Monday, June 2, 2008

Betty Davis Eyes

We have been talking about getting a couple of bull calves to raise for beef since before we bought this place. Every time we go to the store to by hamburger or steak we reminise about our time in Wyoming when we had 700+ lbs of beef in the freezer and never even thought about buying it. That has been part of the plan, discussed regularly, from the start of this project.

So, we finally get things in order to handle a couple of calves, find a source, and buy them. Great!! Except, they are so cute. They look at you with those big brown Betty Davis eyes, rub up against you asking for milk or a scratch behind the ear, and you just love them. There have already been tears over the idea of eating them. Maybe in a year and a half they wont be so cute, and we wont be so bothered by the idea of knowing our food really well.

It sounds so good in theory; know where your food comes from, who produced it, and how it was raised. Give thanks for the life given that you might live, etc... But, when you are going to spend hours every day raising them, working with them, training them, theory starts to clash with reality. Stepping down the food chain starts to look more attractive. (Still, we wouldn't want to give up steak, or bacon, or a good burger, so maybe we should get ours from someone else.)

We have some time, maybe we can work through this. We have made great strides already. When we started most of the family wouldn't even eat the eggs we produced. Roasting chickens is the next logical step. They are not nearly as easy to bond with as cute calves.


Nancy J. Bond said...

Cows do have the loveliest eyes. :) Kudos to you for wanting to grow your own food -- not only a good deal healthier, I'm sure, but with the prices of everything skyrocketing, I'd think it would be a great saving as well. :) I can't wait until I can at least have a decent veggie garden again -- those homegrown beans, peas, and greens sure do taste delicious in January! This is my first visit to your blog, but I'll be back!

Esther Montgomery said...


I've not been here before either.

Your post made me homesick.

I used to live in the country and hand-milk cows. Now I live in a town. It's not a very big one - so, if I want, I can walk to a field and find some to look at - but it's not the same.

I was never sure how much they bothered about us (the cows) but they certainly had very distinctive characters and approaches to life - which made us very close to them.

I think bull calves and bullocks may, perhaps, be different?

- You don't get quite as close to them as when you are milking - and you know of their destiny right from the beginning - which influences things.

Esther Montgomery

P.S. - Came through Blotanical

Alan said...

Glad you both found me. I let you know on the savings. The problem with growing your own beef is it takes so long. I suppose that after the first year it all evens out.

Esther, we would call a bullock a steer. Ours will be when they are just a little older. They haven't been "fixed" yet (I guess they are still 'broken?')

Esther Montgomery said...

Sorry, I don't know the proper terminology for the bullock / steer side of things as it was really only the milking (and clearing up afterwards!) side of things that I was involved in.

With the calves, it was the ocassional scattering of straw, to help out.

'Our' bull calves were taken away really very young.

And I wouldn't pretend, in any way, to be an expert!

However, I truly enjoyed the company of cows over the three years when I helped with the milking. (I did only the evening milking and then it would generally be only one cow - out of the four or five that were in milk at any one time.)

However, I still feel proud that I learned how to milk by hand. I am in England (Dorset) and not many people do it here now. There are few small farms so it is generally machine milking.

(By the way, 'our' cows were Jerseys, South Devon Red and Ayreshires - if that means anything to you . . . I expect you are keeping different breeds where you are.)


Alan said...

Hand milking is a rare skill here too. I got the "privilege" of learning to milk as a child. I cant say I enjoyed it much then, twice a day, every day, regardless of the weather or other activities scheduled. Still, something must have attracted me because I find my self spending a great deal of time, effort, and money for the privilege now.

We have an Irish Dexter cow that we milk for our home use, as well as a small herd of Alpine Goats. The dairy farms in our area have a lot of Jersey and Holstein, with some Ayreshire and a few other breeds. Haven't seen any milking Devons. Red Devon beef cows are a rare but rather sought after breed here.

Esther Montgomery said...


Do you make cheese as well as use their milk?


Marion said...


I know how you feel. The kid goat I had as a child, one I grew very, very close to, was killed for food. Had I known what I was eating at the time, it would have revolted me.

You'll bond closely with these two, until they outgrow the cuteness, as they will. Time, as you say in your post, is on your side.

And, when I myself killed for food, I thanked the spirit of the animal who gave the ultimate to sustain me.I received comfort and acceptance in return. It is what it is.

I admire you tremendously for taking on this challenge of sustainability...something I am striving towards as much as I can, myself.

Alan said...


Cheese is something we are learning. We've made some good mozzarella, and some pretty good feta. Other cheeses are in process right now. We are good at yogurt.


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