GETTING THE COWS

This is a memory of a day in mid-summer when my cousin and I were in our teens. I grew up on a dairy farm. Every year my dad put about a hundred tons of hay in the barn. Getting it while it was dry was essential.
“Those clouds look like rain,” Daddy said. “Wish I could the last load of hay in the barn, but I’ve got to get the cows.” He sat drinking the coffee Mama had sent to him.

My cousin, Norma and I stood by the wagon. Chum, our dog, stood on the wagon waiting.
“Can Norma and I go get the cows?”

Daddy looked across our small valley. “They’re over in the woods. I don’t want you lost.”

“We could take Chum,” I said.

“True. Chum will keep track of you.”

“Can we, Uncle Miles?

“Yeah. Go tell your mother. Don’t get lost!”

“We won’t,” I yelled as we ran to give Mama the news.

“That would be a big help to Daddy. Take Chum and don’t get lost,” she said.

Norma and I ran through the barn, past the big red and white bull in his stanchion, past my pony in her stall, past the calves in their pens, and out the back door. Chum knew his job. He was beside us when we stopped at the top of the knoll and looked over to the opposite hill. No cows were in sight. They’d stayed out of the heat in the shelter of the woods.

Hand in hand, we walked down the hill to the bridge across the creek. Chum ran through the creek and stopped midway across it to lap up a drink. Now he trotted across the flat pasture to the other hill.

We stopped to lean over the bridge railing. No fish in sight. “Too hot,” Norma said.

I agreed. “They’re under the rocks. Chum’s going up the hill. We’d better hurry.” We stepped carefully across the swampy area trying not to get our feet wet. Then, we ran up the side of the hill. Out of breath we stopped halfway up the slope.

The first cows were already coming out of the lane. By the time we got to the opening in the woods, most of the cows were heading toward the barn. We plopped down on a large rock to rest.

“Where’s Chum?” Norma asked. “He always followed the last cow.”

We looked over the valley below us. “He’s probably checking a woodchuck hole,” I said.

Woof, woof, woof!

“Chum never barks unless something is wrong,” I said. “We have to find him. I hope he’s not hurt.”

We followed the sound into the woods. In a small green space between the trees, we saw the cow. She wouldn’t move for Chum. When he tried to nip her heels, she kicked at him and swung her head at him.

Norma poked my ribs. “She has a baby.”

There at the cow’s udder, a brand new calf stood on wobbly legs sucking down its first meal.

“What are we going to do?” Norma asked.

“Daddy says the mother will go anywhere the calf is. All we have to do is get the calf out of the woods and down the hill.”

“Easy.”

“Right.”

Again Chum tried to bite the cow’s heels. The mama went after Chum, leaving the calf alone.

“Maybe we can carry the calf,” Norma said. I put my arms around the back of the baby. Norma wrapped hers behind the front legs. We tried to lift. I fell backwards.

“Let’s try pushing instead.”

Mama cow kept trying to get between us and the baby. But with Chum’s help we managed to shove the baby a few feet toward the lane and the open hillside. We let go to get our breath.

“Moo.”

The newborn moved lightening. It was nearly back to where we started before we caught it. We’d learned a lesson. Don’t let go of the calf. It seemed to take forever to get the calf into the open lane. “Uncle Miles will think we’re lost.”

We laughed. “Chum knows where we are.” Maybe it would be easier to get the calf to move down the lane.

The three of us, Chum, Norma and I finally had the baby calf out in the open. Mama cow, too. Each time she turned toward the woods, Chum threatened to nip her heels. He wouldn’t let her go back to call her baby. We continued to push and shove.

Then we heard it—the doodlebug. We saw it with the wagon. Help was on the way.
“You found a surprise. I didn’t think she’d have her baby until next week.” Dad said when he stopped. We told him our story.

“I got back with the hay. The cows were all in the barnyard but there was no sign of you girls or Chum. Just as I started to come look for you, I spotted you pushing this baby out of the lane. I thought I’d help you out.”

“The calf is awful heavy,” I said.

“Stubborn too,” Norma said.

A dark cloud appeared over the hill. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Let’s go home,” Daddy picked up the baby calf and laid it on the wagon. Chum jumped onto it while Norma and I were happy to climb into our seat for a ride to the barn.
Mama cow trotted along behind. She was not leaving her baby.

This girl calf that my mother named Lady grew up to be one of the best milkers in the barn. My mother took her milk for our family’s use and to make butter. The milk we couldn’t use went with the rest of the day’s milk to the creamery.

 

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A BIG BLACK CAT

After Van Gogh (pictures above) died last spring, I did not have a cat. I didn’t want one right away. But as spring began to come around the corner, I decided I wanted company in my home.

Three weeks ago I went to a cat shelter and looked at dozens of cats. Two black cats took my eye. Then I went off to Florida on a vacation. Last Saturday, after I had come home, I went back to the shelter to visit the black cats. The first one didn’t seem interested in me. Then I looked at Coco in her cage. At first, she seemed noncommittal, but I didn’t leave. It was then she came to the front of the cage and demanded attention–rubbing, petting. The director suggested I sit with her in a large empty dog cage. She continued to be loving and attentive.

My daughter, who was with me, declared that I may not have chosen her, but Coco had chosen me. We have now had a week together to get to know one another.

I have learned she will sleep in the bedroom with me, but decide that it is time to rise about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when I want to get a few more hours in bed. The past two nights, I’ve gotten up, she’s has left the bedroom, I shut the door and get back in bed.

Coco is a nibbler when it comes to eating, and messy when it comes to drinking. I’ve not seen her do it, but I believe she plays with the water. Now her dishes are on a place mat. Coco has definitely made me her person. I do as commanded.

The first cat I had as a small child had followed my mother home, at least that is the way she told the story, was a large black cat. It did everything I wished. I could dress him in doll clothes and feed him with a doll’s bottle. That trick saved his life when he had pneumonia after being trapped in a cold creek.

The first cat my husband and I had was nearly black, a charcoal tiger. He loved snow and following my husband by leaping from one footprint to the next. When we returned from living overseas, we were joined by Himself and Herself, two mostly black kittens, who were with us for fourteen years.

Black cats are part of my past and present.

 

MY ADVENTURES IN COOKING PART I

My grandmother  hadn’t wanted to be disturbed when she cooked. So my mother knew nothing about cooking when she married.  She could make lettuce sandwiches.  My dad ate lettuce sandwiches for three weeks and loved my mother enough not to complain. He admitted he hadn’t like lettuce when they married.

So when I, her daughter, was born, she determined I would know my way around a kitchen before I was married. Long before that, my mother had become an excellent cook.

At age ten, I joined the 4-H club with Mom as its leader. Somewhat like Girl Scouts, 4-Hers choose projects for the year. In my first year, I grew a small garden and made a tie-around-the-waist apron. In my second year, I won ribbons for canning fruits and vegetables. According to my “Achievement Book”, I also learned to make salads.

My homemaking skills improved as the years went on. I learned to demonstrate cooking skills. Carrot salad with apple was my first demonstration when I was 11 or 12.  By the time I was in high school, I entered the Dairy Foods Demonstration contest. I showed the audience how to make a custard pie in twenty minutes with time leftover to explain its nutritional benefits.

The first time I practiced making pie crust, it took the entire time. We were allowed pre-measured ingredients, but they had to be added and explained as my work progressed.  The key, I discovered was to work fast and get the dough just right so that it would roll out easily without sticking. The custard was easy. Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Mom bought  three new glass pie pans, which I filled every day for two weeks, until I had my demonstration with the explanation down to the minute.

No one escaped our house without taking some pie with them. My dad declared that he ate pie at least three times a day. He didn’t want a custard pie again for several months.

I won a blue ribbon at the county level. At the state level the judge felt the crust dominated my work and didn’t put dairy foods in the forefront. Since this was sponsored by the Dairy Foods Council, they noted it was an excellent demonstration, but couldn’t give me a blue ribbon.

Another year I demonstrated making Cheese Souffle. This is a main dish for anyone who wants to bring a special dish to the table. The trick for it is timing, so it is ready to come out of the over after everyone is seated. The soufflé stands high above the rim of the dish. Served with a mushroom or shrimp sauce, it brings a chorus of oohs and aahs.

 

Open for recipe for custard pie

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CHUM, A COW DOG

Last night, my son Taggart and I were talking about Chum, the cow dog that our family had when I was a child.

My dad had trained him as a cow dog. Chum used that training, but instinctively was much more than that. We regularly had 39 cows. We had a 40-stanchion barn, but the bull occupied one in the back corner. He did not roam outside with the cows.

It often appeared that Chum could count. If any animals were in sight when it was time to bring them to the barn, Dad would simply command Chum to “go get ‘em.” He would get behind the most distant cow and all of them moved toward the barn. Should one not wish to go, Chum ran up behind her and nipped at her heel. In no time the cow learned it was best to go with the others. If some were in the nearby woods, he would ferret them out. Nearly without exception all 39 cows would be rounded up and brought into pasture lot by the barn.

I remember a few times when the cows would come, but Chum didn’t return with them. It was then that Dad would discover a cow was missing. Chum was still searching for her. He would continue searching until Dad called him to come. Then they could search together. Usually that cow had thought the grass was better on the other side of the fence, broken through and strayed. Sometimes a neighbor would telephone that they had spotted our stray.

One summer when I was about ten or eleven, Dad asked if my cousin and I would go over to the woods with Chum to get the cows. He wanted to get an extra load of hay into the barn because rain was predicted. Norma and I agreed. We crossed the flat land. Chum tore ahead of us and was already up the hill beyond and heading into the woods.

Soon the cows came straggling out of the lane that led through the woods. Then we heard Chum bark. We followed the sound because we knew he’d only bark for a reason. We found him trying to persuade a cow with a new baby calf to go to the barn. That was futile.

I knew from Dad that the only way a cow with a calf would go was if the calf was forced to move. Norma and I began the long process of pushing and shoving the calf out of the woods with Chum’s help. As a self-designated protector, he wouldn’t leave me. It was three steps forward and two back. We’d push the baby a distance, mama would call, and the baby would turn back. It took us a long time before we were able to get them out in the open away from the woods.

About that time Dad was back with the hay and realized that we should be back too. He looked out the barn and saw the cows. A minute later he spied us on the edge of the woods. Soon the doodlebug with a wagon attached headed toward us. With the calf on the wagon with us, mama cow followed us to the barn.

Norm and I were proud of ourselves. Dad too. That calf, a female jersey we named Lady, grew up to become one of the best milkers in the barn.

A note: a dairy cow who is not relieved of its milk may get very sick. A calf cannot consume enough of the milk to prevent disease.

 

 

MOVING AND FORGETTING

I sat down to write a query about Herkimer “diamonds”. Then I read Laurie Buchanan’s post about moving and forgetting or leaving things – “mind-gnawing.”

We’d lived in the parsonage of my husband’s first church as pastor for about ten years. During that time we acquired some of the antiques that still make their home with me. When it came time to pack, the movers came and spent the day loading a 53-foot trailer.

The house was stripped. But on the lawn was our eight-foot heavy duty picnic table, and an antique cabbage slicer. The iron slicer was incredibly heavy. It stood about three feet high. Its purpose was to cut cabbage for animals. Although you could also make a lot of sauerkraut rather quickly. The movers said, “It won’t go in the trailer. It is packed tight.” What did we want to take? We opted for the picnic table being strapped tightly on the trailer doors.

As we drove away the cabbage slicer stood sadly alone on the porch.

During a winter move at another time, two boxes of wanted stuff, some music and my son’s shoes were shoved over to the boxes of trash we were leaving. Many, many times I have wished to have one antique music book with some silly songs in it that I loved, and have never seen printed elsewhere. My son got new shoes, but I have no idea what else was in that box.

Our first big move after four years of college was from a mobile home eight feet by forty-two feet. It required our car and a 6X8 U-Haul. From that city to our first church took a moderate-sized panel truck.

The most complicated move was to Warsaw, Poland. It only required we take personal items to live in a furnished apartment. However, we had to empty a two-story house with filled attic and basement, and my husband’s office. Some had to be sold, some packed for overseas, some to go to our new twenty-eight-foot square cabin. What was left was packed for storage.

In all of these moves I spent ample times waking to write notes, or moving something out of place to remind me of an idea.

 

JUNE:  A MONTH OF STRAWBERRIES & MEMORIES

 

I have a lone strawberry plant in my backyard which is doing its very best to give me the flavor of fresh-picked summer. So far I’ve had 12 berries, but more are on the way. It is a “forever” plant so throughout the next two months, I may find one or two bright red berries every few days to keep  that first warm berry taste in my mouth.

 

When I was a child on Dad’s farm, a few wild berries grew along the driveway. I watched them daily as they blossomed, formed green berries, and gradually turned red enough to pick. Wild berries are small, perhaps the size of my little fingernail, but twice as sweet as cultivated ones. If there were two berries or more, I’d share them with Mom and Dad. That very first taste made all that watching so worth it. It was the promise of more and of a sweet summer.

 

As an adult I continue to cherish the first taste of locally grown berries. Whether from my back yard, the Thursday farmers’ market or those from “pick your own farms,” they are a treasure.

 

When I have a dish of berries, I struggle deciding whether to make a biscuit shortcake, have them in a bowl with sugar, or just sit down and enjoy them one by one. It is a dilemma!

CELEBRATE MAY DAY TODAY

Celebrate May Day the “Old Fashioned Way.”

Find a nine-inch square of paper. When I was a child we used scraps

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MAY DAY BOUQUET

of wallpaper. Today I chose a piece of colored computer paper

1. Fold it into a triangle

2. With the fold toward you take one of the points and fold it to the middle of opposite edge.

3. Do the same with the other point.

4. Now fold the front flap of the top into the front bottom cup.

5. Poke or punch a hole into the top flap.

Now go outside and find flowers – even dandelions will be pretty. Tuck them into the pocket or cup you have made.

 

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HOW TO FOLD

As children we would hang them on a friend’s door, knock, and then run and hide. The person coming to the door was surprised and hunted down the giver to thank them with a kiss.

* * * * *

You can use this cup for many things. It will hold a drink for a short time.

As a teacher, I always made them for children who lost a tooth at school. It could be safely stored in a lunch pail or coat pocket for the tooth fairy.

Mostly I remember the fun we had making these baskets at school and then going home to search for flowers. I’d beg my mother to let me go down by the creek where I knew the May flowers were in blossom along with purple, white, and yellow violets. I never really went alone because Chum, our cowdog, would not let me. He assumed the duty of protecting me no matter wherever I wandered.