• Beth Hoffman

Three Yearlings and a Glass of Wine


Sunset on a beautiful fall night

I just poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to write this post in our new back porch. The sun is going down, a hazy pinkish, orange-ish glow behind the silver maple and walnut trees. The weather has been delicious – warm with a slight crispness like an apple just plucked from the branch. The crickets are still chirping away, but added to their orchestration now is the low rumble of combines in nearby fields harvesting until late at night and flocks of geese squawking overhead as they head south.


The porch is now our favorite place in the house

John, in stark comparison, sits in a car in Knoxville about 30 minutes away, waiting for news about his dad who is in the emergency room. Leroy has not been feeling well the past few days, then suddenly today could not get up off the couch. John and Leroy’s wife Roma took him immediately to the hospital. John was not allowed to enter the building and so waited it out in the parking lot, another casualty of our "new" Covid-saturated world.

It has been a strangely (or I suppose normally, in these pandemic times) intense few weeks, with Leroy’s hospital visit the frosting on the cake. Not all of it was bad – I turned in the first 8 chapters of my book (only 8 more to go!), an exciting and scary moment. My mom and a new friend of ours visited, their stays overlapping, which meant lots of good food and long chats on the porch and in the pasture.

But too we said goodbye to our first three yearling calves (now almost 18 months old) - those who will now meet their “one bad day” much sooner than later. It felt extremely sad; on the farm we spend almost all of our time making sure the cattle are well taken care of, making sure they have the best grass, shade in every pasture, clean water and as few flies as possible. Then ultimately we decide their final moments - an inevitability on a ranch – their lives made from the sunlight, water and plants of our land, eventually nourishing humans. It is the circle of life I suppose, one that is evident every day on a farm where plants and animals quietly battle it struggling together for survival.

The three unlucky yearlings

Yet as a born and bred city girl (or at least a suburban one) it is a difficult loop for me to wrap my brain around. I am used to meat coming from a case in the grocery store, not from something I watched nurse when it was little and later moved to a new paddock each day. And ironically, with so much bounty from the garden over the summer and a different mushroom growing on the forest floor each month, even while raising meat I have become increasingly vegetarian.


Meat - that which is humanely treated, grazed on grass and managed for minimal impact on the land - should be a treat, not an every meal occurrence. And as I listen to all that grain being harvested across the landscape, it reminds me of the colossal waste of time, energy and resources it is to raise corn and soybeans to feed to animals in a feedlot, then sell to customers at dirt cheap prices.


But this ruminating needs to wait for another day when we have less to do (when is that?) and Leroy is feeling better. Right now it is time for sleep.


John driving off with the yearlings


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