My cousin, Jenny, who also lives on an Organic Valley farm down the road, came to my farm to go horseback riding. Lately I have been teaching her the basic riding skills. I told her that after we practiced in the yard we could go on a trail ride, and she said; "No can we do that first?" So we went for a trail ride. She rode as I walked. It's amazing how you can learn something new about horses everyday. A horse always knows what is safe or not and then will try to tell the person that is not doing something safe. Like today we came to an icy spot in the trail. My pony Tasha stopped and would not move, so I had Jenny get off and I walked across the ice to show Tasha that it was safe; I slipped and fell backwards onto the ice. I should have listened to Tasha in the first place. We found our way around the ice.
That night after I finished the horse chores I went to help our intern Maria milk the cows. Once I have all the milking gear on I step into the parlor. Milking goes much quicker this time of year, because a lot of cows are dry. I'm sure many of you want to know what that means? A cow carries a calf for 9 months. The last 4 to 6 weeks we stop milking them so they can prepare for their birth. A vacation from being milked. It also gives the farmer a bit of a break before all our cows start to calf. Some of the pregnant heifers who have not been milked before, but will after they give birth, are also in the parlor so they get used to being in there and learn the milking routine.
Here's what I do when I am milking a cow. First I spray all the teats clean with iodine, but before I do that to them, I always stroke them on the back of their legs to let them know that I am there. That way they usually won't kick, because they won't be startled. I go down the row of cows doing the same to each. I notice that every cow has a different looking teat—some have polk-a-dots, some are small, some are big, some are brown, and some are black. They all look different. Sometimes that is how I can tell who's who! The milking goes quickly and I am back inside before you know it.
The very next day, as I was doing my horse chores I spotted Harold looking over a gate into a calf pen. We have not yet had a calf this year, so what could this mean?! I ran through the cowyard, climbing over the gates, until I came to the calf pen. I peered on my tip-toes over the gate.........there was a mama cow licking our first baby calf!
"It's a boy," said Harold, knowing what my next question would be.
That night after milking I bottle-fed the new calf. Even though the calf still has his mother to nurse from, we bottle feed them right from the start, before they are afraid of us. After he drank down the first bottle, we went on to the next. He learned so fast! I start to walk very slowly while he is sucking to see if he will follow me. He did! When there are more calves they will all drink from the same barrel, so he needs to learn to fight for it. I gently tug it out of this mouth so he can learn to go after it. Then suddenly I hear my mom shout across the yard, "It's time to come inside to do your homework!"
It has been a great start for spring! Just today when I was out doing chores it began to drizzle. I looked to the west, there was the sun, shining its golden sunbeams on our farm. I looked to the east, there was nothing but blue sky, I looked away. Not more then seconds later I looked again and there was a beautiful rainbow that went all the way across the sky! I smiled. I love rainbows. I turn my head and then look back again, the rainbow was gone.
Let yourself see the beauty of the earth!
Farm Fact: One cow can give 200,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime.