Spring is for feeling and tasting

Spring is a season for the senses.

Until now, you wouldn’t have known that here in Door County. Spring has been LONG time coming. But today, finally, the temps neared 70, my early-blooming tulips opened for the first time, the grass is a vibrant green, the birds have a near-deafening chorus going on and I can smell the farms again. Heck, I can nearly taste them.

THAT isn’t a pleasant idea, however, so instead we opted for ice cream, the kind made on-site at Hilltop Dairy, where 500+ cows are milked three times every day. Getting there was half the fun.

First, even before getting in the car, had to shoot those tulips, their petals opened to the sun, shiny with newness, little red jewels in a still-mostly-brown garden. First tulipsA triumph of spring over winter.

Then, off through the back roads. They don’t go through the cutesy little tourist towns that abound here. Instead, they head through the farm country where the real people live, where cattle and horses are raised, where corn and soybeans are grown, where cherries and apples are harvested every fall.

Some fields sport tiny green shoots, like peach fuzz on a teen boy’s face, while others host temporary lakes, water left over from melting snow and the recent fierce rains. In the distance, against the horizon, bare tree branches blur with the emergence of new leaves.

We rolled down the windows to let the wind rake its fingers through our hair, and were assaulted by the smell of newly thawed farms, that earthy, manure-and-fodder aroma that I don’t find the least bit offensive. It’s life at its most basic. It’s what puts food on our tables. We can do without interior decorators, real estate agents, developers and ad men–but we can’t do without the farms, with their placid faced cattle, rooting pigs and clucking chickens. The very sight of a farm anchors me somehow.

After half an hour or so, the big barns of Hill Top Dairy loomed on–yes, the hill–and we pulled into the parking lot. The little store had just opened today, and it didn’t take long for us to make our selections–cherry cheesecake for George, Heath bar for me–and then Milking timewander to my very favorite part, the glassed-in room that looks out onto the milking parlor. Most of the cows are milked three times a day, and give 80 gallons of milk a day. Those are some serious mammary glands!

The cows enter from end of the parlor, walk in and move down to the first vacant stanchion, then wait for the farmhands, working from a central, lower aisle, to attach the milking machines. When they’re done, up go the head stalls, and the cows head out, while the next batch comes in. I think the cows themselves could teach new farmhands

Photo by George Sawyn

Photo by George Sawyn

how it’s done.

Fascinating. And the picture of acceptance and patience. No wonder I love cows.

We couldn’t stay long, though. We had two half-gallons of ice cream to rush home to the freezer–with a quick taste test first, of course. But along the way, I just had to stop to record the sound of a spring frog chorus we caught through our open windows. Hundreds of spring-peeper voices were singing their “advertisement calls.” This is the male frog’s attempts to attract females during the breeding season and to warn other rival males of his presence. They’re usually heard during the evening and at night, but at the peak of the breeding season, they can be heard even during the day. Today must have been the peakest of peaks. If it worked on me–after all, I did stop–then I’m sure there will be no unreciprocated love in that pond.

We wended the rest of our way home, stashed the ice cream until “ice cream night” on Sunday, and I sat down here at the computer.

Some people would say I didn’t accomplish a thing this afternoon. But if you’re still reading this, then you know different.

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About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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4 Responses to Spring is for feeling and tasting

  1. ELIZABETH CUTI SOHASKY says:

    Soo enjoyed that…. Monica, I am listening to those very cool night sounds this very minute. Such chirping, busy creatures! Hmmmmm 2 1/2 GALLONS of ice cream! Yes!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. blb1 says:

    Memories sort of. My Grandparents both had dairy cattle and chickens. They milked by hand though and the cows sometimes didn’t want to get into their slot in the barn. That’s when my dad’s dad would yell at them as he swatted them with a shovel.

    Miss the sounds here in the city.

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      I bet you do miss them. And I suppose your cows were allowed to have a bit more personality. I suspect the cows in this huge dairy establishments have become milking machines. But they still have their sweet cow faces.

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