Monday, July 27, 2009


Yes. You read that right. Our fresh, hot, patty-maker is here. And in tow, is her lil' 4 month old calf.

Hendrika is perfect in every way. We've spent two nights gazing into each other's eyes. Hendrika's are so large and expressive. Her baby Sukey's, too small and red to get much communication out of them, but she's cute anyway.

Hendrika (named after the cow in one of our favorite picture books which takes place in Holland, "The Cow Who Fell in the Canal") is 1/4 Hereford, with red tones, white face, tough bag, and nice long teets from that Beefy breed. She's 3/4 Jersey, with the size of a miniature, the creamy milk, kind eyes, and easy temperament of that milk breed. Her heifer calf, Sukey, (after Laura Ingals' cow, and also, Huck is adamant to note, it's Jazz lingo for ... um... nothing in particular) is 1/2+ Hereford.

This is the sweetest cow I have ever met. She let me milk her this morning as if we'd been doing this forever. And she'd NEVER been milked! I didn't get much: either because I'm inexperienced, Sukey got there first, or she's been on just maintenance feed. With a cow, the food first goes to sustain her, then the extras go to milk or bulk, depending on breed. And that's why a small cow can produce more milk on less feed than a big one.

I'm happy she's not gushing. I'm not fully prepared... in any way. I just didn't want to get the nursery ready before I was even knocked to speak.

We should put her out to pasture, but we can't figure out the electric fence. So we've got her in a stall on alfalfa, straw and a smidgen of oats. This required research. During which I discovered that cows produce 15 GALLONS OF SALIVA A DAY! Perhaps we're collecting the wrong fluid?! EEEW! And their first stomach, the rumen, holds 40-60 GALLONS! HOLY COW! That's more than my 13 gallon gas tank by far! I just look at that huge side of Hendrika and think: 40 gallon tank o' gas! The digestive tract of a cow is a trip, and I highly recommend that you look in to it, even if you don't have a cow, just for amusement.

There's another education in the dairy and beef industry. How tightly wound up with each other they are! It would almost seem that if one is going to eat dairy, one might as well eat beef. Each dairy cow must produce one calf a year in order to maintain production. Each of these calves must become something, either another dairy cow, or a slaughter item. The cut-rate beef industry is a bi-product of the dairies. You want Angus or Hereford slabs, that IS a separate thing. But ground beef, fast food beef, etc... it's all dairy cow related.

And even a family cow is heavily input dependent. They don't have to be and didn't used to be, but if you want to avoid nutritional problems and you want milk for more than a few summer months, you'll be inputting via mega farm oats, grown and transported with oil derived -icides and gas. It is easier to move away from that with a family cow. And less is involved, but it's still there.

It reminds me of the organic education I got on the peach orchard in Rock Island. Organic foods are almost a bi-product of fish! It's less toxic for us all, for sure. But there's a lot of fishy business going on.

I'm not going for total purity here. I'm not really GOING for anything. Just following my gut, and unlike a cow's, mine seems rather small and hard to hear. But if cows got me out to the barn at 6 am as a kid (as it's doing for my kids now), I'm just wondering if they can still do that for me, if they're still so much a part of me, of my DNA, to call me out there in the dawn. So far, they are.

The flies are congregating, however. So I bought fly tape. And then I decided that PETA had an infiltrate in the fly tape industry. (Okay, here's a disclaimer: I generally like PETA but they just did this absurd protest in Pike's Place where they got all in a huff about throwing dead fish. My god. There are 1 billion people without access to clean drinking water and billions more cats too, but you can't throw a dead fish?!) Well then, here I am, surround by flies. And after several days, the tape only has 1! I've got better personal fly attractant than has been applied to that bright orange spectacle dangling in the dining room. And why can't they be more fashionable, anyway? Safety orange doesn't seem to be attracting the fly's any better than freckled tan.

I was trying to cajole Blue into helping me hang the laundry. She refused. I insisted, as a chore, as a member of the family, as a mother with plenty to do and getting jealous by the minute of her kids lounging on the floor whining about boredom...
And so Blue says, "I HATE CLOTHES!"
"You do? You seem to enjoy several changes of them a day!" Except for my old cowboy boots, which she hasn't taken off for a few days.
"Well, you've worn them, you've dirtied them, I washed them, now we have to hang them. Some one has to hang them. And it's either just me or you and me both."
And to prove her point, she took them all off right there and ran around the house naked. Jealous as I was, I did not copy her. Cops and ordinances and other deterrents.

Coyote heard this exchange and while I was making dinner, he apparently got a box, stood on it, and took all the clothes of the line, put them in another box and when I found him, he was huffing and puffing that box up the stairs. It was so sweet! Brown-noser.

Coyote also has this thing about a mythical giant ice cream truck, which he insists comes by our house. No one else has seen it. He's stood out there, like Linus, and waited for hours for the ice cream truck/Giant Pumpkin. On Saturday, while we were preparing the barn and corral for the new arrivals, I looked up and saw this giant van with ice cream all over it! I couldn't see anyone else: Huck, Blue and Coyote had vanished and I thought, "Oh! It's the rapture! (in which I no longer believe but which still resides in my subconscious as a frightening moment where everyone good disappears from the earth in an instant and you are left alone with all the evil people, thanks to the LEFT BEHIND series of movies in the 70's and 80's and the numerous lock-in's that showed it). And the Rapture just came in a giant Ice Cream truck! and took my good children and husband, but left naughty me to clean the stall for the cows."
After I panicked, I hollered, "Huck? Coyote? Do you see that?"
"What?" Came the calls from far ends of the property.
And I whispered, "Ice Cream truck."
Coyote ran from around the corner of the barn at a speed previously unseen in the human race. He ran and ran and ran, down our longish driveway. I worried the van wouldn't see him, so I leapt and waved and screamed through the field behind him.

He picked out the "Patriot Jumbo Missile" in red, white, and a blue that disturbingly dyed his skin for a few days. Blue got the strawberry shortcake in garish red and white. And I don't know how they managed to make the nuts on it look so... so.. fake, but they did. And I got the Cream-sicle. And Huck trotted after us with money. Holy of Holies, Coyote's ice cream truck did indeed materialize out of the blue. Shame on us unbelievers.

Having kids is not a decision driven by logic, but rather intuition, biological need and insanity (or lack of a prophylactic at the wrong time.) But if you do need a logical reason to have children, the ability to stop an ice cream truck and take a break from hot, hard work for a cream-sicle is really one of the top. Others include: an excuse to go to the water-slides and rereading childhood favorites at bedtime.

Oh! And the cow... yes, the cows... also for my children!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hot on the Bovine trail

The mowers are jerks. I only say this in self-defense. They've been condescending to this city-slicker, greenhorn out here with out a f***ing clue. Don't you know that you should've mowed a month ago!? It's too late now!! It'll wreck my machines, start a fire! Stupid woman, get out of the country before you ruin it! But I'll charge you $50 per acre...

$50! PER ACRE!

Just like my old plumber! I paid him $50/hr so he could bitch at me about all the wrong crap in my dishwasher. And I PAID him to do it! He actually charged me for the time he spent lecturing me. I didn't say anything back because I didn't want to get charged $50/hr for that too. But I almost told him that it was never my bright idea to combine indoor plumbing and kids. I mean, kids don't even USE indoor plumbing, except when they do and then it's for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, in my mowing calls, I finally introduced myself as, "My name is Sarajoy and I grew up in the country. I'm back out here again, but I just moved in and missed the ideal mowing dates. What can I do now?" It's diffused the situation somewhat, but I still get snickers and $50/acre...the going rate, I guess. If they aren't charging by the hour, they can lecture me all they want and I'll just lecture back, for free.

I worried the cow situation would be similar, but so far cow people seem thrilled to share their stuff with a greenhorn. But then I already knew how to start the conversations on the right foot, "I grew up with Jersey steers and helped my grandpa on his large Jersey dairy farm every other weekend. My uncle owns a large Jersey dairy in Lynden. I'm all dutch. My name is Sarajoy. Can I talk to the vet? And Hello, how are you?"

I've caught on to some of the lingo now, so that I at least sound like I know what I'm talking about. When I ask if she's got all four quarters or has had a DA, that sets us on the right, respectful path.

Operetta was the first we looked at. At the only Jersey farm for miles around. She had only 2.5 working teets and was giving 2 gallons a day, which is just my speed. The other's we'd called about were giving 6 gallons a day. Family of four Drowns in Raw Cow's Milk! She was good enough, I thought, but the price: $1400!!

I called around. My uncle laughed, "That's a 2 teeter! For $1400! Why, I just sold my best one year old pregnant cows for $1300. No... that cow's worth slaughter prices and she knows it. Don't pay a penny over $400."

I wasn't sure a vet would be in to 15 minutes of free advice, but I tried anyway.
"You Dutch?"
"All the way!"
"You've got the genetics to become a very fine Dairyman, you know. You'll do quite well."
DairyMAN wasn't my goal, but they were encouraging words nonetheless.
He said a two teeter is worth nothing, because if you loose one teet, you're screwed. Slaughter prices. $400.

The Livestock Auction House priced the two teeter at $400. Then told me not to deal with that farm.

And then the slaughter house told me not to deal with them either. Said his brother bought one for $800 from them that died three days later.

Dairy cows are hard to come by, it seems, especially for a fair price. But thank heavens I didn't over pay $1000 for a dead beat! I'd like to rescue the poor thing. But rescuing dairy cows would be an expensive and never ending task. And for what? Other people eat beef still...

Every day is an education! Mowing, cows, chickens, weasels...

got to see the Northern Lights a couple nights ago!
Coyote is grooving to the Beach Boys on my Walkman! "What?! What?! I can't hear you!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

my big problem

Here's my big problem: I haven't blogged in 22 days.
Here's the problematic reason: I've been having too much fun!
Here's a problem with that: I want to write about it, but I'm worried you're going to be jealous.
Here's another problem: I haven't been thinking. I have no insights, no wisdom, no complaints, no frustrations, nothing to work through.
But on the upside, I've got lots of pictures! And thank goodness for that because fun for me is a lot like too much to drink and I tend to black out huge chunks of drunk-on-life-ity.
Conversations with my mom can go something like this, "Oh, that's when we watched the kids!"
When was that?
"Over Memorial Day weekend and you and Huck went some place fabulous and fun (like Nelson, BC or Victoria, or Dayton, WA or blah blah blah)."
I don't remember that.
"You don't?! You bought those fabulous red boots and had a blast!!"
How many years ago was this?
"Six months or so."
Where was I?

My cousin Lana had the camera for our trip to Leavenworth, hence no pics. We (Rachel, Lana, and I) meant to go backpacking. Then we meant to go camping. And the Wenatchee area was 1/2 way between us all. And then we were all so tired and overwhelmed with regular old life, that we didn't feeling like packing tons of gear and buying lots of prepackaged food so we could get back to nature. So... we got a room at the Der Ritterhoff in Leavenworth.

My GOD!! PEOPLE!! I just vacation in LEAVENWORTH! As if I was a retiree in support stockings with an ache to go a doily-Lederhosen shopping, or a yearning pick up a china tea pot Nutcracker at "Eternal Christmas Damnation"!

This frightening image was softened by the biker/police rally held at Der Ritterhoff, our cheap Bavarian hotel with a knight mascot 45 feet tall.

We did go hiking, 10 miles to a lake (and back!) where we couldn't skinny dip because people (ie MEN) were fishing nearby. Stupid men.
We also gorged at Munchenhouse on Veggieworst (or the gory, swine alternative) and Shock Top Belgian whites.
THEN another hike followed by: TA DA! a innertube float down the river! We enjoyed frozen butts, more beer, mini-rapids, baby raccoon, the mountain view and a thunderstorm. It's my new favorite sport.

Coyote's 5th birthday party was thrown on the date, July 13. If I'd blogged sooner, I'd regale us all with the largely uneventful tale of his 3 hour home birth. But lucky for you, I've been too busy. The beauty of this party was that we are now SO close to Pullman that we opted to have it there, with old friends, instead of here, with our yet to be discovered and/or invisible new Spokane friends. The pool party got rained out so we went bowling.
I marveled more than a few times that I was in the company of familiar faces that I knew, loved, and trusted. A fabulous feeling indeed. If you have that, DON'T take it for granted. We bowled and then I cashed in a lot of moolah (squealing at the changer, "I WON! I WON!") and we had a video game rager. This birthday was like the estranged, imprisoned, bastard cousin to Blue's first birthday over 7 years ago which involved a sugar free apricot cake and lots of wooden toys. I wasn't wrong before. I'm just more perma-exhausted now. I didn't even do the 3D rubber ducky cake! I did manage to make a cake from scratch a place my vintage merry-go-round decor on it, saved and only slightly singed from my own childhood.

The big news in gifts was the guitar from Opa (via myself). It's red. It came with a slide. And Coyote hasn't put it down since. He and Blue even made $12 in 30 minutes busking the corner of Taylor and Williams!

Rachel was with me for the week. And she was both helpful and jealousy inducing. We are having opposite summer vacations and I took pains to remind her that her three months off from teaching 1st grade was being paid for with the blood of overwhelmed mothers. I would have been really, murderously jealous of her fancy free loose little feet, if she hadn't been so helpful! She made us dinner! She cleaned the kitchen! And she even marveled at the non-maintainability of a clean kitchen with children! I was hoping she would notice the insane volumes of laundry too, but that did not spark her imagination, probably because I didn't do much of it while she was here. I'm still working through the 8 loads created during her visit.

Thursday we tossed our first house party... When relatives come and stay until 1:30 AM, is that a party? It was much louder that it usually is here at 1:30. There were chips and salsa and cider and wine. Party or not, I appreciated their stop over at our new place, especially since some of them are moving across the country. It's strange, having 50 cousins. I don't know many of them, which seems to laugh in the face of the whole point of big family. But suddenly, I do know some! I've having good times with actual cousins. My cousin-less kids are jealous.

Friday, Huck was coming home early from work (yes! I said: EARLY!) and he heard about a Bluegrass festival in Troy, Montana. Bluegrass!! Tweedle tweedle banjo! Rachel, who's taken up the mandolin was packed in 3 minutes. It took the rest of us two hours. I did not consider myself to be a fan of the Tylenol's biggest promoter. I was also not enthusiastic because the Bluegrass crowd can go either way: stinky, grody, smoky, drunken jerks, or really hip cutie-pies with a dimple and a pick. Who knew what it would be?! But what was I going to do? Stay home while Huck and my sister took a weekend vacation together?

Turns out I LOVE bluegrass, especially when it's my kind of crowd. Apparently Lucinda Williams, Jillian Welch and now Michelle Shocked are ALL bluegrass classified! They weren't there, but their ilk was. I also really love Bluegrass when it's played next to a big, slow, lazy Montana River and when I've had the foresight to bring an inner tube and when it's really really hot and there are 1.5 grown-ups for every child in our pack and so I get to float away down river an hour at a time, three whole times!!

That was a good time, my friends. I would advise you to use your jealousy as a tool to understanding your desires. Sometimes that's what it does. It can show you what you really want. Sometimes. Other times, it's just dumb.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Mom!

Chicks are in the house!

A 6:30AM ring from the P.O. launched Blue and I to quest for our new P.O. and the mysterious "side door" from which to make our pick up before official hours.

En Route, I summoned all my bonding hormones. They lined up in formation and I barked my instructions: new chicks, be sure to think they are cute, never liked chickens before. Your mission: make me want to at least try to keep them alive. Make it so.

It was similar to the moments before I became a mother. Never a baby person, never one to coo over lil' booties and bottoms, I was worried I wouldn't be all that in to my kids. But, when I had em, it was great. And now I know what babies are all about and I love, love, love em. And knowing what babies are about, I am so happy when OTHER PEOPLE HAVE THEM! Beautiful greedy monster angels!

Anyway, to my relief, I do like the baby chicks, they are pretty cute, and they are not too cute. They are not human babies and I'm not really wired to lay down my life for them, but we are getting along nicely.

I am a little jealous of their species however. And I think we humans really drew the short straw when it comes to offspring preparedness. Here is a bitter compare/contrast:

Chickens: eggs
Humans: live, excruciating birth, sometimes consuming several otherwise perfectly good days

Chickens: circadian rhythm at day 1
Humans: circadian rhythm after 5 years of tribulations and chronic sleep deprivation of all household inhabitants

Chickens: preen selves and moderate temperature at day one
Humans: preen selves after two full decades of nagging, at the earliest and must be contorted and/or cajoled through several changes of clothing a day over several seasons over the period of several decades, not to exclude the teen years.

Chickens: eat the same foods in the first moments of life as they will for their entire lives.
Humans: struggle through several life threatening transitions: breast milk to sippy cup and getting whatever they'll consent to eat, to having to eat whatever gets plopped on the table.

Chickens: can walk upon exiting the egg
Humans: can walk after 1-2 years, before which they monopolize their mothers arms preventing her from accomplishing pretty much anything, to include feeding herself.

BOOO! HISSS!! I hear the critics now! They are everywhere! They are outspoken gay couples -always the men!- who stop me on the street to give their special critiques of my parenting (OH! YES! IT has happened SOOO many times, including just this week! And to clarify, I'm NOT saying here that ALL gay men are every mothers worst critic, I'm just saying that those that are, are really snarky and mean and seem WAY too entitled to stick their noses where they don't belong. This latest scathing review came because I was observing and photographing my children's 4th of July parade down our block rather than participating. And because this subject can also be sooo touchy, I will also clarify that most (but not all) of my gay friends (as opposed to random, assumption filled jerks off the street) have been consistently supportive of parents and parenting be it the same style they prefer or like, or not, and whether they themselves are parents, or not. And I'm not saying that I know those jerks are gay because I saw them doing it, but because I have a highly attuned gaydar which I consider absolutely necessary because I have accidentally dated several gay men, but that gaydar is probably not flawless, so these men holding hands in the blue convertible may not be for sure gay, which is not a bad thing, nor is it not a bad thing, per se, but just to note that they appeared to be gay and so I have classified them as such, but such classifications are not necessary to justify my disgust at such a presumptuous critique), they are the old lady in the grocery store cursing me for naming my children so terribly, they are every person who has never had kids, they are my friends with different parenting philosophies (but they don't recognize them as differing but equally legitimate parenting philosophies, they view them as right and wrong), they are my family, they are within me: BAD BAD MOM! How could you speak so candidly about human parenting... and by the way, you know... if you'd do a better job of it you wouldn't have anything to moan about.

And just to kick me while I'm down I'll post this photo of my kitchen less than 24hrs after I had it spotlessly clean. Gremlins must live here:

SOOOO, I'll give you the sweets you sugar addicts need:
Humans get to hang out longer with their offspring.
Humans are not biologically obligated to get reproducing at 6 months of age.
Humans are much more complex, for instance our ability to criticize each other is more varied and nuanced and specific and linguistic. Sometimes I'd prefer a little peck to the full scale verbal assault, however.
And also, we get bored just pecking at the ground, which is either a blessing or yet another curse of not being chicken.


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