As the farm settles into its winter sleep and the chores become very straight forward, I now have energy to focus on other things. I have been spending more time with the kids, doing a bit more writing, socializing and finishing our house.
So in this ‘down’ time, I’m trying to nurture a little creativity. These days I’m like a sponge for inspiration and I seem to get ideas flooding at me from everywhere. It is really quite an awesome state and I’m feeling pretty blessed about it. Nothing in particular being created - just a different way of approaching everything I do. I have learned that indeed something bigger than me is responsible for my expressions in the world. Yet I find that with this creativity comes a little dose of crazy. It means experiencing the extreme highs and lows of every situation. It means turning things around one too many times and looking at them from every possible angle. If I get too close, it can sometimes feel like I’ve created a monster.
Farm work is often repetitive or monotonous. It does not require over analysis and can actually save you from self-created monsters. The daily work at the barn consists of bringing thawed water to the chickens and cats, filling the water trough for the cows and laying straw out in their shed, collecting eggs, offering up a bucket of grain to the lactating mama and throwing down some flakes of protein-rich hay from the mow. Once a week or so we drive a large round bale out to the cows (and we’ve learned the hard way that you can’t be late with this or they will wander into the neighbours yard on a warm day to find some of the grass that is coming up).
Soon I will be heading out to milk our mama regularly when her calf leaves. To be totally honest, I’m dreading getting out there to milk her again. The cold and early hour does not worry me. What I am afraid of is my cow. You see she and I have not been getting along that well lately. The last few times I milked her she developed an excellent kicking habit (excellent only in her accuracy at being able to hoof straw (or worse) clear into my bucket with great finesse). I think she hates me. And who said one couldn’t get neurotic over farm chores?
It turns out the loving, intuitive relationship I thought I had with my bovine beast was really just her using me for the bucket of way-too-large fruits I was bringing her from our fields during the growing season. I am now giving her dairy ration which is a sweet mix of grains but she eats this much too quickly and lets down her milk much too slowly (on purpose, I believe) to last the duration. When the bucket of grain is done, and I’ve just finished washing off her udder, we both have a problem on our hands. Mine is having no milk yet. Hers is having a dense person trying to partake in her bounty without offering up sufficient goods.
To get a few liters of milk takes me about 15 minutes milking by hand not including preparation and clean-up. It depends a lot on how willing she is to give it up, how long it has been since she has been with her calf and how accustomed my hands are. It is not easy to fathom how much cramping can occur initially and over time with this repetitive process. It is also an incredibly intimate act. Your face is pressed right up against their flank taking in the musty smell of their fur while your arms are outstretched below. Of course it all just becomes a chore in time and eventually it is about going through the motions. (In case your mind is wandering to parallels here, get back here will you?) But if you ever stop to think what exactly you’re up to down there, it all seems a little weird, yes?
They say that being insane is the only sane response to an insane world. I’m not sure that I believe the world is insane. And whatever it is, there may be no such thing as a sane response to it. I think all we can do is get out there and on a bad day we may get poo kicked into our face. That’s just life when you’re down in the dirt with living things. All at the same time I am surrounded by the peace and chaos and fullness and I respond while still only playing the role of a witness. I don’t decide how things are going to go. No wonder I feel a little nuts.
Soon I will be out at the barn collecting my milk every day. Some days it will be my favourite thing about my day. Other days I am going to wish I could go to a torture chamber instead.
This will mimic every other part of the day as a mother, a farmer, an artist, and a human. Oh, so good. Oh, so scary. Oh, so uncertain. Oh, so worth it!
But whatever I do, I won’t cry over spilt milk.