Well, what a journey this has been. We were living in Michigan and the economy tanked. Rick moved his appraisal business to Sarasota, Florida. A few years later, we find ourselves on ten acres of old Florida landscape. We’ve been fans of Sally Fallon and the wise traditions of our ancestors for several years. We make Kombucha tea, soak our grains, eliminate refined and artificial sugars, and consume sprouted grain breads. We avoid all GM foods. Our children have never been on antibiotics and they are healthy, happy and full of vigor.
We now make our own hard cheeses, cottage cheese, butter, sour cream, kefir, you name it. If you can make it with milk, we do it. We have met some of the most special people and have made friends for life. Not only are we well on our way to being more self-sufficient, we have realized just how satisfying life is when you work hard and have fun. It’s a good tired.
Just want everyone to know that although it is work, it is the best thing my family has ever done. We are so excited to share this journey with all of you.
The husband and I have been passionate practitioners of natural and healthy living and thought it was time to take the next step into the unknown. We decided to get a family cow. Honestly, we didn’t give it much thought. We just decided to get one and we bought the first Jersey we saw. We performed the obligatory Internet research. We ordered a book from Amazon. Basically, we had no clue what we were doing. We really had no business buying a cow.
I recall the evening we looked at Holly, and decided, yep, we’re going to buy us a cow. Didn’t matter we had NOTHING prepared, but having read the book “Keeping the Family Cow” which although it is a good resource, doesn’t tell you what to do when you decide two days before Christmas, after an exhaustive search, that you’ve found the perfect cow. Didn’t tell us to look under the hood and see what she had cooking under there, we just looked at her and said “Awww, she’s perfect” Note to anyone looking at dairy cows, check the udder and the size of her teats. Teeny, tiny teats make it harder to milk. It is like milking a kitten. Yes, YOU can laugh, you don’t have to milk her. Doesn’t affect the delicious milk she puts out, it just makes it harder to not scream when your fingers cramp up. Our son Jack, when he saw another cow’s teats months later at our friend’s farm, said “Oh Mom, look at Rose, she has teats like bike handles!”
So two days before Christmas, we brought Holly home. A two hour drive and a stop at the Tractor Supply Company with her in tow, we bought some initial supplies (our Cow Starter Pack). Needless to say, we were happy campers. We had us a cow. But wait a minute; we didn’t grow up on a farm. Little did we know what that meant for our daily routine.
Now, thinking we could learn cow care on the fly, we referred to our bovine bible, “Keeping the Family Cow”. To our horror, it didn’t tell us what to do after we’ve milked for an hour and the milk just keeps coming. Nor does it tell you to that you have to establish who is the boss or your cow will walk all over you, and I mean literally WALK all over you. Or maybe step on the toe of your boot, trapping you, and when you try to jump out of her grasp, you fall back with a hard THWACK, on your backside, while she just stares at you like “Get up fool!” Nor does it say “Do not move your milking stool twenty thousand times to accommodate your cow moving around the milking area” It also fiendishly omits what to do when the cow kicks the bucket, you are in tears, and nobody can hear you up at the house either, calling “Help, I am going to hurt this cow!” Nope, none of these topics are addressed.
Only your new best friend, Lori, the lady with nine cows, hears your story and says “WHAT?? It took you HOW long to milk that cow?–I’ll be right over, we’ll get this job done in twenty minutes and I’ll get you straightened out right quick. She shot over to my place, marched over to the cow, told me to get myself on the other side of the cow, and we started to milk. When I said “Hey, I didn’t even get to give you a hug” she replied, “This is better than a hug”. Squirt, squirt, squirt went the steady rhythmic sound of the milk hitting the stainless steel bucket. That cow was milked out in twenty minutes, just like she said.
Transitioning to any new lifestyle has its challenges. There have definitely been tears of frustration. When you are a home schooling Mom, and are trying to get your day started, getting head butted in the backside by a cow in heat isn’t exactly inspiring. Did you know cows can move very quickly when they want to? I learned that our Jersey cow, Miss Holly, is like greased lightening, especially when I say “I have apples” and she realizes I don’t and isn’t happy I lied. My son said he looked out the back window and saw me running at full speed and then saw the cow running after me. He realized quickly we were not exercising, and bless his heart, yelled out “Mom, hurry, jump up on the deck, she is gonna get you!” By the way, she didn’t get me that time. I got control of myself, stopped running and turned to face her, ready to defend myself. She wisely backed down.
Something else the book doesn’t cover is the joy you’ll experience while looking out and watching your five year old daughter and eight year old son, laying down next to your cow, nose to nose, and kissing her. It doesn’t tell you that cows will nuzzle you, they depend on you and if you are faithful to them and show up on time, you can set your clock by them. Creatures of habit they are. First week we had her, she licked Jack’s hair up one side and down the other, he proudly proclaimed “Mom, I’m her calf.” The book doesn’t tell you that your new cow will welcome your exuberant puppy, with a big lick on the head, and will casually look on as that same puppy gets her teeth stuck in her tail, and walk away nonchalantly with a puppy hanging from her. Priceless!
There is no real manual on how to dive into a life like this, so just know that if you make the choice, you can take baby steps and one day you’ll look up and be there. It is so amazing how the right people come to you just at the right time too.
So, we must tell you that this adventure comes with lots of stories, but it’s the kind of adventure that grows on you….it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. And the stories just keep coming. Stay tuned…