Cows at Night. And at Morning

May 29, 2013 § 7 Comments

Introducing Foster to his foster mother, in hopes she will allow him to nurse. Which she did.

Introducing Apple’s calf Foster to his foster mother, in hopes she will allow him to nurse.
Which she did.

This morning I was out early, preparing a fresh paddock for the cows’ daily grazing pleasure. It’s hero pasture now, a sea of cow candy everywhere you look, thick, verdant, top-of-shin high. It’s hard to remember that it won’t last forever, that in just a few months we’ll be scheming on how to squeeze a couple extra weeks out of the grass to cut down on the hay bill. But damn this is exactly what I love about this place: The seasonality of everything and the obscure rural ingenuity it demands.

So anyway. There I was, and it was that sort of milky, half-light of pre-dawn, and I was standing by the fence line admiring our motley herd, all of them sleek and glossy and filled-out, not a rib to be seen. And just at that moment, just as I was about to drop the wire that stood between them and that enviable, concentrated contentment that is unique to grazing bovine, it softly – very softly – began to rain. And I thought of this poem by Hayden Carruth, which is approximately my favorite poem ever (which given the volume of poetry I’ve exposed myself, is not saying terribly much). By the way, my second, third, fourth, and fifth favorite poems were all written by this guy.

Here you go. Enjoy.

The Cows At Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight,

too heavy, and sank in the mist

soon after dark, leaving for light


faint stars and the silver leaves

of milkweed beside the road,

gleaming before my car.


Yet I like driving at night

in summer and in Vermont:

the brown road through the mist


of mountain-dark, among farms

so quiet, and the roadside willows

opening out where I saw


the cows. Always a shock

to remember them there, those

great breathings close in the dark.


I stopped, and took my flashlight

to the pasture fence. They turned

to me where they lay, sad


and beautiful faces in the dark,

and I counted them–forty

near and far in the pasture,


turning to me, sad and beautiful

like girls very long ago

who were innocent, and sad


because they were innocent,

and beautiful because they were

sad. I switched off my light.


But I did not want to go,

not yet, nor knew what to do

if I should stay, for how


in that great darkness could I explain

anything, anything at all.

I stood by the fence. And then


very gently it began to rain.

§ 7 Responses to Cows at Night. And at Morning

  • vpfarming says:

    Wonderful poem – eventually would love to have ‘forty near and far in the pasture’ – but for now I will be grateful for our two. I really appreciate the pasture sentiment – such riches now here in Michigan now too, but by October/November – when those first lazy snowflakes fall – we’ll be singing a different tune.

    • Jennifer Fisk says:

      I think I missed a post announcing Foster’s birth. What a lovely scene of the cow and two babes. My idea of a perfect scene.

  • Fi Baker says:

    Hi Ben,i do like this poem.I could watch my 2 little Jeresy girls all day,thanks Fi from Haven Farm Waiheke Island New Zealand

  • Chris says:

    There is something about sitting under a cow and milking (nursing?) her. I always wonder if she thinks of me as her calf then. And I think about the Hindus worshiping them. And I always say thank you after I’ve my part and put the calf on for the rest (cause that’s how we do it). Guess my thank you can be compared to the Hindus.

  • Wendy H #2 says:

    Oh, what an awesome poem that was, Ben – thank you for sharing! Yes, cows are such a beautiful part of this wonderful land of ours, and your posts are always a bright reminder to be grateful for all that shit I smell around me – because I know it is what keeps our lands verdant enough to feed us through the year. ;-)

    Another gift of gratitude and wonder in this amazing place is when you have the opportunity to help save a poor hummingbird. A once in a lifetime event probably, but nothing short of a miracle to me.

    To explain – after 2 days of being stuck indoors at the car dealership (end of warranty checkup!), a hummingbird came down on the windowsill, exhausted and dehydrated. Another woman (Judy) and I – literally – handfed it sugar water (droplets on our fingertips & then tipped a little slice of a paper cup for its tongue to reach in) until it was strong enough to fly away. A humbling experience, as any event with nature is. I can say I was high all day from it!

    We are so blessed aren’t we?

    ~ W.

    Sent from my happy mobile world to yours!

    On May 29, 2013, at 8:04 AM, Ben Hewitt wrote:

    > >

  • Ed Bruske says:

    Ben, are those Red Devons?

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      all our cows are mutts. Apple is a Jersey/Devon cross; Minnie (the mama cow in the pic here) is a Highland/Jersey cross. We bred both Apple and Minnie to Milking Shorthorn, so the calves are both half MS and half other stuff.

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