Farming

Full Circle

So I’m back after years of hiatus. As much as I want to be consistent, “Uncool”, the name of a column I had for years no longer seems appropriate for a person my age, who wants nothing more but to retire and vanish into the trees and, since it is still the rainy season, the muck of my grandparents’ farm in San Isidro. I used to think that writing was everything. As it turns out, yes, it is but sometimes life brings you somewhere else. It doesn’t mean you can’t go back your usual haunts, though. So here I am again, after so many years, completing a full circle.
I’d like to write about a calf born to ARGO Farms (my grandparents’ farm) last week. But first, a backgrounder. Due to the succeeding demise of my aunt and grandmother, for lack of takers I was prevailed upon to manage ARGO Farms, a property in San Isidro, Bacon District devoted to coconut farming. I’ve always been hesitant to undertake challenges like this due to inexperience. I don’t want to be remembered by my folks as the granddaughter who dragged ARGO to the ground. I accepted for deeply personal reasons, and that is to honor the memory of my father, who had died a sad and lonely man and through his own fault always suffered in comparison to his siblings.
Anyway, I took over the management of ARGO Farms, the irony not lost least of all on me. Unlike my relatives from both sides, I do not like to garden. And I am hardly an animal person. I decided that my first task was simple. Housekeeping. For instance, attending to the livestock, particularly carabaos on which our farm is dependent, which had dwindled drastically.
I listened to the advice of our senior farm workers who said our livestock was history and was only a waste of time. Indeed, herding them is unproductive. Even if we sold them their value would be considerably less. One cow had gone to fat and could no longer be expected to create a progeny. A bull was too short and was unable to mount. A carabao’s nose had been torn and could no longer be tethered. I trusted their common sense and decided to sell them off. We were left with a bull (carabao), Gurangan, our most senior carabao who’s a prolific producer if only the farmhands were efficient in monitoring her heat cycle; a bull, and another young bull. To beef up our work force, we bought two carabaos, a bull and a cow (female carabao). Cattle is profitable to raise, but buying them at that point was not practical. Instead we accepted board and lodgers at the farm.

Initially, two heifers from the Recidoros whose farm could no longer sustain the extra livestock. This was a scheme that would increase our livestock without cash exposure. My grandfather would have been driven to tears. When he was alive, this farm used to be called Toril, and he had plenty of livestock from where he would take a couple every week to slaughter and sell at his stall in the wet market.
We took in the Recidoro heifers sometime in 2014. In 2016, one of them calved, and we named her Marleni. Since Marleni is the first calf, she goes to ARGO Farms. When the mother calves a second time, it will be owned by the Recidoros, and so on and so forth. The second cow took much longer to calve. One fine day last year Peter, our farmhand, luckily noticed that the second cow was in heat. Due to the urgency of the situation and having no bull at the farm at that time we took the cow to the air strip at Gabao which is kind of the dating center of cattle. Backyard cattle raisers who owned no land pasture their cattle here, so there’s always some bull there with semen to spare. Well, seems our cow had her one- day fling. Two weeks ago, Ginny, a female heifer was born to ARGO Farms. As it turns out you’ve got to pay the owner of the bull P500 when he hits jackpot. As soon as the cow gets pregnant the owner collects his 500, which the owner did. There is no justice in this world. It’s the bull who does the work. So our Ginny, sired by some random bull. Not so random after all.

Cousins Marleni, Bu and Ginny
Baloy with Gurangan

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