This year I have really come to appreciate the norwegian method of making hay. (For a proper description see last year’s post Making hay the Norwegian way. )We’ve hardly had two days without rain since we started almost two weeks ago. If we had been drying it on the ground, it would have been ruined by now, but since we have hung it up on racks it is protected from both rain and sun, and actually manages to dry, even though it has rained quite alot. It is only really the very surface layer that gets wet, and dries up again very quickly once the weather improves. So instead of sitting around waiting for the sun, we have been making hay every day, and have cut about one third of the field already. The only problem is we haven’t been able to bring any of the hay in yet, so we are starting to run short of poles and wire. All we need is two days without rain!
Our first calf was born on tuesday. Hornfagr gave birth in the pasture, with Audhumbla as midwife and Ramson as the doctor. It was a healthy little heiffer, the same colour as her mother. She didn’t manage to suckle, and it didn’t help that Hornfagr kept turning around! We had to tie her to a tree and help the calf to drink. She seemed very weak but perked up alot after having some milk. Unfortunately, she never managed to drink by herself, and we had to milk hornfagr and feed her with a bottle. The harsh truth is, we decided to kill her the following day. We planned on keeping her for two days, so she could drink the colostrum (the first milk which contains alot of antibodies and protein) but since she wasn’t suckling at all, we thought we should end it sooner rather than later. It’s an awful, horrific thing to have to do, and the horror hit me hard. It hit me so hard I started to question the basis of my whole existence. All I could think was – why are we doing this? What right do we have to choose who will live and who will die? What is the meaning of life if we have to kill to live? Where is the justice in killing a newborn calf? I think that was what really got to me- that it had only just been born! It’s killing a baby! And yet this is the foundation of dairy production. I have eaten dairy my whole life, and known how it is produced. But now I have come face to face with the reality. It is unbelievably sad. The thing that makes what we are doing different from conventional dairy production, is that they normally wouldn’t kill the calf straight away, but they do separate it from the mother within two days of the birth. Female calves are then usually reared to become dairy cows, and the males are reared for meat. Since this is our first cow, we couldn’t afford to keep the calf any longer, because then we wouldn’t get very much milk- and if we’re not using her milk then we are using milk from a factory farm. During my brief ethical crisis I considered going vegan. The thing is I would love to be vegan! BUT to have an interesting and varied diet you have to eat imported food- think lentils, soy, most nuts and seeds, avocadoes, rice. And don’t get me started on the environmental and social impacts of imported foods. To be a self-sufficient vegan (in Norway) is next to impossible. There might be three months of the year when I would get a load of fresh veggies, and the other nine months I would be eating root vegetables and sourkraut! I would love to be proven wrong about this, but somehow, I don’t see it happening. But back to the matter at hand- the calf is dead. I couldn’t bear to be a part of it so I hid in the house. Hornfagr was calling alot today. Poor woman. It’s sad but we have to eat something!
On the bright side…wheat is growing on this soil, for probably the first time ever; we have radishes; we are going to get our first plums this year; beautiful flowers seem to love it here; the sheep are happy.