He started talking about it way back when we first bought our farm in 2009. I say way back despite it being just seven years. When you are on a steep learning curve with the potential to kill a lot of animals through stupid mistakes, seven years seems like a long time. He wanted cows.
We bought land because land has possibilities. I was on board at this point. We became farmers when the previous owner left a mule, two donkeys and seven goats when he left. That’s a story for another post. But it’s a good one! It involves an ice storm and a love triangle. Good one.
That spring my husband started dreaming about cows. At this point I was still desperately trying to figure out a male goat from a female one and had ventured into the world of chicken keeping. Cows were not on my to-do list. Thankfully my husband does not immediately implement any crazy impulse like I do. Yes, he wanted cows, but he is a planner and a thinker. So cows did not come to Huckleberry Farm until 2015.
In 2015, we got cows. Actually cattle. Did you know that cows are female? Technically a cow is a female that has had one calf. Males are not cows. They are steers or bulls. I didn’t know. I thought they were all cows. Cattle. That’s what the whole bunch is called. Cattle. Now you know too.
My husband reconnected with an old friend who lived near our farm. He had two cows that he didn’t have space for at his farm. Forgive me, but I’m going to keep calling them cows. I just like it better. We had a lot of empty pastures and before I knew it, here they come. A girl named Butterfly and a nameless boy who would eventually be heading to the Great Cow Pasture Beyond and end up in our freezer. We named him Supper. That seemed easiest just in case anyone in the family started to get attached to him. Butterfly and Supper. Our new cows.
Both were young cows in the pasture with their momma Cinnamon before they came to Huckleberry Farm. Cinnamon stayed where she was while her children headed on over here. My first thought as I watched them coming out of the trailers was, “Boy, they are BIG! Not just Donkey big. But huge I-Can-Trample-You-Without-Breaking-A-Sweat big.” Believe me, even young cows are big. I gently backed away and let the menfolk do their thing.
Soon enough, Butterfly and Supper were grazing happily in the pasture. Our friend left, and my husband began packing for a business trip. Yeah, no one consulted me on the timing of these new additions. I would have known it was all about to go wrong. Very wrong.
I’m going to share a very important farm tip with you. Pay close attention. DO NOT, under any circumstances, get new livestock an hour before your husband leaves on a business trip. This is a recipe for disaster. Maybe you have better luck than I do, but on this farm, it never fails. The second he leaves, some animal or inanimate object goes haywire. Every time.
Husband is all packed and I decide to walk him out to the car to tell him goodbye. On the way out the door, I ask him if he thinks the cows will be fine.
“Of course. They are secure in the pasture. They’re fine. Don’t worry.”
You know what’s coming, right? The cows are not in the pasture. They are in the yard. It’s literally been less than an hour, and they have already escaped. No time for talking. There’s a plane to catch and two cows to round up. Not that either of us know exactly how to round up a cow, but we can round up sheep and goats. These are just bigger. Much bigger. Surprisingly we get them back in fairly easily, he quickly secures the gate, and he’s off. And I’m here. With the cows. And two kids.
I spend the rest of the day peering warily out the window into the pasture. Thankfully, I see two cows every time though they are mooing up a storm. A plaintive, sad, wailing moo over and over. Our friend told us this would happen because they miss their momma. Awwww…. poor little cows. I know how that feels. It will just last a day, he said, and then they would settle in. Okay. I can deal with it for a day.
And apparently a night too because that mooing continued all night long. I’m grateful I don’t have any close neighbors. I’m quite sure I would have been getting some angry phone calls. Sad, lonely, mooing cows are very loud.
“They’ve got to be tired. They’ll stop soon.” I told myself that 100 times during the night. And finally they did stop. And then my phone rang.
“There’s a cow about a mile down the road. Do you think it’s one of your new ones?” My neighbor calls me at 6 am with this happy news. Is it mine? Surely not. Probably. Of course it is. Sigh…
When it finally becomes light enough outside to assess the situation, I find Butterfly in the front yard next to the trampoline and hear Supper on the other side of the fence. On my neighbor’s property. They then commence a long and lengthy mooing discussion while I try frantically to figure out what to do.
Our friend isn’t answering his phone. My husband is out of the state. My kids say they aren’t going anywhere near those cows. Me either, I think. Unfortunately there is no one but me. Time to put my big girl farmer pants on.
By the time I get dressed and get the kids on the golf cart (using every threat I can think of to make them comply), Supper has magically reappeared on our land and has talked Butterfly into escaping with him. They are supposed to be in the pasture at the back of the farm. Instead they are trotting down the driveway to the front of the farm and the road as fast as those naughty cow legs will carry them. Thankfully the golf cart momentarily startles them, and I manage to get between them and the road.
I leave another message for our friend begging for help. Actually at this point, I’m desperate and I’m demanding some help. Through this experience I did learn that if you stand in front of the cow and scream like a lunatic while waving your arms, the cow apparently thinks you are in fact a lunatic and won’t come near you. And your kids will sit and stare at you like you’ve gone crazy. I did manage to scare those cows into turning around and heading back the way they are supposed to be. Score one for me.
Finally, our friend arrives with the momma, Cinnamon. He strolls in all calm and collected and tells me they were just trying to get home to their momma. They will stay put now that their mom is here.
Why didn’t you bring her in the first place?
I’d like to ask, but I’m too exhausted from spending the last ninety minutes chasing cows all over the farm. He unloads Cinnamon into the back pasture and here come the two escapees. I thought the babies were big. Cinnamon is HUGE. But calm. Calm is good.
Oh, look, Mom is here. Cool. We’ll behave now.
And they did. Thankfully.
Supper lived up to his name. We now have Ribeye who will shortly meet the same fate. Butterfly is still here and has been joined by our newest little girl, Miss Katie. Unfortunately Cinnamon got cancer last year and had to be put down. I miss her. She was a good cow and a good momma.
I’m still not entirely comfortable around the cows. The young males especially have a tendency to start jumping all over the place without any reason. Hundreds of pounds of anything erratically bounding around me tends me to make me a little wary. So we exist peacefully, if not completely happily, together.
We just finished adding four new pastures to the front of the farm complete with watering stations. My husband has informed me that we are adding to our herd later this month. He’s dancing around the exact number which means it’s a lot more than I want. And since I want zero, obviously that’s the case.
It’s his dream, so what can I say? At one point I had 500 chickens so I can’t say too much about a few cows. He just better not be going anywhere for a long time after they get here. And I mean it.
My cow chasing days are done. I hope.
ETA: Since I wrote this last summer, we’ve attended a cattle auction (good times!) and purchased a bull and three pregnant mommas and their little girls. We now have 17 cows. 17. That’s a lot. Miss Katie was struck by lightening and died. Ribeye fulfilled his destiny and now we have Brisket taking on the same role. I still don’t feel completely comfortable around the cows but I do love to listen to them moo and I’ve even been in the pasture with them. They can stay.