Not long ago, and I mean about five years ago, I had all but given up on the girlhood dream I had of becoming a dairy farmer with a herd of Jerseys. Now, here I am, married to a dairy farmer and farming semi-full time in addition to my day job here at the paper, and I've got my Jerseys.
You might remember from my previous columns how Heather, the first Jersey to set foot on this farm in some decades, was later joined by two young heifers while growing large with calf herself. While I love Siri and Signe, Heather will always hold a dear place in my heart as my first little brown cow. With a due date of Oct. 26, I soon found myself wringing my hands and glancing anxiously at the calendar - and the young mother-to-be - about every five seconds starting in late September.
I was so jazzed I couldn't sleep. I had disturbing dreams about her delivering deformed bull calves and Holstein calves. Sam would gently remind me of an old saying about watched pots and not boiling, and I'd remind him that they boil when they reach the right temperature. Maybe I was just trying to remind myself to give it a rest.
Alas, Heather's due date came - and went. I began to ease up and let nature take its course like I should have all along. I remarked to Sam during morning milking on Oct. 28 that Heather looked like a double wide trailer when she waddled into the barn, clumsily learning how to walk with an engorged udder between her legs.
That afternoon, she wasn't out grazing with the others. Sam and I went to go check on her. There she was - standing between two old farm implements parked indefinitely in the heifer pasture - with a pair of petite black hooves peeking out from her business end. I gasped with delight. I may have wiped a tear. I kept close watch and I felt especially honored that my Jersey girl loved or trusted me enough to let me do so, especially after nearly bulldozing the farm dog when he came walking by.
After about 30 minutes of what appeared to be a smooth labor, Heather delivered a lovely heifer calf, weighing in at what I guessed to be around fifty pounds. Having had her name picked out for several months due to the fairly good accuracy of sexed semen, I decided to call my newest addition Hattie. In case you were wondering, I didn't cry until after chores were done that night, when I proceeded to sob into my husband's arms how very happy I was. He rubbed my back and told me he didn't understand women.
While Hattie basically hit the ground running and drank nearly three quarts of colostrum her first feeding, her mom didn't prove to be such a breeze. Those first few days of milking our first Jersey cow had us bruised and beaten beyond what we mistakenly assumed such a sweet and well-mannered heifer could do to us. My husband hollered that we weren't getting any more Jerseys, and I hollered back that he needed to be patient.
After a few days of milking, Heather calmed down to the point where it only took one of us to milk her. As of right now, she only kicks the milker off when she's done - usually. And Hattie is thriving. I switched her to milk replacer at about four days old. After a touch of nutritional scours from adjusting to the new stuff, she is a ray of sunshine who loves chin scratches and snuggles as much as her mama still does.
This whole ordeal, with Heather and Hattie, has taught me a lot.
Jerseys and Holsteins are different creatures.
When the time comes to start a family and Sam hovers over me in my last weeks of pregnancy the way I hovered over Heather, I'm going to kick him in the face. Then again, she kicked us both in the face many times over after the fact.
Clichés. If there's a will, there's a way, especially if you're a stubborn German like me. Most of all, never say never. It may not happen right away, but if you can dream it, you can achieve it. And, your reality may end up becoming better than you'd ever anticipated.