What Happened to the Family Cow?

Except from “Keeping a Family Cow” by Joann S. Grohman

Some of the forces that ended the keeping of a family cow are the same ones that stressed the American family.  A desire for consumer goods that didn’t require much work, work in factories & the automobile.

Because of its extremely perishable nature, milk initially presented a challenge to distribute.  In the late 19th Century as the size of American cities rapidly expanded, the demand for milk was met in several ways.  Rural dairies had a good reputation and made a valiant effort to get milk delivered fresh and cold by train.  In most smaller towns and cities it was possible to get fresh milk delivered right to the door by the actual producer.  Such dairies took enormous pride in their product.


Milk trains moved through the countryside before dawn picking up the familiar milk cans that waited on platforms.  The milk did not travel great distances and it was bottled and delivered fresh to doorsteps that very morning.  Cans on their way to the creamery were kept cold from blocks of ice cut from northern lakes in winter.  Ice cutting was an important industry in northern states.  The big blocks were packed in sawdust, available from sawmills, and it kept right through the summer.


Dairymen well understood that milk quality depended on healthy cows, clean milking practices, rapid chilling and expeditious delivery.  Milk itself tells the take at the table.  There are two ways to achieve a safe product.  Number one is by conscientious handling. Number two is by sterilizing and preserving the milk.

Small dairies able to exert quality control every step of the way, often even bottling and delivering their own milk and cherishing the one-on-one relationship with their customers, supported the #1 method.






Larger, well funded consortiums seeking control of dairying favored #2.  Their approach was to pool large quantities of milk, drawing it from greater distances, overcoming problems of quality by heat treatment.  They called the heat treatment pasteurization, tapping into name recognition of the great French scientist, Louis Pasteur.  The outcome of this struggle was by no means a foregone conclusion.  Heating changes the appearance, flavor, nutritive and culinary properties of milk and none for the better.  As for its keeping qualities, everybody and his grandmother knew milk goes sour after a few days (no refrigeration).  Everybody preferred fresh milk and consumers understood perfectly well that pasteurization served as a substitute for quality.  Dairymen who wanted to continue selling fresh milk geared up for more efficient delivery using ice and seemed about to make their case for quality control at the source.


Then came the winter of 1886, the winter the lakes didn’t freeze.  Lacking ice, the case for fresh milk was lost by default.  Dairy farmers were forced to sell their milk to middlemen as they do to this day.  They have never been able to regain control over their own product.


Consumers had their minds changed about pasteurization by a fear campaign based on disease hazards said to be unavoidable from unpasteurized milk.  Indeed, this is likely to be true when milk from thousands of cows is pooled, as it is today.  Pasteurization was instituted for the benefit of distributors.



Today’s supermarket milk prices are relatively low because dairy farmers, even taking rapidly diminishing subsidies into account, are paid at a rate that barely covers costs and they cannot market their milk freely.  They must sell to consortiums under fixed contracts that are government regulated.  And processors have certainly made milk conveniently available in markets.  If a plot had been hatched to eliminate small farmers, place milk production and distribution in the hands of the few, and permit almost everybody to forget what milk was meant to taste like, a better plan could not have been devised.






Your Grandparents Dairy Cow

The dairy cow doesn’t ask for much but she asks every day.  People who are creating wealth with a cow either are hard working and reliable or they get that way in a hurry.  This is the way it has been for a very long time.  The fine farms of Europe, England, New England and much of the United States were all established thanks to the wealth derived from cows.  Wherever there is, or used to be, a big barn it was built to store winter hay for the cows which once dotted the pastures. Thescreen-shot-2017-01-04-at-12-08-50-pm

need to milk the cow twice a day determined the location of churches; people had to be able to walk there and back without disruption to the schedules of cows.  Formerly, every district in Europe, England and the Eastern United States had a corn mill situated so that a farmer driving a horse and wagon could deliver his load and get home in time for milking.  It is certainly no coincidence that such a large number of our finest American statesmen were born on farms.  Important virtues are nurtured on the farm, including a graphic understanding of the relationship between working and eating*.


*From the book “Keeping a Family Cow” by Joann s. Grohman


Stay Bailey Stay

Did Nolan stay home from that point on and never leave Bailey again? Ah…NO.  Being a young man starting a new company, he was on the go. But, when he was home, Bailey was his girl.  She adored him.  Yes, she liked me.  She ADORED Nolan. I was second best and the only port in the lightning storm – which was the only thing that ever scared her.

We moved away from the little house in downtown Clermont to a farm where both Rockette and Bailey could run.  Rockette would come home. Bailey wouldn’t unless Nolan was home.  I had to call and call and hunt her down.  She always came home, but it was a chore unless Nolan was home.

Moved to a bigger farm…thousands of acres to run and run she did.  She drove me nuts.  Coyotes and bobcats and lions and tigers and bears.  She didn’t care.  She was ferocious.  She’d take on anything.  My heart. I got chickens and knew they wouldn’t last long with the killer beagle so I had to walk her to the back 40 acres and there she and Rockette could run and run.  She would come back to me if I was standing there and she never got a chicken.

Nolan was about to make an adventurous journey across the country.  I told him to take Bailey with him.  He was unsure at first and then warmed to the idea. I then got a little nervous but I figured they would work it out together.  She never ran away from him…ever.  Bailey opened doors for Nolan that without her, might not have happened.  She was his ambassador, his companion, and his heart.

And, so this year they began their journey.  In fact, he chronicled it on his FaceBook page if you want to see the entire trip.  It was wonderful to open up FB and see Bailey climbing mountains, attending music festivals, biking, visiting beautiful national parks and wonderful cities. Bailey lived the life most of us just dream about.  I want to come back as Nolan’s dog.

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In addition to the parks, Nolan recorded the Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia, the desolate streets of Detroit, the protest in North Dakota, into Canada and now in Northern California.  The trip wasn’t always pleasant. But he had his faithful and wonderful companion at his side giving unconditional love and support. She kept him focused and he loved her for it.

While in Northern Cali last week, Nolan opened the door to let Bailey out in the morning.  He said he had a thought…a little twinge of worry…but pushed it aside.  A little while later he saw Baily come out of the woods and he said she kinda stumbled.  But she ran to him and jumped on the bed and that’s when he saw the blood.  She had been attacked by an animal (not sure of what kind of animal) and it had gotten her throat.

A perilous, heartbreaking trip down the mountain to an emergency veterinarian. I know he was praying. Please hang on. I had a dream a couple of nights before this.  In the dream I went to the front door and I saw Bailey sitting there.  I looked past her looking for Nolan, but she was by herself.  In the dream she told me she had come home. I didn’t know what the dream meant, but it unnerved me a bit.  Bailey is now running the fields and the forests and being ferocious as never before.  I know she’s running my fields in spirit with Rockette.  She loved Nolan with her big heart and he loved her back.  She is missed.

Run Bailey Run

I’m unsure how to even start this.  Just the thought of writing this brings me to tears.  My son, Nolan, and I lost one of our most wonderful and loved family members recently.  This is the story of Bailey the Beagle…may she run the green pastures of my farm for evermore.

Dogs are not dogs.  Dogs are angels placed in our lives to remind us of our humanity, to insure that we are loved unconditionally, and to give us purpose other than ourselves.

The dogs in my life have never been dogs.  They’re  family members…daughters with gifts, best friends, and constant companions. They always went with me everywhere.  If you saw me, you saw my four-legged daughter.

My former daughter, Lucy, lived a full and rich life and I did the most difficult and honorable thing I could do for her when she was no longer able to function and was in pain.  I missed her horribly.  In due time, I found my current daughter, Rockette, a Border Collie/Poodle cross and I adore her.  She was a puppy when I got her (a breeding mistake from Texas) and I spent an inordinate amount of time and training with her.

rocket-steakAt this time, Nolan and I were living in a cute, little house in downtown Clermont.  It had a fenced in backyard with big, beautiful trees.  Perfect for Rockette and for us.  I had gone to Singapore and left Nolan in charge.

Nolan picked me up at the airport upon my return (26 hour flight).  I opened the passenger door to the car and there was this brown thing in my seat. “What the heck is that?” I asked Nolan.  “A dog”, he replied.  “Yes, I can see it’s a dog, but why is it in my car and in my seat and where in the heck did it come from?” I asked a little exasperated as I’ve been in a plane for more than a day and was a little cranky.  “I was walking down our street and this gypsey woman walked up to me and threw this dog at me and ran away”, he said.  Words escaped me for about 5 seconds. “Gypsey woman on our street in downtown Clermont? Really? She threw this dog at you and ran away?” I said in disbelief still holding open the car door and looking at the brown thing. “Yes.” is all he said.screenshot-2016-11-02-14-15-33

With a sigh, I told the brown thing to get out of my seat and got into the car.  We named the brown thing, Rosie.  And I told Nolan that I had a dog and that this one – Rosie- was going to be his dog and his responsibility. He said that’s exactly what he wanted and explained that each time he had a dog, the dog ended up liking me and not him.  “That’s because I took care of the dog.  Fed the dog. Walked the dog. Bathed the dog. De-fleaed the dog and on and on.” I said.  “You want this dog to be your dog, you do all that.” I explained as only a mother can do.  “Deal”, he said.  Three days later Nolan was gone for a week working on a video project.  Guess who took care of the dog?  How many mothers out there have said those exact same words and had the exact same thing happen?  Yeah, I thought so.

Except Rosie was different.  Rosie was in love with Nolan.  How did I know this?  The day after he left, I opened the door to take Rosie to the fenced in backyard and she took off.  Straight out ran as fast as she could away from me.  I gave chase.  She would just look over her shoulder at me and keep on going.  Oh crap. She was gone.  I got in the car and looked for her. Up and down the streets.  No beagle dog.  Nolan was going to think I lost her on purpose.  He knew I wasn’t happy about this.  No way was I going to live with that kind of guilt.  I renewed my efforts and found said beagle tied to a chair in front of a little restaurant.  I hopped out of the car, ran to the dog tied to the chair, untied her and then noticed two young girls looking at me like I was a monster.  In a rush I said:  “This is my son’s dog and if I don’t have her at home when he gets there, he’s going to be unbelievably upset with me”, and I took off with the dog.  The next day I took said misbehaving beagle to the dog groomer to have it bathed (as she smelled awful).  When I dropped her off I decided to go back to that little restaurant and see if I could find those two little girls and explain myself a little more coherently.

I walked into the restaurant, found the owner and told her about what had happened the day before.  She laughed.  The two little girls were her daughters and the dog belonged to a woman they knew here in town and they thought they were doing the woman a favor.  I explained my side the of the story and she laughed even more.  She gave me the name and phone number for the woman who had owned Bailey.  “Bailey?” I said.  “That’s her name”, explained the woman.  So, I went home and called the woman and didn’t know what was going to happen.  Would Nolan be mad at me or would he be happy Bailey was back with her owner?  Here goes: “Hi, my name is “Sucker” (I didn’t say sucker, but I did think it) and I think I have your beagle dog, Bailey”, I said to the woman that answered the phone.  “You can keep her”, is how the woman replied.  “What?” I said in surprise.  “That dog runs away all the time.  I can’t keep her anymore she just won’t stay.  I think she’s looking for the man that used to own her.  He would take her everywhere…mostly bars…and she would sit with him at the bar and eat peanuts.  She ate a ton of peanuts.  Well, the man died and I got Bailey and I think she’s still looking for him”, the woman explained.  “So, you take her and good luck,” she said as she finished the call.

I managed not to lose Bailey till Nolan got home.  I told him what happened to Bailey (surprise – new name).  He scooped Bailey into his lap and the two of them were bonded for life.

Travels with Bailey coming up in the next post…

Taking a short detour from ZsaZsa

I promise I will continue with the saga of this infernal cow…but I need a break from her right now.  I went out just last week to do the afternoon feed and there she was…in the neighbor’s fenced-in front yard.  How she got there, I have no idea.  I checked all the fence lines and saw no downed fences.  These fences are three and four strand barbed wire fences (4 feet high).  She’s either an open jumping cow (and I’ll make a ton of money) or she’s like a snake or mouse that can squish their bodies into the smallest spaces.  In any case, I don’t think she’s one bit funny or talented or cute or amazing or any other superlative.  I think she’s a total pain in the ass.  So, after going into the neighbor’s yard (through a closed and secured gate) I attempted to get her to follow me.  Four feed forward, three feet back for about an hour.  Had enough.  Got the Mini Cooper (yes, a mini cooper – I don’t want to hear your snickering) and the mini did the job.  No, I did not hit her.  I need the car.  She’s afraid of the Mini as it has been called into service for just this purpose in the past.  We (the mini and I) chased her out the the neighbor’s yard, through the gate and down the long long driveway to the main road, made her take a right, chased her down the main road to my driveway, made her take another right, chased her up my long long driveway to the barn.  Got out of the mini, opened the gate to the other cows and she ran in.  Friggin cow.

On top of this bog, I’ve been asked to write a children’s book about ZsaZsa the Runaway Cow.  You have no idea how much I want to not even think about this damned cow and now I have to write a children’s book.  Really?  And I can’t use any four letter words?  This is going to be difficult.  So, for blog purposes, I’m taking a break from the Houdini Cow and will write about other strange animals and daily weirdness.  Thank you for understanding (and saving me from becoming an alcoholic).


ZsaZsa the Runaway Cow part 2

I found ZsaZsa that first time at the home of a neighbor at the end of the road….we’re talking at least a quarter of a mile away.  She was hanging out with a group of very big, black cows.  In fact, she was hiding behind them.  As I’d get close to her, she’d move between two more big monster cows. I was pushing one of the monster cows out of the way (or attempting to) and it turned around and started coming toward me.  I had a long cardboard tube in my hand (don’t ask me where I found it…have no idea) and was using it to push the cows around.  Well, this one cow was definitely bigger than the rest and didn’t seem fazed by my lethal instrument and kept on coming.  I finally realized – when it was just a foot away – that this was a BULL.  OMG, Holy Sh..t! and all the other crazed blubbering that will come out of my mouth when I’m facing certain death.  A smart woman would have run.  I stood still with my deadly cardboard tube and bapped him on the nose.

img_1865Dave, the BULL

I think I hurt his feelings.  Later on in this story I got to know Dave, the bull, and he was a total sweetheart.  He loved the treats I always had in my pocket and would greet me at the gate.  But this day…I had no knowledge of this and just went by instinct.  Bapp on the nose it was. He looked so hurt by my aggressive behaviour…poor Dave.  But I didn’t have the time or the patience to consider his feelings at the moment.  That friggin cow of mine was getting the best of me and pissing me off.

zsazsa2While I was running around like a rabid terrier getting no closer to moving this rotten cow, the mother of my neighbor came over to watch me…I’m sure I was better than daytime TV.  She was leaning on the fence and happened to mention that “Once a cow ran away, they ALWAY ran away”. Oh great.  She apparently took pity on me and called her other son who came with his big pick up truck (I do not have a pick up truck.  I have a mini cooper) and the two of us spent more than 3 hours to finally get her onto my property….only to find out there was another break in the fence and she took off again.  He beat her to the gate between our properties (truck is faster than cow) and got it closed.  And so began the long and sad two weeks of me trudging out to the back 40 with a pail of water and food twice a day to hopefully gain her trust (what a stupid woman).

ZsaZsa the Runaway Cow

I. Hate. That. Cow.

That is what I was muttering after the fifth time (count ’em 5 times) that cow ran away.

When I was doing my internet research about which cow to purchase to supply myself with wonderful, delicious, raw milk…I found the best, most wonderful milk comes from the Jersey cow.  More butterfat in their milk and the best nutrition of all the cows.  I started pricing Jersey cows and found I did not have the money for a Jersey (champagne taste on a kool aid budget).  BUT, I did find a Zebu breeder that just happened to have a half Jersey half Zebu cow.  He called her a Jerbu and the price was right.  I went to his farm to take a look at her (as if I knew what to look for).  She was cute.  Black with tan markings and white around her nose and on her stomach and she was the perfect size.


She also had on a cute green halter which meant that she looked like I could lead her like I do my horses (bring up uproarious laughter).  The owner of said JerBu, Mr. Rick,  kept telling me that he didn’t want me to be “mad at him” if she didn’t work out.  At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about.  He also told me that she was “somewhat” tame and that he thought she was pregnant by one of his Zebu bulls.  But, he didn’t want me to be “mad at him” if she wasn’t particularly friendly or pregnant.  I knew I could win her over (have horses, remember?) and if she was pregnant, that was even better as I could begin milking her sooner.  SOLD.

I named her ZsaZsa in honor of the old TV show “Green Acres”.  Little did I know how apropo that name would be.   Mr. Rick even said he would deliver ZsaZsa in a couple of days to give me time to secure her “getting to know you” paddock. I used electric ribbon that I have used to secure horses in the past.  Mr. Rick showed up with ZsaZsa and pulled into the 5 acre electric ribbon secured pasture and opened the trailer door to let my little princess into her new domain.  Out she jumped and wandered about as I said my good-byes to Mr. Rick and he said his last “don’t be mad at me” as he was leaving.  As he pulled away, I saw ZsaZsa blow through the electric ribbon fence, shoot across another pasture, blow through a three wired major electric fence and head out to god know where.  I have 20 acres.  There are 200 acres behind me (with cows) and another 3,500 acres adjoining me and them.  Oh god, I didn’t know cows ran that fast.  That was just the beginning of the trials and tribulations of my life with ZsaZsa the runaway cow.  I did not know then that this cow was smart, sneaky, mischievous, cunning and could make Houdini (and me) look like an idiot.

More on ZsaZsa the runaway cow in the next installment.