Our journey, ok my journey with cows started many years ago when my hubby brought home a hog-tied calf in the back of his pick up truck. It was a little Hereford cross "Rosie" that eventually went to our freezer. I was so enthralled with her and scared of her! Just a few short years later the horses were dwindling out of our pastures and we found ourselves hip deep in 4-H with the kids raising rabbits, chickens, dairy goats, pigs, ducks and turkeys. Our daughter did the dairy goat project for 4 years and decided to move on to non-livestock projects so she sold her herd. I knew I could not live without the fresh milk so we found a Dexter in milk that was bred back. This Dexter had not been milked before, but through perseverance she taught me how to do it without being a freak and I taught her how to stop windmilling her foot around in the air (at my head). It was not a relationship to last, but it was an education I will never forget! The milk from Dexter proved not to be enough for our family so I started looking for a dairy cow. The looks and the comments we get to this day run the gammut, though I will say the public in general is becoming more savvy to real/whole/fresh food. We did find a cow or 3 and have had every joy and every disappointment that can be imagined along the way. I would not trade it for anything. Thankfully, we continue to learn and continue to be thankful.
This past spring I accepted a transfer with my company and we prepared to move to Florida. We decided at the time to live a slightly different lifestyle--to be a consumer of farm goods rather than a producer of farm goods. Sounded good to me, 5 minutes from the Atlantic and local food/milk! We sold all the livestock, equipment and everything we could in preparation of the move. 6 agonizing months later the house has not sold and I am losing my mind because I don't feel like I belong anywhere. No connection to the farm, the land, the new state, in fact no connection to anything except my work computer, my new ulcer and the airport!
My beloved husband came to the rescue by suggesting I search Craig's List for a few hens "just so we can have our own eggs again". I think he must have been missing the farm-ish life too, though he never complained. When I picked up a bag of chicken feed I also bought a 6-pack of tomato plants and a 4-pack of cilantro (love that the feed store has plants!). Once back home I uncovered one of the garden beds and planted the first of what has now grown to 4 large garden beds being planted with herbs and vegetables. Hmmm, I wondered as I toddled happily about the farm, "I know what will make this a farm again....but how do I tell Dave?" My husband that very night came in and said "you know, what you need is a cow"! I could have cried with happiness!
It is not just "having a cow" that is the key. It is being steeped in the farm, in our nutrition, baking from scratch, having access to real food, being outside, being active, being involved in animal husbandry. A cow does become a friend of sorts, a life giver to the rest of the farm with her milk, cream, butter, yogurt, clabber, whey and fertilizer. And, not being "just a cow" she is personable, funny, sassy, friendly, curious, a good mother, a provider of meat via offspring, and just plain happy to see and interact with her people. It is a truly unique relationship, and it is the whole world of cow ownership that does it for me. I should mention there is one more aspect of cow ownership that has had a huge impact on me: my cow friends that I have met and come to love online. That I ever thought I had to undergo any of this lesson or pain on my own is silly, there is a whole world of beloved friends and compatriots out there that have supported me, loved me, helped me, chided me and made me a better person. They are my balcony people and my heroes!
The weekend I planted those first fall plants has been a month ago now, and I am happy to say we have a spotted jersey named Ginger (due to calve in May), several loaner cows to mow the pastures for us, a few hens, a barn full of hay, a garden all planted, and a new pig on the way. I have a few physical reactions from the stress to get over still, but the symptoms are minimizing. I have "that feeling" when I walk outside and see the cows in the field, and hear her collar bell after dark, that feeling that reinforces in me I am right where I need to be, doing what I need to do to keep my family and myself as healthy and happy as we can be. That feeling that daily brings tears to my eyes because I appreciate it all so much.
Epilogue--if and when we do get to Florida, it will be on enough acreage to support 1 cow, 3 hens and a garden!
Thank you, Liz, for your wonderful guest post!
You can follow Liz on her blog Lucky Lizard Ranch.