No Cows in the House

Sidehill Farm News

No Cows in the House

I’m sure you’ve all noticed, that if you have a hobby, a passion, an unusual obsession, people give you stuff related to it. “Hey! I just found this John Deere tractor toilet paper holder, and immediately thought of you!” This is the whole reason for the existence of companies like the Franklin Mint, and the makers of angel figurines and sentimental snow globes that are advertised in the inserts in the Sunday newspaper. No one actually wants a collector’s edition hand engraved porcelain statue of a cat wearing a cowboy hat and boots; but everyone knows someone that needs a collector’s edition hand engraved porcelain statue of a cat wearing a cowboy hat and boots. For this reason - and well, also for our sanity - we long ago established what has proven to be the most controversial policy at Sidehill Farm.

No cows in the house. 

Now, the obvious interpretation is pretty self explanatory. Cows are 800 to 1200 lb creatures with hard hooves. They regurgitate their food and re-chew it while drooling. They poop. A lot. Anywhere they want. Right away, that qualifies them for exclusion from the house. Nobody really has any issues with the enforcement of this first level of the policy. It’s when the definition of “cow” becomes looser that folks start to have trouble. Like cow salt and pepper shakers. These are the gateway drug. Once you’ve let these in your house, someone wants to give you a cow cream pitcher. Then someone notices that you have a cow cream pitcher and cow salt and pepper shakers, so you must want some cow refrigerator magnets. Cow Christmas tree ornaments. Even… gasp!… cow toothbrush holders - because you definitely want to be thinking about cows while you have your hands inside your mouth.

This of course, sets up some awkward family moments when you open a charmingly wrapped cow figurine made in art class by your 4 year old niece. Fortunately, the rule is no cows in the house - not no cows in the barn, or no cows in the office. This is our out for the awkward moments. It also means the new cow weathervane on top of the creamery is fully within regulations. 

But we’ve had to take this even farther. When we were finally entering the world of grown-ups and shopping for our first couch (amazing what you discover about your spouse when you shop for furniture for the first time - right? How are you possibly going spend the rest of your life with someone who would voluntarily sit down on that hideous torture device?) - the salesman suggested a leather couch. Not just leather, but hair-on cowhide, looking for all the world like Toothpick or Pippin had gone flat and were draped over our living room furniture. I must admit, they were lovely in their way, but you know, when you come in from evening milking, probably having been pooped on at least once, and dealt with some sort of cow tomfoolery that made your evening an hour longer than you expected, you just don’t want a cow in your living room. In any form. Even skinned, (which is maybe the fate you were imagining for one or two of the evening’s troublemakers) and reclining on your couch. So the leather furniture was out, along with hide rugs, hide wall hangings, and idyllic paintings of cows in pastures. No cows in the house.

And so, we were sorely conflicted when offered the cow tchotchke of all times - a cast iron dinner bell topped with a cast iron Holstein cow, that came from the Ashfield farm of Bill Eddy. The offer of the bell was an honor - a passing on from one dairy to another - a hope that the spirit and determination that carried one farm forward could live on to inspire another generation. We were touched to be so chosen to carry on a piece of Ashfield history. For those of you who do not remember Bill Eddy, I am not qualified to be the one to regale you with stories. There are many others with deeper and more intimate knowledge of Bill’s life. Let it be said that Bill was a colorful character who lived life as he saw fit, and never backed down to adversity. His was one of the last remaining small scale dairies in Ashfield, and he milked cows until he just couldn’t. In later years, he lived in his car, swore like a sailor, and buried dead barn cats in the manure pile (we know because we found the skeletons in manure we bought from him.) And he collected cow stuff. Pitchers, creamers, magnets, statues, photos. Placemats, napkins, dishes. The house was literally packed with cow trinkets of every size and form. Every horizontal surface was colonized with herds of cows - kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom. And it was Bill who warned us. Once you’ve got one cow thing, he said, people just give you more. It never stops. So don’t even start.

And so, we said no to the bell. At first, we felt it disrespectful to the memory of Bill to turn down this gift. But we got over it. He told us not to start, and so we won’t. Hopefully, he’s joyfully cussing away up there, pleased that we bothered to listen.