Ok, I don’t really think King Solomon had the eating part in mind, but it’s still true. As I’ve said before, we love them, love them, love them, then eat them.
It began with stopping at the amazing James Ranch in Durango for a sublime grassfed burger on our way to pick up our porker Charlotte and her three piglets. “That trailer sure is empty. Don’t you want to put a Jersey cow in there and a steer calf?”
The story of Gert is really worthy of another post, but we did get her, and True, and were told to keep Gert off green grass for a while because she was way too fat and the vet pregnancy checked her and said she was three months off.
She had her lovely heifer calf, Becca, two weeks later.
and died less than two months after that, either from milk fever or grass tetany. I can say I’ve been through a lot in my life, and through a lot of death, but this one was deeply shattering. I’m grateful for dear and wise friends who helped me through.
In any case, we needed a nurse cow, desperately for baby Becca, and so back to James Ranch for dear Annabelle.
All was well, and though Annabelle did not adopt Becca per se, she would tolerate Becca nursing her out after I milked her partway, while she was tied up. She invariably pooped on Becca’s head every time though. 🙂 She saved Becca’s life and loves her still, and Becca was weaned to prepare Annabelle for her own calf, Siegfried, to be born in a few months.
Unfortunately all the baby pictures of Siegfried were deleted from my husband’s iPad, but I do have this post when Annabelle got foot rot and we had to move her to a drier pasture.
She also got mastitis, so I had to go down the valley several times a day, tie her to a tree and milk her out. When we brought her and Siegfried home in the fall, the change of pasture caused her to bloat up like a balloon and we almost lost her. We thought it was best to get a backup cow, being addicted to cream don’t-you-know, and Annabelle was no longer producing anything besides what fatty pants Siegfried would drink.
Back to James Ranch who was selling Elsa because her bag was too low and the milking machine kept falling off. Now neither Gert nor Annabelle had ever been milked by hand, nor halter or lead trained, but Gert would stand still in the meadow, without even a rope, to be hand milked, and Annabelle will stand where ever you tie her and patiently wait for you to get the last drop. (She is pretty mean with her tail during fly season though.)
Elsa is a different story. Of course she was nervous in new surroundings, but did remember her old pal Annabelle from James Ranch. Becca has horns and pushed Elsa around.
It took longer to get her used to being tied for milking and I would have to keep a gate in between us for safety and to keep her still, though I had to precariously put my head in between the gate and Elsa, always fearing she would break my neck. She is also a professional at holding her milk back and the painstaking process of hand milking a cow with tiny teats is a test.
Here is the account of Elsa giving birth to Faline this spring, and also making the stanchion in hopes of easier milking.
Suffice it to say, the milking has not been easy, for any of us.
and we have tried everything. She put all her concentration into stomping on you and kicking with all her might.
It took all the fun out of milking and it made me sad for Elsa as well. As Providence would have it, Annabelle had her calf so we could stop milking Elsa, but she lost it, and I was so looking forward to it.
It has been a peaceful summer and fall, milking Annabelle, and Faline drinking from Elsa, but knowing all the while that Elsa should never be bred again, nor should continue to be a milk cow. (Thank you Francie, for the lovely picture.)
Meanwhile, fatty pants Siegfried had been weaned in the spring and spent the summer down the valley with the Highlanders, getting fat and big and strong. He is gentle as a lamb, and loves to be scratched all over.
While we adore eating lamb, we have been on a beef fast since True has long since been enjoyed. We are hooked on Jersey beef.
In other words, it is time. I have had an appointment for tomorrow the 18th with the processor for months, as they book up fast, and I can’t miss it. It gets so cold here that I must put everyone inside at night, and Elsa gets bullied by Becca and pushed around by everyone. She keeps losing weight now that the green grass is gone, as she is last in the pecking order, even though I baby her.
Siegfried is not losing weight, but is just right.
So, ready or not, I’ve got to get them both on the trailer, very early tomorrow morning, and drive about an hour and a half to the processor. How many tries do you think it took me to get the gooseneck hooked up?
Two actual pulling forward and then backing, and then 9 times inching up or back… to get the ball in line.
Ha! I bet you didn’t think I could do it! Well, Jethrine did have twins this evening while I was trying to do that, so it took a while.
It makes me sad though, knowing that I could not turn Elsa into a family milk cow, but certain I was not going to try and sell her to someone hoping for one. She will be brought to another level of usefulness, first for ground beef, and second for ground dog food. She will be much appreciated.
Siegfried, on the other hand, will be turned into the choicest of cuts, the silkiness of tallow salves, the everlasting remembrance of horns and hide, lovingly remembered for the man he is.
Now if I can only get them on the trailer tomorrow at dawn. I must say, if anyone asked me what I do for a living, my answer would be: “Will work for food.”
and we are so blessed to have such animals to work for. It’s hard just the same. My daughter makes fun of me while I hold a pet chicken or guinea pig in a towel for an hour, bawling like baby, until it gives up the ghost. Passing on to the next is a struggle, made especially bitter when suffering is involved. This is precisely why we have gone down this road of discovering the grass-fed life. To remove ourselves from the system, and to celebrate life without torture, as best as we can.
To sum it up, in my favorite way, “I ain’t gonna be part of this system… I’m an adult! I threw it on the Ground!”
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