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Living With Paradox

By Laura Grace Weldon

I’m standing at the kitchen counter rolling out crust to make an entrée my son wants for his birthday: beef pies. They won’t be filled with just any beef, but the tender flesh of a two-year-old steer named Clovis who spent his whole life on our little farm.

It’s difficult to reconcile my emotions with the facts. Right now I’m finely dicing the brisket, a place where Clovis liked to be scratched.

     When we moved to this land I named it Bit of Earth Farm, after my favorite line in the 1910 children’s book The Secret Garden. Soon after, my daughter made an excellent case for raising a dairy cow as a learning experience for her and a homegrown way for us to procure healthy grassfed milk we could turn into yogurt, kefir, and cheese. After much research, we brought home a lovely Guernsey.

     Isabelle changed our lives. Although experts insist calves must be separated from their mothers soon after birth, each time she calved we left them together. Isabelle has always been an attentive mother. She teaches with nudges, head movements, and a variety of vocalizations. She stands still when her calves choose to nurse, moving no more than her tail to flick away flies. When a young calf wanders off she gets up to follow behind with an “oompf” familiar to any tired mother.

     Our veterinarian tells us that in twenty-six years of practice, he’s never seen dairy calves raised alongside their mothers except on our farm. He remains astonished by what he regards as the uncharacteristic size and robust health of the calves here. And we’ve always had more than enough milk for our human family while she nurses her calf or calves.



About the Author

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning, with a book of essays due out soon. Her creative nonfiction is published in Wired. com, Poet’s Quarterly, Tikkun, Penduline Press, Literary Mama, Plain Dealer, Mothering, Farming Magazine, Lilipoh, Geez, and others. Connect with her at and @earnestdrollery.