Adventures with Isabelle
Adding a cow was a major undertaking for our family. The cow, of course, had ideas of her own.
The chickens enjoy Isabelle's company and feed well on the grain she leaves behind.
Our first agrarian images often come from children’s picture books. Typically a large-eyed cow is depicted in a grassy pasture with other farm animals nearby, a cozy red barn in the distance. Although idealized for illustration purposes, such scenes were once commonplace. It wasn’t too long ago that a family’s self-sufficiency included milking a cow or two, but today, most folks find their dairy products at the grocery store.
Concerns about the quality of our family’s food led us to the organic aisle, but our daughter Claire wanted to take the next step and bring a dairy cow to our small homestead. We were impressed with Claire’s research and were finally convinced that the project would be an educational family experience. So we talked to area dairy farmers, read everything available on the subject and looked at young heifers for sale. At the same time, and with the help of a few friends, we built a barn and seeded pastures with a special mix of grasses.
That autumn, we purchased a pregnant 3-year-old Guernsey cow named Isabelle from a local organic farm. Pleased by the concept of a family cow, the farmer chose the most gentle and friendly of his animals for us.
Within 24 hours of Isabelle’s arrival, we understood how the nursery-rhyme cow might have jumped over the moon. When Isabelle stepped from the horse trailer, she greeted us all with curious licks and generous amounts of drool. She then moseyed around the barn, sniffing everything before sauntering out to graze. After months of preparation, the cow was here, and we relaxed.
Claire spent hours with Isabelle that first morning but finally decided to come in the house for some overdue lunch. She put Isabelle in a roomy box stall. Moments after coming in, Claire shrieked, “The cow is out!” and ran the 600 feet out to the barn in the time it took me to hurry to the back porch.
Isabelle had decided to leave. The latched steel gate doubly fastened by a heavy chain did not stymie her. She simply put her huge head through the gate and lifted it off its hinges. As soon as Isabelle was lured back inside the fence, my husband, Mark, reinforced the gate in a manner necessary to befuddle even our apparently brilliant cow.
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