For the last day of July, it seems fitting to wonder where we are in the seasonal calendar.  Should we believe the map (calendar) or the terrain (weather)?  For the past week or more, it sometimes feels like fall, and sometimes it feels like Florida weather, sometimes with sun shining through the rain.

On the night of the 28th, we had another flash flood, the second this year, and that one was preceded by an EF1 tornado.  During this night, the severe weather alert notification sounded on my cell phone.  The cows and calves were in the bottomland, scattered around the island and in all nooks and crannies along the east stretch of that pasture.  The gate was open to the spring pasture, so we decided to wait until morning, not expecting the degree of rain that came afterward.

The cattle were in the spring pasture the next morning, so we went to work.  The rain continued.  By noon, the rain gauge at the house showed 5.5″.  The problem for us is often the degree of rain that accumulates upstream, and the burgeoning of the river as it collects all of the runoff.  At about 11 a.m., Greg came home, moved the cows into the arena and did a head count.  There were several missing, and the river was well past its banks, nearly reaching the main spring pool in the creek, about 70 ft. from where the creek turns to flow into the river.  One of the missing was an old-timer, a permanent farm resident:  “19”.  She arrived as a young cow, fearless, full of attitude and vigor, and with her own version of humor.  She was a roughneck with other cows, she enjoyed wrestling down the challengers to establish her leadership role, and sometimes she simply seemed to enjoy the wrestling.  She has always loved her cookies (range cubes) and she enjoys the special treatment that comes with her unique charms, and now with her role as den mother.  When she was younger and you wanted to move the herd, it was simple:  call for 19, then she would turn her head and call the group, and all would come.  Now in her teens, with a degree of arthritis, she still has good vigor, but a little less attitude or herd authority.

I checked the cows in the arena to see who was missing while Greg continued searching.  He found a few cows east of the creek.  He searched the peripheral boundaries that could be seen from the road and the tracks, and he spotted 19 near the far east fence line.

The river had crested, but was receding slowly.  We talked about whether to try to move her or wait.  Being a very smart cow, if she could have swum, she probably would have already done that.  She led the group a few years ago when there was another unanticipated flash flood.  We talked with a neighbor who has lived in this area all of his life, who also owns land along the river, about the chances that the river would rise again from runoff further east, then decided to wait as long as we could.

Greg brought the cows that were east of the creek into the east pasture, and I called them into the barnyard and put them in the pen north of the arena.  There were still two missing, a young cow and a calf.  I had heard a cow calling from the area of the bog pasture or the east hay field, and hoped we would find them there after we got 19 out of the flooded bottomland.

At about 6:30, 19 was still near the east fence line.  This is  the highest area in the bottomland for when they don’t dare to swim across under the trestle.  She had been standing in water for almost 12 hours, and being arthritic, we were concerned about what would happen if she couldn’t swim and panicked.  But, if we waited any longer, it could be too dark to attempt getting her out.

The current was strong where the creeks and channels converged.  Greg decided to take a lariat and try to reach her.  I asked him what he would do with the rope if she didn’t want to swim across.  Neither of us had an answer.  He would need to swim across a couple of flooded channels, avoiding the current, then wade the rest of the way to reach her.

I waited at the spring pasture on the 4-wheeler, listening for sounds of water movement.  My view of the entrance to the bottomland pasture is in the image below; the creek is on the other side of the gate.

Flash Flood, Gate to Creek 7/30/13

Flash Flood, Gate to Creek 7/30/13

I heard splashing a couple of times and thought that 19 was being wily, not wanting to come under the trestle.  A large doe ran across the railroad tracks west of me and came to a stop behind me with her ears and head in full alert.  She no doubt was startled by a human wearing a bright orange Ron-Jon Surf Shop tee shirt sitting on a 4-wheeler in her path.  She snorted, then continued running east, followed by a young deer with one remaining spot on its belly.  She charged through the creek to the east.  Some other deer came crashing through the brush along the railroad tracks, then ran through the creek, and I realized that the splashing that I heard earlier was probably from the deer.

Greg emerged west of the trestle on the tracks and waved.  He had moved 19, but she refused to swim under the trestle.  Instead, she walked further west through the soybean field and across the tracks into the hay fields.  By the time I reached the west pasture gate, she was standing there, waiting impatiently for me to open the gate and let her in.  She was happy to be back!  And we were thankful for her safe return.

Today, the young cow and calf are still missing.  We have notified the neighbors and will continue searching for them later today.

We’ve been talking about home-building, and design ideas to better accomodate living with Newfs along with changes to make the home more life-friendly, environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient.  Sometimes I think we should build a Flintstone house, out of an engineered material that has good insulation value.  Living in an older rock house, we have learned the energy deficit that comes with too little insulation combined with the heat mass/heat sink effectiveness of stone.  I wonder whether a sealed, incombustible, engineered material could serve another purpose in dealing with the exaggerating weather extremes:  if you turned it upside down, could it serve as an ark?

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