My year with a cow.
With six seasons of farm life under my belt, having re-introduced chicken, ducks, guinea fowl, turkey, sheep and pigs back to the farm, bringing back a cow seemed only a natural next step.
After all, we did have all the required infrastructure in place; we had the barnyard fence rebuilt some time ago, the barn stall was still in good shape and even the drinking trough still held water just fine.
Fast forward 12 months and the farm is now home to two cows. This because Jersey Girl gave birth shortly after arriving.
Anyway, with the exception of cheese, I had pretty much excluded dairy from my diet for the most part of two decades because of the idea of consuming milk products from cows that never eat any green grass and live on GMO feed. On top of that, the whole process that milk undergoes with pasteurization, homogenization, micro-filtration was just unappetizing -
I even learned to enjoy black coffee.
These days fresh cream on the morning coffee is a ritual. One that I'll hardly ever again want to live without.
At the height of Jersey Girl's milk production, back in the summer, I was milking her every twelve hours and walking away with a full ten liter bucket every time.
It’s easy to summarize this year as the year of dairy here. Butter, Yogurt, Kefir, Sour cream, Cheese. Oh! the cheese.
I had made fresh ricotta style cheese for many years. Actually, ricotta doesn’t really qualify as cheese. Cheese is when there’s a live culture working the milk.
My first venture into real cheese was with Feta. My research pointed to Feta being a beginner cheese that is quite forgiving. True enough but not only that, once made and in the brine, One can forget about it. It just gets better with age on its own. Suffice to say, making feta became unchallenging pretty quickly.
Since then I’ve made many different cheeses. Some were hits, some were flops but all taught me lessons. My interest now is in how the conditions in the farmhouse cellar change throughout the year. By timing the making of certain cheeses to those conditions I should be able to make different cheeses that will age naturally well down there.
At the end of one year of this relationship, I can confidently say that owning a cow is not that different then owning a dog. With the exception that one can breed a cow and end up with one more cow that can then be turned into a lot of food plus milk every day for a long long time. Work wise there are times when I go days without seeing Jersey Girl, like when I'm not milking her and she's out on pasture day and night. I know that If I went days without seeing my dog Alabaster, he would eat not only all the eggs but the chicken that he is protecting. I sure don't have to take Jersey Girl for walks and the poop that is scooped is an absolute resource for the farm.
The Jersey cow is as gentle an animal as one can hope for. At milking time she just stands there chewing her curd. There is no need to distract her with treats or anything of the sort and when she's had enough of me milking her, she lets me know by gently stepping away.
Mild manners and all, the Jersey breed still has plenty of personality and will never let me forget to bring a treat after milking time.
Joking aside. Owning a cow is about a lifestyle. One with a serious commitment and unique rewards.