Milking Cows (like a boss)

by emergenceekit

I spent the first of many weeks to come working at a small-scale organic milk farm on Öland. After spending time in Dalarna and Värmland (which are further north than Öland latitudinally) have thinner soils, more mountainous terrain and more difficult growing conditions, Öland feels like a Mecca of growth. The island also has the advantage of being one of the handful of regions in Sweden rich with calcium, which nurtures a greater variety of vegetation.

It’s located in the southeast corner of Sweden, right across from Kalmar, and it looks like a long thin sliver.Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 15.48.05

My commute from Malin’s school in Vickleby to Dyestad is about 26 km and takes 1-1.5 hours depending on wind and rain.

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I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful biking commute. It’s filled with prehistorical stone arrangements, 17th century windmills and hazelnut forests. Oh, and it’s also super flat and absolutely gorgeous.

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A lot of tourist come here during the summer to relax, try tasty cheeses, look at birds and buy expensive art (i.e. there’s a bit of disposable income, which is good for the local economy).

And so what am I actually doing? A lot of different things… But more generally I’m working on a ‘small’ scale milk farm. Daunting to me, the farm (consisting of fairly vast and lush forests, fields and meadows) is over 100 hectares and somehow is still not, by any means, considered ‘large scale farming.’ I’ve been able to see a large chunk of the farm through the tasks that I’ve been bequeathed by Henric, owner/farmer/co-founding Kultivator member (an international artist/farming collaboration, more on this later). Here’s Henric handing me the keys to my new ride, a ’57 Volvo tractor.

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I spend a lot of time with that Volvo listening to books on tape while I’m moving things, mowing grass and watching wildlife, like these two ducks fornicating in the middle of the road (I stalled my tractor waiting patiently for them to finish).
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Here’s a hawk you can barely make out right above the trees.IMG_0650

I had a sense of pride for my work yesterday when one of the cows had twins in a field I had just mowed during yesterday’s thunderstorm. The calves were aptly named Thor and Freja after the norse gods associated with thunder and fertility/harvest.

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What you should probably understanding about this situation is that when cows calve, they don’t willfully return back to the barn (as they normally and ritualistically do with a little bit of shepherding, and/or calling for them – they are herding animals). Instead they situate themselves somewhere in a forest or field, give birth to their calf and then direct their calf to lie flat and stay quite, “I’ll come back to you soon.” At which point the mother goes off to feed and such. These directions don’t always make it easy for farmers to find the newborn calves because they’re frankly pretty good at hiding and keeping quiet. There’s also the danger that a predator animal will find the calf first. Henric told me that if I had not clipped the grass in this field it would have been very difficult to find these two laying low in high grass. So I felt smug for a brief moment.IMG_0679IMG_0680IMG_0698

More updates soon!

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