Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cow. Any questions?

My husband was a big fan of cartoonist Gary Larson. I was, too, for that matter.

A cartoon that we frequently referenced – you had to be there – was one in which (in our recall, anyway) a cow stands in front of a classroom, pointing at a chart with a picture of a cow on it, and asking the audience, “Cow. Any questions?”

At least that’s how we remembered it.

Who knows?

When I looked for it, this is the closest I came, which is either a wonderful follow-on to the original. Or is the original that Jim and I just misremembered.

Cow - any questionOther than that, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about cows, but cows and I do have a bit of a history that goes a bit beyond Gary Larson..

I grew up in Worcester, in the city. When you walked out our front door and turned left, if was all city: three-deckers, small shops (Vic the Blind Barber, the Paree Beauty Salon, Morris Market, Sol’s Maincrest Pharmacy, Teddy’s Dry Cleaners…), a used car dealership, a gas station, a double three-decker that sold gravestones in their double front yard. But if you veered a bit to the right, just down the street was a quasi-working quasi-farm that had a couple of cows. Once in a while, the cows would make a run for it, and we’d see a Holstein (Gary Larson’s cow of choice) loping up the street. Then there was the winter when the cows froze to death. I think they froze to death standing in place – can this be right? However these cows met their fate, the health department had to come up with a bulldozer to knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out.

Anyway, I’m rather fond of cows. If nothing else, they make me smile. (Plus I’m an ice cream addict.)

So I was interested to read about Fair Oaks Farms which is not only a mega dairy (36,000 cows, thank you), but “the country’s only dairy theme park.”

Not only can you watch a live birth – anywhere from 80 to 100 calves are born each day, or watch the cows do their thing in the milking parlor. But:

Children can clamber up a “Calcium Climber” magnetic wall, ascend “udder heights” on a 25-foot milk bottle, milk a robotic cow and watch the making of 12 varieties of cheese and ice cream. (Source: The Economist)

Fair Oaks Farms is not, as you might expect, in Wisconsin. But it’s not all that far. It’s in Indiana, a stop along the way between Chicago and Indianapolis.

But they’re not just another roadside attraction. And they’re not only a working farm. They’re all about the sustainability.

Fair Oaks Farms brings Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to a whole new light.  Our entire facility runs on cow & pig manure.  We transform our farms' waste into energy by way of our anaerobic digesters, we reduce our dependency upon natural gas and electricity during the milk and manufacturing process. (Source: Fair Oak Farms)

How serious are they about recycling? Once they mine their manure for fertilizer, they send the leftover water through a “nutrient-recovery system”. The remaining “tea-colored liquid” might be used for irrigation. But they’re also exploring making it potable. (Remind me not to ask for water if I ever eat in the Fair Oak Farms restaurant.)

Not content to just work with cows, Fair Oak also has a Pig Adventure Center.

I like pigs as much as the next guy, but I’d be a bit concerned about the smell. Cows are one thing. Pigs…

When we’d take drives around Worcester County back when I was a kid, we went by plenty of farms that had a few cows. There was something kind of pleasant about getting a whiff of cow. But when we got near a pig farm, it was roll up the windows time.

I think about those farms. There can’t be many of them left in Worcester County. And certainly nothing of the magnitude – or even order or magnitude – of Fair Oak.

If I ever find myself tootling down the pike on the way from Chicago to Indianapolis, I’ll be sure to stop in.

Cow. Any questions?


Ellen said...

Road trip next time you're in town?

valerie said...

I believe you have conflated two Larsen cartoons: 1.) the one you posted, "COW" and 2.) one in which a bunch of cows are standing around as if they were humans at a cocktail party when a lookout spots humans in a car readying to round the bend and calls "CAR" -- at which point they all assume the all 4s grass grazing posture we recognize as cowish. As always, I love to start my day with a bit of Maureen.