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Posts Tagged ‘cows’

Photo by Alex Earle

We have a baby to name.

A new calf, spry and healthy; a female that will eventually have a calf of her own and give countless gallons of milk in the years to come.  Born to first-time mama Pearl, who was also born on our farm a few years back, making her baby a third-generation addition to the bovine Sea Breeze Family.

The naming of a new cow is an honor, and it is the farm crew who ultimately enjoy the naming rights.  As they should; often they are the midwives of these new babes, witnessing and assisting with their arrivals, at times just hours before heading to the farmers’ market.  (Yes, our crew that serves you at the market booth are the same folks that work and run the farm.  Ask them about it.)  The names are also crucial for general livestock management; we do not pierce our cows’ ears with number tags, so their names are every bit as important and necessary as any human’s that is associated with the farm.

Lucy was our first cow –she was named by her previous owner– and remains the matriarch of the herd, always insisting on being milked first; a solo Holstein in a sea of Jerseys and Milking Shorthorns.  Then came Guadalupe (“Lupita”), then Teeny (our biggest cow), then Chocolate Soup.  Our daughter was three at the time, and Chocolate Soup was an accurately descriptive name of her rich coloring.  Chocolate Snow soon followed, also accurately descriptive of the cow’s mottled appearance, though considerably less appetizing.

Photo by Alex Earle

Names were given to subsequent calves in conjunction with the events of their births.  Magdalena (“Maggie”) was born Easter Sunday.  Cypress was named after the century-old tree that was taken down on her birth day.  Luna was born under a dramatic eclipse.  Strawberry born the weekend of her namesake’s festival.  Hussein came into this world the day The President was inaugurated.

At some point we turned to Country Western singers for naming inspiration.  Into our life marched Hank, Emmy Lou, & Dusty.  And now Pearl’s baby will most likely be dubbed Lucinda, Loretta or June.  George liked Dolly–we’re hoping for a big udder– but as a friend aptly pointed out, the calf is clearly a brunette.

Yet in all honesty, sometimes a carefully crafted given name simply gives way to a sticky nickname, as it is with humans from time to time.  Lucinda/Loretta/June might just be “Noodle” for the rest of her natural-born life on Sea Breeze Farm.  And so it goes.

Photo by Alex Earle

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Farming in Suburbia

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When Kristin and George purchased what is now (and what was then) Sea Breeze Farm, they brought a renewal of farming to the north end of Vashon Island.  Previously the ground which our cows are now grazing was used for berry production.  When I look at the property from the north east,  I can imagine the rows of raspberries draping the hill–soaking the morning sun, and cooling off in the afternoon.

Several years ago, when I was the farm manager, George and I were having a discussion about our  wholesale restaurant accounts.  At the time, we were selling meat, dairy and eggs to Lark, Le Gourmand, Sitka and Spruce, and Lampreia.  It was certainly helpful for us to have those accounts as we were producing a lot of food, without the customers on the island to support it.  At the time George said he wished there were more farms on the island–growing not for Seattle, but for Vashon.  And that the only people who drank our milk and ate our meat were from the north end of the Island.  He is ever an idealist.

We have a lot of customers in the neighborhood around Sea Breeze.  There are also many who are decidedly not customers.  Most likely,  a few are vegetarians. But I think we have alienated many of our neighbors by attempting to produce food in a densely populated neighborhood.

While our goal is to contain our animals to our pastures and to the pastures we lease; the animals will at times escape from their intended confines.  There is nothing unique here.  I have spoken to many animal farmers who have  strained relations with their neighbors.  Over the years, a dozen eggs, gallons of milk, cases of wine wear off, and people just want our cows off their peonies.  And that is totally understandable.  I do not want our cows on anyone’s peonies.

So it is in life: rarely is it the event that matters, but how we respond to one another which defines our relationships.

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