We received an amazing invitation a few weeks ago, to Disney World you ask? All expense paid trip to Costa Rica sans children? No, sillies, to a friend's family cattle farm just a couple hours away in rural Mount Dora, Florida.
Three families met up early on Saturday morning at a nearby shopping center to caffeinate, pick up supplies at Publix, and caravan to Mount Dora. Although it's only a couple hours drive, it might as well be a world away. We turned down a long, sandy dirt lane, hoping the minivan wouldn't bottom out and require us to be towed. Thankfully, we made it to the farm at the end of the lane.
Children and adults struggled from the confines of minivans and SUVs and headed straight for shade trees, lounge chairs and picnic tables. The kids were happy to be running around in the grass and dirt without the constant supervision required in suburbia. There was even a little one room building with a bed and table inside that the kids called a play house, although it was really a full size guest room separate from the main house. They got to feed two resident horses a carrot which didn't seem to compare to being able to run around free and relatively unsupervised.
At lunchtime, we shared a picnic feast, and got ready for the main attraction, the cows. My friend 1.0's mother in law occasionally raises calves by hand, bottle feeding them if they have problems eating from their mother. The result is a whole lot of cows who grow up really happy to see her. She has an entire baby picture album of cows she has raised. The photos show cows lazing about on front steps, eating from bottles and just generally seeming like domestic pets. They even know her vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, which we got to take a tour in.
The "Cow Tour" consisted of 4 adults and 4 kids piling into the Cherokee, old school style. Kids were sitting on laps, standing and wedged in every which way. Mind you, we were never actually on a road but driving around the farm, very slowly looking at cows. The kiddos looked at me wild eyed in amazement, having never been in a moving vehicle without a seatbelt or carseat. As we drove around the farm, cows approached the Cherokee. The favorite cows, typically those who had been raised as pets, came running toward us at a pretty quick pace. We had a bucket of cow treats with us to sweeten the pot; we dared all of the kids to taste one, but none would.
Once the cows approached the Cherokee and saw we had treats, it was all over. I personally loved feeding them; I put my hand out and a cow would stretch her big head toward me, sandpapery tongue out, and lick up a pellet. The only downer was the slobber, cows really slobber a lot. Thankfully 1.0 was prepared with lots of paper towels; you could tell she's done this a few times before. Most of the kids tried at least once to feed a cow, and one or two got a little overwhelmed by the giant heads stuck in the window, deciding they would just watch.
The day went by really quickly and before we knew it, it was 4 in the afternoon. Time to pack it in and head back home to suburban life. Two cranky, whiny, "are we there yet?" hours later we arrived. I have to say I miss the shady trees, the fresh air and especially the cows. I am also extra grateful for the good people in my life who make everyday wonders, like feeding a cow from the window of a Jeep Cherokee, possible.