The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M ~ Part VII

☆ June 26, 2018

Previous Installments: Part I
 / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Intermission
 / Part V / Part VI

A week went by. A week of mornings and evenings that had lost their sparkle, that felt somber and empty. Star Baby no longer had adult cow companionship in the little corral. 3M, now orphaned, was often curled up by herself. Star Baby’s baby figured out how to get out of the corral and left whenever she wanted, to explore and play with the other calves, returning only for meals. She was also getting big enough to empty Star Baby’s udder by herself and there was less and less milk for 3M each passing day. I found where Star Baby’s baby was escaping and purposefully locked her out of the corral, blocking her return until Star Baby’s udder refilled and 3M had gotten first dibs. But when her calf showed up to eat and couldn’t get in the corral, Star Baby stood right next to the panels so her calf could nurse through the railings. As patient and generous as Star Baby had been for the past month – going into the head catch twice a day on cue, standing calmly while 3M nursed, never once kicking (unless 3M tried to nurse when Star Baby was out of the head catch) – her loyalty was to her calf and it always would be. From the start, I knew Star Baby would be a temporary wet nurse, that eventually, her own calf would get big enough and greedy enough to take all the milk she produced. This arrangement was reaching its expiration date.

Meanwhile, Fiona still hadn’t calved. She was the only cow left to calve. A few days after 6 died, I was brushing Fiona and felt her calf moving inside her. A protruding lump rose in a gentle yet startling wave under my hand and disappeared. It was thrilling. But the only other time I’d felt a calf move in utero was with Roxy, and so even though my control group was exactly one, I was suddenly paranoid that Fiona’s calf would also be breech. Later that week, when Fiona was standing off by herself and I knew she would calve that day, I lured her into the front yard so I could watch her easily. Fiona went into labor a few hours later and when her water broke, I collected as much of her jelly-like amniotic fluid as I could and put it in the fridge. I had plans for it. I was overjoyed when her calf’s hooves emerged because they showed the calf was not breech. Everything about the delivery went smoothly and Fiona delivered her baby right in my lap – the second time she’s done this.

Fiona and her calf spent the rest of the day and that night together in the yard. I wanted to be sure they bonded completely. The next day, I put a tiny calf halter on 3M and threw open the gates of the little corral so Star Baby could rejoin the herd and her wandering calf. Before she sauntered off, Star Baby approached me and licked my elbow. It was the most affection she’s ever shown a human. Then off she went, and I walked 3M to the yard to join Fiona and her newborn. Though 3M was a month older than Fiona’s calf, they were exactly the same size because 3M had been so small when she was born. I got the amniotic fluid from the fridge and poured it all over 3M and rubbed it into her coat in hopes of tricking Fiona. Cows know their calves by sight and sound but a key identifier is scent, and if 3M smelled like Fiona, perhaps Fiona would adopt her right away! I stood at Fiona’s flank and stroked the side of her udder. 3M galloped over and reached out with a tentative tongue. Fiona was not into it. She was not fooled by the amniotic goo bath I’d given 3M and she was not going to let 3M nurse, so I had to pull out the ol’ Maia trick and blindfold her.

Mike and I stumbled onto this trick years ago out of sheer frustration with Maia (who is still a giant pain) and though we don’t use it often, it’s a brilliant, low-impact intervention. It’s easy, it’s temporary, it requires no equipment other than a jacket or flannel shirt, and it’s not traumatizing to the cow, as evidenced by their willingness to be blindfolded over and over and the fact that they chew their cud while blindfolded. Chewing cud is kind of like yawning – animals simply won’t do it if they’re in acute stress.

I took off my coat and placed it over Fiona’s face and tied the arms loosely under her chin. Her nose remained exposed, and I stood between her head and 3M’s body so Fiona would smell mostly me while 3M went to town on Fiona’s decadent udder, feasting till she was about to burst. As Daisy’s daughter, Fiona makes a lot of milk. She has produced incrementally more milk with each passing year, which is a little weird, but perhaps has something to do with her being a dairy-angus cross. Last year, the volume of milk had been manageable for her calf, but barely. It had been almost too much for a single calf. This year, I knew she’d have enough milk for two calves.

But I wasn’t sure if Fiona would ever fully adopt 3M the way Daisy has adopted second and third calves in years past. I had high hopes, especially since we were introducing 3M immediately after Fiona had calved. Still, I wanted 3M to learn how to get her own meals from Fiona without my help, in case Fiona never fully accepted her. Bovines have excellent memories and are brilliant at understanding patterns. I just had to show 3M the new routine a time or two for her to catch on – and not only catch on, but to start manipulating the situation in her favor.

I set up a playpen of sorts using two panels and the natural curve of the wooden fence. I put Fiona’s calf in the playpen at night so he wouldn’t nurse early in the morning before I got up. In the morning, I put the blindfold on Fiona and let her calf out of the playpen. He ran to Fiona, and as soon as he latched on, I coaxed 3M to Fiona’s other side, and stood between her body and Fiona’s head. Fiona sniffed her calf and sniffed me and that satisfied her, and she stood calmly as both calves nursed. I repeated this in the evening – putting Fiona’s calf in the playpen for a few hours in the afternoon, and coordinating a mutual mealtime with 3M.

3M is scrappy and resourceful and strategic and determined and clever. She already knew that when I showed up, I was going to help her get a meal. Over the following days, as soon as I let Fiona’s calf out of the playpen, both calves ran to Fiona and latched on – one on each side. 3M soon figured out that if she snuck onto a teat when Fiona’s calf nursed in the middle of the day, she didn’t need me around at all. If Fiona balked, 3M moved to the same side as Fiona’s calf, with Fiona’s calf positioned between herself and Fiona’s head so Fiona couldn’t really tell she was there.

One morning, I took Fiona’s blindfold off before the calves had finished their breakfast. Fiona arced her head to one side and sniffed her calf, and arced her head to the other side and sniffed 3M, then straightened her head to the front and began chewing her cud – the universal cow sign that all is well and there’s nothing to stress about. The next morning, I put the blindfold on, the calves ran to Fiona and latched on, and I removed the blindfold a mere thirty seconds later. Fiona looked left, looked right, looked front, and chewed her cud. After that, I stopped putting Fiona’s calf in the playpen at all. And when I went outside, I’d often find all three together, both calves nursing, Fiona standing peacefully. One day, I went outside and found Fiona licking 3M, just as she does with her own calf, just like 6 used to do.

When I saw Fiona licking 3M, I knew they were a family. 3M and Fiona’s calf are still exactly the same size, and they race around the yard together and buck and play. If you didn’t know the whole story, you’d think Fiona had twins. But you know the whole story: the long and winding and beautiful and tragic and truly magical story of 3M.



76 Responses to “The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M ~ Part VII”

  1. Abby
    June 26th, 2018 @ 9:49 am

    Beautiful story and storytelling. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Susie Brandt
    June 26th, 2018 @ 9:56 am

    And there is hope in the valley.

    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:16 am

    Love your stories so much!!! So happy for a wonderful ending for the calves and Fiona. Beautiful color in the pictures. THANKS for sharing ~ love to the farmily.

  4. mimi
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:17 am

    Wow, Shreve, truly magical it is! Love this photo. Thanks for allowing us to share it with you…

  5. Joy
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:19 am

    Oh! What a wonderful ending. I really love your beautiful way with words in the telling the story, and really appreciate that you allow us to be a part of life you have chosen to live.

  6. Marg
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:26 am

    I am now so content I feel like chewing my cud. Great story Shreve, ty.

  7. Amy
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:31 am

    Hallelujah and amen. What a magical winding story, full of all the emotion that is loving animals, and told by the most gifted story teller. Thank you. Blessings to all, including the spirit of 6.

  8. shreve
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:32 am

    M ~ hahahaaaa!!!!!!

  9. Laura Dufresne
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:32 am

    Love the story. Love everything about your two sites – have been a fan for years. thank you.

  10. Nova Lockhart
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:40 am

    Such a beautiful ending! I am so happy all is well with the motherless calf. Best wishes for a good summer.

  11. Sheri Nugent
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:41 am

    Wow! That was so good! A lovely complicated journey where we all got to make new bovine friends… Fiona is awesome… And 3M is the cutest, So glad you included a picture.

    This novel was amazing. Thanks!!

  12. Wendy Marsh
    June 26th, 2018 @ 11:12 am

    Never stop telling these “long and winding and beautiful and tragic and truly magical” stories, Shreve!! Love them!

    June 26th, 2018 @ 11:32 am

    This was great. I looked forward to every installment, like an old-time serial. Please keep us updated every once in a while on dear 3M, Fiona’s calf (which I just realized didn’t get named in the story!), and Fiona. Good job, you.

    PS If you’re still looking for a name for Fiona’s baby, may I suggest Marley for his/her ultra chillness in sharing an udder?

  14. bonnie
    June 26th, 2018 @ 11:38 am

    thank you! i needed that.

  15. Emily
    June 26th, 2018 @ 11:45 am

    I’ve loved reading these so much, thank you for sharing.

  16. mj
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

    Thank you Shreve for never giving up, for all your dedication to your Farmily and for all the tricks up your sleeve. And thank you Fiona for being the beautiful and generous mother that you are for accepting the direction from Shreve to become an adoptive mom too.

    Thank you for sharing the story with all of us. Prayers for your Farmily and for you and Mike.

  17. Lacey
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:23 pm

    Such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing.

  18. Lindsay
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

    LOVED reading this and enjoyed the happy ending. Although life is filled with sad, dark and/or defeating moments, it’s those few wonderful moments that make up for it, don’t they? Fiona is beautiful and of course, she’s such a good momma. I’m glad it worked out for 3M.


  19. Kristan
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

    Yay! Like others have said, I so looked forward to these installments, like an old serialized story. I hope you’ll have occasion to do more of these in the future.

    Also, these farmily stories are such a balm to the soul in these trying political times. Thank you for that too.

  20. Cinda Mefferd
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

    A true love story reflecting your dedication to connecting deeply with your loved ones, followers, and work. Wow. Your writing and ministering are SO good. Thank you, Shreve. Each installment is heart-renderingly evocative and descriptively compelling: words at their best created many feelings, and pictures in my mind’s eye culminating with the lovely photo. Your details about birthing calves and raising cows as you do, with kindness and years of astute experience, are fascinating and memorable.

  21. Patr
    June 26th, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

    Beautiful, just beautiful – — – and now I need a tissue and to take a little walk somewhere not at my desk…. :)

  22. Bev
    June 26th, 2018 @ 1:13 pm

    Such a beautiful story. I cried when 6 died and cried when all ended happily for 3M. I’m amazed at the efforts you go to for all of your cows. I love the photo!!

  23. mlaiuppa
    June 26th, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

    10,000 words. That’s a short story.

    But this is only ONE short story.

    I’ll bet you could do the same with Charlie, Eli, the chickens, Daisy, so many members of the Farmily. Plus you already have photos.

    This could be a book of short stories rather than a coffee table book of photos with long captions or a few pages of text.

    If James Herriot could do it, so can you.

  24. Eileen
    June 26th, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

    Wow!! You are amazing!

  25. Janet M
    June 26th, 2018 @ 2:21 pm

    I want a book of cow stories too. ;-)
    This was such an amazing tale. Love and hugs to all the cows.

  26. Cyndi
    June 26th, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

    Dearest Shreve and Farmily….you have my heart. Thank you.

  27. Pamela Ward
    June 26th, 2018 @ 2:51 pm

    My heart is so full. Such an amazingly beautiful story. Thank you!

  28. Hemma
    June 26th, 2018 @ 3:08 pm

    Exquisite writing!! Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing the ongoing farmily life, so full of highs and lows. And such hard work! I couldn’t wait for each next installment. You are amazing!

  29. Terry
    June 26th, 2018 @ 3:12 pm

    Thank you! A true love story.

  30. Alyxx
    June 26th, 2018 @ 3:36 pm

    That was so beautiful. Tears are pouring down my face. I was so afraid 3M was going to die but no, she’s thriving! twins. Twins!!

  31. Julie
    June 26th, 2018 @ 4:37 pm

    That was such a lovely story, Shreve … you are so clever in learning your cows and all their quirks, which requires so much love and dedication. Thanks you for sharing in story fashion. Looking forward to hearing more stories please! About the farmily … how’s Charlie and the new dogs and cats?

  32. Trish
    June 26th, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

    I guess she’s more like 4M now! So magnificently magical…thank you for telling us the little one’s story, Shreve.

  33. Lisa
    June 26th, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

    and now 3M has 1 more mother — how wonderful that she is doing so well

    will you change her name to 4M?

  34. Sybil
    June 26th, 2018 @ 5:01 pm


  35. Tisharp
    June 26th, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

    This makes my heart happy. And gosh, Fiona sure is pretty. Thanks for sharing your farming with us, Shreve.

  36. Tisharp
    June 26th, 2018 @ 5:04 pm

    ^^^that should, of course, say “farmily” instead of farming.

  37. Holly B
    June 26th, 2018 @ 5:13 pm

    I love this story! Thank you so much for sharing

  38. Carolyn Lavender
    June 26th, 2018 @ 6:30 pm

    Loved all of this story, thank you.

  39. Pamela
    June 26th, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

    “they” say a picture is worth a 1000 words but THIS picture of Fiona and the calves can be described in only one word,,,,JOY

  40. Julia at Home on 129 Acres
    June 26th, 2018 @ 8:02 pm

    This has been beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  41. torre
    June 26th, 2018 @ 9:52 pm

    what a beautiful story – Fiona is gorgeous!! love thus picture. all is right in your world Fiona-great farm and cute little babies! thanks for feeding 3M

  42. Maggie
    June 26th, 2018 @ 10:24 pm

    Wow S, thank you for sharing that tale! <3 Beautiful.

  43. Dave Wallace
    June 27th, 2018 @ 4:24 am

    All is not well in the world, but Shreve, you’ve made your corner of the world right. And shared it with us. Thank you.

  44. Carolyne
    June 27th, 2018 @ 6:20 am

    thanks for reminding me: the power of love!

  45. Jenny C
    June 27th, 2018 @ 6:22 am

    Fiona has grown into the most beautiful cow-mama, Shreve. Her coloring, so striking as a calf, is stunning as an adult, as well. Thank you so much for the pic.

    A delicious ending to this saga. That scrappy little 3M figured it out and, with your expert help, has thrived. A wonderful legacy for 6.

    Thank you, once again, for so generously, graciously and expertly sharing with us. God bless you and your beloved farmily.

    Marg (#6) – hehe.

  46. Pam
    June 27th, 2018 @ 7:29 am

    Shreve, I do hope you’ll continue to update us, every once in a while as I know you’re very busy, with 3M ‘s story.
    As someone said, 6’s legacy goes on & I’m sure we would all like to follow this calf. After all, this is a miracle calf of a 19 year old mom. What a wonderful gift 6 left for all of us.

  47. Erica
    June 27th, 2018 @ 9:33 am

    Yeah! A wonderful ending. Love the final picture. They are all so beautiful.

  48. Ann
    June 27th, 2018 @ 9:44 am

    What a beautiful saga this has been. I’m sitting here crying tears of both sadness and joy—Just as it is in all lives, full of sadness and joy!
    Thank you for sharing your lives with us all

  49. daryn
    June 27th, 2018 @ 11:12 am

    Please, please, please consider publishing this if you have the inkling. I would happily buy many copies. Thank you for sharing your amazing story with us; the writing is exquisite and I found myself copying down quotes to reread when needed. You (and your farmily) are the good the world needs right now. :)

  50. Christina Price
    June 27th, 2018 @ 11:22 am

    I have lived every week waiting on the next installment just nervously anticipating not such a happy ending but I am so relieved that 3M lives on, happy and thriving. Thank you for all you do for your entire Farmily and for sharing snippets of your story with the world.

  51. Frances
    June 27th, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

    The ending was totally worth the wait. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story with us.

  52. Jennifer Brost
    June 27th, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

    I’m crying in a fastfood restaurant on my lunch break. What a lovely, happy story. The goddesses knew I needed this today. Thanks, Shreve.

  53. Wendy Smith
    June 27th, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

    Just wonderful, thank you for sharing xx

  54. thecrazysheeplady
    June 27th, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

    Awww :-). Thanks!

  55. carmen
    June 27th, 2018 @ 5:16 pm

    Shreve, have you thought of writing a book in the form of a diary, about your ranch experiences? What a fun read that would be!

  56. Julie
    June 27th, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

    beautiful. thank you.

  57. Denise
    June 27th, 2018 @ 6:01 pm

    Wow, I would love THIS as a book. One to open and read when I need to be reminded of the beautiful ebb and flow of life.
    Thank you!

  58. BB/VA
    June 27th, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

    I admit I was kind of trepidatious about reading this last chapter but it does have an amazingly happy ending. Thank you, Shreve, for your patience and kindness and your incredible story-telling talent.

  59. Jan
    June 27th, 2018 @ 7:43 pm

    Loved your story as much as I enjoyed your book. Keep them coming, you are such a great story teller.

  60. Laura Sherman
    June 27th, 2018 @ 8:21 pm

    Amazing! And love the picture of Fiona and the babies!!!

  61. Theresa Szpila
    June 28th, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

    My heart is full to overflowing with the warm fuzzies. I could just burst with relief and joy!

    Please, please, please give thought to publishing your cow diaries! At 10,000 words, 3M’s story alone is about a third the length of a book ~ it wouldn’t take too many more episodes from your archives to round the stories out to a full-sized book. I, too, would buy multiple copies!

  62. Amanda
    June 29th, 2018 @ 5:04 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. I was expecting something incredibly sad, but what a truly magical story. 6 was definitely a very lucky cow.

    This story has left me with an overwhelming feeling of things being right in the world.

  63. Margaret AG
    June 29th, 2018 @ 12:26 pm

    Wonderful story, and excellent story telling. Thank you so very much for sharing!

  64. Phyllis
    June 29th, 2018 @ 6:49 pm

    I vote for a “tales of the farmly” book. I read Daily Coyote twice! Please consider.

  65. Karen
    June 29th, 2018 @ 7:36 pm

    Beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing it.

  66. Michael
    June 30th, 2018 @ 10:56 am

    I love your writing. Love you. Thanks for many years of enjoying your work. I’m a 61 year old man and I cry, dammit.

  67. Patricia Long
    June 30th, 2018 @ 11:45 am

    I LOVE YOUR BEAUTIFUL STORY. I love your writing. I am wondering if when your cows calf you have a problem with prolapsed uterus very often in your mother cows when they calf?

  68. Kimberly Cresic (Murph)
    July 2nd, 2018 @ 10:52 am

    As I scrolled thru the responses my smile got bigger and bigger. The tears turned to a glisten. This is a bedtime story for the ages. You are a natural “Sheherazade”.

  69. Holly
    July 4th, 2018 @ 4:57 pm

    What a wonderful ending to a beautiful story. Thank you Shreve for sharing your farmily with us. The happiness, the sadness but the goodness of it all. I have said before Shreve, that you are truly blessed. Thank you!!

  70. Sandy G.
    July 7th, 2018 @ 2:07 am

    Thank you, Shreve. I loved the whole story and the photo. You are an amazing storyteller. I would love to read more of your adventures with the farmily! You are so gifted in sharing them with us.

  71. David Williamson
    July 10th, 2018 @ 9:39 am

    I wasn’t sure where to post this so you would see it. Chickens entertaining themselves with a child’s xylophone…

  72. Ginny F.
    July 11th, 2018 @ 3:06 am

    Love this so much! And, really, who among us doesn’t keep a container of amniotic fluid in the fridge?? (EEEYUCK!) You are a genius with the guts to carry out your ideas. Period.

  73. Charity Suzuki
    July 11th, 2018 @ 2:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I put off reading it because i was afraid it would make me sad. But today is my son’s 5th birthday and i’m feeling beautifully emotional. I knew it was time to read it. So lovely. I love the way you love your animals and the way they love each other. <3

  74. Sue L’Hommedieu
    May 10th, 2019 @ 8:37 pm

    I am crying over the death of a cow I never met. Lucky us. This beautiful story happened to an extraordinary writer. Thank you for sharing it.

  75. Sierra
    August 5th, 2019 @ 5:08 pm

    All my life I have taken in the animals no one wants. I live on a ranch in Montana and have cared for a badly burned fox that showed up in my barn, an elk that got tangled in barbed wire from a neighboring ranch, a coyote that made his way here with a hideous spring trap attached to his front leg which he let me remove and let me tend to his wound. He lost part of that leg but he’s remained my faithful companion. I took in 3 baby calves. Two were severely frost bitten and lost their tails and ears to frostbite. The third was in perfect shape. Her mama died at birth and the rancher didn’t want the bother. She was 3 days old, the other two were 10 days old. I bottle fed them, fell in love with them and became a vegan because of them. It’s a spiritual journey living this close to nature and all her wonders. I cry every time an animal dies on my ranch weather it’s wild or domestic. I understand your grief when an animal of yours dies. My disconnect is that you still kill animals and eat their flesh. You said you stopped eating pistachios because of an article you read. I wish you’d extend that practice to animals. No amount of “humane” you put in front of “killing” changes a thing.

    A mama cow makes the perfect amount of milk for her baby and her baby alone. That milk is saturated with hormones specifically for growing calves. Humans don’t need milk. It’s a fallacy pushed by the dairy industrial complex.

    My hope is that when you share these stories your readers, after they get a tug in their heart or shed a tear then go out and order beef pork fish or chicken, realize that was a sacred living breathing spirit.

    I wish you and especially your animals peace and love.


  76. Rachel ONeil
    November 22nd, 2019 @ 2:02 am

    Oh Fiona, still so loving and generous. Your cows are the best.

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