beatrice: braveheart, bold or just plain bad?

beatrice: braveheart, bold or just plain bad?

You’ve been spotted – don’t think she’s going to let you get away

Here she comes… who’s she?? It’s beatrice…

xxxxxxpet me ladyxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxor I’ll butt your knees

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Come on lady, I don’t have all day – What are you waiting for??

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This weekend, I had to break down and mow some grass.  I admit it; I have developed a Scrooge-ish double hatred of mowing grass. First because now that I have cows to feed, grass = food.  Mowing grass feels like throwing food away and I have a real issue with  that.  Second because I hate wasting gas on something that could easily be performed by hand or by animal and that bugs me too. It was some green, juicy grass; the men would have happily done that job.

But alas, that field isn’t fenced and won’t be for a while, so while it pained me to do it, I had to break down and mow. But that’s not really the story.

The story is Beatrice.  Beatrice is one wacky heifer.  I thought Honey was the one who would end up knocking me on my can one day. But next to Beatrice, Honey is darn near shy.

Talk about gawky & awkward … here’s honey in all her teen-aged glory. All the calves go through a homely phase between one and two years, but my goodness. With a leggy, all elbows and knees look like this, surely she’ll be a supermodel one day…

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Honey went through a quad-chasing phase which was both funny and alarming, but she seems to have outgrown it. But even at her sassiest, Honey has a healthy respect for tractors, weed-whackers and other scary machinery. And the other “normal” calves? They stay far, far away from all that stuff.

Beatrice’s first week, she left the herd and her mom and chased the tractor all the way up the hill and to the gate after I delivered hay one morning. I had to get down and chase her away by flapping my arms, jumping around and yelling just so I could drive the tractor through the gate. And don’t think she took that without some head shaking sass.

The next unusual Beatrice encounter was when I had to take the weed-whacker and trim the grass under the electric fence. Most of the calves (and cows) are rightly fearful of me  with this scary-looking noisy gadget and keep their distance.  Not Beatrice.  She actually chased after me and wanted to get her face right into the action. Very odd.

Yesterday was the first time the calves have seen the brush hog at work. It’s noisy. And most calves think it’s scary.  Not you-know-who.

Beatrice saw that rig coming and ran right up to get a better look.  She chased me all the way along the fence line and looked really sad when I turned and drove away.  I can tell right now, pasture mowing will be a bit of a challenge with Beatrice around.

Are you talkin’ to me??

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Remember Beatrice’s kidnapping incident? I may owe Zay an apology accusing her of kidnapping and all. As unlikely as it was, Beatrice is just the sort of girl to sneak out and party all night leaving her mom crazy with worry….. sorry Zaymonster!

Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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Have you heard? The New York Times is calling all carnivores to tell them why we believe it is ethical to eat meat.

Since this is a topic front and center in my mind nearly every day and I planned to discuss it with you anyway,  how about right now?

The stingy 600 word limit was a real hardship for a chatty girl like myself; hopefully Word’s word count tool is accurate!   I sent my blood, sweat and tears off into the electronic sunset, and from there, who knows?

Weigh in with your opinions in the comments below, but do play nice. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

So, here it is; my big New York Times minute:

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This question of whether it is ethical to eat meat cannot be deeply understood by anyone with clean hands.

My point?  A formal decree from above is not coming. Fancy panel of judges or no, there isn’t a single right answer to this dilemma.  Like death itself, we each have to wrestle this contradiction alone. The real ethical question?

Will we humble ourselves by taking a ruthlessly honest look at the toll our lives extract from others? My guess is we’d rather shield ourselves from introspection with dueling data, finger-pointing and clever bumper-sticker retorts.

Nature has an uncomplicated relationship with death. Nobody, two-legged or four is spared. We try hard to find a loophole, and Nature humors us. But she never lets us hide from her truth for long.

To Nature, death is just part of life. Creatures are born, creatures die.  The dead feed the living and the living eventually become the dead. Nature builds in harsh but perfect circles, not the logjams and cul-de-sacs we construct to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Remember the scene in the movie Cold Mountain where the old lady kills the goat?  The loving kindness the Goat-lady gave that trusting goat as she pierced its heart is a stunning moment.  Is it cruel betrayal or the heartfelt kindness of a true shepherd?  That goat didn’t suffer one bit, but sweetly laid down its head in eternal sleep, feeling safe in the trusted shelter of the Goat-lady’s lap.

Somehow, the intentionality of the Goat-Lady’s act really jams our brains. The abrupt killing contradicts the peaceful mercy of that death. The dichotomy rocks our certainty. We’d rather cover our eyes.

I raise cattle with love and tenderness, and I admit I cry every time I deliver one to slaughter. I don’t like slick words like “harvested” or “processed”. I prefer the unvarnished facts. A cow was killed because I decided it would be so. I won’t shirk my sadness or culpability with a perky elevator speech selling the rightness of my decision.

My beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick piece of well-raised beef is carefully cooked: rare with a perfectly browned crust.  I eat my steak mindfully with gratitude and pleasure. That steak is meaningful to me. I appreciate its full, bittersweet cost and I don’t waste a single scrap.  It’s delicious.

Recently, I plowed a field so I could plant some Monsanto-free organic vegetables.  A commendable act most Vegans would agree.  In doing so, I disturbed nests of bunnies and a home some peace-loving groundhogs have enjoyed for some time.  It was traumatic for those little creatures, and the hawks that trawl my pastures were elated. Thanks to my vegetables, there was a new all you can eat buffet in town. I didn’t kill anything myself, but I knew creatures would be living there. They live everywhere. Ethical?

We need to step away from our computers, books and chattering brains and deepen our understanding of Nature’s ways.  Only by maintaining a distant, academic understanding of Nature can you believe in the moral superiority of tofu.

When someone comes up with a real, actionable plan to free the animals, not rely on industrial foods and feed the soil in a sustainable way, my mind is open. Today, the most ethical thing I can do is provide a joyful, carefree life for my meat.

In this way, and only this way, I say yes.  It is ethical to eat meat. Life is grand, messy, confusing business.  I accept my assignment of hands-on, eyes-open, deliberate participation.

That’s as ethical as it gets.

How to Live a Life of No Regrets

How to Live a Life of No Regrets

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

 

xOnly one way to take Beatrice’s picture: catch her when she’s sleeping…

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“There is only one thing about which I shall have no regrets when my life ends.  I have savored to the full all the small, daily joys.  The bright sunshine on the breakfast table; the smell of the air at dusk; the sound of the clock ticking; the light rains that start gently after midnight; the hour when the family come home; Sunday-evening tea before the fire!  I have never missed one moment of beauty, not ever taken it for granted.  Spring, summer, autumn, or winter.  I wish I had failed as little in other ways.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Play, eat, sleep, repeat. These kids definitely savor to the full all the small, daily joys.

Babies like to nap together on a big pile of hay. Bovine daycare for frazzled Moms.

Fritz & Google rise & shine

Suzette is a perfect lady, always polite and demure

Max says a good power nap and a few big stretches works wonders

Why do we call him Google? No idea except he’s kind of funny. Check out those teeth!

Bess says just because she’s a year old now doesn’t mean she isn’t funny anymore…

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Well Bess, I can’t deny the truth in that. You ARE a funny girl.  OK people, you have your mission. What small, daily joys have you appreciated?

Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Monday Moo-sings: random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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Look what big lugs Zig and Axel are today...

I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe you forget. Some of my cows come from a long line of well trained working cows.  Devons have long been a drover favorite because of their hardiness and peppiness – they are the fastest walking breed of cow you know.

Of course, just like work for humans is different than it was 200 years ago, cow jobs are a little different too. Visit Colonial Wiliamsburg, Historic Brattonsville, Mt. Vernon, The Farmers Museum and you’ll see oxen acting out the jobs their ancestors used to do so we can remember the way life was way back when.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice Devon cattle in the movies and on TV here and there.  The lure of Hollywood is great – when it pays off, it pays big, but sometimes you have to wait on a lot of tables to become an overnight sensation….

M.J. Knight from Ulysses Livestock Conservancy in Pennsylvania once took her entire herd to be part of the cast of The Village. Not your typical day at the office.

And Uncle Pat from Ox Hill Devons has now gone full time Hollywood.  Hit the big time. No more hash slinging for Pat. No sir-ee.

I call him Uncle Pat because he is Uncle to our steer,  Zig and Axel.  Zig and Axel were two of our very first calves and my word are they a pair of gentle giants today. Their mothers, Zay and Suki were the daughter and granddaughter of Pat’s mother and aunt. Pat was trained by Howard and Andrew Van Ord from Russell Pennsylvania and with his mate Willie has traveled far and wide demonstrating the value of oxen and Devon cattle.

Well, wouldn’t you know, late in life Pat got a big promotion. You can check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHs-lBNTEQ0&feature=player_embedded

I think it’s safe to say Pat isn’t letting Hollywood go to his head.

I mentioned Pat’s new gig to Zig and Axel at dinner and they didn’t really seem to be all that interested. Well, apparently I was mistaken because later, when everyone else was out butting heads and wrestling around, where were Zig & Axel??

Zig & Axel tell me they’re too busy polishing their resumes and looking for agents. They say they’ll have their people get in touch with my people….

two hellos and a kidnapping

two hellos and a kidnapping

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random happenings, snapshots & recipes

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I don’t know if you noticed I stood you up last Thursday, but it’s been a little exhausting around here. I know we’re small. Two calves in one day is no big deal on a large farm. But you haven’t met these calves. I know Milking Devons make some amazing milk, but these moms must make rocket fuel.

Just after dawn, Molly says hello to little Max

The first day for new babies is usually kind of quiet – being born is tough business and they spend much of that day tucked into a warm place getting some battery-charging sleep.  But the second and third days, look out. Those poor moms spend hours running after their kids trying to get them to listen. Which doesn’t work any better for cow moms than it does for human ones. The more the calves get chased, the more fun the game. I haven’t figured out how to tell the Ladies if they just turned and walked away, those babies would run right back.

Of course, along with the exhaustion are some moments of heart-warming charm and  cuteness. Like this morning, when all three babies were playing inside the barn. Chasing each other around the posts, zooming around the corners, jumping and bucking like puppies with wild eyes and tongue-lolling grins.

Both Bling and Molly had their babies on Thursday. Molly early in the morning, Bling late in the evening.  Molly’s kind of a pro and a bit wild at heart, so she passed on the maternity ward and chose instead to hide in the brush pile.  I knew I’d find a baby when I couldn’t find Molly.  Now, you’d need to see her to appreciate just what a wide load Molly is. And if you did,  you’d see what a feat it is for her to make herself invisible. Since it was a warm, dry and sunny day, Molly and Max spent their first day napping together in the sun.

For Bling, it was a different kind of day.

Bling is young and this is just her second calf. She’s such a goofball, with her funny way of always seeming surprised, it’s hard to know what to expect from her. She was fussy all day, pacing up and down and going off by herself. She was still fussing at dinnertime and I wanted to be able to grab her if things weren’t going well, so I locked her inside the barn and everyone else out.

After a few hours of discomfort and fussiness, hello Beatrice!  Once she was up, licked & fed, I was able to lock them inside a stall. Then, everyone else could come back in for the night and I could finally head in for my dinner.

Friday morning, all’s looking good – the Ladies are outside eating hay and Bling’s looking perky but calm, peeking over her stall for room service.  Zay, as usual, was trolling around outside the stall looking for ways to steal Bling’s breakfast.

I didn’t see the baby right away, but the hay was piled up pretty high, and napping babies tuck down pretty low.  Since Bling wasn’t fussing, there didn’t seem to be any cause for alarm.  But, when I filled the water buckets and I still couldn’t see any little lumps, I went in and started pawing through the hay.  I still can’t believe it, but it’s true. No baby. Anywhere inside the barn.

Now, clearly it’s not impossible, but pretty unbelievable.

Trying not to panic, I head out towards the herd at the hay bales.  Where could she be? Well, over by the bales, tucked into the brambles was a tiny lump. There she was, curled up, all alone, taking a power nap.  How did she get there? It’s such an unlikely hike for a brand newbie with no clue about where she is.  Well, I have no witnesses, but I’m pretty sure I know what went down.

Little Beatrice hidden in the brambles

I haven’t told you much about our Zay-monster. Good thing she’s so amazingly beautiful, because her only other endearing quality is the fact that she’s such an outstanding mother.  So outstanding in fact, she steals other Lady’s babies.

Suki had her baby first this year, and she doesn’t take crap from Zay. Molly’s a little scared of Zay, but she hasn’t forgotten her wild ways and still has a few tricks up her sleeve. But Bling? Bling’s no match for a troll like Zay.

Bling takes candy from strangers, and will tell anybody anything if they scratch her chin and tell her how pretty she is. It seems Bling’s little one slipped out under the gate and Zay spirited her off and hid her in the brambles.

Unscathed by her adventure, little Beatrice wasn’t having any parts of letting me get close enough to pick her up and carry her back to her mom in the barn.  So, I went for plan B – lock up the kidnapper and turn Bling out for some undisturbed maternal bonding.  Happy mom that she is, Bling went running straight to Beatrice & resumed her so rudely interrupted motherly duties.

The alleged kidnapper behind bars...not looking very remorseful to me..

and left....

Bling chases Beatrice right...

and does her best to tell Beatrice not to take rides from strangers

Whew – another day survived with just a few minor incidents.  Soon enough these little ones will pick their own favorite spots, stop crashing into the fences and become much more predictable.  Can’t happen soon enough for me.

We need a nap!

in which the Kerrys are coming

in which the Kerrys are coming

Still a little shy, our new Dexter & Kerry neighbors are settling in!

Still a little shy, meet our new Dexter and Kerry neighbors

Something’s happening in the neighborhood that I’m pretty excited about. I wasn’t sure how the Ladies would take the news, especially Molly since she takes her duties as a Heritage Breed model pretty seriously.  But surprisingly, they seem pretty excited about it too.

I had heard the Kerrys were coming, and now the Kerrys are here. It’s true – I’ve seen them myself. And with the Kerrys are a few of their smaller Irish cousins the Dexters.

Until now, we were one of the few farms in these parts with old-fashioned heritage breed cows.  Here and there I see a Dexter or some Scottish Highlands; there’s a farm with beef Devons a couple of hours away and a herd of ethereal British Parks I’ve been wanting to see. Devon crosses are popping up here and there, but mostly, until now, any heritage cow friends I’ve made are from Virginia,  New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Known as "the poor man's milch cow", Ireland's Kerry cattle are famous for their longevity and ability to thrive on poor forage.

I’ve had a little crush on Kerry cows for some time, but have only managed to meet one just once in my travels. That’s all changed now since recently, a small herd owned by the Grossman family has taken up residence at Pasture Maid Creamery in nearby New Castle. So, not only will these Kerry Ladies (and their man) be living nearby, their milk is being put to the test by a real, professional cheesemaker, Adam Dean.

While our Girls are an old-fashioned breed from North Devon England, Kerrys are a similar type of indigenous cattle from Ireland. In fact, the Kerrys with their lovely horns look very similar to the Ladies, but are just a little smaller and are black instead of red.  Like our American Milking Devons, Kerrys are also famous for their scrappy ability to make rich milk and excellent beef while eating nothing but grass.

The introduction of Kerry cattle into this professional dairy herd is a bold and proactive response to the ever-increasing costs of farming inputs. By breeding their herd of modern  dairy breeds to a Kerry bull, the Dean family of Pasture Maid Creamery (not  the Dean’s brand in cartons – look for glass bottles of Pasture Maid Creamery pasteurized creamline milk) is shaping their herd in a way that will reduce their dependence on expensive grains and fuel as they continue to produce excellent milk and beef.

When the milk is clean, sweet and rich you don't need exotic equipment & ingredients to make great cheese.

After visiting my new Kerry neighbors, I came home with some booty and fresh inspiration: a gallon of Pasture Maid creamline milk and a dozen farm fresh eggs. I re-started my cheesemaking engines by making this pillowy soft, fresh buttermilk cheese.  Its pure, rich deliciousness is a true reflection of the beautiful milk.

I’m struggling with brain jam because I have so many things to say about this milk and cheese. But, rather than torture you with one long runaway spew, I’ll restrain myself. More to come,  you can count on it. Don’t believe me?

Get your own Pasture Maid Creamline milk and try for yourself. Your brain will cheese up with excitement too.

Molly doesn't see why I think this is a big deal. "Bring it on with a side of fresh grass", she says.

Moo-re to come….