Answering the Door

Moo, this is Wish.

Moo! I am happily living on Cressey pasture in Trescott for my seventh season. This pasture is a combination of lush nutritious grasses and forest. I am very appreciative that I am allowed to join some of Aaron’s Tide Mill Organic Farm bovines on this land during summer and autumn. Mr. Cressey, who owns this land, lives in southern Maine and visits. We enjoy seeing him and appreciate that he prunes the forest undergrowth where needed. It enables us to easily move through the trees and seek shelter at night as well as during inclement weather. Life is good!

Trescott is a seaside community between Lubec and Whiting that was first settled in 1785. It is wonderful to be here enjoying lush organic grass and the glorious view that overlooks beautiful Leighton Cove. I can look across the water and see my winter home, Tide Mill Organic Farm, which is located in Edmunds.

Helen often tells me how blessed I am to have been born at Tide Mill. The Bell family and their employees treat us dairy cows with respect and love. While Helen assures me there are other farmers who do likewise, she says unfortunately the lives of many commercial bovines are different than mine. Cattle living in high production dairy and beef operations experience a much more stressful lifestyle. However, let us focus on life’s positives rather than any negatives. It seems to “this cow” that, too often now days, humans dwell on the negative. So I will simply say I am grateful to live a blessed life.

“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” Psalm 104:14

This is a special season for me at Cressey pasture. I am with seven of the sixteen heifers who I was with during winter. We live on the side of the barn for non-milking bovines. The other heifers that were with us are spending their summer on a pasture about 20 miles away. Each pasture is limited in the number of animals the land can support. Aaron plans carefully regarding how many of us he puts on each pasture in case the season becomes dry and the grass is compromised. June temperatures were comfortable with a mix of sunny and rainy days. July was warmer and drier but there was still sufficient grass to feed the herd of growing “youngsters”. August is just beginning as I write—or rather dictate this to Helen. My hoofs are too big to fit on a keyboard (smile).

Aaron and his family are haying in the nearby fields. Hundreds of 700-pound round bales of hay are produced yearly for our winter consumption. Farmers must do daily chores along with “more” work that is for the future. Haying is one of Aaron’s multiple future jobs.

I digress into human affairs. We shall focus on this glorious summer. I am head cow which means I am the boss and responsible for the welfare of my herd. I have an incredible group of animals this summer: Matilda, Grande, Uhey, Ray, Gremlin, Glf, and Sabotage. Female bovines are heifers until we give birth and then we become cows.

When Aaron decides which animals to send to each pasture the heifers birthing due date is a factor. A heifer returns to the farm shortly before calving. As summer moves into autumn this reduces the number of animals on pasture. This is good because as it becomes cooler and there are less daylight hours the grass grows at a slower rate. Yes, there is a great deal of science in farming, but greater than science, is God’s hand.

In Psalm 50:10-11 God reminds humans that we cattle  belong to Him. “For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains. And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.”

I forage on the grass He provides and I rest in the shade flicking pesky flies away. Sigh, Helen says they are God’s creatures, too.

As head cow one of my jobs is to move the herd to different sections of the pasture so we do not overgraze one portion. As night falls it is my responsibility to lead the herd into the peaceful woods where we sleep.

Cressey pasture is an ideal summer and autumn home: I enjoy the lush grass, being with my herd mates, sunny days, cooling breezes blowing off the water, and my incredibly peaceful existence. I hear Helen thanking God and Jesus for the many blessings given to us and to Tide Mill Organic Farm which also are gifts to her.

I look forward to sharing bits of my life with you in this magazine both while here on pasture and also in the barn. Please remember that since that “pesky fly” that I flick away with my tail is created and cared for by God and Jesus, you are certainly cared for by our Father. After all, God created you in His image.

Hello, this is Helen.

As I reflect on my experiences with Wish2 and the Tide Mill bovines and lessons learned, I am amazed and grateful. What was the chance of this woman who had never farmed being able to experience dairy farming?

I grew up in a rural area of North Carolina, but Mother and Daddy did not have a farm nor did any of their friends. As an adult I left North Carolina and for the next several decades lived in cities. In 2002 Marty and I moved to Washington County, Maine. Shortly afterward I began to visit Tide Mill farm to purchase organic food.

One November day in 2014 while at the farm, I asked Aaron if he needed any help in the barn. He replied by asking me what I could do, and I told him that I had been helping out at horse barns cleaning stalls. Aaron said that he had plenty of that work and took me into the calf area. I met four calves, all in individual stalls. There were additional stalls that needed cleaning for calves yet to be born. This was my entry job into dairy farming.

The work was great exercise and it was wonderful being with a species of animal I had never been around. The adorable calves loved chin scratches and neck rubs. The calves took well to the brushes I had used to groom horses. More calves entered the world and became my new friends. After cleaning their stalls, I loved brushing them and talking with them.

One cold December morning Jane, Aaron’s mother, came into the barn while I was cleaning stalls. Soon an employee brought a calf with a dangling left back leg. Jane confirmed that the calf’s femur was broken. She promised that they would do their best to save the calf by applying a cast to the broken leg.

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds.” Proverbs 27:23

Yes, the calf was Wish2. She had a rare case of “mama trauma”—her mother stepped on her after birth.

Thus I entered a world of prayer, hope and love. Caring for a calf—a prey animal—with a cast on her leg was unlike anything I had previously experienced.

Each morning I looked forward to going to the barn to be with Wish2 and the calves. New adventures and lessons awaited. Once the calves were fed, they peacefully rested or hung their heads over stall gates to watch what was happening in their world. Occasionally one would jump over the gate and explore their area of the barn.

Since they are prey animals, calves do not normally come when called. All bovines are exceptionally smart. However, they are food motivated and a favorite food is the best way to convince them to come to you.

Early in my barn work, I acknowledged that the animals were training me more than I was training them. That was fine since I cherished my time with them and continue to do so. Each moment I spend with Wish 2 and my other cow and calf friends enriches my life.

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you.” Job 12:7

Calves grow quickly and soon become weaners (weaned off of suckling milk), and are adults in two years. Wish2’s leg slowly healed and she grew along with her herd mates.

As Wish2 matured, I graduated to other areas of the barn with her. She and her friends grew large—800 to 1200 pounds. Now I really needed to find a way to get a cow to do what I wanted. I did! I make what I call “cow candy” which are small balls of organic grain, kelp, and molasses. The animals get one or two but not every day while in the barn. Wish2 is the only cow that gets it each day in the barn. However, all the cows get cow candy often enough that when they need to be moved, it works as a good incentive. During winter a few members of the dairy herd leave the feed rail and walk over to the feed bunk which is across the alleyway from where I visit with Wish2. They come to get a “cow candy” treat. I always have extra pieces with me for those moments.

Last winter Dual, a milk cow, came to the feed bunk every day. After a while she began staying while Wish2 was eating cow candy, being brushed, and loved. So, Dual also received cow candy, a brushing, and love.

The miracle of those visits by Dual is that Wish2 did not become jealous. Wish2 has a tendency to be jealous if I spend too much time with other bovines. I made sure that she received more of my attention throughout winter. Dual was happy to be part of the Wish2 and Helen winter “love get together”.

Back to summer at Cressey pasture. Every day while Wish2 and the Tide Mill bovines are on pasture, they come to the gate to receive two pieces of cow candy. It is a treat and enables me to get a good look at each one so I can report to Aaron how they are doing. Without cow candy they might remain in the pasture. If so, I would not have the opportunity for a close up look.

The other benefit for them coming to the gate is that they get brushed. The advantage for me—I get to spend time with these incredible animals.

I realize they are created to help feed us, but while they are in my presence I love them and do my best to contribute to their well being. They are God’s creation.

Just like water is an essence of life, my bovine friends enrich my life. I marvel at their intelligence and enjoy our times together.

“Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.” 
Psalm 36:5-7

Nature Photographer Magazine
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Lubec, ME 04652
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