The number one question we are asked is, "Why do you do this?" Then after we explain our reasons, it is typically followed by the number two question, "How do you that?" Questions derived from emotional considerations, not practical application of farming. The short answer if you don't want to read the whole article, love and it's extremely hard.
Christmas was the first calf on our place, a three day old bull from a dairy up the road. We still had the stench of suburbia on us when we went to pick him up. We often imagine what the dairy farmer was thinking when we rolled up in our ritzy SUV dressed as if we were going to buy a Shih Tzu or something. We figured he could just ride in the back seat like a dog in a kennel, we bought the Great Dane version just to be safe. On the way home the stench of suburbia was replaced with a different stench and in that moment, we became farmers. It was December the 28th and our big guy was born on Christmas day, it only seemed fitting to call him Christmas.
Since that day we've grown considerably and so has he, nearly a thousand pounds. He grew faster than his buddy Jack, we picked him up two weeks later. He could hear the back door of the house open hundreds of yards away and would bellow relentlessly until we brought him his bottles and spent some time giving him some attention. We had to develop procedures to keep him occupied while the other less eager calves would finish their bottles. Our girls would form a ring around him blocking and holding, whatever they could to keep him from pushing his way into extra rations. His eagerness to the bottle helped us as he aged into our grass fed program.
We had purchased a few nearly mature beef variety heifers to get our herd going. But, they were very timid and weren't willing to come when called to the new pasture when we rotated. Enter Christmas. He knew that when we hollered, "meeeeeeere cows", that we were the ones with the food. At first the beef cattle just watched him in amazement, but soon they found out if they followed Christmas they'd get fresh grass. Within weeks our entire herd, with few exceptions, took on his personality. We had chased our last cow... hopefully.
Nearly every evening or morning we'd go talk to the cows for a few minutes. Checking for any health issues and learning the ins and outs of keeping our relationship mutually happy. Christmas never went more than a few days without getting a pat down and a scratch behind the ears. I'd often lean over his back like a rancher would on a fence and look over the herd. Sometimes on those long days I'd kind of hang over him and let a little weight off my feet and put my head on his back. Ask him, "Hey bud, how you doing today?" Now the "extremely hard" discussed in the opening paragraph, yesterday evening was the last time.
There are tears and shaking fingers as I tell you this. Christmas and I shared one last moment as he looked through the window before exiting the trailer, he let out what sounded to me a sorrowful bellow while staring right at me. I could only imagine him thinking one thing, "why?"
Why? Believe it or not, it wasn't very long ago that folks had genuinely close relationships with their livestock. But when we built Rural Reverie our inspiration came from much further back in our history. We're talking Old Testament! In those times, your livestock, were your livelihood. They were quite literally part of your household, true story. In my travels abroad, while in the military, it was common to still see homes with very similar setups. As common as our American cookie cutters. To say the least, it was a close relationship. That hopefully clears some things up in those Nativity sets you have, the "manger" was the ground floor. The animals gathering around to witness the birth of Our New Born King was not added for aesthetics, they were there.
Not only were the animals closer, they were highly respected. We've mentioned before that our respect for these animals goes back to the covenant that God made with Noah giving us dominion over the animals after the flood. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that Old Testament families also cherished their livestock with the gift of that covenant in the forefront of their minds. It was a big deal, a really big deal, to take the life of an animal for food or sacrifice. We recognize that most people that read our articles have a deep understanding of what livestock meant in offering as a sacrifice. But! For those that don't, the final sacrifice that was offered to take away our sin was God's only Son, Jesus. You see, without love, it's not sacrifice. Thank God that he so loved the world!
Somehow in the last 2,000 years we've gotten to where we are now with our relationship with livestock. We're certain most don't even take the time to give thanks for the gift that lies between their sesame seed bun. That's why we have to do this! Later, we're certain to write some articles on the practices of the industry that feeds us. This isn't that though. This article is to answer the questions of why and how we do it. Today, we'll answer the question for Christmas.
Christmas, you are loved! In your time with our family and on our farm, you brought joy and lived joyfully yourself. There are memories of little girl's giggles that were brought on by you mistaking fingers for bottles. Memories of you running after us as we enticed you into the fields. I pray that we provided you the life promised to you when we sat with your head in my lap as a calf, the same promise we make every animal on our farm. I didn't know then how I would get through what I did today, but I knew I would have to. You were a gift, given for a specific purpose. If that purpose is unfulfilled then there is no next for us, the next likely goes un-loved. Know that the why is love, and the how, it is extremely hard. If that changes, God forgive us.Thank you bud.