My Story

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Elliza Belle (August 2013) Mary Jane B.

Elliza Belle

I’ve owned Jersey milk cows on and off ever since 1979. When a publisher contacted me last year with the proposition that I write a book about any topic I desired, I didn’t hesitate. “Backyard cows,” I said. With possible titles like, You Bought What?! or You Had Me at Moo, my publisher was on board with the idea that I think there are plenty of women out there who have cowmom tendencies.

Having been in the forefront of the backyard chicken movement and the glamping (glamour camping) trend, I’m hoping my next (and fifth) book will start a new trend—the resurgence of backyard milk cows. But a modern, full-size milk cow is way too much cow. And milk. And manure. So I started sizing down my herd—not in numbers, lord knows, but in actual cow size. When momma Etta Jane was born more than a year ago weighing only 43 pounds—the result of a union between my full-size Jersey, Maizy, and my miniature Jersey bull, Milky Way—I knew I was headed in the right direction. (Who knew, right? Their size difference is significant.)

I can’t say for sure why I was so nervous when Etta Jane was ready to deliver her own calf. So I ended up asking the nearby Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital if they could attend to her delivery. Newborn calves are a common occurrence at my farm, but I knew that if she was carrying a girl, she’d be the first generation of the perfect-size cow for a suburban backyard milk cow. I didn’t want anything to go wrong, so I checked her into what we call the “wahoo cow spa,” also known as the WSU Vet Hospital, also known as a total class act! As it turns out, her delivery was normal, but it was an absolute pleasure for me to have the WSU vet crew and students share in my excitement over her birth. On July 30, Eliza Belle was born, weighing just 30 pounds. Momma Etta Jane has been kind enough ever since to share her milk with both me and Eliza, who nurses whenever she wants. I milk Etta Jane once a day, every morning, and get three quarts to a gallon of milk each time—perfect for a backyard cow.

What’s next? More adorable, pint-size Jersey cow babies … oh, and a book! I’m having so much fun with my cows, it’s hard to trade them in for the companionship of a computer. Although taking photos of my girls and guys never gets old. Cow breath, anyone? It smells like a mix of molasses and new-mown hay. It’s divine. It’s therapy. Think pet-with-purpose (cows are always willing to help out in the kitchen).


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