Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a land not so far away, Our Hero . . . that’s me . . . and his Fair Lady talked about owning a cow. I know, you’ve heard this all before, but this story is different. It’s different because it happened to us and not to someone else.
Cyndi and I bought a small farm in April of 2002 in Rock Falls IL and were anxious to make it into the paradise we had talked about for 6 years. Ever since we met, we wanted the same thing; Land, Livestock and a lifestyle of semi self-sufficiency for the kids and us. Our dream was to have my draft horses be the main power source for the farm and raise our own hay and crops. We wanted fruit trees and large productive gardens. I wanted a shop and a big barn. Cyndi wanted a front porch swing with fragrant flower and herbal gardens. We wanted chickens, geese, rabbits, turkeys and birds of all kinds. As well, we wanted to raise our own beef, pork and poultry for the freezer. Not a ‘hobby’ farm, but a ‘homestead’ to see if we could be as self sufficient as we thought we could be.
Well, blessings happen, prayers do get answered and Yes, dreams do come true. I can’t speak to the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but we have been given a great gift, and then some. . .
As Cyndi and I started working to restore the land and buildings to fit our needs, we acquired our critters as we went. I brought 6 wild turkey chicks to the farm and Cyndi ordered the chickens soon after, mixed brown egg layers for meat & eggs. Fences were already around the two pastures but some tuning up and new gates were definitely in order. My horses were set, poultry lined up and pigs purchased; life is looking pretty darn good.
We found out from a friend that not far down the road was a neighbor who had Jersey milk cows. We had a nice Daisy churn and wanted to try our hand at making our own butter. All that was needed was whole milk. We started buying raw milk for $2.50 a gallon and bought 2 gallons every 3 or 4 days. The kids drink a lot of milk and we were making butter to boot. I was talking about getting our own cow, but Cyndi wanted a goat, as she makes goat milk soaps. We read and talked and were concerned that having to milk twice a day could be a hassle. Buying our cow milk was working out fine and Cyndi found a supplier of fresh goat’s milk anyway.
As time passed, I started working on the barn to get it ready for winter. It was only midsummer, lots of time to prepare, but I felt the need to get started. I built a double tie stall for the draft team and a single tie stall for the saddle horse. And I made a stanchion and manger area for a cow. I still was unsure as to the practicality of owning a family cow, but ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to have a stanchion in my own barn. If we got a cow, great! I was prepared, if not, what was it going to hurt?
At church, our service has a time where prayer concerns and thanksgivings are spoken. Among the prayer requests for sick folks and those falling on hard times, Cyndi spoke up and announced that we were thankful because our chickens started laying just that day. Everyone in our small congregation laughed. They could appreciate this joy, as this is a small country church, full of older farm folks. Pastor spoke to this Thanksgiving and said that prayers should be said for even the small joys of our lives. No joy or concern was too small to bring to the Lord. Being the wise guy that I am, I interjected, “Then I want to pray for a milk cow.” Pastor and congregation chuckled but it was added into the list of prayers that day. Popular country legend around these parts has it that if the good people of Hooppoole Zion United Methodist Church pray for something, it happens. Prayers from this church had no small part in Cyndi and my lives and the purchase of our farm. I skeptically, hopefully, believed in this legend once more.
A week after that Sunday service, I was getting our milk and I asked the farmer if he would consider selling one of his 4 cows. He had an older cow that was dry, a 4 year old cow (which was the older cows daughter), a two year old heifer and a 9 month old calf of the 4 year old. The farmer was not real interested in selling, but he didn’t say, “No” outright. A few days later, I took the family and my Mom & brother and his family who were visiting from Indiana, over to see the cows and get milk. The farmer asked if I would like to take the 4 year old cow home and he would get milk from us, as he was getting tired of milking. “I’ve been milking since 1968 and I am ready to quit”, he said. I asked about ownership of her and he said that he’d like $450.00 for the cow . . . or $450.00 worth of milk. Two gallons every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I was overwhelmed!! (and a little scared, but don’t tell Cyndi.) It had happened! We have our cow and we don’t have to pay for her! This was unbelievable! I made arrangements to pick her up the next day about 12:00 noon. The other great thing was my Mom and family were on hand to share in this great event.
Dolly has been here for 3 months now and has become a part of our family. Milking is no chore for me and the new little pigs Love the surplus milk. We have butter to sell and fresh eggs too. Cyndi talks of making cheese this winter. Like I told her, Old McDonald has nothing on us!
Paul L. Muller