Regular readers of my Flickr page may recall my last foray into the world of human-bovine communications. In short, whenever I approached a herd of cattle up near Luray, Virginia, they ran away from me. And whenever I withdrew from the fence, they returned to check me out. Any one of them could have crushed me without a moment’s thought. Yet, they ran from me like elephants from a mouse. I noted then:
“We must have done this back-and-forth dance a half dozen times before I accepted that my charm doesn't work on cows.”
Well, that was then. This past weekend I met Molly. She’s a young dairy cow living at Full Quiver Farm near Suffolk, Virginia. The farm is run by an earnest looking couple and their nine children. (Yes, nine children.) It’s the kind of place where the kids are probably home schooled and have lots of chores helping out with the care of the farm animals and vegetable gardens. It’s the kind of place that despite the presence of a hard working, Bible-believing mother and father and nine children all old enough to share in the labor it still has a chronically disorderly look that says this family has far less than reality television show wealth and far too many other things to worry about then how their farm and home look.
The turkeys at Full Quiver run loose in a large open pasture. (It would appear, though, that turkeys don’t like to keep their own solitary contemplative company, all Thoreau-like, but instead cluster together along the sunnier edges of a corrugated shed in the middle of the pasture.) The chickens have their own pasture and sleep in an old RV. The plump layers have a hen house cobbled together from wire, old sections of wooden fence and stray pieces of aluminum that look like they may have been salvaged from the side of the road.
All of the family’s kids were pressed into service on Saturday, the official pick-up day for Thanksgiving fare. The older kids were hustling bagged turkeys, chickens, slabs of fresh bacon and vegetables back and forth from a refrigerated case in the slaughter shed to the makeshift cashier’s counter under a tent. The middle-school aged kids were sent out to one of the adjacent fields to pick collards. The youngest manned a little table at the edge of the tent where they served apple cider and ginger cookies to customers lined up to pick up their orders.
While my wife stood in line, I checked out the customers and the livestock. The customers were an interesting mix of dedicated locavores, pretentious foodies and people who just like to know where their food comes and that it doesn’t come from factory foods.
The livestock are pretty laid back, too, in keeping with the overall tone of the place. Dairy cows wandered here and there on a large pasture. Young calves stayed close to their mothers or mingled among the customers. In one area I found Molly, shown above. Unlike the steers up in Luray who were so leery of me, Molly wanted to be my friend. When I approached her enclosure, she approached me. She let me pet her. She wanted to see what my camera was all about. When I talked to her she turned her head demurely, as if to say, “Aw, shucks,” so that I could rub behind her ears. When I started to walk away, she mooed at me. You might have interpreted her move differently. But I would swear she was smiling when I turned around and came back and rubbed behind her ears some more.