You never know what might happen in the country

Editor’s note: This month Christopher Dunbar takes a little break from the gardening side and shares a story of a late fall adventure in the heart of rural PEI.

We had an interesting and exciting experience I would like to tell you about.

It was a beautiful October evening, the cool calm air reminded us of the impending frost. Some friends, my brother, and his family were over for a supper of home-made deep dish pizza. Naturally some of the veggie toppings came from the garden but I think the dough is the most important part. The texture of the crust and the pizza’s aroma as the steam rises when you take the first bite, can’t you just taste it? We ate on the veranda alongside the buckets of freshly harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and summer savory. I love the smells. It was such a wonderful fall evening.

Near the end of supper, a cow giving birth in the side pasture caught our attention. The cow didn’t seem to mind the audience at the field’s edge so my brother didn’t intervene. We continued to chat on the veranda about local news, our weather, and compared pickle recipes—typical conversations. I received a bottle of homemade BBQ sauce made with freshly picked plums. It was a new recipe to me and I plan on using the sauce on some back ribs soon. Some wines and banana bread topped off our repast very well. This is a time of such abundance it is well-named ‘Thanksgiving’. The air became colder as the sun set so we moved into the living room.

My brother landed inside a few minutes after the rest of us and announced, to the excitement and disappointment of the would-be spectators who’d missed out, that a bull calf had just been born.

We decided to use the old fireplace to warm ourselves. There is something so soothing about the hearth and watching sparks dancing about the maple logs from our sugarbush. It speaks to our ancient traditions I suppose. Some more time was spent with enjoyable conversations. Experiencing the heat and subtle whiffs of smoke sends a relaxing message that everything is fine in the world. Maybe it was a premonition of calm before the storm.

My brother is a skilled herdsman and always has the livestock in mind, especially during the fall calving season. He decided to check the new calf just to make sure everything was fine, so he quietly slipped out the door as we continued our comfortable chat. No more than three minutes later his wife came to the door out of breath. “We need help, there is a twin calf coming!” The urgency in her voice was clear as quite some time had elapsed since the first calf had been born. It was amazing how quickly the army assembled, and instantly located some rubber boots, jackets, flashlights, lanterns, and baler twine.

In the field I could see my brother was at the business end of the cow. He had hold of one hoof of the calf. He didn’t want to let go because it could slide back in and delay delivery to the risk of the calf… if it was still alive. There was no time to be wasted. He took one hoof and I grabbed the second to give a quick heave.

First pull, nothing. Second pull, the same.

The mama cow must have understood by now that all these people around with the lights were there to help and started to push. Once that happened the new calf came out in less than a minute. Yes, she was breathing. Two large twin calves came out of such a small cow. We left them alone and let nature take its course after that.

We quickly cleaned up and went back inside to the inviting hearth to warm up and resume our evening. It was such a night to remember.

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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