Friday, November 16, 2012

Following the Senses BLG11.13.2012

Walking out of the kitchen door of my aunt’s farmhouse I am immediately enveloped in the cold dampness that preceeds the first snow of winter. I smell the ammoniated essence of pigs and cows. I do not smell the chicken coop as I pass by. Continuing towards the barn there is the sweet smell of alfalfa growing in the field on my right. The barn smells of rotting wood, oak a century old. It is full of hay that gives a fresh scent. During the twice daily milkings it smells of warm milk, like smelling butter. Achoo!

It is 5 a.m. and the cows are anxiously awaiting their turn to be milked, all mooing, some acpella others solo. The pigs are grunting contently as they munch on last nights leftovers. There is an occassional squeal as a youngster tries to nudge in on the eats. Some older, larger pigs are lounging in a mud puddle and I can hear them crunching corn off the cobs. A litter of kittens follow me as if I were the Pied Piper, with light mews in hopes I will give them some of the cows fresh milk. I hear a faint, high pitched “whir” and see it is the wind blowing through the oats. Out in the barn is the “putt putt putt putt” of the milking machines, one “putt” for each tete., as they relieve the girls of their heavy udders full of milk and the “clang, clang” of the stainless steel 50 gallon milk cans. Lady, the collie, is barking as she herds the cows in from the back pastures.

Growing up in the desert southwest I am accustomed to the dry atmosphere. Here on the farm the air is cold and damp, the snow flakes melt on my face leaving little water droplets. Lady is damp and her coat is matted after long days work but she always has time to run her sandpaper tongue over my face, the perfect exfoliant. One of the mother pigs allows me to pet her bristly hair, much coarser than a horse tail. Her babies are soft, warm and cannot stop wiggling. I can feel the little grunts through their entire bodies. I love how they snuggle up to my neck and put their nose up to my ear. In the barn I fall down into the hay to hold the soft kittens whose mews are continuous, knowing there is an endless supply of milk. One of the cows had a calf last night so I go visit the holding pen. She nuzzles her cold, wet nose into my hand, her hair is still damp.

This is my first day on the farm, the first time in decades since I smelled the animals, the earth…the first time I felt an animal (other than a horse)…the first time, since my early childhood, that I felt snow or produce waiting to be picked.  It was the beginning of a love affair with the life of a farmer, the simplicity, the naturalaity….and best of all, the warm, loving arms of my extended family.


  1. Ilana
    November 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Beautiful, Nancy. I love the way you begin with the vivid descriptions and slowly bring in your emotions. Then you crescendo with the beautiful phrase, “…and best of all, the warm, loving arms of my extended family.” Great read. IM

  2. Laura Davis
    November 17, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Nancy, I was right there with you. Thanks for taking us on such a sensually rich journey

  3. II've the lucky to can read your story, as I went on to read, I saw in my mind the cows in the cowshed, pigs that wallow in the mud, I heard their sounds, the mooing of the cows, the grunt of the pigs, arrived to my nose the smell of the animals and the smell unmistakable of the snow which comes down and whitens the landscape and drowns all the sounds, thank you Nancy for the great emotion. Ciao Ezio