That old cow


I stood in a sunken milking area of a large dairy operation, talking with the proprietor, a friend of my husband.  As we three laughed and chatted, 200+ Jersey cows came in to milk on either side and above us , each ignoring our presence and doing her job entering and leaving the massive concrete building, but for one. One stopped as she was exiting, looked dead at me and refused to move, a long line of cows behind her pushing her back side as she interrupted the flow of the routine did nothing to break the eye lock she had on me.  Head slightly down so she could see me below, she stood, stock still and regarded me with what appeared to be recognition, but could not have been as that was my first ever visit inside the facility.

My husband asked his friend, ” why is that one cow staring at my wife?”   The seasoned farmer looked up from his work and replied, ” I don’t know, but she’s just a sweet, sweet cow.”

Eventually, the weight of multiple cows pushing behind her in their desire to leave the parlor was too much for her to stand her ground anymore and she began to leave, stealing one more look at me over her shoulder.  I gave her a respectful nod and said ” Bye, pretty girl.”

I had over 200 Jersey cows walk past me that day in single file lines right over my head, my eyes level with their ankles.  That one cow, I could not get out of my mind for days.

The next time we visited the dairy, we were there to pick out and buy some painted Jersey bottle calves.  The farmer was well into his afternoon milking, a process that takes up to five hours each session, morning and evening.  Again, I stood in ‘the pit’ with he and my husband, talking and joking and admiring his cows as they came in and went out.  Again, that one cow stopped and bent down to get a look at me. Not a single other cow did that. That time, I was more intrigued and my husband was moved to ask questions about her.

We watched her move up the line slower than the others.  I noticed her hooves were misshapen but not unkempt, she had a wise look about her features.  We learned that she is 16 years old.  She had been with the dairy since she was a heifer.  She was a friendly cow who never gave a moment’s trouble.  She regarded me again with a stare that suggested she knew me, which now made less sense than before.  Having been at the dairy all her life, she would have been handled and cared for only by the farmer himself and his brothers, their wives were completely uninvolved and any employees wandering about the cows were mostly Spanish in heritage.  There was simply no reason for that cow to know me , nor be interested in my presence, yet there she was, watching me intently with a sense of familiarity.

That time, she branded herself on my spirit.

For the next 9 weeks, she kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts and that parlayed itself into all sorts of thought processes shooting off in multiple directions all at once.  I found myself understanding more about big dairies through my consideration of her and her life than I previously had.  I understood more why they operate the way they do even when I wish they didn’t have to.   I thought of the differences in the lives of my own Jerseys as compared to the life she’s led.

Let me state, very clearly and with conviction, that it has not been my personal observation that large dairies abuse or neglect their charges.  To the large diary, the bottom line is exceptionally important and not taking care of their stock would translate into huge financial losses.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the large dairy is more motivated, willing and knowledgeable in taking both proactive and immediate steps to ensure the health of their cows than most small keepers even consider.  They are not in the habit of refusing to get vet attention for an animal that is ill or down.  They are more observant of their herds and notice issues faster than many ‘ humane’ farmers.  The farmers of big dairy that I have had the pleasure of interacting with are also very kind and truly care about their animals.

There are drawbacks for the bovines, however.

Big Ag dairies do not generally have the ability to have their cows leisurely grazing lush grasses; most of the cows are grouped in the hundreds in smaller areas on mud and areas of concrete.  The cows are conditioned to eat at certain times of the day and to walk across and over concrete often , as the surface is easily cleaned and sterilized.  The parlors are also typically concrete and block, floors and all. The cows stand and walk across vast areas of the cement twice daily.  Concrete is not meant for livestock. It is hard on their joints and hooves.  Most larger dairies also have a concrete slope the cows will tread to enter the milking area.  One I know of in this state has the cows walking up concrete stairs.  I never even knew a cow could navigate stairs until I saw several hundred do it.

A ubiquitous practice of the professional dairy is to pull and bottle feed the calves.  This practice is employed for multiple reasons, none of which I understood the necessity of until I began to visit licensed dairies and talk with the proprietors in a respectful way and with a curiosity tempered with science and a desire to understand.  Keeping the calves with the dams would present a number of logistical and biological nightmares:

There would be no way, in a herd of hundreds all calving on the same schedule, to ensure each calf was nursing enough left in the fields.

There would be no way to keep a calf safe from injury by other cows or environmental threats such as predators in a herd that size.

There is always the risk of mammary infection to the dam as a calf can pick up and harbor bacteria and viruses in their mouths that are harmless to the calf but infectious to the udder.  I had this happen on my small farm once. A cow kept getting the same mastitis infection over and over.  We treated her.  The vet treated her.  It would resolve and flare over the weeks.  Finally, the vet cultured the milk and swabbed the mouth of the calf and the lab found that the calf was harboring a common environmental bacteria that exists in all dirt but causes infection in the udder. We pulled and bottled the calf.  We had no choice.

Another consideration for large diaries is general sanitation.  If they have calves running with their milking herd, there would be no way to keep them out of the milking parlor.  Most trained dairy cows rarely relieve themselves while milking, but calves are indiscriminate about when and where they poop and pee. It just wouldn’t be clean or safe for the customer.

Those things being stated, I still hate that they have to do what they do.   Jerseys in particular are excellent mothers.  Part of being an exemplary mother is that they mourn the loss of their calves, deeply and for a long time compared to many breeds.  It breaks my heart to hear a Jersey cow crying for her calf and calling out for it in that haunting , low tones moo that is reserved only for her baby.  I do not pull calves from the dam.  Here. it isn’t necessary and I would consider it hateful to do so when I don’t need to.

A few weeks ago, we visited that dairy again to pick up a dual-purpose calf we had purchased.  That time, I was outside of the parlor waiting for the farmer when the old girl walked by me in line to go in for her milking time.  We regarded each other.  She gently mooed at me when I greeted her.  Then, she dutifully turned away and went in to the parlor.  No other cow noticed us.

Last night, I asked my husband if I really wanted something for my birthday would he try to make it happen.  I then said, ” I want that old cow.  I can’t explain to you why I want her other than we have a connection , she and I.  It isn’t practical.  It doesn’t make sense.  She’s arthritic.  She’s in bad shape compared to mine.  She’s old.  She likely only has a few years left at best.   I want her last years to be peaceful and I want her to feel special.  She’s been a faithful servant.  I want her to know what it’s like to be a pet.  I want her to know singular love.  I want her to raise her own baby, just once. I want her to have a name and be called by it . I want her to spend her last days on green pastures with space. I just want her and I feel that she wants me.  I know it will be a challenge to even get him to consider parting with a cow he’s milking and has been in his herd this long. I know it is a financial mistake, she’s not a ‘ special ‘ cow and she has more to ask of us than to give…frankly we can’t even eat her when she dies, but I am asking you to try. I really want to bring her home.”

I don’t know if we will be able to convince the farmer to part with her.  He had mentioned at our last visit that it may be time to retire her when she stopped to greet me in a long line of cows that completely ignored me.  He said he would turn her out to pasture.  That would not be a tragic end to her life of service, by any means, but I rather hope and pray she can retire here, with me.  I feel it’s where she’s meant to be.



The case for cross bred dual purpose cows

dualMany modern families are moving toward a more connected and simple lifestyle on the small farm and homestead. They desire to raise their own fresh foods and have a hands on approach to what they put on their table. Be it beef or dairy the goal from their future family cow, both can be accomplished with the addition of a well bred dual-purpose bovine.

There is a common misconception that a beef / dairy cross is undesirable for milk and lends itself less to quality in beef. This is far from true. A well selected and bred cross of beef and dairy breeds gives the best of both worlds without the usual lacks and frailties.

There are recognized breeds of dual-purpose cattle available: Dexter, Highland, Shorthorns and Simmental Cattle are all examples of easily procured breeds of this type.

While I admire the features of these breeds, as they are breed trait specific, one only gets the benefits of what is in the animal’s direct bloodline, whereas with the intentionally crossbred bovine, one develops the best of the best traits of both breeds.

Of late, there have been numerous studies on the benefits of intentionally cross breeding strong breeds of both dairy and beef. The findings tout the monetary, time, vigor and production gains of such pairings.

Penn State University did a study on cross bred cattle titled “ Crossbreeding is a good idea ; because heterosis is free money’. Heterosis is the emphasis of a value or trait as compared to the parent animal’s value of the same trait. They found that a pairing of breeds that are more genetically different pass more of the heterosis benefit to their offspring than those genetically similar. In example, a Jersey X Hereford would produce a calf of stronger positive characteristics of the sire and dam than a Hereford X Angus would, meaning that the beef x dairy cross would have the best of the parents traits at a higher percentage than the beef x beef breed cross.

According to the FAO ( Food and Agriculture organization) , small countries such as those in Latin America are turning to the dual purpose, cross bred cow not only for family use, but in large operations as well. Their hardiness, disease and defect resistance and ability to maintain and gain being key factors in that movement. The study that the FAO did regarding cross bred , dual purpose cattle was based on the success of these struggling farmers after switching to the cross bred type of cattle. The FAO’s primary mission statement is to end world hunger. They look for the most efficient plan and the least expensive to maintain for developing countries struggling to maintain livestock and feed the hungry. The FAO likes the dual purpose , cross bred cow for this goal.


How do we decide what cross breeds will work for both quality meat and rich milk? We choose two breeds that already provide those things separately and put them together, taking advantage of the aforementioned heterosis.


The American Hereford association actually recommends breeding Jerseys and Hereford for a strong, dual purpose cow. They cite the benefits of the superior beef traits of the Hereford and the superior dairy traits of the Jersey being the perfect combination, or in their own words ‘ the perfect cross’. The Hereford’s feed conversion efficiency, which translates into live weight gain in steers and exceptional weight maintenance on pasture in the heifer and cow make for not only better beef and dairy gains in the Jersey X Hereford offspring, but at a lower cost to the keeper. A quote from the article:

We did some research into Herefords and thought that using the Hereford on our Hereford X Jersey cows could work well. We felt that both breeds had good fertility, easy calving, the Jersey had plenty of high quality milk ideal for rearing beef calves while the Hereford offered high quality, marbled beef. In addition both the Jersey and Hereford were calm breeds and easy to handle,”

In a study by The Hereford Cattle association comparing beef breed traits and characteristics such as feed efficiency and general health and function, the Hereford was number one in all categories , across the board , for a 7 year controlled study of various highly recognized beef breeds. It is suggested that combining that upper tier beef influence with the globally recognized production capability and milk quality of the Jersey cow can result in the finest cross bred , dual purpose offspring.

A separate article by Hereford Cattle Association spotlights a rancher who has made the Hereford X Jersey his standard to much success and global benefit.

In an article on Lifestyle Block, Dr. Clive Dalton also recommends creating your own dual-purpose cow by crossing the Hereford and Jersey:


Michigan State University did a study of long term crossbreeding and the results. Some of these intentional pairings have so consistently produced offspring with similar, hardy traits that they are now recognized as their own breed: The RX3 ( Holstein X Red Angus ), The Beefmaker ( Hereford X Simmental ) and the Florida Cracker. The findings of this particular study outlined the benefits of such pairings:

Calf vigor

hybrid vigor

Feed Conversion


environmental tolerance

dietary tolerance

Overall general health long term

significantly reduced fertility and birth/delivery issues

In all considerations, the hybrid not only excelled as compared to the ‘ true bred’ offspring, but carried all the best qualities of the sire and dam.

Then too, there is an increase of the desirability and marketability of the Jersey steer or bull calf when combined with respected beef genetics. An article on AgWeb outlines a study by The University of Minnesota showing that the Jersey X Beef calves brought up to ten times more than straight Jersey male calves. In their study, they crossed a Jersey with a Limousin and the resulting calf was dubbed a ‘ Beef Builder’.

A study called : ‘ Production comparisons among various two breed cross cow groups’ observes that the Jersey cross is most efficient in calf weight ratio at weaning—the calf weight was highest for Jersey cross calves as compared to their dam’s weight at weaning age.

At SpiritGrove Farm we are inclined to agree with the findings of the various studies on cross bred bovines. We have had several here and have been impressed with each one for their personalities , appearances, qualities of meat and milk and abilities to gain and maintain weight on pasture. They seem to have less birth / rearing issues as indicated by recent studies and their production and quality of milk and beef have not disappointed.

It is recommended by all studies that to produce the best results with the top gains of genetic influences, one should pair a beef bull of sound breeding and genetics to a dairy cow of the same genetic appeal. We have done both here: Hereford bull to Jersey Cow and vice versa. I agree with the finding that beef over dairy is the best combination for primary beef production but my experience has been that a dairy bull of astute and exemplary breeding over a beef cow produces offspring with a greater milk production capability, while maintaining a high quality of beef; it just depends on what you’re looking for in a cross bred bovine.

  Here at our farm , we have further found that for the small farm, using miniature bulls of impressive genetics over thoughtfully cultivated Jerseys or Herefords , even standards, produces some added benefits–We keep a miniature Hereford and two miniature Jersey bulls for these effects:        Smaller calf size which lends itself to easy delivery, better weight maintenance of the dam through pregnancy and post calving, less risk of milk fever* that Jerseys are prone to due to their high production levels & propensity for difficulty  with maintaining weight and nutrients while in lactation– the smaller mini sired calf  puts less draw on the dam’s physical resources post calving.                                                                                                                           

There is also the benefit to the buyer of a thoughtfully cross bred percentage miniature bovine that requires less space on the small farm and does well on a variety of grazing situations.       

 * Milk fever is caused by a consumption of calcium from the tissues of the cow by the demand for milk production exceeding her ability to produce ( hypocalcaemia)* . 


There is a rising appreciation  for the dual purpose cow of quality breeding, particularly with a miniature influence. Multiple registries and other official entities in the mini bovine world, devote time and space on their pages to what is commonly referred to as the J-lo, Jey-Low or low line beef over Jersey cross. The lower cost and vitality, which parlays into ease of keeping is one of the appealing factors for the small farm or homestead. The dual purpose bovine does well on pasture and requires less cost to feed. They also can provide the obvious, both meat and milk for a family in a single animal or herd rather than keeping two separate breeds and possibly, two separate bulls. They are excellent candidates for organic, grass fed farmsteads. You can garner rich milk from a cross bred cow, but don’t necessarily have to milk them on a regular , twice daily schedule as they, with the mini genetics in the mix, are generally not heavy producers. And their offspring are just the cutest…there is that factor.

dual calf2dual5dual calf 3Dual calfdual7d2



The bottom line is that the cross bred, dual purpose family cow is great for the bottom line, in all factors. I have spotlighted the Hereford X Jersey in this article because that is what I believe to be the best cross based on the information I have and the experiences I have with that pairing. This two breed cross works best for my intentions for my herd and provides my buyer and myself with excellent beef and dairy.

It is not the only superior cross out there.

Tammy Marr

SpiritGrove Farm


  • Any links to studies not included herein came from fee related resources, subscriptions or text books.

Other materials and resources:

Dairy and Beef cattle by Thomas

Animal Science and Technology by Miksell / Baker

The Future of Animal Farming by Dawkins

Grass Fed Cattle by Bennett

Farm Animal Well Being by Ewing /Lay & Von Borell

National Agriculture Library / USDA

Agricultural Sciences – SCIRP Journal of agricultural sciences


How I ( want to ) write my livestock sales ads

c2Please read ad all the way through before you message me with questions I’ve already answered.  Nothing like being knee deep in pig mud or half way through milking cows and having someone ask you an unnecessary question, then get offended because you tell them the information they seek is plainly stated in the written ad.

Don’t tell me you want the animal but it is just too far to drive to come view or pick her up.  I’m in SC and have driven to W. Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan to pick up livestock I wanted.  Either she’s worth the drive to you, or not.  I don’t care either way.  I will not meet you half way, bring her to your house or do a trailer to trailer transfer and risk her life or someone else’s in order  to sell her to someone who can’t be bothered to come see her in person or make arrangements for her secure transport.

Do not show up on my farm with a makeshift pen or hand made trailer to transport my livestock.  I will not load my animal in a situation I feel is unsafe or a detriment to their health.  I care way more about my animals than I do a sale or your feelings.  If you’re buying a cow from me, you will need an enclosed livestock trailer.  Period.

Expect to talk to me on the phone if you are sincere about buying.  I do not make an agreement to sell without having a conversation with a buyer.

Be prepared to answer questions about your farm/homestead and your lifestyle.  I will not sell an animal to a buyer that is wrong for her.  If you are offended by my due diligence in placing my livestock, you should not bother to inquire.

Please have some basic knowledge of the type of livestock you wish to purchase and keep.  Don’t call me about my animal expecting me to tell you what her basic needs are as a species and for the love of bovines, don’t try to buy an animal that you know nothing about ! Do some research.  Talk to people who keep the same livestock.  Read some books.  If you show up at my farm and ask when you can start milking my 7 month old heifer, I’ll politely show you to the gates.  ( Yes, that happened )

Don’t ask me to take significantly less for my animal based on your desires, lack, financial strains, intentions ( pet V dairy girl )…  a farmer bases her pricing on multiple factors including stature, type, breed, desirability, market averages, age, production capability, lineage  etc…Frankly, if you cannot afford to buy the cow, you won’t be able to afford to keep her properly.  I have never closed a deal that began with a buyer stating ‘ I think you should take less because ‘.  We raise the animal, provide the proper medical attention and care, feed the animal etc..we have an investment in her.  We know what we need to get back and what she is worth on the market.

Respect my time limits.  I will offer a firm time and state how much time I have for you to come to view and ask questions. If you and I have agreed to meet at 10:00 and you show up at 10:38 without having called me ahead of time, you’ll likely find me doing other things and the gates locked. Depending on my schedule that day, I may or may not allow you in.   Understand that I have a tight schedule and ‘ free time’ is not something most farmers enjoy.  Aside from our farming duties, many of us have family obligations and jobs away from the home.  Don’t overstay your welcome, make excessive demands of our availability, be late for our appointment, or insult us by wasting our time when you have no real intention to buy.

Finally, and maybe this is just me ? Don’t feel the need to tell us about the minutia of your private life.  We need and want to know about your farm, living situation for the animal, intentions for her ( pet, dairy, beef, etc).  We do not need to know about your personal struggles, issues with your extended family, the bunion on your left foot that oozes, your bad back, etc.. Trust me, we’re farmers, we get it and most of us have such issues. Again, this goes to respect of our time.

A good basic set of rules for inquiring about and /or purchasing livestock is :

Keep it professional : Know your basic subject, don’t get personal, respect boundaries and time limits.

It’s  business: I don’t get offended by reasonable offers and you shouldn’t be offended if I refuse them.

My animal comes first:  one of the reasons you likely have interest in my animal is your knowledge that I give the utmost care and consideration to her.  If I tell you your situation isn’t right for that particular animal, respect that I know what I’m talking about.


Some truths I’ve found in farming



I am often asked even by close friends why I farm. The question is occasionally prefaced by a laundry list of all of the hard work, financial strains, difficult decisions and tough situations farming entails.
Each time, I answer simply, ‘ because I love it.’
I state that with emotionally tethered sincerity. I love farming.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it is rife with heartache and strain. Indeed, there are days you can’t picture yourself getting through in one piece and there are more sleepless nights than one can anticipate.
It is most assuredly hard, dirty work, trudging through manure laden mud at times that is so deep it fills your boots and sucks them off; I joke that decades from now, someone will buy this farm and find so many pairs and singles of footwear lost to mud, they will believe an entire colony of same sized farmers lived here.
Farming is demanding; of your time, your finances, your emotions, your body, your mind and your beliefs.  Yes, your beliefs. You will find renewed faith in some long held convictions and a loss or evolution of others. You will not be the same person in spirit or thought 2 years into farming of any kind that you were when you began.
Farming alters every aspect of your life and processes–neither body , mind , habit nor schedule is untouched. You will become stronger, require less sleep, require more silence and stillness.
You will no longer make long term plans to ‘away’, your schedule and availability are at the whim of  influences you respect as being beyond your planning and control. You will connect more, but socialize less.
You will be more capable and self-sufficient. You will learn to stand alone and act alone in the scariest and most physically demanding moments, because you have no choice–lives depend on it.
You’ll learn to appreciate your own company and savor alone time.

You will accomplish things you never pictured yourself attempting on your own and feel a sense of pride in the smallest of tasks.
You will become self-reliant in most things, but will lean heavily on your mentors and fellow Farm hims and hers when the chips are down, and they will respond with support of all kinds and in whatever way they capable of helping.
You will learn things that allow you a confidence and aptitude in many aspects of living that you never even considered before and that knowledge will change you in many ways you hadn’t counted on.  For example, I can no longer enjoy many meals in restaurants I used to frequent aside from seafood. Knowing the outstanding taste and texture of fresh foods, combined with the mental images of how a lot of Big Ag livestock are treated and the detrimental additives they employ has left a foul taste in my mouth for foods sourced commercially. I am forever altered by farm fresh, humanely raised and processed foods, in health and spirit.
You will develop an affinity and kinship with your charges that allows you to tell they are ‘ off ‘ before they fall ill. You will be able to singularly identify an animal from behind in a herd identically marked, by her udder or her gait. There is an awareness that comes with observant vigilance you cannot fathom without acquiring it for yourself.
You will do and say things that would have made you cock your head before you started farming. You’ll spend an awful lot of time staring at , admiring and even proclaiming admiration of the personal parts of your livestock and of the livestock of others. You’ll say things out loud to your stock like, “wow ! your poop looks great today ! Yay you ! ” You’ll endlessly talk to your non-farming friend over lunch about the bodily functions of your cow, using words like ” mucus” , ” vulva” and ” stool” as you eat your salad and she drops her fork.
You will amaze yourself. You’ll cry from being tired and worried, alone in your barns, but you’ll finish what needs to be done.

You’ll take care of what needs to be tended no matter the weather, the danger, the pain in your bones or the illness of your body. I dragged myself around on a broken and separated ankle for two and half weeks before agreeing to surgery because I was afraid of what would happen to my animals if I was out of commission. I once milked cows while vomiting in a bucket I had next to me, then threw all the milk to the pigs.
From time to time, I shake my own head and ask why I do it, then I remember life before farming, I remember ME before farming and I plow on.
I grew up in a lower class, crime ridden, mid city neighborhood. I hated it.
Worse yet, I enjoyed no stable or loving home life, being alone much from the age of 8 and wishing I was alone much of the time when I wasn’t.
I sought refuge in the one wooded area my neighborhood offered , at the back of the community beside the railroad tracks. Abutting this wooded area was a horse farm surrounded by deep ditches that to me, seemed like tiny streams. I spent a lot of time there as a child and young woman. Every chance I had, I’d take a bag of snacks and a book and spend hours sitting on the bank of the ditch on the neighborhood side, enticing the horses with sugar cubes and apple bits. It was my dream to live there or somewhere like it. It was peaceful. It was full of animals. It sheltered happy people dwelling in a happy home.
Before I arrived at this place, I suffered with many effects of my former life: Depression, anxiety, weight struggles, sleeplessness, anger…
All of those things resolved themselves over time spent on this farm. I didn’t work at them. I just gradually stopped acknowledging them, replacing those negative aspects with positive ones without effort: eating fresh foods, working hard and tiring myself, finding comfort and peace among my cows and peers,living away from the over-stimulation of city life, etc…had an effect on me that no medications, therapies or external efforts could accomplish.
I learned in studying psychology formally that every action we do, every decision we make, has a payoff for us. Positive or negative, there is a subconscious part of our brain that yearns for that payoff. Even negative actions gain us something we may not even realize we want.
Although most people I know living in large towns and cities are living a life of productivity and choice, I have come to realize there are those folks who crave negativity and propagate the  harshness of the modern city, just as there are those who stay only due to fear of leaving it’s conveniences and commercial accessibility.
I did not fully recognize just how much overt negativity and disharmony I was surrounded and bombarded by until I was apart from it.  I feel deeply for those who wish to escape it’s assault on their senses and spirit and are trapped in it like I used to be.
Here, I am surrounded by peace and beauty. No matter how badly a day goes, there is always at least one moment, one happening, one sight, that makes me smile. I have come to feel those moments in my core and appreciate them for the gift they are.
The smallest things fill me with gratitude–the soft moos coming from the darkness as I walk to the parlor, the sight of a bouncing calf, the smell of a tomato as it’s pulled from the vine. These things are the stuff of life. These things are the truest this world has to offer.






If only.

If I was able.

If I could.


How many times we say those phrases throughout our lives.

How empty they remain: Perfunctory in employment, profoundly ineffectual.


If I could, I would have more tattoos.

I would climb waterfalls like I did a few times when I was younger and carefree–or careless, whichever the case.

I would ride motorcycles with good people who look bad along curvy mountain roads.

I would float down rivers again in silence with my companion, just me and him and the water and the sun.

I would play in the rain once more with someone I love as intimately as my breath.


If I could I would finish the degree I longed for.

Travel the world alone as planned, seeking to meet the strangest people and view the unseen sights.

I would write my name with rocks on rocks in unexplored caves, then sleep there surrounded by darkness and unfamiliar sounds.

I would stand, strong and tanned and without fear among the trees of a jungle and be one with it.  I would discover a wonder that no one else could claim.


If only.


As we mature we relegate the dreams of our childhood and the ambitions of our youth to the places of fantasy.  We exchange aspirations for responsibility; lofty ideals for mature behaviors.  The things that we dared to imagine ourselves achieving become just that–imaginings, when they are, in fact, attainable.

I traded dreams.   I manipulated them until they suited my reality.  We all do.  Many joke that we’ll do what we want in our ” next life “.  I wonder how many of us wander around this life dreaming of that fanciful existence where everything we carry at our core comes to fruition.

I realized a short time ago how old I am and how much I sacrificed that really wasn’t necessary. There are still things on my roster of kiddom daydreams that are within my grasp, if  I am brave enough to reach for them.

My farm I do for me.  It brings me peace.  It makes me happy.  It encompasses many of the  things on my childhood checklist of perfect scenario: It is wild.  It is hard work.  It is basic.  It is pure.  It is rife with life.  It is full of animals.  It is secluded.  It is free of modern congestion.  It is a connectedness with nature and the earth.

It is not everything.  Nothing is.  Therein lies the caveat with humans–we evolve, and we don’t.  We change and we retain.

We grow; externally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally…what drives us, sustains us, compels us, completes us-ephemeral.  If we do not answer the call of that need to satisfy the yearnings of our spirit, we become entrapped in a vicious cycle of regret.

If only.  If I had.  If I could.

The New Year brings with it all manner of musings and determinations.  Resolutions to be our best selves and live our best lives.  My great-grandmother used to say that whatever you do on New Year’s Day will follow you throughout the year.  I believe that to be true, not because I am superstitious, but because it stands to reason that on the day most of us take stock of our lives and habits, those things that are forefront in our minds that day will stick with us throughout the year, until it is time to re-evaluate again.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  If ever I have stated a resolution, it has been in jest or spurred by a single event.  I have no recollection of ever having done so.

It has been my habit to frequently take stock and evaluate.  It is my habit to change what I can that does not work as it occurs to me it isn’t working.

This year, I decided to make a resolution: No more saying ‘ If ‘ when I can achieve a longing of my heart, a stirring in my spirit or a goal longstanding.

I have decided that to leave such things unaccomplished or unattended is a insult to my soul.

Happy New Year to each and all.

God bless and keep you.



” I want your life. ” Things to consider if considering a cow.


I hear it time and again: ‘ I want your life’

People learn that I have dairy cows and beef cows, live in a restored farm cottage and raise much of our own food and they get wistful and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the idea of fresh food and livestock surrounding a quaint country cottage in a remote town.  It is romantic.  It is cozy.  It is peaceful.

It is hard.

It is a hard way of life.  It is often a stressful way of life.  It is an all-consuming way of life.

People imagine bucolic pastures and contented cows that give milk on demand and at the farmer’s leisure.  What they don’t –and can’t–imagine is what a struggle it is to get a cow to give milk at times nor how much daily work goes into each and every cow to keep her healthy and in milk.

They don’t imagine the worry that goes with the wonder of owning and breeding livestock.

They don’t imagine that the cute cow they see in photos on social media, happily being milked by a cheerful milk maid tried to kill her keeper in her training period.

They don’t imagine how inherently clumsy and dangerous cows are( my best friend says that cows don’t know where their ends are sometimes),–nor do they imagine how moody and unpredictable a cow in estrus or close to calving can be.

They don’t imagine being chased across a field by a mad mama cow and hoping you make it to the gate before she catches you.

They don’t imagine a perfectly lovely, trained, 800 lb. dairy girl walking across your toes in the parlor because you forgot to pull your foot back. Or being pressed hard against a solid wall by a sweet cow who was just not paying attention to where you were.

They don’t imagine many things in those moments of envious reverie.

They see the beautiful, lush pastures but do not see the mud in the common areas or the flies that swarm everything and cover up your house and car and bite you and the cows.

People admire beautiful cows in great condition but have no idea how much planning, time and money goes in to keeping them that way.

I don’t buy expensive clothes, I buy expensive cow minerals.

I don’t ‘ get away’–I get up before the sun.     Every. Single.Day.

No one who doesn’t live it can imagine the life of a farmer: The work involved that is back breaking and heart breaking.  The losses you suffer become part of you, sometimes teaching you and sometimes just hurting you.

Keeping the barns, the parlor, the yards, the troughs etc…clean and tidy is no easy feat.

Keeping the animals healthy and happy is not something that comes naturally to anyone, it is a science–and an art.

No days off, kids ! Rain, snow, ice storm, hurricane…doesn’t matter.  Animals still have to be cared for, worried over, milked…

Sick??? Tough.  The work isn’t going to do itself and I promise you won’t be able to afford someone to do it for you.  No one wants your job but you.

Broken bone? too bad.  Get to work.  I once walked ( dragged, stumbled, leaned, hopped) around for two and a half weeks on a broken ankle with the tendons torn completely away before I could make it to a doctor and have corrective surgery.

The feed bills are not something that comes to mind either: grain, hay, alfalfa, minerals…even if you plant and harvest your own , it costs ya !

The equipment is not on anyone’s mind either: tractors, hay forks, troughs, milking machines, etc…

So many expenses that no one considers.

Veterinary care: maintenance vetting ( dehorning etc ) is quite costly, but there is major expense if something goes wrong., Budget devastating if something goes REALLY wrong. My highest single event vet bill was $3200 and I lost the cow.  Sometimes, even finding a good farm vet is impossible depending on your area.  If that is the case, I really advise not having a cow.  If something goes wrong and you can’t handle it, you will blame yourself for a loss due to lack of vetting.

Time.  There’s one to consider ! Especially if you work outside the home as I do helping my husband and my son with their businesses.  There are only so many hours in a day and there are always so many things on your list, not counting your normal ‘ duties’ like cleaning, laundry, cooking, helping your kids with whatever they need of you…

I am lucky to be able to make doctor appointments or lunch with my friend once every three months.  Every activity is scheduled around milking my cows or caring for the animals.  I have a hard time even making it to special occasions with my family.

” I want to live your life”.

One instance of that being spoken inspired me to write this post because despite my advise and cautionary tales, someone jumped in and nearly went under.

She called me several months ago wanting to ask about keeping a dairy cow.  Just one.

I advised her how to set up her parlor for hand milking, how to set up her yards so they would be convenient and safe, how to build a run-in shed barn, etc..

I told her all the things I touch on here–the worst of the worst.  Still she persisted in her quest for a cow.

I told her what to look for in a family cow and since I had none to offer, I helped her pick one. I went to her homestead and taught her how to prep and milk her cow when the cow arrived.  I made myself available to answer all her questions.

Three months later I got a call from her.  She opened with , ” I think I made a mistake.” and the conversation , and her cow’s future, went downhill from there.

She thought I was exaggerating all the work and expense and worry.  No, seriously, that’s what she told me.  She thought I was exaggerating. Sigh.

If she believed half of what I told her is true it should have been enough to spark her brain into realizing she shouldn’t have a cow with her lifestyle that she was unwilling to change.

The picture is never the whole story.

That is what I leave you with.  You cannot see the work, the strain, the worry, the suffering, the efforts, the expenses, the exhaustion, the physical stress…not in a picture.

Enjoy the photos of happy cows and the posts of contented farmers, but understand that the cows are happy because of proper care and attention and the farmer is tired but satisfied with her choices.  If you are considering those choices for yourself, ask the hard questions and for the love of cows, believe the answers you get.




Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

Yes ! This is my own recipe !


This recipe can be played with in so many ways to suit taste.

What you need:

2 lbs ground beef

1 lb. bacon

1 C cubed bacon or fatback

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1 green bell pepper

5 cloves garlic

2 yellow onions

4 C beef broth or stock

3 carrots or 1 can carrots

1 can pureed tomatoes or 4 pureed whole tomatoes

1 can of diced tomatoes or 2 whole tomatoes, diced

2 C cheese of choice ( I like white sharp cheddar )

Pickled jalapenos ( very optional )




Chop your peppers and onions.  Peel and roughly chop your garlic.

In large skillet, add your ground beef , your cubed bacon or fat back, peppers, onions & garlic.  Brown.

While  your ground beef mixture is browning, put your bacon in oven at 375 on a baking sheet.  This makes the bacon more crumbly and crisp for sitting atop soup.

when your beef / bacon mixture is brown, drain off as much fat as possible. I set a metal colander over a large ceramic kitchen bowl and pour the mix in to drain.

In large soup pot add your beef/ bacon /veggie mix with broth/stock, all tomato ingredients , carrots & salt/pepper/parsley to taste. Bring to boil, stirring regularly.  reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes or as long as you like.

This is a particularly nice recipe for a crock pot, but the meat mixture should be browned first.

Grate your cheese and garnish with your cheese and crumbled , oven baked bacon.

If you like some spice or kick , pickled jalapenos are AWESOME as a garnish on this soup!


Raw Milk Cottage Cheese

Easy peasy to make, but does require some minding.


Haven’t tried this with pasteurized milk, so if you don’t have access to raw milk you can let me know if it works as well with pasteurized.  Since there is a maturing process and some heating involved, I don’t feel the need to pasteurize.

1/2 gal. raw milk

Skim cream as much as possible: reserve cream in fridge

Place skimmed milk in glass bowl and cover with cheesecloth.

Keep on a counter in an area with stable temperature.

Let it sit 24-48 hours until it is firm and gel – like.  ( no whey should be risen to the top.  The goal is to set at this stage until JUST BEFORE the milk separates.  That may take some sight skills that develop over time.)

Skim off any remaining cream. ( it will rise ) : a baster works well for this purpose and you should retain this cream for sour cream. YUMMY !

Dump The solid milk in a large pot and heat on LOW for between 5 – 10 minutes until separation of curds and whey occurs.

Line a strainer with butter muslin or a lint free white kitchen towel. Place lined strainer over large bowl to catch whey.  Drain for 1-3 hours ( house temp affects drain time)

Remove and crumble curds into fresh bowl.  Add salt to taste.  Pour on cream reserved at beginning of process or equivalent amount of cream and combine.