I was going to title this: How to Tell Your Husband You Want a Milk Cow. But, that wouldn’t really be accurate either. You see. I occasionally get a wild hair and I’m really thankful I married someone who supports my crazy on the daily. (Thank you Jesus for this patient man. Amen.)
We had lived on the farm nearly a year when I told Ryan we were just going to go see her. I didn’t tell him that I had secretly bought her. It was a cow anyway- something he had always wanted. Not necessarily the right breed or purpose (she’s a dairy cow, not a beef cow), but a cow none the less. At least that’s what I told myself. I had brought home a dog one time without talking to him. But, never something this big.
Let’s back up a little: We met Marie when her and her husband came over to give us a quote on some fencing work we needed doing. (Which, by the way, if you are local to Whatcom County, you won’t find a better fencer than Aussie Fence.) We fell in love with Marie and Steve and I secretly had a crush on the farm she was telling us they lived on. Her goats and milk cows and beef mommas. At the time, we had two little bottle calves we were feeding and the kids drug them all over to show them our small place.
A few days later, Marie messaged me about a milk cow she had but was looking for a new family for. I instantly dreamed about making my own cheese and butter and ice cream and all the things but the reality was, we didn’t have more than 1/2 acre fenced let alone a set up to milk her. I was flooded with memories of my brother in law milking the family cows when he and my sisters children were young and had the skills and knowhow. What I didn’t have was the setup. Or a husband who had ever had a milk cow. Or a fence. You know, minor details.
But, instead of doing the practical thing, I wanted to just meet her. Secretly, I wanted to spend more time with this new friend I had met but it was packaged up as going to meet this cow. Little did I know that we would fall in love with this gentle giant who tolerated the loud 4 year old little boy running around asking a million and one questions. When we got home and taste tested the milk, I was transported back in time to my childhood and was hooked on the nostalgia.
At that point I had told Ryan that Marie was looking for a new home for this cow. I didn’t really mention a whole lot more. But, armed with cream for his coffee the next morning, I rationalized by calculating how much money we were spending on milk replacer for the calves we currently have and that we could save some by feeding a cow who produced the milk instead.
In the rain and freeze of February, we managed to get up 2 acres of fencing for this dang cow we (meaning myself and the kids) had fallen in love with. Sending the kids off to my parents for a sleepover one night, we fenced by headlamp in the pouring rain, using our sons tiny kid quad to fetch supplies.
I made a makeshift milking parlor out of our cement floor shed. Laying down a rubber mat and making a feed bunker, we milked that cow for 9 more months before drying her off for the winter. 9 months of heavy cream for our coffee, butter for our freezer, yogurt, keifer, endless mozzarella & extra skim for the pigs. 9 months of milking 3-4 gallons every day by hand. 9 months of time spent listening to the old girl eat while the kids played outside. I loved every single minute of my time with that spoiled, opinionated cow.
A family cow is not for the faint of heart. We found all sorts of uses for the milk and it never went to waste. The commitment meant finding someone we could trust to milk her when I was gone, since Ryan didn’t know how. It meant that I had to get up early to make sure the cow was milked before we went anywhere for the day or came home early from events to make sure she was fed and watered. It meant taking the time to clean out the kitchen every night so that the next day, I could have a place to strain and put away all the milk I was getting.
The commitment was a price we paid for the old fashioned practice of milking the family cow. But, I didn’t and don’t regret a single moment of my time out in that shed or sharing the gift of raising and growing food with our children. As Jill from the Prairie Homestead say, “Old Fashioned on purpose.”