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Traveling Back Through Time

February 20, 2023

During a visit to an Amish farm in Ohio, our Ford F150 pickup, with broken power steering, sat useless in the barnyard. Instead, Ernestine, a bay mare, pulled a cart, a one-horsepower version of an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) that transported us to and from the cow pasture.

What could be better than a standing invitation to stay on an Amish farm? In November, Harley, an Amish farmer, bought 11 of my Scottish Highlander cattle and, with the help of a non-Amish driver and rig, took them from New Hampshire to Ohio.

Before he left, Harley invited us to visit his farm in Ohio, “You are welcome to stay with us, and if you find more Highland cows, bring them with you. I want a herd of thirty.” It sounded like fun to me – a road trip with cattle.

Then last week, farm friend Dick Piper called me looking to sell his beautiful 3-year-old Highland heifer named Lilly. Harley wanted her, and husband Bruce and I decided to deliver. We also brought along two steers named Gilligan and Walter, who would spend a layover week at Harley’s farm waiting for transportation to a buyer in Colorado.

On The Road

We loaded the three bovines into the roomy stock trailer and set off. The trip was uneventful until an intermittent problem flared up as we drove through New York State -- the power steering died. Without power, turning at slow speeds required super-human strength, but highway driving was more manageable. To minimize turning, we stayed on major highways and refueled at the expensive rest-stop gas stations.

We arrived at Harley’s farm Saturday night, unloaded the cattle, and parked the broken truck in the barnyard.

Without a functioning truck, we relied on Amish horse-drawn carts to get around. On Sunday morning, we rode in a horse cart to the cow pasture with Harley driving. The cattle looked fat and content, with lots of hay to eat and spring water to drink. Nina, one of my former show cows, walked over, looking for alfalfa cubes and neck scratches. I couldn’t have done better for the cows than selling them to Harley and his sons.

Working WIth Cows

On Sunday afternoon, we walked with the whole family back to the pasture so I could teach them some Highland cow handling. But they didn’t need much tutoring.

I watched as Harley’s son Ernest put a halter on a reluctant black heifer while his brother Clarence did a sort of “cow dance” to put a halter on another squirmy calf. Six other heifers moved away as Harley tossed a lasso toward a fluffy silver calf and then put a halter on her. This family knew how to handle cattle and needed little advice until a brindle calf kicked one of Harley’s sons, Milo.

“Want to see how to de-kick a calf?” I asked. “First, you stand to the side of the calf facing the calf’s rear and out of kicking range. Then reach down and pat the calf halfway down her rear leg. If she wants to kick, she’ll do it at first touch. Usually, the calf has one kick in her and won’t kick again. A few will kick twice, but most won’t.”

I demonstrated the de-kicking technique on Milo’s brindle-colored calf.

The Amish don’t use electricity, but we had comfort, warmth, and indoor plumbing, including a hot shower and the most amazing food ever. We ate with the family, and each meal included conversation about Highland cattle and farming with a dose of humor. One conversation went something like this:

“Did you see me de-kick that heifer?” Jerry asked.

“On my way home, I de-kicked the dog,” Milo said.

“Well, I de-kicked, Ernest,” said Clarence, and we all laughed.


Bruce and I “helped” with chores, which meant we watched while the boys fed the horses, milked the Jersey cow, and cleaned horse stalls. Like the cows, the horses were well-fed and fat. Except for the getting fat part, if I were a horse, this is where I’d want to live.

On Monday, the truck’s power steering was working again. Excellent timing because we couldn’t find anyone in the area to repair it. We packed up, put the dogs in the truck, and with the power steering functioning, made it home by 2 a.m. Tuesday. Just as Bruce and I got to unwind on a magical Amish farm, maybe the truck did too.

Next week I’ll share more about staying on an Amish farm where, for a few days, we lived as my farm’s namesake, Miles Smith, might have in the 1880s.

Carole Soule

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