Past week or so with Mom has been pretty damned fine. She’s staying hydrated (makes an enormous difference in her behavior) and seems on a generally even keel emotionally/behaviorally. She makes an obvious effort to help out, to not cause issues, to try to be “normal” in the face of…well, not abnormality, but a change in what passes for normal. At any rate, she’s been doing so well that we decided a field trip was in order.
Bit of back story:
Several years ago, six Connecticut dairy farms with shared concerns regarding the future of family farms and fresh, locally grown food, formed their own milk company called (appropriately enough) The Farmer’s Cow. In the words of their brochure, they are “dedicated to putting a face on Connecticut Agriculture – educating people about farming, sustainable agriculture and ensuring farmland preservation.” One way they do this is by offering farm tours, allowing the public a first-hand look at how a dairy farm operates. We took Mom to Mapleleaf Farm this past Saturday.
Mapleleaf has 240 active milkers, plus an additional 260 heifers and calves. The cows produce about 1,850 gallons of milk per day. (That’s roughly 8 gallons per cow.) The farm grows much of its own feed, plus rents an additional 190 acres to assure plenty of nutritious food for the cows. The barns are a free stall system (meaning the animals can move around at will), with sawdust beds. Curtains are lowered in winter to cut the wind and snow, and raised in warmer months to provide ventilation. Fans and misters aid in keeping the cows cool. Manure is removed twice a day and spread on the cropland. Solar panels provide 40% of the electricity used.
My mom grew up on a farm in Maine and isn’t shy about telling you how much she hated leaving, how much she misses it still, and how she wishes she could return. So this trip was exactly what she needed!
For an hour and a half, we strolled the farm, met the cows, calves, and Farmer’s Cow members, and talked with the Ellis family who owns the farm. (Oh, and let’s not forget the free ice cream!)
For Mom, this was like a walk into her past, an occasion to reconnect to a time in her life she can still clearly recall, a time she can talk about at length without needing to pause to find words or suffer the frustration and indignation of lost sentences and disappearing memory. For an hour and a half, she felt like her old self, a priceless opportunity.
Her favorite part of the visit, though, was the calf barn, a long, low building of individual stalls where calves stay until they are weaned, at which point they move to small group pens and learn to socialize. Looking at this face, is her enjoyment any surprise?