There are certain things that the woman of the farm learns as she goes along.
Some of those things are assumed-such as how to cook meals that don’t look like they were prepared in a dehydrator by the time her family finally gets in to eat at night; that given the right tools and a pair of gloves, she can do combat with an occupied mouse trap, emptying it and re-loading it for the next ambush; and that timing is everything when barnyard mothers and human mothers clash in an effort to just take care of their families.
It’s always an exciting time on the farm – if not exhausting – during those weeks when farm babies are showing up.
Checking on impending moms and babies all day long, helping babies get started eating, getting up at night to check them, and not always being able to get back to sleep if you have the middle-of-the-night check. And still working the next day.
I’ve always been amazed at the manner in which ewes and cows can have their young ones. We’ve seen them stand there and let the baby come out and plop onto the straw bedding below, then turn around so nonchalantly to investigate what just went on back there.
I’ve wondered what’s gone on behind me plenty of times, but never during childbirth.
If you’re helping a cow have her calf it can be quite a production. You want to help the calf land as safely as possible from about chest high, while falling back and doing the fastest backwards scramble ever – to steer clear of all that follows.
And for the farmer, the job of seeing the process through isn’t complete until everything is out – babies and all the rest of it.
The busy-ness of that time of year leaks over into all of the family, as chores become more labor-intense and time-consuming, and their lives as they once knew them are usually absorbed in all that it takes to expand the herds.
There is less time for everything, including meal planning.
A few short years ago when our sons’ cows were calving, I found myself short on time, patience and ingredients to create a nice meal with all that had gone on that week.
When I finally figured out what we were having, I decided to toss together a quick, rich and filling salad by combining some cherry gelatin with some cherry pie filling and putting it in the fridge to set.
When we all finally sat down to supper that night, our sons each scooped some of the salad onto their plates. Pretty soon the “looks” followed, along with muffled snickers as they inspected the salad on their plates. As mothers do, I got my look together that said, “What?!”
One had texted the other under the table to say he couldn’t eat it because “… it looked like cow cleanings.”
“I can’t eat it right now. Not while we’re calving,” one of them said to me, trying to mask his urge to burst out laughing and not wanting to offend me.
Oh, for heaven’s sake. I wondered how many farm mothers had heard that one.
Of course, I did make that salad again over the years, but not for our family. I knew the conversation that would follow if I set it on the table again, calving season or not.
The year our sons began living on their own I made cook books for them for Christmas, filled with many of the recipes I knew they liked and would actually have time to make as busy bachelor farmers.
I included that recipe, if only to bring back a memory that we have all laughed at over the years. I gave it a new name, calling it (appropriately for them), “Cow Cleanings Salad.”
I’m hazarding a guess that they’ve never made it. At least not during calving season.
Timing is everything. And now you don’t have to learn it as you go, like I did.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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