Singing for the Unsung Heroes…our local farmers!


There is magic in the night. Most nights. However, magic isn’t exclusive to the vast and mysterious world beyond planet Earth.  The magical appearance of a red fox a few weeks ago has expanded to include the arrival of three kits making their brown fuzzy debut on the side of my driveway.  Tiny little bodies appearing to consist only of thick brown fur blending into the early spring landscape or is its mid-spring? Late spring? Time eludes me these days. They are small and agile as they freely and innocently jump, roll and wrestle. Like dandelions in the breeze. The mama looks a bit tired, a little worse for wear but majestically lying on a rock above their den soaking in some warmth from the sun. We all need some extra vitamin D these days as we social distance. They say foxes are shy, but she seems quite relaxed and comfortable so close to my home. As I peer out my window with my trusted dog glued to my side she unapologetically and firmly stares back at us…

A small Eastern Phoebe makes her nest over my front door. No questions asked or permission granted. Apparently, there was no thought that her location and her babies would be disturbed by humans coming and going.  Well, certainly not with the frequency we once did. I am definitely feeling much more like the visitor in my home and on my land than the owner. Maybe that is the natural order.  What do the birds and wildlife know? I adore nature.  I feel quite envious. As an observer of my new visitors I notice their lives and habits remain unchanged and seem to be unphased by how ours have completely changed.

Stars shine brightly in Vermont.  On a clear evening the sky is spectacular as the stars have no competition from streetlights, industrial lights etc …only the few and scattered warm illuminations marking a home here and there. The only interruption to the nightly display of celestial objects is inclement weather. Last weekend gave evidence to just that. 

Warm and cozy in my little house on the hill as the rain pelted my roof, I felt safe and protected yet unable to sleep.  The rain was driving hard just after midnight. Unusual at this hour to see lamps lit in my immediate neighbor’s home across the dark horizon.   I was certain something was amiss.  Noticing flashlights dancing across the field next door with an irregular pattern at such a late hour on a cold rainy night signified a problem. In the near distance an echoing moo filled the air. Consistent and persistent. What was she trying to tell us? Was there an unwelcome predator joining the herd? A pack of Coydogs perhaps on night patrol? No, the moo was deep and urgent. I briefly thought about the potential of a cow in labor and “calving” but didn’t know for sure. On my many daily runs and walks I pass the farm with regularity and often observe the herd of five. Sometimes wondering if a cow or two lying down is a predictor of rain or simply pregnancy fatigue? Predictions in both cases would soon be realized. 

Walking my dog down the street last evening enjoying the remaining sunlight I saw my neighbor doing much the same. We stopped to chat keeping the road between us to ensure social distancing. Normally we would have allowed our leashed dogs the opportunity to socialize with one another while we chatted but not now nor for the foreseeable future. We exchanged brief pleasantries laced with anxiety over the ever-present looming pandemic. I inquired about my recent observations from last weekend relaying my concerns about what I imagined to be a problem on the farm. Our conversation quickly turned from the virus to an incredible tale of their recent calving adventure. 

Apparently, one of their cows selected a precariously high location on the many acres available to her for labor and delivery. The calf after being born slid down the steep hill landing lower down the hill in a rocky area. The cow unable to get to her calf was sounding her alarm. Armed with flashlights and a sense of profound duty and responsibility the field was searched for the newborn calf. Conditions were anything but ideal, yet determination was rewarded as the young calf was located. The farmer picked up the newborn calf and carryied it up the steep hill to reunite it with the warmth of his mother and the barn.  Mother and baby are healthy and well. 

I was fascinated by the story and in awe of the farmer. Farming is a 24/7 profession and proposition where on any given day and/or night something can happen. Anything can happen. Self-reliance is critical in farming. The skill set to handle any and all emergencies that present themselves at 10 in the morning or midnight must be skillfully handled and managed. I suspect experience is the greatest teacher, but I was reminded that farmers quietly go about their daily work from dawn to dusk and sometimes dusk to dawn too. There was not a morsel of arrogance or bravado detected when he was telling me the story just an acknowledgement of a day in the life of a farmer and a farm. Humble and strong…everyday heroes!

Nothing more amazing than new life.  Witnessing a calf just hours old from the street we share was life-affirming.  The mama stood quietly grazing and the only evidence that she had given birth just hours earlier was the young calf testing its’ uncertain legs on the rocky earth next to her.  I don’t know if it is a heifer calf or a bull calf but from my perspective it matters not but it will matter to the farmer as it must. 

Two calves born over these past few days. As I write this essay, I hear yet another cow urgently letting the world know that calve number three will be joining us at some point today…nature is perfect!

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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