Of all the tenets of biodynamic agriculture, the one that resonates the most with me and that guides my aspirations for the farm, is the notion of the farm as a complete organism. According to Hugh Lovel, in his book The Biodynamic Farm, “an ideal biodynamic farm is a self-sufficient ecosystem that produces its own composts, seeds, livestock replacements, etc., and operates within the larger context of the district and its make up, the country, the world, and the rhythms and relationships of the solar family against the starry background. The biodynamic farmer grows food for nourishment, not simply to make money, and the spiritual human requires nourishment as much as the physical.” Fascinating stuff. The in-depth study and true practice of biodynamics could easily fill a lifetime, and I am a mere beginner with three young children, two mortgages, and a bustling farm to manage. My ability to execute, and even fully understand, all of the many facets of biodynamic agriculture (inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner) is somewhat thwarted by the grind of each day and the need to bring home the bacon. There are only so many hours in a day, you know. But I do try. And if there is something that you aspire to do, it’s always good to start somewhere. So for me, above all of the other biodynamic farming principles, the creation of a whole-farm organism is how I feel the most connected to biodynamic agriculture. As far as growing nourishing food in the gardens for my family and CSA community, Eric and I have that detail covered. We also raise plenty of chickens for eggs, as well as sheep for lamb and cattle for beef. Sometimes we raise a few pigs, too. We have fruit trees just beginning to bear crops and berry bushes laden with fruit…But we did not have our own dairy animal. In my opinion, if you really want to be a truly self-sufficient farm organism, a dairy cow is a must. The last dairy cow we had was when Ira was a wee thing. The last time she calved, she had twins (not a common occurence in cattle, contrary to lambing in sheep) and we decided her calves would get all of her milk. So we had to either find another cow, or a source for milk. We chose the latter and fell into a long and very comfortable milk relationship with an amazing Amish family. That was over seven years ago. This week we had to tell our sweet friends that in a few weeks, we wouldn’t be needing to come for milk anymore. We were being given the gift of all gifts… a milk cow. There are powers at work here beyond my comprehension, and all I can say is thank you dearly.
Meet Lilly. The newest addition to our farmstead. The cow is highly esteemed on any farm, but on this little farm with this little family of mine, I value the gifts this cow will give higher than gold. She is due to freshen (calve) in just a few weeks and our journey with milking Miss Lilly will begin. Isn’t she just lovely?Previously when we had a milk cow, Eric did all of the milking. But this time around, it’s going to be my duty. I hope I can be as good to my new bovine friend as her previous caregivers. They set the bar pretty high. I have moments of feeling a little daunted by the intensity of this commitment, and wondering if I can be consistent enough. It’s pretty huge. But so, so beautiful. The incredibly helpful thing is that I’m not in it alone. Eager children, lovely neighbors, and a supportive husband have all offered to lend a hand if ever I need it. Now I’ve got some preparing to do. A portable stanchion that I can pull through the pastures with the golf cart is high on the list. I’ll keep you posted on that detail! For now though, I want to leave you with a passage from a fabulous book that I’m currently engrossed in, Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman.
“Every day, for ten months of the year, my cow Fern translates the sun and rain that fall on my small acreage into life-supporting, nourishing milk. With superb efficiency she borrows the energy in cellulose (think grass, upon which humans starve) and reinvests it into a food more perfect than anything in the supermarket. No mangrove swamps or rain forests are destroyed in the manufacture of this product. No water to float a battleship is diverted for her purposes. No grain that might otherwise have been cracked into ethanol or bargained to the starving is apportioned to her use. Fern accomplishes this feat without burning any gasoline. She does this through the magic of wild fermentation in her rumen, the same process employed by cabbage worms and everything else that lives by splitting cellulose. Right now is the moment to abandon the fiction that cows are high on the food chain. The only things that live lower on the food chain than cows and caterpillars are bacteria. Fern is a one-stop food factory, using sun, rain, grass, and rumen fermentation to produce complete-protein milk; the cow does all the work today, and tomorrow she will do it all over again.”