We think a lot about those cows of ours, oh yes we do. We wonder and worry and work, all in the name of keeping the cows happy. Or at least not unhappy because happy is a relative concept when it comes to cows. They are a bit like maidenly aunts who say nothing when everything is going well but will be very certain to let you know when they aren’t.
When the cows first came home I was very nervous of them, they are just so big and well…big. I’m used to animals that I have to be careful around, watching out for wings or trotters with my relatively big self, but when a cow steps on your foot it stays stood on. Ask me how I know.
But a couple of months of up close and personal action with the cows has changed all of that. There is nothing like washing an udder to create a sense of intimacy and closeness. As in ‘please don’t poo on my head’ closeness.
Even grumpy Aunty Morag will let us give her head a scratch when we are delivering her morning snack. Though she engages with us with an air of sufferance I know she digs a good head rub, who doesn’t. Though she is also quite happy to trample me to death in order to reach her daily bowl of grains I feel that we have reached an understanding. Yes part of that understanding is that if she doesn’t get her grains she might just trample me to death but all relationships have their limits.
Wander knows us well now and us her. She is used to our ministrations and is even reasonably accepting of the morning routine of milking and feeding. She is beginning to train us to her liking and we are beginning to accept that having authority over a creature that is 5 times your weight is a tad optimistic. It’s more about bribery and routine than anything else, come to think of it our children have prepared us beautifully for this kind of engagement.
And then there is the work involved. The building of barns and shelters and calf pens, the running of electricity and water, the lugging of grains and milk each day. Granted that work is mostly done by Stephen but I feel fully engaged none the less. Our morning routine is dominated by the cows and getting the milk, making sure they have water when the temperatures drop, taking out hay and accepting that they will just stop eating it when it is no longer acceptable. There is a lot to it.
But as I keep telling Stephen, if it were easy everyone would do it because the rewards are so enormous. The phenomenal gift of milk each day, the independence that brings with it, the delicious kitchen treats I’m able to make, the beef steer that will grace our own freezer and those of friends, the restoring of pasture and the manure that will feel our own vegetables next year. It’s an extraordinary exchange when you catalogue it all and really, if that’s not worth working hard for, I really don’t know what is.