Last Thursday our first calf was born. First time in twenty years that a calf has been born in the home. Needless to say, it was a huge deal. We all watched as the calf struggled to stand, landing on his head more often than not. Once on his feet he then searched for his mother, thinking that the pillar might be her. No. Maybe it’s this other large cow-shaped object over there? NO. Eventually, with a little help, he found his mother again and then searched for the teats. Mother wasn’t too impressed initially, kicking him out of the way, but he persisted and found the milk.
That was that. No confusion anymore. Mother is the one with the milk. Sorted! We have called him Khameece, the Arabic word for Thursday, because he was born on…Thursday! I know – very imaginative. Although, to be fair, they never called the animals anything before I arrived! So I suppose that it is a step in the right direction!
This morning Omar went downstairs to see if he could get some milk from her. A little early, but he wanted Potatoes au gratin and he needed milk. And she has to be trained, after all. At least that was his excuse! So down he went and he came back not ten minutes later with around a litre of fresh milk. What a miracle! Not that it was a miracle that she allowed him to milk her in the first place but that after so many years we finally had a milking cow!
I felt immensely grateful to this cow for the gift of her milk. We have been working towards this for nearly five years, fighting through the morass of Egyptian thinking around how to raise cattle, how, and when, to take them to the bull, etc. Omar sold two ‘unsuccessful’ females before this one was successful. But it wasn’t their fault! The men here are impatient to get the females to reproduce, women as well as animals! And if she can’t then she is obviously ‘no good’ and they replace her. But in each case, it wasn’t the fault of the cow but of the men who didn’t time it right and then expected her to be fertilised with one trip to the bull. Cos, we all know that works, right? (Unless the cow is a Catholic!).
But when the sugar-cane harvest came in a couple of years ago, it was Omar’s turn to get the money from it and he bought a young bull calf. We reared it until it was mature and I bought a heifer. Bingo! Left to their own devices, she conceived. Another lesson for the house, and for the men! Don’t push the river! You’d think, that living beside a very large one, they would know that!
Ten months later, we have our calf, and the bull has been sold, to pay for a funeral. But, at least in a year, or so’s time, Khameece will be ready to do his job. There are now five young heifers in the home so he will be busy! All the men in Omar’s family followed our example. Jealousy is a motivating force here in Egypt, if you use it well!
But back to the milk. There was something nearly sacred about the fact that we had milk from the cow. I felt incredibly grateful and honouring of her. I could see clearly why the ancestors thought of the cow as Mother and why earth Goddesses were symbolised by a cow. We had called this cow Hathor so that made perfect sense! It felt exciting, the possibilities for cheese and butter, milk and yoghurt, all from one animal. It is so different from buying milk from a shop. There is no connection between the human and the animal, no recognition that we actually get this from a cow, who has had a calf in order to give us this milk. Omar milked her by hand, no machines to sever the connection between us and her. That was significant too, and it made a difference.
It felt like the cow was something to be honoured, as the gift-giver she is. Not only do we have the potential for more calves in the future, as a result of this one cow, and the calf’s father of course, but we also have food. And that is something to be immensely grateful for.
It felt like the cow was something to be honoured, as the gift-giver she is. Not a commodity, to be bought and sold. Not only do we have the potential for more calves in the future, as a result of this one cow, and the calf’s father of course, but we also have food, which will feed the entire house. And that is something to be immensely grateful for. And with the changes that Egypt has been going through, and that she will continue to go through for some time to come, this cow, and her calf, might yet prove to be a life-saver!
Skokran yaHathor! (Thank you Hathor).