn't come home in the evening. It had the opposite effect, last Tuesday when I let them out they didn't come home.
In the following days the only happy campers at Lantanaland were The Boy and Tally the dog, who both got a good walk when I got home every day. Every day I explored another cow path down one side of the ridge or the other. Or both. I have a lovely criss cross pattern on my arms from the less cleared paths. Highlights included jumping full stretch into some lantana as one of my neighbours steers, with a beautiful four foot rack of horns charged back down the path at me when Tally spooked him and The Boy falling asleep as I slugged up the steepest track on the hill.
By the weekend I was getting a bit down and a bit worried. I usually really get concerned when the milk runs out. By Monday I was convinced that they were no longer in the big paddock. They'd got out somewhere and were either eating someone else's grass or had been picked up by the council or even worse, stolen. Everyone has seen those flyers out in suburbia, 'have you seen Misty the cat or Spot the dog?' Instead I posted thirty odd flyers in letter boxes in the streets either side of the hill with a picture of two cows and a phone number. Desperate times.
Of course as soon as I did this the cows came home. As I drove up the hill and automatically slowed on the bend that gave me the best view of the opposite hill I spotted the distinct black and white speckle of Dolores. I raced up the hill and coaxed them back, very slowly, with a loaf of bread. They had been on all you could eat grass smorgasbord and were not keen to go back to grassy hay. How I miss my fruit waste. The next worry was the calves. They were not with the cows, I wasn't too fazed, they often will hide themselves for a sleep, but after a week trekking after hidden cows, I would have rather had them home as well. I had to go pick up The Boy and collect his Grandma from the train and on the return trip I spotted the calves trotting along the ridge line towards home. I didn't even have to go and coax them home. The cows are now all grounded for the foreseeable future. It might cost me more in feed but it will free up time for other jobs, things that need doing. The rains will come, the grass will grow and I'll get another paddock fenced but till then I'll be keeping the girls close to home. I don't think I could face the shame of buying milk at the shops again.