By Sister Therese Feeley, SSND
Recall – if you will – the beauty of last Saturday, October 28th. White clouds dotted the blue sky as 10 eager Sisters from Villa Assumpta clambered aboard the SSND bus. Destination: the Glen Haven Farm owned by the Roderick Family.
In addition to the peerless weather was the sight of so many trees with their leaves of russet, orange and yellow twisting in the breeze as the bus passed Liberty Dam, Liberty Town, Eldersburg and Sykesville.
Sister Marianne’s family had all in readiness: folding aluminum tables and chairs were set up in two lines on the grass in the back of the house; one for the family members, especially the grandchildren, and one for the 10 of us.
As soon as we were seated, David, Marianne’s younger brother, sprang into action. The grill was lit, a large bowl of hot baked beans enhanced with chunks of ground beef was placed next to tomatoes, lettuce and cheese slices. Hot dogs and hamburgers were laid on the grill next to their matching buns and supervised by one of the in-laws. Raw potatoes, still wearing their skins, were forced through a piece of scored metal and came out as perfect potato slices ready for the grill.
Meanwhile, to take the edge off appetites, two large glass dishes containing strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries and grapes were passed from one to another at both tables. While our meal was in progress, the two dogs, Oakley and Jax, belonging to David’s Family, entertained us with wild racing in-between our legs, rolling in the grass and sneakily begging for handouts.
In the spacious yard opposite the family home was a three-sided building; its front enclosed with wire from top to bottom. Within its confines were peacocks and pheasants. Ordinarily, the shrill cry of the peacocks would interrupt backyard conversation, but because fall isn’t their mating season, all were relatively quiet.
Fortified by lunch, we climbed back on the bus for a farm tour. While Marianne drove, David sat directly behind her explaining what livestock or equipment each building contained. En route, we saw many grazing or resting dairy cattle dotting the hillside. David readily supplied these statistics: the farm houses approximately 300 head of cattle and 350 milk cows. Each calf is carried by its mother for nine months. Prior to the birth of the calf, the mother “is dried out“ of milk and rests; that is, she is not hooked up to an automatic milking machine and can nurse her newborn calf. Specially formulated milk is fed to the new calf on a set schedule. The mother cow then is free to feed and rest for several weeks.
We exhibited much curiosity about the mechanized milking process, but first we saw a building where pregnant cows were kept and cared for. Everywhere we looked there were cows munching on hay and mixed feed..
One section of the building was open-air: the cows - - at least 30 of them - - had their heads outside the enclosure while they happily chewed. Another part of the building was set aside for those cows nearing delivery time. They were moving more slowly, but were also feeding.
Our next stop on the tour was to visit the building where cows were milked by machines. David told us that a mechanized button had been inserted into each milking cow’s ear. As each moved or was led into a separate stall, technology took over! The cow’s udders were connected to metallic grippers which drew out the liquid in approximately five minutes. Amazingly enough, once the cow felt empty, she would kick off the appendage and wait to be released from the stall. The exact amount of milk extracted from each cow is registered by the in-stall computer. Believe it or not, cows are milked twice daily!
Marianne had one more stop; to drop David back to his home. In a jiffy, he returned to the bus carrying peacock feathers to give to the Sisters as a souvenir. Meanwhile, the bus was filled with chatter about what we had seen and heard. If there is one word that could sum up our feelings about October 28th, it would be “unforgettable”!
Those who participated in the day included Jeanne Barasha, Rita Dorn, Eti-ini Udom, Therese Feeley, Pat Glinka, Marge Giblin, Francita Hobbs, Therese Mary Linz, Marianne Roderick, and Yvette Trenter.