*written December 10
The first installment of my homesteading books came in at the library today – no Copperthwaite yet, but I did get Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman. The edition I’ve got is 2003 – I’m not sure what the most recent edition is, but the first was in 1975, under the title “The Cow Economy”. It’s a beautiful piece of work so far, though I’m only about 30 pages in. One sentence in particular has stuck with me: “Good health isn’t something left over after you eliminate all the risks.”
I’m not sure anyone has ever summed up my philosophies on food so succinctly. If you eliminate all the risks in life, love or food, you’re left with something bland, tasteless and boring. I prefer a bit of chance and excitement and flavor. Give me un-pastuerized milk that tastes like something and let me decide for myself if it’s safe. Give me meat from an animal that died a respectful death on the farm on which it was raised, and let me decide if I think it could be contaminated. Give me unsprayed apples that might not look perfect and sourdough bread that might not rise just right each time you bake. I’ll take variety and spice over plastic-wrapped uniformity and bland security any day.
Grohman’s quote comes in a paragraph under the heading “Centering”. I am certainly beginning to feel more centered these days. Every morning I wash the milk pails and bucket and fill one with hot water. John picks me up and we drive to the farm with Biscuit. Usually one or two cows have gotten out (this morning it was Biddy, who, as illustrated in the photo below, made herself a nice bed in a fresh hay bale in the sunshine).
The ladies walk calmly into the milking part of the barn, and Milo the bull stays politely outside. While John hooks each cow up to her spot I begin unfurling a big round bale and toss in enormous armfuls of hay that we distribute among the lady cows and into the manger for the calves who are waiting not-so-patiently to be let in with their moms.
When it’s time to milk, I wash off Fluckli’s udder by hand, talking to her as I do. We rub a bit of Camphill’s udder cream on each teat – it’s soft and smells nice. John says people always comment on his soft hands; he credits the milking and that cream. These days, the milk comes quite quickly – almost easily. Fluckli’s becoming used to me, I think, and doesn’t move so much anymore. I understand the mechanics of what I’m doing, but more importantly I’m starting to sense the rhythm. I think I’d like to milk a cow every day for the rest of my life. It’s intoxicatingly satisfying and true. When all is said and done I scratch Fluckli’s neck for a bit and then head home on a 3 mile walk, partially through the woods and up through town. It’s nice to walk the same route each day – I commented to a friend last night that I wish I’d done more of that in Beacon – taken the time to just walk Main Street – as part of a simple routine.
I’m 5 inches into my sweater now. I’m well accustomed to the woodstove and Gypsy is well accustomed to the house. I’m trying not to spoil Biscuit, who is, after all, a farm dog. But she’s also darn cute and affectionate. This evening I made dinner alone – roasted All Red potatoes, garlic, and Alaria seaweed from Maine. Everything was tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted at 350 for about 45 minutes. Then I tossed in last nights leftovers – Brussels sprouts and ham steak – and cooked it all another 5 minutes. There’s something special about a solitary dinner and a drink (in this case a Pork Slap beer). Without conversation or distraction, I take more time to slow down and savor the flavors.
This weekend I’m going back to Beacon for the day. I need to visit friends, pop into some holiday parties and eat Erica’s cookies at her little shop. I miss the hustle and bustle of that town, and the people there. I think I’ll take a long, appreciative walk down Main Street.