Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday morning is here again.

The child is on the rug in the living room, rocking back and forth with her hands in the air-- oh, she's clapping now, and singing, ahhhhh, ooohhhh, aahhhhhhhooooo, and then breathing audibly. She has some spitup on her chin, and she is the cutest thing I've ever seen.

It has been a tumultuous two weeks here at the Ponder. Deadlines and clock-watching and fatigue and exorbinant quotes from tradespeople. Our two projects-- the house and the building-- have seemed particularily overwhelming, and our time together is never long enough.

I have been praying about it, in between the hand-wringing. We'll see where that leads.

I write a bimonthly column for the newspaper in the o-town and this was published last week. SO many people seemed to get a kick out of it that I thought I'd post of for y'all (and For K., who has not read it yet).

I have taken a hiatus from novel #3 to work on a book of essays and this is one of them.


Bovine Ambition

Outside my study window lives the only sign of my agricultural ambitions: a fifteen by twenty plot of raised beds, including a pre-existing boxwood, and forty-one heirloom tomato plants.

Thirty-nine, come to think of it. The blight got two that I ripped out yesterday.

I am twenty-five years old and there are days when I want nothing more than to rise at dawn, don overalls, and pad forth from my sleeping family to go deal with chickens, fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and yes, a cow. A milk cow, to be exact.

Somehow, the whole town knows of my ambitions. Yesterday at the farmers' market, the husband of an acquaintance asked me how my pursuit of cow-dom was going."It'd have to be a commuter cow," I began. "We need at least three acres, what with the soil being unreliable down here."

His eyes glazed over so I cut to the chase: "I want one. But not now. Not until we can have one on our own land."And then I sighed and said, "but it sure is tempting."

What kills me is that nearly everyone in my life seems to be set up to have a family milk cow: my mother-in-law. My sisters-in-law. My mother, with seventy acres, could have a whole HERD. Instead, she lets three unridden horses wander around inside the fencing. She calls them her lawn ornaments.

(But at least my mother uses milk on her granola. Kagan's parents? Soy milk all the way. His mom makes cornbread with soy milk. Did God send us a bean so that we could make milk with it? I don't think so.)

When I tell people I want a cow, I get two responses: from non-farmers, polite confusion, and from former dairymen, pursed lips and a wagging of the head.

"They're work," one said. I may not have ever had a cow, but I understand that they don't involve chaise longues and bon-bons.

My grandfather is the only one who seems to understand. "I'd get up every morning and milk the cow before work," he told me over the phone, and breathed steadily for several seconds. He is ninety, and his cows are long gone. "It was nice," he said, and then paused. "It felt like I'd really done something."As if his desk job with the Department of Agriculture didn't count.

But though I am cow-less myself, I know what he means-- because of Saturdays. Saturdays I keep farmers' hours.

Because Kagan works for all day on his renovation project downtown, I am free to commit my day to whatever project I can dream up. This year, I am rising at five to bake miniature baguettes that I sell for a dollar off my card table under the magnolia tree at the farmers' market.

As a farmers' market aficionado, I've been to quite a few. Salmon quesadillas in Anchorage; goat cheese and bread in Silver Spring.Water Valley's is much different, and yet, I love it. Fiercely.I love the homemade sandwich sign that anounces the market; I love the early-morning bustle and then the long slip into late morning. I even kind of love that I'm the only one growing heirloom tomatoes; everyone else is stuck on the Boys (Big and Better).I make my baguettes because it satisfies something in me to sit beneath the magnolia tree in the company of farmers. Last week I made eighteen dollars.

I'm doing it again this week.

When a retired dairyman tells me that cows are work, I believe him. But so are my Saturdays, and I love them.

So if we ever have enough acreage, I'll get Kagan to build me a little barn and throw up some fence. "Someday," I've been known to sigh. "Someday, I'll get me a cow."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cows are beautiful, especially so are Jerseys; but keeping a milk cow means a shelter for her,yes, and a good, sturdy fence, because if there is one talent all cows possess it is to find the weak spot in a fence. Supplement her diet with grain because milk cows need that extra nutrition in addition to plenty of green grass and fresh water. The most important bit is that a milk cow will need to be milked - twice a day, every day. Sometimes it is hard to find someone to fill in for you, the farmer, when you need to be away because how many people still know how to milk a cow? Remember, too, that you will need to find a use for at least two gallons of milk each day. You can do all this, many women have and still do, but it is a long-term commitment: cows don't go on vacation - ever.

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