Monday, February 7, 2011

The things we do for beef

To cut to the chase, the cattle got out. We have seven critters ("cattle-beasts", in local, gender-neutral, neutering-neutral, parlance), five that have been around awhile and two that we just got this year. The oldest of the lot is veridically named Psycho: he was traumatized by the trailer on which we attempted to bring him home, and now he's hypervigilant for any two-legged critters and won't let any of them near, especially me.

Here's the story about our land: we put most of it into trees a couple of years ago, and now all we have to do with it is keep the cattle out. But Psycho early developed a taste for adventure, and there's plenty of that on the tree-based--and wilder--sections of the property. You (he) can get lost way up the hill/stream in the bush, or just stand around munching the oh-so-tall grass that's going to keep growing wild until the trees take over. At the very least, you (he) can breathe the heady air of freedom. Some time ago he discovered how to set himself free, which is just a matter--for the average cattle-beast--of walking up to some low, sheep-spec'ed fences that should be electrified but aren't, and strolling right over them. These aren't secure fences, you understand, more like suggestions. So Psycho loves to get away and knows how. Fortunately for us, the other big guys have always been naive in the ways of the world, and Psycho had been going along with the crowd, until recently. There was a jailbreak last week, Psycho taking his naive herdmates with him, and suddenly our confinement problem got a lot more serious.

There is a way to block this egress. It involves stringing electrically-charged tapeline along the boundary. Modern cattle have learned to respect the jolt from the tapeline, but keeping it charged and taut has problems of its own, and if the cattle find an opening, they go to town--not just leaping through, but chewing, stomping and generally making a mess of your boundaries. You may have parallel experience in your own life.

Lately the weather has been hot. Damn hot. But a little shower came this afternoon, and clouds with it, so the cattle that had been wilting in the sun suddenly got an urge to wander, and Krys and I came from town to cattle, except the two little ones, who were looking at the now-trashed barrier with the aspect of a small child left behind while everyone else rides the roller coaster. I went to tidy up the barrier, and as I did I saw one of the big ones disappearing into the bush above the house. (Last time I found them in a reasonably accessible paddock. Not this time.) I followed that one into the woods, and as soon as I showed up, Psycho got wind of me and high-tailed it for the densest, slopiest parts of the property, taking his buddies with him.

Thus began the two-hour adventure of stomping around the property in search of errant cattle. To be honest, I right away gave up the idea of getting them all into confinement. I figured they'd find their own way back into the open, where I could deploy my civilized skills of sneakiness and persuasion, so I set out to explore the farthest, highest reaches of the property, with vertiginous slopes, vast swaths of bracken, areas of pig destruction and even relatively passable forest--passable in spite of the vines that grow for some reason in Tarzanic profusion. I had come home nearly exhausted from playing an hour and a half of squash in the heat today, so I was dragging myself by force of will in the beginning, but after awhile adrenaline or something took over and I became Explorer Steve, bravely wielding his electric-tape pole ("pigtail"), bushwhacking and trail sniffing.

Ultimately, through sheer luck and some unexpected cooperation I did manage to corral four out of the five miscreants and seduce them back to the fold. I think they weren't too sure about their adventure because at one point they were actually FOLLOWING me. But when I finally got back to the house, I was one limp noodle. Never a cocktail that tasted so good, nor shower so sweet. And then it was time to cook dinner. Past time.

I took a chunk of beef out of the freezer (grim poetic justice in that) and stuck it in water to thaw while I collected my thoughts. Mmm, Bittman has a Thai-style stir-fry with basil, fish sauce, garlic and lime juice. That doesn't look too hard. Ooh, two ears of corn are ready! That's just a matter of boiling!!! And there's a pile of okra on the counter. Haven't fried any of THAT this year, and it goes great with corn. And the figs are falling off the cliff as quickly as the goat cheese is headed out, so time for one of the last fig/goat cheese/arugula salads of the year. For dessert.

It took me 45 minutes rather than the promised half hour, but in my cocktail-(Salvaged Melon Daiquiri!)-fueled fug, head swirling with endorphins, muscles sending messages of resignation at an alarming rate, I was surprised it worked out at all. Another feast, and several thousand pounds of cattle-beast are secure for the night. Psycho I'll get back to.

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