A Casual Matador

Since living on the farm in Lugo for the past two months, we have observed both wildlife and domesticated life – i.e. farm animals in abundance. The birds are of very different varieties than those in Valencia. We will need to buy a book to identify them all. None of them are familiar to us. The birds of both regions all likely winter in Africa, but we don’t get the flocks of green parrots here in Galicia. One of the new birds is a woodpecker, but the only reason we know this is that he does, indeed, peck at the tree trunks of the hundred or so trees surrounding the house.

And, we now have a cat. We didn’t go to a shelter and bring home a kitten. Nope. This one adopted us and he’s more dog than cat. He’s young. Maybe 6 months old. Mr. Sir lingers on the periphery of our lives. Or as Jeff calls him, Señor. Yesterday, Jeff went out to do some pruning of the grapes vines. Mr. Sir was there supervising. Jeff talks to him like he’s a baby. MS will come when you call him and he’s become bolder by the day. Last night he banged on the front door to let us know his food bowl was empty. Yes, Jeff has taken to feeding him special food he purchased for this new member of our farm family. And now seems at a loss as to why this cat never seems to want to leave his side.

‘If he was sick, I wouldn’t be adverse to taking him to see a vet.’ Jeff informed me the other day. ‘He does catch mice and moles.’ As though that is how Mr Sir earns his place in our lives.

Last weekend we were at the local variety store. It’s a more upscale version of el Chino and they know us now. Jeff saw a cat carrier and thought perhaps we might buy it ‘Just in case.’ Yup. It’s our cat now.

Mr. Sir has taken to watching me from the ledge outside the kitchen window, meowing loudly if I’m cleaning something he’s interested in eating. And do I open the window, acquiescing to his cries of starvation? OK. I do it, too. Ugh. He’s the puppet master now. And he knows it.

I like to listen to our neighbor’s flock of geese squawking. Or I guess, honking. They get riled up, perhaps at visits by Mr. Sir. But he needs to watch out. Geese can be mean. I guess on a farm it’s live and learn. Sometimes the hard way.

My favorite pastime this past week has been sitting on a chaise lounge and watching my neighbors cows. They have quite a large farm with many fields separated by fences. The old lady comes and sets up the electric wire with a portable battery. She’s about a hundred years old and does this all with a cane. So I feel like a lazy schlub sitting watching her. They rotate where their cows graze daily and she moves them with a stick. She’s likely done this a million times. We’re always happy when we wake up in the morning to see the cows in the field near our house.

Cows in Spain all have horns, boys or girls, doesn’t matter. In the US you can tell the females by their lack of headgear. And the udders, I guess. Our cows, as we’ve come to think of them, are all blondish or reddish. And, I’ve made some observations about cow behavior that I will pass on to you now. It’s pretty serious stuff.

First of all, cows are generally herd animals. Gripping information, that. But seriously, when one cow decides that the grass over there is better than the grass over here, they all start to move. Sometimes they run, as if they’re going to beat the rest of the herd to that special grass they’ve only just become aware of. I do wonder what goes through their minds.

‘This grass is soooo much better than that grass we were just eating moments ago. And I got here faster than those slow pokes. Moooore for me.’

But there are outliers. too. The couple of girls that always tends to hang out together off to the side. They never seem to react to this walking back and forth across the field incessantly. They stick to the edges and eat the long grass that never gets mowed. And it’s full of purple clover. Their’s is the milk I would want to drink.

And then there is that one cow. The one who is not in the click in the long grass. And also never goes with the crowd. The one who finds the hole in the fence and ends up in the road, eating grass on the other side. The farmer has to be called to come retrieve her. The fence gets repaired so she can’t escape again. But she will find a way, because she always does. She’s younger than the rest. I can hear her mother now.

‘Why do you always have to be different? Why can’t you just be normal and do what everyone else does? Just be a cow and follow the herd!’

So you can see which cow I relate to the most. Unsurprisingly, I have dubbed this cow, ‘Kel Kel’. The name my older sister gave me when I was a baby. Kel Kel is the nonconformist of cows and makes the most trouble for the farmer. There’s always one of us.

Today, Jeff was outside doing some chores. I was watching from the kitchen window while making toast. He is wearing an orange sweatshirt and he’s not a small guy, moving some branches clipped from our cypress trees that mark the entrance to the barn, and piling them up near the field where the cows are. Suddenly, there was a stir. All the cows stood at attention as he approached the fence in his bright orange Columbia sweatshirt. You could sense the tension. Jeff froze. I was worried that his presence, and that sweatshirt might have, quite literally, spooked the herd.

One of the cows was maybe 5 feet from Jeff. And it struck me how big it looked in comparison to him. If it came through the electric fence with its horns and head down he was toast. They both just stood there, staring at each other. Then Jeff threw down the pile he was carrying. Suddenly, the cow standoff came to an abrupt end, as two thousand pounds of prime meat, and future cheese, made an about face and the rest of the herd went with it, running across the field away from Jeff. He turned around, wide eyed and saw me watching from the kitchen window.

‘Did you see that?’ he said as he came into the kitchen. ‘I wasn’t sure that electric fence was going to matter. I don’t think they like my sweatshirt.’

Jeff is back outside, safely ensconced on his tractor. Mr. Sir is laying in the middle of the field on his back hoping Jeff will climb down and pet his belly. Which will probably happen. And the cows next door are watching Jeff and his orange sweatshirt, warily. The neighborhoods newest casual matador.

5 thoughts on “A Casual Matador

  • Those cows are called Rubios, blondies. I have to ask…why are you pruning the grape vines? Do the clusters have mold or something? Just wondering.

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    • They are growing all over the ground now. I don’t think they pruned the vines in winter like I was used to seeing living in Napa. They are out of control. The sellers didn’t prune any of the fruit or nut trees, either. It’s like they stopped everything after we made the offer.

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      • Yeah, that can look messy. Just try to leave at least 8 leaves on the vines with clusters. Trimming them now will create side shoots so you’ll need to snap them off later. In Jan they can be pruned back almost to a stump. If you need help pruning next winter we will be happy to help.

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    • Grape vines need to be pruned in order to produce fruit. The vines you prune this year will bear fruit next year. Next year you prune the ones that produced grapes this year. Enjoy!

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