A Herd of Gracious Thanksgiving Guests
Red, a 1,500-pound Scottish Highlander steer, watches Lori Edmunds from North Hampton smash a pumpkin at Miles Smith Farm.
Because of the pandemic, Thanksgiving was different this year. Many gatherings were canceled or limited to just a few family members. That was not the case here at Miles Smith Farm, where husband Bruce and I provide a feast every day for 45 hungry cows. We can't afford to be sick, so we've been careful about exposure to Covid-19. But we broke our regimen for an overnight trip to Maine. Two weeks later, we tested positive and spent two weeks in quarantine. The illness was no fun, but it could've been a lot worse.
The Cattle - Need Us
We are fine now, but that trip taught me to follow my instincts and stay home. Besides, our family – the cattle – need us. I don't need a holiday, although I can't help but think of Florida when the wind chill is ten below zero, and my fingers and toes are going numb. But there's work to do here in the frozen North.
Candy for Cows
Cows love to eat as much as people do, and just like people, they crave certain foods, specifically pumpkins. A few weeks ago, I invited you to bring used pumpkins to feed to "The Boys," my six trained steers, Topper, Stash, Red, Bleu, Galen, and Cooper. These Scottish Highlanders have enormous horns and even bigger personalities. Topper and Stash, my 8-year-old working oxen pair, obey voice commands, love back scratches, and work for carrots. Red, a 1,500-pound, silver-colored ox, willingly pulls me around the yard in a cart, just like a horse would. Bleu, a gentle giant and star of the book "A Curious Little Calf Named Bleu," delights children with "cow-back" rides. Galen and Cooper have been sold and will join their new owner once he finishes building a barn. All are gentle, sweet, and never turn down a carrot, apple, or a smashed squash. Just ask Cindy, one of my readers who recently came to the farm with her leftover pumpkins.
The Pumpkin King
Topper, the herd leader, was the first to notice when Cindy arrived. He ran down the hill, the others following behind.
Most pumpkins are too hard for The Boys to bite into (they only have one set of front teeth), so we set up a smashing station with a mallet and tree stump to break open the pumpkins and squash. The occasional pumpkin escaped the smashing station and rolled down the hill. The Boys ran after it bellowing and grunting as if the chase was a game that needed sound effects.
Their favorite part of a smashed pumpkin is the "guts," but the thing is, unlike picky children, the cattle never turn up their noses at vegetables, fruit, or salad. And unlike some relatives I could name, they never discuss politics, although they do have opinions on who gets the first choice of carrots. Hint: always Topper.
Pandemic or not, my favorite family gatherings are with my cattle. And Bruce.
The Pumpkins Must Be Smashed
To everyone who came out to feed pumpkins to the cattle, they thank you! If you still have leftover pumpkins, apples, turnips, or any other fresh vegetables, bring them out to the farm during store hours (Wed. 1-5pm, Thur-Sat 10-5 pm). Topper will be watching for you!