We went on a family trip over the weekend so of course Honey had her baby while we were away.

I was pretty sure she was close so I’d resigned myself to missing the birth, but even so, when our animal caretaker neighbor called on Saturday to say she was in labor and was it okay if she slept at our place so she could keep an eye on things (of course!!), we were bummed, especially my older daughter who’d missed both Daisy and Emma’s births (because she was in Massachusetts). Our caretaker said she’d called our other neighbor and he’d confirmed that Honey was, indeed, in labor, and then we let our other friend, Honey’s owner, know, and then my Pittsburgh brother said, “You have a better support network for your animals than we do for our children!” which made me laugh because yeah, it’s pretty amazing how everyone rallied to take care of our animals while we were gone.

Less than two hours after we got the call that Honey was in labor, we got an email: “The calf has arrived! It looks alert and Honey is doing what good mama cows do.”

The next day, the updates continued: “Honey has a spunky heifer calf. She is very protective and Butterscotch has some scrapes on her neck, behind her ear, and on her side from getting too close to the calf.” And the owner updated us with messages and photos, too, along with their family’s name suggestion of Redbud.  

photo credit: Honey’s owner

Other name ideas included:
*MCC, because of the dove on her head
*Goldie, because the white marking looked like a Golden Eagle
*Queenie, because one of my daughter’s friends kept saying “yaaaas, queen” to Honey when they went to pick her up, and because the marking kinda looked like a crown.
*And then, to cover all our bases, “Her Royal Highness, Queen Goldie of Redbud”

At which point we went back to Redbud which really is the sweetest name. 

When we got home the next day, we zipped straight down the the field to greet the new baby. She’s absolutely perfect, feisty and curious, gangly-wobbly, and soft. 

Kisses from Aunty Emma
(Honey will actually leave the calf with Emma and go off to eat.)

Honey was a bit fierce, huffing and puffing if we got too close, and since my parents had just reminded me over the weekend that one of my great uncles (who I didn’t know) was gored to death by a bull ten years ago, I was a little more nervous than normal.

Butterscotch, a bit roughed up.

one of several

But my husband and son got right in there and managed to get Honey into the milking stall for the first hand milking.

It always feels touch-and-go with a new cow.

This is our second heifer cow (first-time mama), so we’re still pretty new at this. There’s always so many questions: Is the calf nursing okay? Do we need to hand milk more often? Are we milking too much? Why isn’t she letting down? When should we try the machine? Is that quarter too full? What does mastitis look like?

We watch YouTube videos on milk-training heifer cows and read websites about udder problems and research kick bars. Honey’s owner has come over a couple times to check her, and to drop off some peppermint udder balm to help alleviate the edema. 

Each milking is a team effort — bringing her in, keeping her calm with brushings and rump rubbings, keeping a constant eye on her legs so we can dodge the kicks, picking up the kicked-over buckets, etc. My younger son is actually quite good with her — calm and measured — but my husband falls into the pit of despair every five minutes.

Yesterday morning I wasn’t there and apparently it was a real shitshow: Honey kicked the milker off with both feet so hard that one part of the milker flew the whole way across the shed, and then my husband lost it and threw open the gate to set her loose, at which point he yelled at himself “THAT’S NOT RESPONSIBLE” and slammed it shut again, and all the while my son was laughing so hard he could hardly stand up.

So when my husband goes out to milk, I have to go along so I can coo a steady stream of Calming Big Picture Perspective into his ear to counter his steady stream of “This Won’t Work” and “What’s The Point” and “I Didn’t Sign Up For This.” (Yes, you did.)

Like I said, a team effort. 

It’s getting better. I think every single issue we’re dealing with is one hundred percent normal and it will all even out in a week or so, and Honey will be a fabulous family milk cow. 

Here’s to hoping I’m right!

This same time, years previous: celebrating seventy, the quotidian (3.29.21), milk bread, now that she’s back, for-real serious, teff pancakes with blueberries, absorbing the words, seven-minute egg, our oaf, on being together: it’s different here somehow.


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