The answer to the riddle was Cassava. Sorry, I kept forgetting about it.
Yesterday I kept meaning to sit down and write here, but life was too busy – dealing with all the cream and butter has me feeling chained to the kitchen. Not only that, but there was a very involved chicken liver pate, and a raisin and brandy sauce that was destined for dinner.
The cows were just awful yesterday. I was trying to trim the poor dog – she’s really built for the Pyrenees mountains, or maybe the Arctic with all that fluff. She always has way more fur than I think she does, and it was taking a long time, so they busted down the fence and ate their way down the first line, which we were saving for later. I had planted a new native grass up there, which they destroyed.
The big kids had deserted us to stay at home with the grandparents, so I had to strap Clothilde on my back and go herd the misbehaving cows around with a hefty white fibreglass fence post. All I had to do was look at Isla and Chestnut like I would really enjoy whacking them with it, and they ran off, heels kicking.
A friend of mine was really shocked when she went to visit a friend’s dairy farm, and found she whacked the cows with a piece of PVC pipe. She thought it was cruel. It would be cruel to do that to a dog, or a cat, or another person, but cows are very rough and mean to each other. They kick each other harder than I could even hit. They gore each other with their horns viciously, leaving deep scratches in tough hide. And man, if a crazy beast with deadly horns comes charging at me, which happens on a fairly regular basis, I want the fence post.
Cows are interesting animals. There’s a good deal of honor and respect about them. Not like the goats. Goats are anarchists. In our herd, Matilda is the queen, being the biggest and meanest and most vicious. Geranium is like head lady-in-waiting. She’s second best. Everyone has to wait for Matilda to drink. And then Geranium. Everyone has to wait for Matilda to eat all of the kelp. Matilda walks ahead, or she gores the cow in front of her in the butt. She demands respect, and for the most part, gets it. Every now and then she throws her horns around, just for the principle of the thing, and chases poor little Sampson around, goring him all the way. He’s like the Squire’s Lackey. He’s on the bottom.
The challenge is being the dominant cow to that kind of personality. I’ve come to realize that many people act just the same way. We might be able to reason a little better, and justify our actions, but in the end it’s the exact same thing. I’ve seen it so many times, someone will want to be the Queen Bee, and go around socially dominance-mounting everyone and throwing her horns around. My natural tendency is to stand out of the way and let them be obnoxious (it’s amazing how many people respect and admire this type of behavior. As I said, there’s not that much difference between us and cows), but they always become worse and worse. It’s the same way with the cows. If you let them push you around, then you’re mud, and you have to do whatever they want, and they get free licks whenever they feel their spleen twitch, which is fairly often.
No, the trick is actually to step forward, and confront her with confidence. It shows you aren’t afraid of them, and it makes them worry, even if you are so much smaller than they are. The fence post helps with that. If you step forward, they step back. It’s amazing how much confidence counts for, even if there’s nothing to really justify it.
The goats don’t put up with that. You can be the dominant goat, but they still get away with bad things whenever they can. There’s no respect. That’s why the goats piss the cows off. They’re unprincipled. The dominant goat can throw her horns around as much as she wants, but as soon as she’s distracted horning an inferior away, the other ones lean in and grab as much as they can. They don’t really get discouraged.
The other day I was leading the goats back and Matilda was standing grouchily in the way, mad that she hadn’t been milked yet. There was an interesting meeting of the two queens of the different herds. Each kept her head very high and dignified, especially Nougat, who is much smaller, but not less proud. They very carefully circled around each other, careful not to step on the other’s dignity and status.