Conrad Muller
Seattle, Washington

Email: conrad at
dot com

Home Again

©Conrad Muller 2005

Day One - Wednesday

The earth smells odd as I turn it with my spade. I love the smell of the rich warm loam, but it doesn't smell quite the same as the soil of Earth. My first day on my new farm. Now I can really believe I am never going to see Earth again.

When I received the government grant for the land, I also received a grant to develop it into a cattle farm. I used some of the grant to place an order for cattle, and used most of the rest to pay for machinery, a house and barn, and outbuildings. Everything was ready when I arrived. I could hardly believe it. People I have never even met had built everything just the way I ordered it, and wanted it. I really thought I would have to spend my first year putting things right. Everything is so perfect, I feel a bit disoriented.

The land needs to be developed. Some of it needs to be cleared, pastures must be leveled and seeded. Fences must be strung. Roads need to be built. There is a lot of work, but the buildings and machinery are ready to go.

I want to meet the men and women who built our buildings. Our family needs to find new friends. We need to find a community. I think I would be very comfortable with the people who built my farm buildings.

I have been digging a little in the garden plot, just getting a feel for the soil. For the rest of today, and all of tomorrow, I'll be helping unpack. I'll probably help enroll the kids in school, too. Then I'll have time to really get to know my farm.

Of course I have the reports from the soil samples. I wouldn't have bid on the farm without them. Still, I won't really know the land until I hold, and smell, handfuls of soil from all of the places samples were taken, and several more. In fact, I won't really know the soil until the first time I plow it.

I have spent years planning the opening of this new land. I have lists, and schedules, and even backup plans. First I need to be sure of the buildings, which looks to be taken care of, then the machinery, then the land. I really need to know the extent of the different soil types better before I can lay out roads and fences. I need to get started soon, if I want to plant winter crops, and some of the cattle will be delivered in about two weeks. I might even try starting the orchard. It's the wrong time of year. But if I can, I'll transplant a few fruit trees.

I've heard about a man with a big machine I can hire to clear out the smaller trees and shrubs. Some of the bigger trees can wait, or even be worked into the layout of the fields. I'll leave some borders around the fields to shelter wildlife. There is plenty of undeveloped land here now, but in time we will have neighbors, and there won't be room for wildlife, unless we set aside a little land. I really want to do this right.

I walk slowly back to the house. I am going to be very busy for the next few months, but for these few minutes today, I am just feeling the warm breeze, and soaking in the smells of my new world.

We couldn't bring much with us, of course, but we had ordered some local furniture, bedding, dishes, and kitchen stuff to be delivered the day we arrived. I could hardly believe it when I saw the trucker unloading wooden crates. Can you imagine that! Beautiful clear lumber made into wooden boxes! On Earth I could sell one of those crates to a furniture builder for more than the cost of its contents.

As I walk into the house, Martha seems really happy. This is a new start for both of us. Everything new; new friends, new home, new land and climate. Room to grow. She has the kids helping her, getting the kitchen ready. She says she has to be able to cook.. If we must, we can sleep on the floor, but Martha can't cook until the dishes, appliances, and utensils are unpacked and in the kitchen. I bring in the boxes of food from the front of the house and start putting them on the shelves and in the refrigerator and freezer. I do like to eat, so I agree with Martha on the priorities in the house.

It's going to be really strange to live almost without electricity. The solar cells will power the phone, the computer, the entertainment center, and a few lights, but cooking will be done on a stove with flaming "burners" for heat. Martha tells me not to worry. People heated with flames for most of human history. I know, I know, but it is one more thing to get used to. And, even stranger, the refrigeration cools using a gas flame!

I guess it's funny how some changes are so easy for me, and others are so hard. It will be hard to have the kids gone all day. The kids will be going to a school that serves a large rural area. The school is too far away for them to come home until they can get bussed home at the end of the day. And it's going to be expensive to send two kids to school. For now, we don't have time to teach the kids at home, and they need to make new friends. I hope they like the school. It will be difficult for all of us if they don't.

I suddenly realize that I don't know what kind of clothes kids wear to school here. I hope Martha knows. We don't have many clothes. We couldn't bring much with us, and we haven't had time to shop yet. Also, we have to start watching how much we spend. The government subsidized only the farm, farming supplies, and farming equipment. We have to pay all of our personal expenses out of our savings.

The school here runs all year. I am surprised that the children don't seem to have time to work with their parents and friends. People here must see education differently than we do. I'll have to ask the school about David, and maybe Anne, having some time for working on the farm during the busy seasons.

I got the water system working this afternoon. It's just a pump that brings water up from a pipe driven into the ground. Carl, the man from the land company, assured me the water was perfectly safe without filtration or treatment. When I wasn't persuaded, he showed me lab tests of the water. That is another thing that requires getting used to.

The water for cleaning and bathing is heated by solar collectors. I didn't get the collectors working until late in the day, so we don't have much hot water, but we are used to that.

Well, Martha is cooking, with David helping. Anne and I are getting ready for dinner, and finding chairs, after clearing enough space for the table and chairs.

This is our first family meal in our new home. We don't have any special ceremony, just our usual grace, and the food is plain, but it is special all the same. I think I'll take Martha up on her suggestion to sleep on the floor. We are all exhausted, and need to get to sleep. The kids don't even complain when I say we are all going to bed as soon as we clean up the dining room and kitchen.

The kids are sleeping in the front room; Martha and I are sleeping in the downstairs bedroom surrounded by crates and piles of stuff. Maybe we won't go to sleep right away, but when we do, we will really sleep soundly.

Day Two - Thursday

The school is different. It is one big building with several rooms for different activities. The kids are all outside when we arrived. Some of the teachers engage our kids immediately, and get them into activities with a minimum of formalities. One of the teachers says that the way this area is growing, there are new kids almost every day. If that's true, I suppose the building will need to be expanded soon.

The lead teacher is very nice. We talk for a while about the school schedule. We could have checked it from home, but didn't think of it. It turns out that the students do take time to do part time jobs and apprenticeships. We transfer funds for the rest of the month and leave the office. Back outside, the kids are almost too busy to say good-bye. The kids will be bussed home at the end of the school day. I think things are going to work out fine.

After stopping in Commerce to pick up a few things, we head home to start preparing for the cattle that will be delivered in two weeks. I need to have a pasture fenced by then. While we were in Commerce, I asked about hiring help to get the fences up, but no one seems to be available right now. If I have to, I can set up a small temporary pasture by myself, but I don't want to have to do everything twice. I need to find some help. Martha says she will help, and I know she will, but she has a full schedule, too. I'll get online tonight and see if I can find some help from further away. It would cost a little more, but I need those fences.

Back at home, the first job is getting the soil survey finished, so here I am, in shorts and boots and a hat, my official "farmer" outfit, digging holes. I'm on the edge of some thick brush, using the spud bar to break through the roots to start a hole.

There's a noise in the bushes, and a dark form hurtles toward me, I raise the spud bar in surprise and am spun around by an impact. I am standing, stunned, and another form comes at me. Too fast! Nothing should move that fast! I swing and hear a crunch. I turn and swing again at a retreating figure and think Bugs! Where did they come from? How did they get here?

There is a pause. I start breathing again.

Six more Bugs, I count them again. Just standing there. I've never seen a real Bug before. A bit taller than me, I know they only weigh about 50 kilos. I'm not sure how their eyes work, but I can tell they are staring in horror at the three on the ground. Suddenly the one I hit across the back starts to scream. The first one is kicking feebly. I think I must have impaled it on the spud bar. Six feet of solid steel, six or seven kilos, with a sharp wedge end. I drop the spud bar and throw up right where I am standing.

The Bugs glance at the dead Bug and move on to the one that was kicking. I can tell it is dying, it's just shivering a little now. I think I would throw up again if I had anything left in my stomach. I think the Bugs have given up on it, too, because they turn away and go to the one who is screaming.

Then I look down and see that my hands and arms are smeared with what I guess is the blood of the dying Bug. I do throw up again.

I don't feel I am in any danger from the Bugs now. I am filled with a mixture of anger and shame and concern. The noise the third Bug is making tears at me. It is not very loud, but it pulls at me in almost the same way as a hurt child crying. How can that be, I think. How can I react like this to a creature that looks something like a giant insect?

Well, I guess it doesn't matter now. The wounded Bug needs first aid. I load it in the wagon, hop on the small tractor and head for the house. The other Bugs just stand there and watch us drive away. I thought they would follow, but right now I don't have time to worry about it. They don't look like they are going anywhere.

I yell for Martha, and she answers from the house. On an impulse, I head for the equipment shed. As I pull in, Martha is running to meet me. "What happened Frank?" she calls. I wait until she gets into the shed to try to explain.

"But Frank, where did the Bugs come from? The Bugs have never attacked anybody. There weren't supposed to be any bugs in this system. What did they want? Are these Bugs soldiers? Are they armed?"

No, they're not armed. They don't seem to be soldiers. I don't know what they want. I don't know how they got here. I suppose they're lost.

I am just trying to figure out what to do about the injured Bug. I put it up on a workbench. Pointing a work-light at the Bug's back, I can see the wound better. The blow made two breaks in the carapace. There is a triangular piece pushed down into the Bug's back. I reach for a vacuum clamp, get a grip on the sunken piece and pull it up. The Bug stops making the sound. The piece of carapace doesn't stay in position when I let go! How am I going to stabilize it? An inspiration (I hope), I'll use the glass fabric with quick setting resin I will use to repair the covers on the farm machinery.

Martha holds the clamp and I run to the supply locker. I get out a fiberglass patch pack. After squeezing the resin bubble to break it, I start kneading the resin into the fabric. With Martha holding the clamp, I seal the cracks in the carapace with thin strips of adhesive tape so the resin won't penetrate, then I lay on patches cut from the pack and wait for the resin to change color to indicate it's cured. In a couple of minutes the resin is hard, so I have Martha remove the clamp, and we stand back.

To my surprise, after a little thrashing about, the Bug gets up on its feet. It starts looking around. I guess it wants to rejoin its companions. I start up the tractor, and without a word, Martha and the bug get into the wagon.

The six Bugs are still in the field. They are eating the two dead Bugs! I am not as revolted as I would expect to be. Martha looks a bit grim, but doesn't say anything. Are they acting from social or natural impulses? Is it a form of sanitation? Recycling? Honoring the dead? Martha and I don't know, but we decide we have to trust them to do what is right for them in this case.

The wounded Bug joins in the puzzling meal. Suddenly I realize how much of the two dead Bugs has been eaten. Each of the six uninjured Bugs must have eaten four or five kilos. It seems almost impossible. We sure have a lot to learn about bugs.

Standing there in the field, Martha and I realize we have not notified anyone of our uninvited guests. Well, we didn't bring a phone with us, so we will have to go back to the house.

I look at the clock on the tractor and realize this whole thing has only taken a little over half an hour so far. My head spins.

We don't know who to contact. There is military on the planet, but I don't know whom to call, and I'm not convinced that this is a military matter. There isn't anything resembling police in this area. I have no idea who else to contact, so I call the road maintenance department in Commerce. One of the men mentions a guy named Bob Robinson who was an intelligence analyst in the Bug war and might be able to talk to the Bugs. He promises to get Bob Robinson, and I say we'll meet them at the road maintenance office. Martha and I climb into the truck. We drive out to the field, and after a lot of arm waving and a little pushing, the Bugs are in the back of the truck, and we are headed for the outskirts of Commerce.

Bob Robinson turns out to be an accountant in Commerce. He is too fit. Probably works out every day. He seems nice, though. He can talk to the Bugs a little. It takes quite a while.

They are a work crew. They were supposed to be dropped off at one of their colonies. They woke up in the woods, still strapped in their shipping container. They were scared. They didn't even know what planet they were on. They were just trying to keep me from running away before they could get me to help them.

Three of the road crew set off to see if they can find and recover the Bug shipping container. Bob says he doesn't know what to do with the Bugs, but they can eat our food, and he doesn't think they are dangerous.

I have an idea that makes me think I might be a little dangerous. These guys, critters, whatever, are a work crew, and I am someone who desperately needs a work crew! I have Bob ask them, and when they finally understand, they seem so grateful I am embarrassed.

Well, we need to be back home when the kids get home from school, so we thank everyone, load up the Bugs, and head back. It's a very quiet trip. I ask Martha about having the Bugs work for us. She just says that we need to find out their names, we can't keep calling them Bugs. And we have to pay them. It's the law. Do Bugs know about bank accounts and credit transfers? This could be interesting. Martha rubs my shoulders and says she'll take care of it. She tells me to worry about the soil survey and the fences. I love that woman.

The injured Bug is resting. We haven't had any luck finding out their names. The Bug language is a series of clicks and pops. They seem to be able to learn to understand some English words, but they can't make the sounds of human speech. Maybe they have told us their names, and we didn't understand. I think we need to invite Bob Robinson over for supper one day, soon.

We are all waiting out front as the kids get home. By the time the school bus turns around in our drive, the driver and all of the kids had gotten a really good look at the Bugs. I guess there won't be any other topic of conversation online tonight. By early evening the whole planet, at least the human settled part, will know about the Bugs. Maybe I had better call Bob Robinson and see if I can get him to inject some authoritative background into the debate that is bound to develop.

I never paid any attention to the government's anti-Bug propaganda. I accepted it for the garbage it was, but some people are bound to have been sucked in. After all, the confrontation went on for generations. People jokingly started calling it the 100-year Bug war. There was never a real shooting war, there couldn't be with the limits on logistics between star systems. No one got hurt, except in accidents, but some people just seem to need an enemy to justify their existence.

I hope there's no trouble. I've been feeling pretty relaxed because there hasn't been any negative reaction so far, but, I have to remember that only a few people have met our Bugs. I don't know what the general reaction will be.

Well, time to get ready for supper. The Bugs don't seem hungry. I'm not surprised.

Now that supper is over, we are taking the kids out to see the dead Bugs and tell them what really happened. By tomorrow, every kid in school will have a story, every story will be different, and most of them will be very wrong. I think the best hope for our kids is to know the truth, and be sure of it. I'm sorry they have to see the dead bodies, but Martha agrees that they need to know. I suppose I should do something about the Bug bodies in the field, but I just can't do it tonight.

Only the wounded Bug is with us in the field. The bodies are just as we left them. The kids wonder at how much has been eaten. The kids seem to take it OK, but I expect some hard questions from the kids, and maybe some nightmares as they try to deal with this. The Bug stands off a little way and is quiet. I wonder what he (she? it?) is thinking? Were those friends, siblings, comrades in arms?

Let's go home. We'll have a story, and then bedtime. I pick up the spud bar with a wince and take it along. The Bugs have cut some tall grass for bedding, and are making themselves comfortable in the empty hayloft. I have to help the wounded Bug up the ladder. Then, online for a while, trying to cut off some of the rumors with a first hand account of my day. I hope it helps.

Day Three - Friday

The next morning the kids don't want to go to school, they want to stay home with the bugs. They go anyway. The Bugs seem ready to work, but first they go to the field where the bodies are still lying. Once at the bodies, the Bugs eat some more. Then they start gathering dead branches. I see that they are building a funeral pyre. I go back to the machinery shed and get a power saw and a weed burner. Now we can build the pyre more easily. I am amazed at how quickly the Bugs figure out how to use the power saw. Maybe they will be able to build my fences after all.

I light the pyre with the weed burner. Martha joins us, and we watch as the fire does its job. Holding Martha's hand, I say something brief about mortality. I know the Bugs don't understand, but I feel better. Some of the thicker pieces of carapace haven't burned completely, but the Bugs seem satisfied, so Martha is going back to the house, and I am getting to work.

I show the Bugs how I want them to cut fence posts. They seem to already know how to build fences. They have both of the power saws, and I am on the big tractor with the post-hole digger. I ask the tractor to drill a hole every four meters, make sure it knows which way to go, and jump off. I have decided that I need to get started stringing fence for the first pasture without doing my soil survey. The best I can do right now, is walk along behind the tractor and watch the soil as the auger brings it up. It's looking good, so far.

At lunchtime I show one of the Bugs how to drive the small tractor, and the crew heads off to bring out the posts they have cut. I realize now that getting enough posts with only two power saws is not going to work. After lunch, Martha will drive into Commerce and buy two more saws. I have called ahead, and they are holding them for her.

Two of the crew are stripping the bark off of the posts. This step is done by hand with small adzes. I wish I could skip this part, but I am afraid that posts with bark on them will only last half as long as posts without bark. I think I will need a few more hired hands if I want to get the big pasture fenced in before the cattle arrive. I better get online again tonight. I hope the controversy over the Bugs will not make it harder to find help.

I can't believe it's evening already. Martha is saving dinner for me. The tractor has put in postholes all the way up one of the 500-meter sides of the pasture. The soil was rich and deep the whole way. The grass is fine. In time I will want to plant higher yielding varieties, but for now, the prairie grass will do. I suppose I could let the tractor work all night, but I don't trust it enough yet to let it work unsupervised.

I'm almost too tired to eat. I'm sure I won't have any trouble falling asleep. Martha says she and the kids are fine, and she'll fill me in tomorrow. I am too tired to get online to look for more workers. Martha says she has already posted some notices. We might hear something by morning.

Day Four - Saturday

I woke up early because I can hear the sound of the small tractor heading out to the wood lot. Those Bugs must not sleep much. Martha is awake, too. We turn to each other.

After awhile, we go to the front room and check for responses to our notices. It's nice that the kids are sleeping upstairs now. There is a response from two sisters who own their own small farm, but need to earn a little extra to develop it. I check them online and it looks good. I call them. They will be over in an hour. I am embarrassed as I realize how early I called them, but they really don't seem to mind.

I grabbed some breakfast, and now I'm heading out to see how the crew is doing. It's another beautiful morning. We are in the rain shadow of the Carpathian Mountains. This is natural grassland, perfect for a beef operation. I can raise hay and winter wheat, but not much else. What I really need is pasture, and I have plenty of that.

It was not too hard convincing the government to finance my development of this farm. Developing this solar system is going to take people, and people are going to need food. Of course, they don't need to eat steak. My guess is, the government hopes to lure people here by providing a higher standard of living than Earth can support now.

The two women arrive. At least they have names. Beth and Doris. They pitch right in and start setting fence posts. Now I can see progress. When the posts are in place on one side of the pasture we will string two strands of barbwire. I want a four strand fence, but I may have to settle for two strands now, and the other two later. I think I will take a break from supervising and checking postholes. I need to start building the gates and fence corners. As soon as I drill the holes for all of the fence corners and gates, I will put on my carpenters hat.

Day Five - Sunday

Sunday morning. Martha says we are going to go to meeting this morning. I have to agree she is right. The Bugs insist on working. The sisters will not be here today. Well, I try to tell the bugs to hide if anyone comes around. I hope they understand. There hasn't been much negative comment online, but there might still be some backlash.

I am really proud of my family today. The kids look great, and are very well behaved, in general. Martha always looks great, and is always well behaved in public.

Some of the people who built our house and other buildings are at meeting. I like them, but there was not much chance to get acquainted yet.

Back at the farm, the Bugs are fine. I sit down and do some calculations. If I had two more workers, I could have at least two strands of wire up on the day before the cattle arrive. If there are no calves, I can even hold them for a while with one strand of electrified wire. Well, there are bound to be calves. I need two more workers.

Online again, here are two more responses. Online they look OK. I'll give each of them a call. If they work out, I'll have two more workers. I make a deal with each of them. Both of them want to stay here on our farm for the duration. Martha says we can fix them up a place in the loft of the machinery shed, and they can eat with us. That's OK with both of the men. The sisters already eat lunch with us, but go home every night.

It's nice to be spending some time with the kids. I am pitching and David is catching. Anne and Martha are taking turns batting. We take a break to spray each other with the hose. I wish there was enough water for a pond. Maybe we can have a small pond to swim in some day.

I look up and there are the Bugs, watching. One holds a hand (claw?) up and waves it. I throw him the ball and he catches it easily. Well, maybe we have a ball team. No, there is no way I could explain the rules of baseball to them. So we settle for more batting practice. At least we have fielders now. The Bugs can throw and catch just fine. They are having a little trouble with batting, but they seem to be having a good time.

Day Six - Monday

The two new men, Greg and Dan, both showed up early. I am getting them settled into the loft of the machinery shed. Martha is fixing breakfast. They have seen the Bugs, and seem more curious than worried.

Greg mentioned he served out-system in the Bug war. I am not sure how he would feel if I ask him about it. Especially since I didn't approve of the war. I guess I'll see what Martha thinks.

Actually, all four of my hands, Beth, Doris, Greg and Dan, are ex-military. Except for Greg, they have served only here. It seems that one way to get out here is to sign up for a one-way trip to serve out a five-year military enlistment. Then you are on your own. That is why these people, and others like them need jobs. They received small land grants as part of their severance, but they do not have any government subsidies for developing their land. Of course many of them have ambitions that do not include farming, but my crewmembers would like to develop their own land.

Breakfast is good. Everyone is eager to get started. I think we can get a lot done today. Greg is going to help me with the gates and corners. Dan is going to help Beth set posts, and Doris will supervise the tractor drilling postholes, when not setting posts. The Bugs will continue to make and bark posts. I wonder about the Bugs. They have been eating cooked grain and vegetables. Nothing else seems to interest them. We need to find out if they need anything else to stay healthy.

I thought I was going to get to sit down to lunch, but now Martha is calling me to the phone. It's one of the schoolteachers. Our kids have been in a confrontation with other kids over the bugs. At least David has. Oh, Anne was there, too. She called him what? Well, at least she's creative.

Well, another day gone, but we are really making progress. The postholes are ready on two sides of the pasture. One side has almost all of the posts in. Greg and I got the two main gates built and installed. By this time tomorrow, the Bug crew will have cut and debarked enough posts to finish the second side of the pasture. On Wednesday I will have Greg and Dan and two of the Bugs start stringing wire. I think we might get all four strands on by the time the cattle are delivered.

The kids are home now, and don't seem to think the schoolyard confrontation was a big deal. I guess we will let it drop, unless it happens again.

Day Ten - Friday

This has been a really busy week. Martha and I decided we would only work a half day today. Martha and I and the Bugs pile into the truck and head for town. We will set up accounts for the Bugs, and let everyone shop and relax. The four human workers have already had their pay transferred to their accounts, but the Bugs have to show up in person to get their tax ID numbers and sign for their bank accounts.

Commerce is the marketing and financial center of the humans on this planet. About 1100 of the planet's 8500 civilians live in Commerce. On Earth, I lived in buildings that housed more than 1100 people. Of course, those of us who are already here are the pioneers. We are going to develop the agricultural and raw materials base that the next wave of immigrants will build on. That is how the Bug "war" is being fought. We are going to claim this planet by developing it first.

I have hired Bob Robinson to take care of the paperwork for the Bugs. He has everything ready, and we are waiting at the bank for the taxman so that we can start the accounts. The bank is a small wood frame building, smaller than our house. I guess it's big enough for Commerce.

The taxman is named Carl Brodman, and he is large and tanned. He is the government procurement officer, as well as the taxman. This is the man I will be delivering most of my cattle to.

Bob does a lot of arm waving and clicking with the Bugs, then seven sets of "finger prints", seven official stamps, and the Union has seven new tax payers. A few more questions and signatures and the new taxpayers have taxable income in brand new accounts. I wonder what they make of all of this?

It occurs to me that Commerce has just become the financial center for Bugs on this planet, too. I wonder how the folks back on Earth are going to feel about that? Well, it will be a while before they find out, and a while longer before we find out what they think. I guess I won't worry about it right now. Actually, I don't think I really care.

Day Eleven - Saturday

We put in a long day today. I am really tired. We have half of the pasture fenced with four strands of wire. We have posts up on most of the third side. Greg and I pored the concrete pads for two stock watering troughs. Greg showed me how to drive a well with a "point" on a pipe using a sledgehammer. It only took an hour each! Amazing! That must be how the well at the house was driven. We tried each well with a hand pump, to make sure it worked. We got lucky both times.

Monday we will install the solar collectors and the water pumps. Then we will have water for the cattle. I am going to keep all of the Bugs making posts until we have enough. Then they can help put up posts. After all of the posts are up, they can string wire, too.

The kids have had a good week at school. The hard work seems to be bringing all of the adults together. Several of our neighbors have dropped by to help or offer help. One family gave us a dozen hens and a rooster. It's been a good week.

Day Twelve - Sunday

Meeting in the morning, followed by a potluck, then home to spend some time as a family.

It is hard to get those Bugs to stop working, but they did stop this afternoon to play baseball and play in the spray from the hose. I can hardly believe it, but Greg and Dan seem to be teaching them the rules of baseball. I am thinking of hiring Greg full time when this is over, if I can see a way to afford him.

It's after supper, and the Bugs have built a campfire. I am having a hard time picturing a Boy Scout troupe made up of Bugs. Heck, I don't even know if they are boys. Still, the kids are having a lot of fun with the Bugs, on the rare occasions when the bugs are not working.

Day Fourteen - Tuesday

The pasture is done and we are taking a break this afternoon. We are too tired to play ball, but we'll probably rouse a little when the kids get home from school. Tomorrow we will build some holding pens at the barn for sick or injured cattle. We are going to mow and bail the grass from the other pasture area, and stack it in the field with a tarp over it. That will give us a little feed in reserve. I have the water troughs working, and salt blocks are set up. Thursday, about 400 head of beef cattle will be delivered to the farm.

I had a hard time believing that the cattle were going to be delivered by having them walk 40 kilometers. It is taking four days. Six men and a small truck are driving the cattle. Each night the cattle are pastured on a different farm, and the men go home. In the morning they drive back and continue the trip. I drove over and looked at the cattle again last night, they looked fine. Counting the calves there are 405 head.

We will need more pasture soon. I guess I'll need to keep my crews busy for a while longer. I am running out of small trees for fence posts. We will either have to split posts out of bigger trees, or buy trees from a neighbor.

Day Sixteen - Thursday

The cattle are here! We let the kids stay home from school; in fact, some of their friends are here, too. Actually, we have quite a crowd of neighboring families and folks from the meeting.

The cattle turn into the pasture without complaint. Some of them went straight to the water, others found the salt blocks. Most of them just started grazing. I have one last chore with the fence, I have to connect the security system, but many hands make light work, and most of the people here are very familiar with this type of gear. It's done. Time for a potluck and ball game!

You know, when I first arrived on my farm, I felt that I was home again. But today, after a little more than two weeks, I think it is the only real home I've ever had!

Next: Chapter 2, The Inspector General

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