Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Bicyclists learn about food production from rural trip leader

Two of the girls on my 1970 bike tour in Europe were sitting at the side of the road in Germany when I pedaled up and joined them.

Doty said, "Mrs. G, I never saw anything like this before. What are those men doing?"

They were using teams and horse-drawn rakes to assist in making a haystack.

To my surprise, these girls had no idea how hay related to a cow, a beefsteak, ice cream or anything!

That was the first of my three foreign tours with Christian College students.

I assumed the role of instructor and began to answer many questions about farm work and the rural way of living.

It was also in Germany where Paula was marveling at the beauty of an enormous field of matured asparagus plants.

I’d never seen that much lacy asparagus in one field; the wind made the foliage look like ocean waves. Smaller waves moved carrot tops on another bike tour.

"But where are the carrots?" someone asked.

I followed with a discussion of root vegetables: beets, potatoes, parsnips - some never heard of them - and turnips. They’d heard of turnips, but few had tasted them. Of course, fast food included only potatoes, and they probably expected them to look long and slender like fries.

I was pleased when someone stopped me in the Netherlands and said, "Why are those cows standing in a circle with their heads all toward the center?"

I’d never seen this dairy technique and had to surmise, as I explained, "It’s new to me, too. Cows are eating and will be milked while standing around the food in the center. The dairyman will milk them while they’re eating."

Sure enough, two men with team and wagon were on their way to milk these cows in the open field. They had buckets and cans enough for the milk from about a dozen Holstein cows.

"Black and white cows put me through college," I told the students, "but it wasn’t easy. Dad fed and milked twice a day and, between times, he raised corn to make silage for their feed. He bought wheat bran, cotton seed meal and salt to add to their diets. In winter, these Holsteins will be in barns, which are attached to homes."

As we pedaled along on the ’72 trip, Betty Bretz, stopped me to say, "I think that sign says, ‘Farmer cheese for sale.’ "

We knocked on the front door of the home and bought some cheese from a woman who spoke no English.

Her daughter, who had once been an exchange student in the United States, arrived and showed us around the barnyard.

When she cracked a door and said, "This is where we keep the bull," Liz from Florida peeked in and said, "The bull? What does he do?"

I thought she was kidding.

"You know about the birds and bees thing, learned that in kindergarten," I teased.

"I’m serious," Liz said.

So I told her that if there is to be milk there must be a baby calf, and there can’t be a baby without a father; the bull is the father.

"Oh?"

"The cow produces more milk than the baby needs, and that is what the farmer sells to make your cheese and ice cream."

By then the other cyclists had looked at the bull and another bicyclist, a sixth-grade teacher from Kansas, said, "I hate to admit it, but I didn’t realize that milk comes from female cows only!"

I’ll bet they never forget that lesson.


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