Thursday, August 18, 2011

Better to have loved and lost and all that

Ugh... it's getting time to choose between my two cows.

Contender #1:  Hendrika: matriarch and total bitch. Her moo actually has a whiney edge to it.  I've gotten milk from her these last few days but she's kicking and screaming the whole way and even made contact with my recently tetnus'd up arm.  She won't let down and I have to yank on her to get anything.  She inhales the grain and I've got only 5 minutes to get the job done.  And she kicks - did I mention that?  She's the one I bought off range-land lo these two years ago.  She'd had no contact with humans and was basically as wild as a wolf.  I was like Romulus and Remus - only imagine if the wolf is completely without compassion and doesn't want to give them milk. And she's still crazy.  Last year at this time, she was calmer and was giving over a gallon a morning on our milk-share program in which the calf gets milk 1/2 the day and I get the other half.  But now she's such a withholding expert that I'm getting barely over a quart.  Hardly worth the stream of cusswords and rage I feel at 5 am. What a way to start the day, eh?! I feel like I'm the one getting milked for grain.  I am so embittered at her 4 am bellowing me out of bed (world's most irksome alarm clock) and then kicking at my arms while I try to force a few ounces from her that I've started snapping the wet rags at her ass- ala boys' highschool locker room (the movie interpretations).  She's a mutt and a bitch and can't be appreciated --- except by me, who admires her refusals to go along to get along, her questioning of authority, her rebellious nature,  her basic anti-cow, anti-docility.  And she's already been bred with miniature Jersey again.

Contender #2: Sukey: Hendrika's inexplicably mellow first born, now a mother herself.  Sukey daintily nibbles at her grain.  She pleasantly releases her milk.  And never kicks.  She's has the sweetest personality of any cow ANY BEING I've ever met.  She is the perfect cow.  Except she only gives a quart, but give it she does!  Happily and freely.  And she's beautiful - not that I'm shallow, it's just something you notice.  She's got those dainty pink toes and that alabaster face and auburn hair and shapely calves (har har).  She's so sweet, you can almost here her humming as she picks her way through the hay. I'm afraid if I sell her, her new owners wouldn't be capable of appreciating such a fine animal.

But I'm also worried I'll get resentful because the process of milking takes the same whether you get 1 quart or 1 ton from a cow.  You've got time overhead costs: you scrub the teets with hot, soapy water; you milk; you feed the cows; you clean the barn; you strain the milk; you boil the rags; you sterilize the bucket.  You may milk for 5 minutes or 15. 45 minutes of work for 1 quart?  How's that going to feel in February?  Will I get to make cheese?  She'll produce more over the next couple years and hasn't even reached her peak for this cycle.  We may get up to two quarts.  But when it's time to let her go, won't I just love her more?

But then, how will my arms look in February if Hendrika stays?

Whoever I keep will be my cow for the next two years and then Chocolatey Claire will ascend the stanchion-throne.  So two more years of wrestling and wrangling or two years of low-drama low-volume.

Why can't I keep both?  Because that is insane.  I don't need both.  I don't have room for both.  I don't have money to feed two full grown cows all winter.  And I need to sell one in order to buy the hay for the other.  

So, let's vote, please.  Not binding, of course. Just a poll.  To your right there.  Who would you choose?  It's like The Good Son.  It's like those morality-in-a-life-raft brain squeezers. It's Sophie's Choice

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