We knew we had to be very careful with the first spring graze. If you pressure the grass too much when it is first waking up, it will be stunted for the rest of the season. The cows were ready for it – every day Geranium would trumpet-moo emphatically at us as she followed the other cows trudging back to the hay bale in resignation. They would stand around the hay and stare sourly at Sappho grazing across the fence line. She is the big, obnoxious yearling who just won’t stay in the fences (I have a feeling that if she doesn’t figure it out soon, she might go in the freezer this fall. She also encourages the goats to jump out).
On the first day when Ethan opened up the fences and called the well-known and beloved phrase, “Come on, cows!”, they were ready. Waiting in line – Matilda the Queen and Explorer the King in front, with everyone trailing behind according to status, Flora waiting patiently behind Geranium and Chestnut, with the yearlings edging along at the back. They had seen Ethan walking around with fence posts, and knew what to expect.
As soon as they reached the other side, they put their heads to the grass and ripped and ripped. It took them forever to move just to the first grazing line. Necks outstretched, their heads move from side to side, their tongues lick out and wrap around the grass – step forward and repeat, like slow scythe strokes. Everyone was silent, focused, only the ripping of grass and the occasional splat of a cow pie, as they slowly grazed their way along.
The butter up until then, had been very pale, with only the slightest hint of yellow. That is very typical of winter butter – and is why Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother colored her winter butter with grated carrot juice. It is still very good butter, just not as good as the summer butter.
As soon as the cows were on grass, the butter changed. Within only a few days, it turned out of the mixer golden yellow, swimming in white buttermilk.