The Farm Was a Petting Zoo for a Day
"Can I sit on Curious Bleu?" a 45-year-old woman asked. Since 11 a.m. on our fall Cuddle-A-Cow Day, Curious Bleu, a Scottish Highlander steer, and star of the book," A Curious Little Calf Named Bleu," stood patiently while youngsters sat on him. Unfortunately, the weight limit for riders was 100 pounds or less.
Bleu, a 7-year-old steer, is one of our ambassadors – a select group of cattle who enjoy people. Another member of this group is Missy, a 12-year-old cow, and mother of five, who also lets kids sit on her back. But since she is oh-so-pregnant, visitors could only brush her. She'd put her head down and close her eyes in bliss as her fans fussed over her.
Tazzy, the mini-pig, grumbled and snorted as youngsters led her around the barnyard. Buckets of cut carrots were available for guests to feed the animals, and her grumbling stopped as soon as she was offered a carrot. The donkey, goats, and lamb put on their starving faces and begged for carrots. Who can turn down a dwarf goat who plants her feet on your chest and stares at you as if to say, "Feed me?"
The hay wagon, pulled by our Kubota tractor, carried visitors to the upper fields, which are not visible from the barnyard. In the pasture, 30 cows, calves and steers crowded around while visitors fed them even more carrots. To the delight of the wagon passengers, some of the cattle reached in to nibble at tufts of hay that upholstered the ride.
This open house was the perfect day to mingle with cattle, but it was also a chance to see the location of the new 4-H barn called Elspeth's Place, named for a cow who used to live on the farm. Most of the site work for the building is done, and the concrete floor is already in place. When we have the funds to finish it, the building will be a shed with five stalls, situated to shelter the cattle from harsh weather. The openings will face south because hardly any winter winds blow from that direction, and for the few hours it's shining, the sun will keep the animals warm. When fall color is at its peak, I'll be jealous of the view they'll have.
Now that the cows have finished entertaining our visitors, we plan to transport most of them to the Audubon pasture in Concord. The grass there is long, and they'll love munching on it – until snow buries the grass or their drinking water freezes.
We can't predict, but if all goes well, they'll be there until Thanksgiving.
Then the cow-taxi will bring them home, where they'll begin dining expensively on fermented baleage – summer hay wrapped up tight in plastic for winter rations. They like it pretty well, but I think they'll spend the winter dreaming of fresh, green pastures and delicious carrots dispensed by smiling visitors.