Last night as I milked the 3 cows (Poppy kicked over half a bucket, thanks very much) I thought about this business of milking cows for a family’s milk and for feeding pigs with. Now we have 4 pigs. I thought about the little heifer calf that we’ll trade or sell so we can keep using our bull and how he would again breed our three cows and maybe a fourth (or fifth) heifer if we ever pull the trigger and buy another. We’re going to try and look at a neighbor’s heifers that are going to auction tomorrow or the following weekend. Maybe we’ll finally breed some beef into our tiny herd like we’ve been talking about forever.
But as I was sitting there under the cow with my head against her side I was mainly thinking about milking nice Jersey cows with big teats and easy attitudes. I wondered what it’d be like to milk 6 or 8 cows. Of course, my wife knows. Half of her life, since the fall of communism, her family has milked cows anywhere from 10 – 20 of them. That’s a big job. But then, those Mongolian cows are only giving half the milk of what a Jersey cross will give here. So I don’t know. Maybe milking more than 3 cows would be too much for us. Lord knows, we have things we can do with the milk. We don’t buy much dog food anymore, but we still do buy dog food. And right now the pigs are mostly pretty small. When we have a full grown boar and a sow or two, they’re going to eat a lot even if they are American Guinea Hogs.
So that’s what I was thinking about as I milked and of course it takes me forever to milk. So by the time I finished it was about 8:30 p.m. and I went around and did the rest of the chores, feeding the pigs, moving the geese, putting away the chickens (the kid’s at least gathered the eggs – “don’t forget to check the hiding spots”), turning on the light in the barn brooder, et cetera.
The windstorm that came through last week had knocked down a lot of branches from the oaks at the top of the drive and I had an apricot tree that I’d finally taken out that needed to be cleaned up so that I could mow the back orchard. So I started a fire with the dry oak branches and took to dragging the big, long apricot branches back to the fire and working them off with loppers and a bow saw. I kept piling on the green branches like to smother the fire but this was okay just so they were off the ground in the orchard. Back and forth I went in the gathering darkness dragging the long branches past the Yellow Egg plum and past the Hican and around the 4th of July peach to the fire pit. Occasionally the fire would flare up and I could see to cut branches but mostly I worked in the faded light. The frogs were calling. I couldn’t think which ones they were because mostly I was done thinking. But I was aware of the bull frogs that called occasionally. And the other night noises of the birds biding goodbye to the day.
Everything stacked up and the fire nearly smothered with green branches, I turned to head inside. The house lights bright in the night. Sounds emanating from open windows. Children noises. Activity. Last thing I said was “Goodnight, Boris” and I walked away from the orchard, the fire, the cool, dark night.
It was a Moongold apricot. The Sungold I planted with it had already died. They never gave us any fruit, neither of the big old trees. Not in 8-9 years. The Sungold had already suckerd up from the roots of where it died last year and I had saved one sucker to graft on. The Moongold had done the same. So I’ll have some research to do in the fall/winter about sourcing late-blooming apricot scionwood. But now, we have this experience of growing a tree to cut it down. The parables of trees that give no fruit have new meaning. And in conjunction with this, I think of the dance and the excitement of planting new trees. There was even a draft few lines that I had saved and was working on:
There is a dance you do
Round the seedling
A tip-toe tamping ritual
Of magic and religious rite
Every holy step, a prayer
“He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
“But he replied to him, Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
And, see? I waited 8 years at least. And, I’ll say one more thing. You can also beat a tree into fruiting. Though I’ve never done that and I’m not sure I will. So there is a parable there too.
Apricots, farms and good Christians. May you produce good fruit! Amen.
Blanding’s turtle by C. Lacava