I Need to Extend Compassion to Animals

The Izikhomo strike again.

It was another sleepless night in the Drakensburg. Sleep is one of my main coping mechanisms to keep agitation at bay. The ideal amount is 7 or 8 hours, but if I go below 5 it is not pretty. If there is an emergency I can deal with sleep deprivation, as long as I do not work the next morning.

Last Wednesday I had to pack food orders for support groups that are facilitated by wonderful but currently very demanding caregivers, while running on 6 hours of sleep. My isiZulu is not capable of explaining how while a caregiver ordered jam, sugar, onions, and oranges, it does not change the fact that the director forgot to put it on the shopping list. That and we were out of tea this morning so our data staff accidentally took from one of the caregiver’s tea orders, because the other caregivers wanted tea. Even though I am confident that the caregiver did not need 100 tea bags, she was still unhappy.


This is what I mean. For the sake of world order, I need adequate amounts of sleep.
Yesterday I had a rough day at work and after cleaning and bathing, bedtime was established at 8:30 PM. At 9 PM, my host sister (who lives in the same house) yells through the door asking if I am awake. I was half asleep but asked what she needed. I cooked that night on the gas stove and she smelled gas. I had to get up, check that I turned it off (I did).

Throughout the evening one of the cows was particularly loud. Y’all know how beagles bay? Well I have learned through Peace Corps that cows are also capable of baying. I figured that it was another case of a lost cow. I did not have any earplugs so I hunkered down for a long night as the cow continued to wail right at the fence.

Around 2:30 AM, I wake up to the cow’s cries reaching a new pitch. 3:30 AM a calf starts to add to the nighttime opera, and I am thinking unkind thoughts. In my state of semi-consciousness I conclude the mother and calf were misplaced due to farmer error. There would be a fun discussion with my host family in the meantime I fall back asleep around 5 AM. I get up late, scramble to get ready, glare at the black cow hovering over the hillside and while I walk out the gate I see this…

New life!

New life!

Apparently my night was not as bad as this poor calf. The first time mother delivered a calf right outside my room right next to the pasture fence. Bit of a reminder: My homestead is carved out of a hillside.
(my backyard).

My "backyard" the black culprit...err cow is in the foreground.

My “backyard” the black culprit…err cow is in the foreground.

The night of the birth, the mother delivered the calf and right after her entrance, the calf rolled down the hill. The “baying” was the panicked mama searching for her bewildered child. Childbirth is an intense experience for humans, I cannot imagine adding the pitch black Drakensburg night to the affair…and not knowing what happened to the baby after it arrives. Thankfully the calf did not break any bones in the tumble. Still, poor mama and calf…and uncle/cousins who woke up at 4 AM to attend to the ruckus.
This brings the total to 13 calves this winter, we have one more to go. The reason why calves are born during the winter, when the grass is brown, is there is disease (a worm like parasite) in green grass. If the baby is born in the winter, they can build up immunity to the green grass. If they are born during the spring, consuming the worm will kill them within a couple days.

A 14 year old cow is due to give birth to the final 14th calf. She looks beyond ready (besides the telltale swollen udder). Both my host sister and I are hoping this will be a daytime birth!

More than ready!

More than ready!

In the meantime, my side of the house has earned another title besides “a Gentlemen’s Club for Chickens”: the Borning Room. Also, I need to make my way to Pretty City soon for better ear plugs.


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