That old cow

dairy

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.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

Limitless

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If.

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.

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.

 

 

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

Yes ! This is my own recipe !

soup

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 )

salt

pepper

parsley


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!

ENJOY !

Raw Milk Cottage Cheese

Easy peasy to make, but does require some minding.

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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.

ENJOY !

 

 

My ‘ Queers ‘

A good friend of mine was taking a flight, in first class, with her spouse, when a large, angry man sidled up the aisle and deliberately stepped all over her feet.  When asked to move by the flight attendant , he stood down hard on her foot a while.  When he took his chair, he reclined so far back, my friend could barely turn sideways in her own seat.  Again, he was asked by the flight attendant to move forward just a little.  Again, he refused to comply.  As they were ready to land after this unnecessarily difficult flight, he continued to be rude and obnoxious and finally announced, ” I don’t like queers.”  He was informed by the attendant that the police would be waiting for him at the gate, as he had literally assaulted my friend physically and intentionally.

I am livid.  I am sad.  I literally cried when I heard of her treatment and I cry as I write this both as her friend, knowing her pain and offense and as a mother of a child on the autism spectrum , knowing how it feels to be treated with disrespect for things that shouldn’t matter to anyone else.

This is why I am a non-social recluse.  This is why I have clinical moderate agoraphobia.

People suck.

I know first hand what it is to be ‘different’ and to mother a child who is ‘ different’.

I know what comes with that the moment you engage with the general public: rude comments, interjections of unsolicited opinions, ignorance, mean-spirited jeers and remarks, dismissal and exclusion…

I know what it is like to just be living your life without harm to anyone and have someone lambaste you for things that do not affect them at all and  which you are fully aware will stand out in a crowd.  You get tired of wearing masks.  You get tired of pretending you don’t notice the glares and snickering.  You get tired of people.

I know what it is like to try to blend in the crowd and hope you go unnoticed, snuffing your own flame for fear and insecurity and want of peace.

 

Webster’s dictionary has several definitions for the word ‘ queer ‘

Definition of queer

:worthlesscounterfeit 

  • queer money
a differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal
   (2) :mildly insane :touched
c absorbed or interested to an extreme or unreasonable degree :obsessed
d : often disparaging + offensive
3 a (1):sexually attracted to members of the same sex :homosexualgay 
       (2):of, relating to, or used by homosexuals :gay 
4not quite well
Let’s examine them , shall we?
    I have been told that I, myself, am unconventional, eccentric, absorbed or obsessed ( with my cows and dogs ) etc…
I have a bassinet for my little dogs.  I hug my cows.
I also have literal OCD, ADHD and agoraphobia.  Therefore, I am ‘ not quite well’.
I am queer.
My son is on the autism spectrum.  He is very open to talking and sharing about how differently he thinks and acts than ‘ normal ‘ kids his age.  Is he ‘queer’? yep.
I have a friend who cannot stand to have her clothes touch her neck.  Another who hates to be wet–at all.  Drives her nuts.
Are they queer? sure.
How about those who stutter? Those who rescue animals at their own expense? Those who create art ? Those who give up their social lives to heal others? Queer ? Yes.
What about people with Tourettes, bi-polar disorder, skin disorders?
What about visionaries, writers, philosophers, believers?
How about homesteaders, back to basic yearners, off the grid folks?
Homeschoolers, attachment parents, breast feeding moms?
All queer by definition.
I am different.
 There are many aspects of my construct and character that the world at large deems weird, strange, odd …but no one, not one single time, has ever physically assaulted me for them. I cannot imagine having to live in that world.
My friends were , as they always do, minding their own business, on the way to a professional endeavor in another state, two lovely in all ways successful women and because this jerk feels his flesh is more valuable somehow than theirs, they were accosted multiple times in ways that he hoped would humiliate, degrade and crush them.
With malice in his black heart, he repeatedly attempted to dehumanize my friends while only succeeding in dehumanizing himself.
I love my queers.  All of you.  The weirdos,  the artists, the back to the earth gals and guys, the gay couples and singles, the farmers, the autistic funny guys and the brilliant girls on the spectrum too.  My OCD , ADHD, animal saving, animal hugging, antisocial, outspoken, socially driven , divine believing, spiritual friends.
I love my queers.  I am honored to call you my queers..

Sweetie.

I feel the need to share about Sweetie.

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Sweetie was my first dairy cow, the first cow I ever milked on this farm.
I lost Sweetie a few years ago to worst case scenario milk fever despite heroic efforts from our friends, family, our vet and the community of docs he consulted with and treatments that added up to a sum that would have paid most folks bills in their entirety for a month.
It damaged my spirit to lose her ways that I have never gotten over. I feel and likely am partially responsible for her inability to recover, having made what I thought were simple and harmless changes to her mineral regimen. It was the first time I did not ask a mentor / vet before doing something unfamiliar. It will be the last.

I have lost many animals over the course of my life, but few have affected me the way losing Sweetie has.  I still get choked up over her.  I still see her around the farm occasionally.  I envision her under her favorite shade tree, standing in the parlor door before sunrise, hovering over the picnic table where she would beg to share everyone’s lunch.  She still exists here. She still exists in my heart.  Hot tears run as I write this and my throat is clogged with regret, sorrow and self-blame.  I miss that goofy cow like one misses any long time companion, human or animal.sweetie4

I remember everything about the day we brought her home.  We milked her at her former farm and drove all night to be sure to be home before she had to be milked again. She was a very heavy producer.  I brought the machine right onto the trailer when we arrived at our farm and milked her standing there so as not to stress her by forcing her into an unfamiliar stanchion the moment she arrived.

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Sweetie was and remains the mildest tempered cow I have ever met. She cooperated like no other, obliging what I asked of her regardless to whether it was a new or scary ( to cows ) situation.  She literally walked by my side as I did chores, occasionally rubbing her head against me or licking my hand. I jokingly called her ‘ cow dog’ .  Even when she fell ill, she was an attentive, communicative and patient girl.

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I had the opportunity several months back to purchase Sweetie’s first calf, a cow called  ‘ Vida ‘.  How Vida came to me is no less than a miracle in my world.  You can read about that in my blog post ‘ Intertwined ‘.   Although I have Sweetie’s second heifer , Bibs, born here and bottle fed by me ,  Vida is number one. Vida is special to me for obvious reasons.  She lacks her mother’s easy going temperament and although she lets me love on her and pet her, she is not anything near the pet Sweetie was, yet she queen of this farm.  I honor her mother’s memory by spoiling and catering to her.

 

Vida is due to calve soon.  I always get excited about an upcoming calf, but never like I have been with this one.  There is something awe inspiring about watching any Jersey cow give birth and attend their baby. They are such awesome mothers and form a true , deep bond with their offspring.  It is an admirable and touching thing to watch a cow nurture their young, mooing in that low , nearly inaudible language that is reserved only for her baby.

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As Vida’s calving approaches, I see more of sweetie in her every day and it both touches my heart and breaks it.

I cannot wait to meet Sweetie’s grandcalf.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss it’s little face.

I can’t wait to tell it stories about it’s grandmother as it waits for it’s mama to leave the milk parlor.

Yes, I realize it will not understand and that it’s more for my benefit than the calf’s, but I will know–Sweetie will know–and I cannot wait.

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