Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Cow - Part 1

Indulge me for a couple of days here as I talk about The Cow.  Some who would otherwise favor all kinds of self-sufficiency precepts, often disdain the prospect of owning a milk cow, even if they had space for it. Strictly my opinion, but they are missing out on something wonderful.  So, let's talk.

First of all, why would anyone in their right mind, in this day and age, (when you can buy what at least appears to pass for milk at the grocery store) even think of keeping a family milk cow?  Are we mad?

Probably.  And yes, we're "tied down;" (kind of...more about that tomorrow) And yes, we have to milk Johni (funny name for a girl!) twice a day, rain or shine most of the year; we have to keep her fed with hay in the winter--hay that we worked hard to put up during the summer (great exercise, especially for two elders!) baling and throwing and loading those bales onto the trailer, hauling them to the barn, bringing them back out as the snow flies; and then there's the fact that we have to DO something with all that milk--every day!  Finally, Johni is big and she is unpredictable, even cranky sometimes, and she can create her own brand of special excitement every now and again.

Nonetheless,  we sure wouldn't want to be without her.

Johni's produce gives us lots of valuable nutrition.  From her lovely ivory-colored milk, rich with cream, I make beautiful yellow butter in my food processor.  It's the only fat we use..for baking, for toast, for baked potatoes; I make cottage cheese (remember Little Miss Muffet, sitting on that tuffet (which is either a mound or footstool), eating her curds and whey? 

Well, we get the curds,  and the dogs, pigs, and chickens get whatever whey (the water-like leftovers from cheesemaking) we can't use; I make cheddar cheese and age it for over a year; I make Mozarella that melts lusciously over homemade pizzas; add to that yogurt which can be flavored with any number of homegrown fruits; and for top-of-the-heap dessert, strawberry or chocolate ice cream.  All of that from an animal that eats grass.  No grain. Just good quality grass.

And by the way it puts a whole new meaning on the phrase a "cold glass of milk" having to dress up like a stuffed chicken, milk buckets in hand, and venture out on a 10-degree F. morning to milk the cow!  Believe it or not, though,  it's exhilerating and fun!

In the next few days I'll share the nutritional considerations, excuses, sources and solutions along with other cow comments.  Hope this will be helpful to those thinking about getting a cow; and at least interesting to others who may never get within petting distance of a cow!


  1. Hi Elora and MM:

    You two are such an inspiration! I often think about getting a milk cow, but my current situation with full-time off-farm work makes it unrealistic not to mention the fact that I would have to have all the infrastructure in place before taking on that commitment. If it wasn't for the current division of effort here at the farm, we wouldn't be able to care of the livestock we do have. As a kid just over a couple of mountains from your farm, we always had a gallon of raw unpastuerized milk to drink, but never had a cow. In fact, we were fortunate to have access to many fresh farm products that we didn't grow or raise, all made possible by bartering. We would trade our neighbor fresh vegetables, fruits, and my labor in the hayfield for a gallon of milk each week. That was back when the going price for labor in the hay field was $1.00 to $1.50 an hour.

  2. Good article in Time Magazine this week about the benefits of grass-fed beef. They analyzed the effects on climate change of CAFO vs. pastured cows. No big surprise on which is better!

    Link (hope this works!):,9171,1953692,00.html

  3. You make your own cheddar....oh I am drooling already :)