Friday, January 22, 2010

Why I own a cow (or 4)

Owning a cow is kind of a big deal. Well, I guess not even kind of. It is a big deal.

To begin with cows are just plain big. If you live somewhere like I do where you have to feed them 9 or 10 months of the year, they can be expensive. If you aren't careful they step on your feet when you are trying to move them around (my foot still hurts from the last time one did 6 weeks ago) and well, they aren't like a dog that comes in out of the rain and lays by your feet and snuggles. They need a covered space in bad weather. And they make a lot of poop that has to be dealt with.

Granted, a fresh cow will give you delicious fresh milk but you have to milk her and that my friends, while relaxing in many ways, is no small endeavor. You have to be home at the same time everyday. You have to separate them from their baby (which neither mom nor baby enjoy) and you have to milk them.

To milk them, if they are a full sized cow like Mattie, you have to get over your fear of how big they are and how small you are in comparison. Because one thing is for sure, if the cow figures out that you don't think you are boss she will do her darndest to make sure she is boss. And boss cows aren't particularly nice.

So why, given all this, was I so determined to have a cow? I had two reasons--one I used to buy raw milk from my cheesemaking neighbor down the road and got positively hooked on the wonderful feeling my body had when I drank REAL milk. Julie's cheese went big and she stopped selling milk. I tried buying raw milk in the store but it just wasn't the same. There is something about one cow and her milk. It is just different than drinking milk all mixed together from a dairy full of cows. Funny as this sounds, having a relationship with the cow seems to enhance the relationship of the milk with my body. One of those things we just don't think about any more in our ever so modern world. It seems like every step of modernization gives us things and but also takes things away. In the case of dairies, we have a LOT more milk than we used to but the quality has gone way down.

My other reason was I am a compost nut and every good gardener knows that compost goes better with manure, esp cow manure. Brigid gave us some nice manure, esp if we were willing to trot about the pastures picking it up. But Mattie, Mattie's my girl because she happily donates massive amounts right there in the stall and all we have to do is scoop it up and make compost. Since she's been here we have made one gigantic compost pile and sheet mulched 3 good sized areas for new garden beds. And that is just in six weeks. Think how much compost she is going to help us make when she's been here a year. I can't wait.

But in the meantime, I am going to take her delicious milk and turn it into homemade kefir and make myself a delicious breakfast smoothie. Here's how....

First get a quart jar and put the kefir grains in them...if anyone wants to try this and doesn't have access to kefir grains let me know, I can grow some extras and send them to you.

You need about a tablespoon of kefir grains per quart of milk, but they keep reproducing so sometimes you will have more and the kefir will make itself faster. Once you have a couple tablespoons, divide the grains in half and share with a friend. These grains (in the picture) are about ready to divide. And while they may look gross, these funny little grains voraciously eat the sugars in the milk and form a powerpacked delicious way to build your intestinal flora and add calcium to your diet. If you have only tried keifr from the store don't be so sure that you know what it is like. Homegrown kefir out of fresh raw milk is an entirely different taste than anything I have ever bought. No matter how good the store kefir package made it sound, raw homemade is better.

Once the kefir grains are in the jar, add a quart of milk and cover with a good fitting lid. Place in a warm spot and leave be for 24-48 hours (depending on how warm it is and how many kefir grains there are). When you walk by give the jar a gentle stir and watch how the milk gradually thickens and turns into kefir as the time goes by. Once the kefir sets up, remove the grains by running the kefir through a strainer and start the process over. Put the fresh made kefir in the fridge until you are ready to use it. If you leave the grains in too long, the kefir grains get hungry and start making the kefir taste too sour. (It is kind of sour to begin with so too sour is not good. You can eat it, but it won't be as yummy.)

To make a breakfast smoothie, here's what I do.

Into a blender or cuissinart I put:

1 c. fresh kefir
1 t. honey (for its superfood qualities)
1 cup homegrown frozen fruit (my favorite is peach or strawberry)
1 raw egg from my chickens (I know some people would leave this out, that's ok. It is good either way)
1 T. fresh cream (thank you Mattie)--I do this for a health reason (long story)

Then for extra nutritional gumption I add:

1 T. maca powder (another superfood, this time from South America)
1 T. fish oil (this is the only way I can get this stuff down)
2 T. noni (another superfood)
1 T. aloe vera juice (another superfood)
and then I add any other supplements I might be taking that come in powdered or bad tasting forms, for example I might add cal/mag powder and/or extra probiotics, even though fresh kefir is super high in them, I know they are good for some stuff I have going on so I throw them in as an extra precaution.

Occassionally, I add some acai which is another South American superfood.

Then I blend this all together for a long time--2-3 minutes. I blend it so long because the smoothie gets super creamy and tastes almost like ice cream and we all know how much I like ice cream. I put it in my car cup and drink as slowly as possible (sometimes it tastes so good I gulp it down). Yum! And the best thing about these smoothies is how flexible they are..if you like bananas--add one. Hate fish oil, leave it out. It's up to you and no matter what it is probably going to taste really, really good. If you try it, let me know how you like it.

And I was serious about the offer for kefir grains. They are easy to mail around.


  1. Thanks for popping by my blog. Funny reading this tonight after just talking to my friend about making kefir (she is really keen on all fermented things). She's going to teach me how and give me some grains - I don't think your offer to post would work to New Zealand!

  2. And one of the reasons I started reading your blog was because you have a cow! (or four). My aim is to one day have a housecow. At the moment I have a jersey calf called Gloria who I milkfed and have just weaned. I have my eye on her for a housecow - I best get me a halter pretty soon and start getting her used to it now!

  3. Yes mam, get her in a halter as soon as possible.(giving her a treat while you buckle it on is a great way to do it.) It is wonderful that you fed her when she was a baby though, that will help a lot. I would get some a brush and brush her a LOT so she gets used to being handled and enjoys it. And a lead rope and start walking her around the yard to the best grass. If you picket her after you lead her somewhere yummy she will learn that being led leads to things she wants. I like that term housecow, Never heard that before. And you are right. I bet it is hard to mail kefir grains to New Zealand. I think they would die in the post because they would be too long without food. I just mailed a book to a friend in Australia and it took a couple of months. Bummer, I would be HAPPY to share.