The cow started as a joke. Every year when my mom asked me for a list of things I wanted for birthdays and Christmas I would put in a few never-going-to-happen items, like a giant squid for the pond, a pet camel, or a milk cow. It remained a joke until September 11th, which started my family thinking about if we would be able to feed ourselves if some sort of large-scale terrorist attack or natural disaster shut destroyed the infrastructure of the country. Later month I found a book called The Family Cow (by Dirk von Loon) at a bookstore. I read it and thought to myself that having a cow was something I would really like to do, that it was actually feasible to do, and it would be a wonderful way to be sure we would have milk, butter, and beef. Somehow (and today I am still amazed) my parents agreed with me and in an whirlwind over the next two months we built a barn, fenced a pasture, and had a cow in the backyard just before Thanksgiving. My 16th birthday occurred in the midst of all of these preparations and I still think getting your own milk cow beats out getting a car any day.
My cow is a now 12.5 year old Guernsey named Isabelle. We found her by looking in the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) guide to certified organic farmers- she was at the 2nd farm my dad called enquiring about cows for sale. When we brought her home she was a shy 3 year old in her first lactation and pregnant with her 2nd calf. I was completely and absolutely inexperienced and unprepared when we brought her home, but somehow I lucked out with the world’s most gentle, calm, patient cow that survived all of my blunders and taught me more about cows and myself that I could have ever imagined. She gives me delicious golden milk, births and raises gorgeous calves (and even accepts fosterlings, though grudgingly), and in her old age is so mellow I let her wander around the backyard dragging a short lead rope while I work nearby. I’ve milked her through 4 years of full-time college (and coming home to a cow and chickens and evening chores kept me sane even through the stresses of finals, papers, and projects) and we are still going strong together 9 years later now that I’m out of school and working as a biologist for a county park district.