Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Dairy Cow Collective Project

Posted by Nika On November - 29 - 2009

Humble Garden 2009: milk

[I have cross posted this to Peaknix]

As a proponent of the global Transition Initiative and having been “Trained for Transition” in November 2008 in Cambridge, MA I have a certain worldview. (see Food for Hope: DeGlobalizing – ReLocalizing)

Transition is really about bringing permacultural principles to bear on the current and coming crises around the decreasing natural resources that are in our future. This includes Peak Oil and pretty much peak everything as wealth and societal energies go towards the resource wars and skirmishes and agonies as governments jostle for position in the bread lines for energy, water, food, and diminishing rare materials.

This downward slope is called the energy descent and the Transition Initiative seeks to PLAN for rational energy descent in a way that flows power and resources back to localities where people LIVE (called relocalization).

Arctic Drilling Is Just Dumb

Its a HUGE thing, deglobalizing. When I first learned about Transition Towns back in 2007 it was this amazing idea happening in real life but in far away England. Transition in England is profoundly different in terms of challenges to here but it took a while for me to be able to articulate why.

Social safety nets. Thats the key. In the US, we dont have much and those we have are failing now or will be failing as the full brunt of the baby boom aging bomb hits it.

Ok, thats a huge topic, huge. I bring it up for one reason today!

Relocalization of food and jobs is a primary concern to anyone serious about making headway during this financial crisis.

Obviously, we personally have relocalized a lot of food in our back yard. Lots of you have also.

This past year was not a good gardening year and it wasnt the year that I thought it would be in terms of working with local community gardening.

We live in a “sparsely” settled area (for this region) and as such have not gotten to know our neighbors well, yet.

I think its important to, once you have gotten your backyard homesteading rolling, you should begin to get the food vibe radiating out and use it to make connections with neighbors so that food resiliency is about more than your own food.

To these ends, I have started a project with our neighbors.

As you can see in the google map photo below, our land is on the right (see box) and then the neighbors across the street, who have lovely pasture (which we do not, we have lovely cliffs!).


I proposed to our amazing neighbors to share a dairy cow (am aiming for a jersey cow – high butter fat) where we put a cow and her baby on their pasture and we tend and milk her. Both families will share in the milk and cream!

This knits us together as a group, working in concert for relocalized food of extremely high quality (we will drink it raw, neighbors will do with it as they wish).
The neighbors thought on it and then said yes!

I am looking forward to this project, will mean work but its so worth it.

We will reskill ourselves and the neighbors will also, as is appropriate for them.

I hope, also, that the idea inspires others locally to do the same. They might start with communal chickens or goats or perhaps cows.

I am positive that most of us can learn these things, its not rocket science.

Helping to mentor others doing this would be an amazing yield!

Leo: Just cant get enough

3 Responses to “Dairy Cow Collective Project”

  1. Holly says:

    Hi Nika! I love it, a communal dairy cow :) My animal husbandry goal this year is to network with a local goat herder (there are 3 that the extension office told me about and I already know one of them) and learn something about raising goats. Steve and I (can you believe this, Steve is going?) are going to a meat goat seminar (sorry, sensitive veggie/vegan/animal rights readers, but to each their own) in Mead, Nebraska in February. And I have been visiting one of the three local alpaca breeders…not sure where that is going, but I am just collecting data at this point. Animals are a year or two away at best with my need to stay loose enough to visit my mom in NH who has PD whenever I want to. Which brings me to this…I am going to be coming thru Mass on my way to and from Bradley Field in early January…any chance I can stop by your farm for a few hours to visit you and your family and to see your projects? Email, call, or skype me:)
    Hugs, Holly
    PS We had our first killing frost last night…it’s 22 degrees F….brrrr!

  2. Nika says:

    We had planned on your coming so please do!

    There is a possibility that we will have some girls kidding then, it would be AWESOME to be able to share that with you. There is always a chance of animal loss so it is an intense experience – just gird your loins for that possibility.

    Its sort of like this craaaaazy whiplash ride from normal life and then jumping onto a wild bucking bronco of death. You rush in with bare hands, get cold and mucky, stick said hands into places you never imagined you would, goo of novel textures and colors coat every part of your body and then suddenly the crisis is over and either you are mourning the loss of a doe or kids or your are holding and cleaning a wriggling new warm life who is just the cutest thing you could imagine.

    We may being doing that 10 times this spring (depending on the effectiveness of our buckling).

    Then there is the matter of physical therapy for our little doeling – she is still unsteady! Much work to do!

    I personally would not recommend the alpacas unless its mostly a pet thing for you. They have wool but wool will not feed you for long.

    I am finding that one wants to chose a breed that is not TOO exotic because when you run into trouble and you want to DIY the medical response, vets might be clueless about your concerns (they may not admit it either, until its too late).

    You all are practically tropical if you are just NOW getting killing frosts! We have had several snow storms already!

  3. Katrien says:


    I did the transition Training two weekends ago in Boston. What an amazing experience! But now it’s a matter of translating the work done there, the treasures found there (among the like-minded), into actions within and for my community… Not so easily done.

    But I have resolved to make our place into a model that other suburbans can follow. I really want the garden to work next year, and am hatching plans. I want chickens and a beehive – which is as far as our present situation will allow us to go.

    And I want to start talking to my neighbors about my garden, about food, about the economy… I have some amazing neighbors, though I doubt they’ll want to share a dairy cow and their manicured lawns :)

    You’ve already had snow!? Here in Eastern Mass we still haven’t had a killing frost – peas are still going strong, as are all the winter veggies under cover).

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About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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