Okay, so I don't recall if I have mentioned this before, but I am a warm-weathered girl. Literally two weeks prior to being asked on a date by Dave, I was making arrangements with my cousin to move down to Florida. She already lived there and was helping me find a place to stay. I was noting all of the steps I needed to take to teach in Florida and I was going to finish out my school year in Maryland, then move on down. Well, then two weeks later, Dave threw a monkey-wrench into that whole plan as he had most of the school year to win me over and did so rather easily in a short amount of time.
He brought me to Tidioute when the weather was wonderful and everything was blooming. The blueness of the sky still after almost 10 years amazes me and makes me smile. I didn't realize the sky shouldn't have a gray haze to the blue. I don't think that is one thing I will ever take for granted coming from the city, though our beautiful sky will be the norm for my kids.
Being as though I thought all cows were black and white spotted (Holstein), I was in awe at seeing the animals and due to my constant curiosity about farm life, Dave knew it wouldn't take long before I fell in love with it all. Shovel manure - no problem, what's the big deal? Spider webs, bugs, etc. - eh, not scared anymore! Pulling weeds - I can do it for hours on end, Dave just had to teach me what the vegetable plant looked like first! I was a new person; even my family couldn't believe it when I told them of our adventures and they visited us and saw us in action. And my first gift from Dave when we were dating was a Carhartt jacket, to which I was excited to receive!
My first goal as a new "farm woman" was to domesticate the animals. I didn't like how they were terrified of people. I would question why they wouldn't let us near them and how could we help if there was something wrong or we needed to check a calf. Not enough interaction with them (due to Dave living far away in Maryland) caused them to be wary of people. So after going over the benefits with Dave of having friendly/non-wild cattle, I talked him into getting them used to us RIGHT AWAY. No, I didn't want to wait until the weather was nice. I had never been so close to a cow, and well, wanted to get even closer, never mind the fact they were 1200-1600 pounds, and I knew nothing about them.
So in the bitter cold, Dave and I stood in the barn, in the manure and talked to each other occasionally, but mostly I talked to the cows, held out my hand occasionally and tried to get them used to me. Thankfully the mammoth cows gave off enough heat in the barn, the cold air was bearable. The cows, they remained huddled together as tightly as possible on the other side. We did this for 10 minutes at a time at first, then worked our way up longer. After some time, they wouldn't run as far away from us and after a couple of weeks, I was able to coax one over with an ear of corn. But only one! Little by little another cow would take the lead of the first cow and finally I was able to quickly rub the nose with just my fingertips of one old cow, number 7. Eventually, they would allow me to sit in the manger as they ate their silage around me and not be scared and finally came the day with the ultimate test. Number 7, the first cow to allow me to pet her had a calf. At this point she was very trusting of us and even didn't mind us getting in the barn with her and petting her. But we didn't know how she would act with a calf. Very carefully with our escape route planned out and close by, we climbed down into the barn from the raised manger. She quickly walked over and sniffed her calf while it was resting and step by step we moved closer to it, keeping an eye on momma looking for any sense of distress. When we were within a couple of feet of the calf, she gave us the sign we needed, she took a couple of steps back from her baby bull (we later found out). It was then that I knew we gained her trust and for the first time, I was able to pet a brand new calf. It didn't take very long after that for the rest of the herd to come around.
I remember those moments so vividly as my experience and exposure to farm life didn't come until my mid-20's. I remember the beauty in those moments, the amazing milestones as we had to do the same thing with our first litter of piglets (only that time it was David, 2 at the time, and I standing on one side while the piglets stood on the other). Dave was amazed that I caught onto farm life so quickly and was so in love with it...I am sure at one point he had to think it was too good to be true! Eventually he got more than he bargained for as I loved it all so much, I was able to talk him first into piglets, then into laying hens, then broilers. Needless to say, his "beef farm" dreams now had chickens and pigs running all around in the pasture (and in our back and front yard, and knocking on our kitchen door). It's a beautiful sight, all of it, even when things aren't going right, taking a step back and confidently knowing you are doing good things for the land and our animals...it's just beautiful. We never take any of the land or animals for granted and understand our blessings that has been laid out for us on this journey as a family.
The post was supposed to be short, just a little narrative about the beauty of the fall, even if that means winter is on its way and so are the frigid temperatures. I was supposed to talk about how my two boys fuss and whine because now they have to wear coats and I have packed away the shorts (guess they get their warm-weather love from their mother). And lastly, I was just going to post this picture (shown below) and explain how the sight of it all really just made me stop, watch the world go 'round, and just take in the amazing beauty that surrounds me. But this post became more than that...it was a reminder FOR ME of the beauty of my life, both the hard and easy times, the blessings I have every time I look at my family and the life we have built (both the successes and failures), and the excitement for what the future holds and each milestone we cross. Whether the days/times are sunny or rainy, it's all beautiful, and I hope my family and I never forget to stop, take a minute, really observe the amazing world/life we are immersed in, and get lost in the moment...that is until we get nudged in the shoulder by a cow hoping for a special treat. They can't help it, we all know they are spoiled.
The cows and laying hens (you can see their mobile coops behind the cows) are in the same pasture...now living in harmony (more on that story later), with a beautiful scene in the background. If you notice, the cows are all walking single file towards the left side of the pasture. They knew we were coming and got excited to see if we had anything.