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!

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