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You Do it Every Day

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We are milking two cows, twice per day. We milk by hand, in a corner of our humble pole barn. For the past couple of days, we’ve milked to the patter of rain on the tin roof, and that’s been real nice. Penny does most of the milking, though I pinch hit from time-to-time. From beginning to end, including a mid-milking break to feed the calves, it takes about 40 minutes. We both like it. It’s not a burden, though obviously not for the uncommitted.

Milk is the cornerstone of this little operation. It makes our butter, our kefir, our soft cheese. It makes our beef and this year, with a beautiful heifer on the ground, perhaps it will generate a little income. We feed the skimmed milk to our pigs and they are kind enough to convert it into chops and bacon. Good piggies. Thank you.

Of course, our milk comes from our cows, so perhaps it’s actually the cows that are the cornerstone of this little operation. They make the milk, they birth the beef and heifer calves, they graze the grass, they give us something meaningful to do for 40 minutes at the beginning and end of each day. No small point, that last one. It’s actually pretty damn important.

Of course, the cows couldn’t exist without the grass they feed on, so maybe the cornerstone of this little operation is grass. Funny to think about, isn’t it? Grass. The prey of lawnmowers the world over, which is crazy, because it’s actually one of the most abundant perennial food crops in the world. You think you can’t eat grass? That’s nuts. Of course you can eat grass. You just gotta run it through the digestive system of a ruminant first.

Except, well, the grass doesn’t grow without the sun, the rain, the soil. So I guess I was wrong before: These are the cornerstones of this little operation. They make the grass that feeds the cows that make the milk thatΒ makes our beef and bacon and butter and (!!!) ice cream. You think you can’t eat sun, soil, and rain?

Truth is, you do it every day.

49 thoughts on “You Do it Every Day”

  1. This post made me smile – good food for thought to start the day. I’m glad you talked about the calves. I was talking with the farmer who we buy our raw milk from, and he said that it can take 45 minutes to hand milk a productive heifer. I thought that sounded like a long time and wondered if you guys spent that much time milking? We got to see his calves, which are still being bottle fed but are also transitioning to grain. I asked why they need the grain (since his cows are on pasture) and he said that they need it to develop their rumen. I wondered if that was true, or if it was a more conventional farming idea? (I know you and Penny do things a bit differently from conventional farmers.)

    1. That’s a long time for one cow… but then, our cows are not huge producers, so I guess anything’s possible.

      The thing about needing grain to develop their rumen makes very little sense to me, since the rumen is all about hay. That said, if he grains his adult cows (which it sounds like he does), maybe what he’s saying makes sense.

  2. We are milking two cows, twice per day. We milk by hand, in a corner of our pasture out in the open, sometimes in the rain.

  3. Ben, your writing is just awesome. Often good for a chuckle (or at least a rueful smile), occasionally something that really tugs my heart, and sometimes you just bang the nail on the head. I should tell you more often how much I love your blog (and books!). Thanks…

    Pauline in Ithaca

  4. Was this your lesson of the day for the Hewitt boys – the milk cycle, instead of water cycle? πŸ™‚

    We milked for the first time in decades last Sunday (first time for kids), then fed the pigs with the milk. Sadly, this farm (educational) says, once they feed the calves, and pigs, and if they do not have any of those, then they dump the milk. Dump the good fresh milk!!! We were thinking to go in with a clean jar after they close and get the milking done.
    My grandma and mom used to milk twice a day in pastures only. We had to stand there while they milk with a branch to shoe horse flies away. I was so crazy scared of those cows then, ’cause they were always kicking. For some reason American cows like American people are more complacent, must be the water. πŸ™‚

  5. Ahhhh, thanks for the reminder about making ice cream. I think it’s time to dust off our ice cream maker. I make mine with goat milk, though!

  6. I still remember learning about photosynthesis as a child and thinking how cool it is that plants ‘magically’ convert the energy of a star millions (billions?) of miles away, into energy used by a little plant here on Earth.

    But I never fully understood the implications of it until I read Ben Hewitt.

  7. πŸ™‚ Loved the post today, but it got the silly song Michael Finnegan into my mind. Shame on you!

  8. It had been forever and ever since I’d picked strawberries in a field and eaten them, but 2 years ago when we moved to New England, that was one of the first things we did. When I ate the first one, I told my husband that I could taste the sun. I’d never had that experience with eating before – I was startled by how intense it was.

  9. It was stormy here last night. When we went out to check the garden this morning, my oldest plucked a sugar snap pea, popped it into his mouth and said, “I’m eating the rain.” Yes, indeed.
    A few weeks ago, a friend and her 4-year-old son came to visit. They live in town and we hadn’t seen them for a while. When he saw our manure windrow out by the barn, he asked what it was. I told him it was manure. “You know…poop.” He looked up at me with a little smirk and said, “That’s disgusting!” I told him that a lot of the food he eats grows in manure (among other things) and he repeated, “That’s disgusting!” My boys have brought it up from time to time since then asking why he thought poop was disgusting. I stopped just short of saying that essentially we eat poop (if you want to think of it that way) because, at their age, they are still quite literal.

    1. yeah, well, don’t let me near them NC cuz I have this wacky idea that this is the planet of death (and, of course, life). Lemme ‘splain. The soil is made up of things that died and then were transformed by microbes and such into a living thing that then nurtures the plants and on up the chain including us. So we’re walking around on death (and life). I mentioned this to Andrea and she thought it was a cool idea so before you guys all decide I’m nuts, well, I’m not the only one!

      Taking a leap to say something I don’t usually say in public. I can go back into hiding with it if ya’ll think I’m off my rocker.

      Love your kids! Muy brilliante!

      1. Makes sense to me. I think you are much more “on your rocker” than most people. Have a beautiful day!

      2. Thanks for that. Most people don’t like these morbid thoughts I have. I think death is a part of life and the world and while I don’t welcome it I feel that if we all embraced death as inevitable and natural that we might get off those rockers and live life to the hilt instead of denying it and going into self induced comas! Of course, we commenters on this blog are a breed apart and aren’t in comas, right? Reaffirm everyday.

      3. Yes, my kids had been fascinated with the fact that all that grows is growing from “poops and dead”, we often talk about how dirt is all dead animals, dead plants, dead people, and poops (they especially like bug poops πŸ™‚ ), and they do not seem to be grossed out one bit about it, but find it neat.

        But the cows always get so warm in the sun, I really like that how their backs feel so hot in the sun, and it always reminds me of the line from the kids Dutch movie “Toads and Frogs” when the kids took a jar of fresh milked milk, and said: it is warm, because the sun was shining on the cow. πŸ™‚

      4. “it is warm, because the sun was shining on the cow.” That is SO great!

        93 million miles away. One hot sucker.

        Your kids are going to unusual adults. They’re unusual kids! Just like their dear mama and I mean that in the best possible way!

      5. Thanks, Renee. Kids may not appreciate being “unusual” in teenage years. Perhaps I should take them walk among those tombstones like you mentioned on Ron’s blog. πŸ™‚

  10. That last bit reminds me of the song/blessing:

    “The silver rain, the golden sun.
    The fields where scarlet poppies run.
    And all the ripples of the wheat
    are in the food that we do eat.

    So when we sit for every meal
    as we say grace we always feel
    that we are eating rain and sun
    and fields where scarlet poppies run.”

    http://mountainhearth.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/fields-where-scarlet-poppies-run.html

    Just got introduced to your work and your writing, Ben, via my good friend George Moorey.

  11. Hey, First time posting here! Actually, Love might be the cornerstone of your little operation there. You gotta love the cows, the milk and the people you’re doing it with! Thanks for all the food for thought and your freedom! Peace out, friend… πŸ™‚

  12. One thing I find devoid on your blog is any mention of THE ONE who created it all. Is this to keep the peace with your readers.or do you really not believe that God is at the helm? (And I don’t mean all those false gods we are forced to accept.) I mean the one true God. This has bothered me for some time but I hesitated to ask for fear that then I would have to give up reading your blog. In your books you often mention this blessing or that…I’m left to wonder who is blessing you with all this abundance?

      1. The world in which we live today is so wicked that I have chosen to surround myself with people who share my same beliefs. Beliefs that have roots in The Bible. I know nothing of Ben Hewitt other than what I have read here and in his books. The many mentions of the blessings they have received gives me hope that he is thanking God for his good life. God has been removed from “everything”. Namely the schools. Surely God should have a seat at the Nourishing Homestead’s table.

      2. There are many good folks in the world who aren’t Christian. Remember that.
        I consider myself a Christian but I would never want to impose my beliefs on others via public schools.

      1. Oh, wow! Could there be a better reason? I guess you have answered my question. Thanks for entertaining me for these last several months. I would say ‘Good Luck to you’ but I don’t believe there is such a thing as “luck”.

    1. Melissa, as a Christian myself I have to say your comment saddened me. So much aggression, so many assumptions about how people should talk about God and spiritual things. There are a million different ways of showing faith and gratitude, and sadly it seems you’re only willing to acknowledge a narrow spectrum of these. Let’s show some radical love in place of judgement, eh?

    2. I’m not affiliated with any religilous organization, but consider myself a free-lance christian. Only one rule – the golden rule. I go to church several times a week and usually on Sunday. My “church” is in my vegetable gardens, with my hands in the dirt, marveling and reveling in the miracle of nature.

      1. I would love to join your church. πŸ™‚
        We just read beautiful The Golden Rule book by Ilene Copper with kids (picture book), and yes, free lancing sounds good.

  13. Ben, I wanted to tell you how much I have been enjoying both your blog and your books. I just finished The Nourishing Homestead, and even though I do not plan to ever have my own homestead, it enlightened me as to what you face every day and what you think about while planning what and how you approach life on your homestead. Thank you for sharing your life. I loved your other books too (and have homeschooled my four boys — two of whom are adults now and are following their own dreams).

  14. Okay who am I trying to kid? Since you are building that stupid new house I’ll have to stick around to see how it turns out.

    I, too, worship God in my garden and in the woods. We do not attend a church. He may not be there anyway. (More judging, I guess.)

    By the way, I’m not aggressive. Hah! If you could only meet me. I’m just doing my best to survive in a world that is not as it should be. (This is all probably brought on by PMS anyway.) We aspire to live a whole lot like you Ben. Minus the writing. No talent in that department.

    Bear with me one more time and I will never leave another comment. Ever. God is with me in everything I do. He is deeply planted in my heart. I give credit to Him for everything we have. I just cannot imagine life without Him. So yes, you can say I am intense.

    So don’t judge me. No, go ahead and judge.

    1. Melissa, Just letting you know that you are not alone. I think you are very brave and courageous to take a stand for what you believe. There is no ambiguity about where your true loyalty lies and that is a rare quality these days. We’re living in a world where all the lines are becoming blurred, or cease to exist. Makes me a little crazy too.

    2. Entertaining. Ben is like a magnet. We only have ourselves to blame for a world that is not as it should be. We only have God to blame for a world that is not as it should be. We only have confusion when we think that God and ourselves is something separate and can’t accept the world as it is in wonder and horrible beauty with peace war strife and radical love.

  15. Miss mama is gone, but yes, still entertaining, thank goodness, makes my day.

    I had hard time sleeping last night picturing God “deeply planted in my heart” (like a lonely flower in a cage), not sure why would God have to hide so deep in Melissa’s heart, and why can’t we all just touch and smell God while cutting that grass and milking those cows, and soaking up sun – like Ben described above. Not “worship” but just see.

  16. Today I heard a lecture about butterflies . . . which prompted further reading about them, and especially the butterfly proboscis. A thinking person cannot stop at marveling that such structures exist, that they exist all around us and also within/throughout us. One just has to take the marveling further; to inwardly fall on one’s knees at the truly almost unthinkable interlocking complicated and yet insanely waste-free perfection of how stuff (ie everything in the natural world) works together. Was this initiated/developed/evolved by something that intended it? One cannot help but believe so, it is all too marvelous. Too gratitude-inducing, too wonderful. And the fabulousness of the human heart (physical and non-physical) . . . we do touch the Divine everywhere every second, indeed we *are* it, and I for one have to snap to attention so I don’t spend my waking hours simply standing open-mouthed in wonder. Best get to work and try to act more like that Divine, try to make its methods my methods, be more like the sun and the milk and the honey, the grass, the cows and the stars myself. Thanks to Ben and all who consciously immerse themselves in processes that get closer to that.

    If this sounds hyperbolic and sanctimonious, laugh and take it with a grain of salt. Long way to go, and the dark side never leaves our side either. But the cow can block out its shadow.

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