I close the door after me carefully, to let Beth sleep. The sun isn’t up yet, but it is light – the quiet cacophony before sunrise. Every bird is calling, fog hangs heavy in the hollows. The old pickup, loaded with fencing supplies the night before, grumbles to life as I turn it up the road toward the pasture.
Dew glistens as I unroll the fence for the cows' next paddock. They have heard the pickup and begin the march to where I am, each wanting to be first through to the new grass. Calves run and chase each other, following their mothers, not caring where the herd is now moving.
The reel holding the electric braid sighs as I walk, unspooling behind me. A swamp blackbird hovers, calling ‘chip chip churee’ as he darts toward me. I’m now soaked with dew, it wicking down into my wellies, squish squeak with each step. Tying off the line at the border fence, I return to the pickup. Taking up the steel fence posts to prop up the thin strand, I retrace the wire’s path, placing a post when the line dips into the grass.
Moving cows each day, it’s a natural rhythm. Cows move on, allowing plants to rest and regrow. Flies are left behind with the manure that feeds the plants. And the cows like it – a fresh salad bar each day with new additions to the menu – rye, flowers, plantain, orchard grass, chickweed, wild strawberry.
As I near the trees for a second time, it has warmed and mosquitoes swoop toward me when I pause, biting at every opportunity. I keep moving until the last post is placed in the deep grass, then walk back to the truck, keeping close watch on the new electric fence, making sure that it is not touching the metal of the posts, only the yellow plastic insulators.
The sun now is well up and it is hot. The cool morning fog has turned into mid morning humidity as I set up the solar fencer, attaching it to a ground rod, then to the fence itself. I turn the system on and listen for the steady click, click, click that means it is working. My final step, I carefully ground an extra steel fence post, holding it by the insulator and slowly lean it toward the electric fence – SNAP, SNAP, SNAP – electrical arcing success.
I walk to where the cows stand waiting and open the gate, allowing them into the newly created paddock. They amble by me, step, bite of grass, step, bite of grass, step, bite of grass.
One, Number 10, pauses to reach her long neck out and sniff my gloved hand as she passes, as if to say thank you. She’s a good cow, one of my favorites.
It makes me smile.