Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cows on the brain...

I woke up this morning thinking about cows. Well, more truthfully, I was thinking about what to do about cows.

You see, we have Brigid the mama cow who is dreadfully late having her baby and I am beginning to think she might be experiencing a hysterical pregnancy. I need to call Andrew the AI guy (that's the artificial insemination specialist in cow lingo) and see if we can get him out here to see what is what. My problem with calling Andrew is that then I will know that she isn't pregnant and that it will be almost another year before we have a baby cow and fresh milk again. The thought of that makes my heart go thump. I have been so excited about this calf.

I think I just don't want to know the truth. I keep giving Brig the benefit of a doubt and waiting another week. This is sort of like the parent who doesn't want to face the facts about their child flunking out of high school. Denial doesn't do anyone any good at all.
I gotta call and I gotta call on Monday.

Just for the record, Brig sure looks fatter than when he was here last November and stuck his hand way up in there while she was kicking about as fast as she can kick! And let me tell you, that guy has lightening quick reflexes.

Anyway, after pondering the Brigid pregnancy dilemna, I moved onto Gilly, her baby. He'a a big fat oaf of a cow. Big and fat, that is, for a dexter cow. They are much more petite than the usual cow which makes him the perfect size for us. He's happy to hang with people, cows or sheep and has even made friends with the goat. He's always in a chipper mood and is ever curious about what is going on the other side of the fence. Gilly is just a great guy. He's the kind of guy you would have for a drinking buddy. You can tell him anything and he never tells a soul.

I really need to call the butcher regarding Gilly. But he is such a sweetheart. He eats raspberries straight out of my hand without getting a bit of cow spit on me. He lets me scratch that hard spot right between his horns without ever flicking me with them. He follows me wherever I go and I don't even have to bring food. He's my baby and he knows it.

Gilly will be our first cow that we raised from day one, much less had butchered so that call is a big deal. It's on the board for next week too. It takes the butcher a long time to get out here because of hunting season so I need to get on his list. Sigh. Guess I should be glad for the list.

Once I got done fretting about Gilly and the butcher, I only had Joey the Jersey steer calf to worry about. Only, he's no worry at all. Growing like a fat little piglet, he has a plump round belly and there's barely a rib in sight. Which after knowing him as a four day old is reassuring. He was one scrawny little guy when he first arrived. Our job with him now is to love him up, feed him a couple times a day and wait. I figure the more love we can pour into our food the better it is for all concerned. So far that theory holds. We'll see after the butcher comes for Gilly. But in the meantime, I love watching Joey bounce around the fields chasing bees and butterflies. The only thing odd about Joey is he still thinks Gilly is his mother.

I know I sound like I anthropomorphize everyone around here. It's true, I probably do. It's just that my animals ARE like people to me. They have personalities. They respond to my emotions, and I respond to theirs. I love them and I know they love me too. It might make me less of a farmer but I can't help it. I talked for the cats when I was five. So did my mom, maybe it is genetic.

Anyway, getting back to the cows. The problem is what to do about Brigid and that hysterical pregnancy situation. It would be fine to have the AI guy out again and get her pregnant for real this time. But I don't want to wait nearly a year for fresh milk again. Raw milk from your own cow is the BEST. And if you do it like we did--milking once a day and keeping the calf with the mom--it isn't even so much work. About a half an hour a day, maybe an hour if you have a cow that gives more milk that Brigid does. That's not a bad exchange for all the peace and relaxation milking provides. I swear, milking is better stress relief than a massage. And it's free, if you don't count buying the hay.

Here's a picture of me milking Brigid last winter when Gilly was a medium sized little guy.

Thinking about Brigid's new baby makes me excited to make kefir and cheese again. If she isn't pregnant (which is the rational conclusion any logical person would have come to by now), I don't want to wait another year. This thought led me to the shocking realization that I have been nursing fantasies about getting a new milk cow, a bigger one with a bigger udder. A cow that gives more milk.

I feel so disloyal. When we were looking for Brigid we knew nothing about cows except that they were BIG and had brown eyes. I read about breeds and got all interested in Dexter cows because they are known to be good for small holdings like ours. Dexters are small cows that give a managable amount of milk, produce just the right amount of meat for a small family and are good at pulling. (Not that I could ever figure out how to get Brigid to pull something besides me when I naively think I can lead her around.)

So when I saw the ad for a Dexter/Kerry heifer who was pregnant by a Dexter bull and about to give birth, I thought perfect. And she was. I even loved her name. The only downside with Brigid was she wasn't halter broken (now there is a story for another day) and she was more than a little wild. We've tamed her (mostly) and we love her to bits but all the things that made her so attractive a couple of years ago as a first time cow owner, make me long for a different cow today.

I want big, I want milk, I want babies with some extra meat to sell.

See, I like making cheeses and kefirs and yogurt. Right now when (if) Brigid's milk comes in, with the way I want to milk her, we don't get enough milk to make all the things on my list. I keep dreaming about a pretty Jersey or Guernsey cow who'll give me oodles of creamy white milk full of butterfat. My friend Jacqueline has a Jersey/Brown Swiss mix and she has cream frozen in chunks in her freezer. That's enough to give a girl serious cow envy.

The problem is we don't have enough space for too many cows. So I have to think about this carefully. How much is making more cheese worth to me? Is there room for two mama cows around this place? These are the questions that kept me in bed. And so far, I don't have any answers. Only a list of cow chores. Guess I better get at them.


  1. gilly is going to the butcher??? oh dear. i did not know that. i think i would not be a good farmer.

    what kind of cheese do you make?? how did you learn how to do all this cool stuff? i was going to order a cheese making kit from a place in new england---it was in the book animal, vegetable, miracle--- and try my hand at making mozzarella!

    i love you! i can't wait to visit again!

  2. Erin, cheesemaking is the best. So fun. And when you have the leftover whey make some yummy fermented veggies from Nourishing Traditions. I love you too Erin. come visit soon. Like tomorrow, except that it is really busy so next week. Tickets are cheap.

    Maemae, I don't qutie understand you. But I love you.