A Lesson on the Farm
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
The farm was once known as The Merry Acres.
It was about 1935 when my grandparents settled in the little house on the half-mile square lot. A few pigs, a bunch of chickens, and a couple of cows constituted the animals who provided the milk, eggs and bacon. A barn, large enough for two cows and a big pile of hay bales up in the hayloft, was fronted by a tin-roofed shed which each morning exuded back into the world an aroma of contented hens, age-old wood, and the distinct whiff of chicken poop. But it was the farm and you came to expect that kind of thing.
As time went on, my mother, aunts and uncles grew and left home, and when both my grandmother and mother had lost their menfolk, they teamed up and five more children came to live on the farm too.
Raising five children is a major task for two women, and you need all the resources you can muster. The farm animals were a big part of this undertaking.
While the pigs had long since ceased to be part of the collection of animals, the cows and chickens were a going concern, as my mother would say.
The tasks involved in caring for the children, the small farm, the gardens, the cooking, housekeeping, flowerbeds, bird feeders and other random tasks were clearly divided, and, as one of her departments, my grandmother took over the management of the cows.
Beauty and Beastie were their names. Mother and daughter, they were as much pets as were the dogs and cats that came and went through the years. Beauty was the daughter, and she certainly was beautiful with a glistening rust brown and white coat, and a boisterous personality. When the barn door opened on a spring morning she would bound out into the pasture full of dandelions and fresh dewy grass and kick her heels up. She would dance and dance all around the area, heedless of anyone or anything around her. Her joy and love of the fresh wide open spaces was clear to see. I am sure the cows in the next field would stand in awe, straining their necks across the fence on the other side of the road in order to get a better look at this wild and crazy young cousin.
Beastie was an old Holstein. Black and white, she showed her age a little more. She was a little larger than her sleeker young daughter, and her old heavy bones jutted out against the less shiny coat. But she was strong.
The two cows trusted my grandmother, who had an almost magical connection with all animals and birds.
I remember the last year that Beastie got pregnant. When it came her time, she headed out into the bush. There were trails all through the acres of bush which constituted the majority of the original farm. It was swampy land and most of it was never cultivated due to the cost of draining it. Instead, my grandmother had determined to conserve it as a place for wild animals and birds to have habitat.
The cows seemed to love it too, and would wander through the bush and trees, finding naturally growing things which they enjoyed nibbling on.
So it was that when Beastie's time came to deliver her calf, she headed back into the bush to a favourite place.
Of course, my grandmother didn't realize what was happening until later.
She was alerted by Beauty, Beastie's daughter. Beauty came to the edge of the pasture and strained her neck over the fence, bawling repeatedly as she attempted to call my grandmother. Everyone heard Beauty's call and wondered what it was that could have caused her to be so clearly disturbed and in need of a human response.
My grandmother went to the pasture and Beauty immediately turned and began the purposeful walk back into the bush. My grandmother followed until she was led by the younger cow to Beastie, struggling to give birth to her calf. The calf was successfully born, with my grandmother's help, but that was the last time that Beastie was impregnated.
Life on the farm, no matter how small the farm may be, faces you with truths that come on you as suddenly as a rainbow may appear after an unexpected rain.
Ever after that, I believed this thing.
Trust, care, concern, respect, and hope are not limited to one species. And also, what do these elements amount to if not love?