The Pleasure of the Beasts

comments (0) July 30th, 2008

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Click To Enlarge Photo: Ronald Lipking

by Garrett Hack
December 1997
from issue #12

I pause often to enjoy the view from my shop—rolling forested hills and a sea of emerald grass nourished by decades of manure. Somewhere in those fields eating right up to ancient stone walls are my Jersey milk cow, Pearl, her Angus calf, Ziggy, and my Belgian workhorse, Diamond Rio. I look out to check on them, hoping they haven’t disappeared behind a hill. Or I glance at the hay Rio and I cut yesterday, turning a dull green as it dries, or perhaps gauge the height of the grass we will mow next week. Besides being a furniture maker, I am also a farmer.

Why farm, you may ask, or more specifically, why keep a cow, or farm by hand with a horse? I like cows. Before Pearl there was Violet, and before that Ruby, each with a wonderfully gentle personality, rich milk, sweet hay breath, and warm flanks to lean against while milking on cold winter days.

Rio, too, is a vital part of our farm’s seasonal rhythm, the power behind harvesting fire­wood and logs for lumber, moving stones (or anything else I can get into a sled or wagon), and growing the hay, grains, garden, and orchard that feed all of us. But I don’t think of Rio as just a substitute for a tractor. We’re partners. Working behind him, I feel in close touch with the soil. Our work is quiet, and I can stop often to enjoy the view. Soon it will be milking time.

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