the farm is a patch of earth without character and life. The farm was about 40 acres on a prominent hill-top south of San Tirso de Abres, Spain (Asturias). The name of the farm was la Corota. More or less, translated, la Corota is the top. La Corota sat well above the Asturias valley, fanning north to the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic ocean. On clear days, we’d feed the beef with a peripheral view of Asturias into the coast. At any given time, there were 40 cows, 15 – 25 calves, and the patriarch bull: Navarro. All of them were Asturian Valley Cattle. Like all living animals, the cows, calves, and Navarro had unique characters. There was one little calf I remember well. She was #52.
We separated calves in separate feeding pens: boys here, girls there. Number 52 had a private pen. As calves go, she was a runt. She struggled for space at the trough, and struggled keeping healthy weight. We separated her, hoping private feedings would keep her healthy. Professional cattlemen would laugh, but I connected to her. Each morning, I’d crawl into her pen, toss her some grain and hay, and then give her a warm sponge bath. In addition to stunted growth, 52 had trouble keeping clean. I’d prepare a bucket with warm water, and clean her bottom and back every day. She showed her enjoyment with outstretched neck and twisting ears. The connection was special. We raised them for the dinner table, and my dear 52 lived a short tour to the butcher’s block.
The herd bull was Navarro. Navarro was a big fellow. Navarro commanded caution — the wise kept an escape route handy. Once monthly, we cleaned Navarro’s private pen. We coaxed Navarro to an adjacent pen during routine pen scouring and repairs. Grain made a good bribe for moving time. When Navarro returned, he’d begin tossing his mammoth horned head, raking pen walls like a cat scratching a post. Navarro’s massive strength showed when he ripped secure wall wood like toothpicks . Quite a guy!
I’ve a fond memory of bull shopping with the Larsons . . . we travelled to a farm to see about buying a new bull. The seller walked us to the sale bull, proudly showing us his animals. The for-sale bull had a large nose ring. He was again as big as Navarro. The seller demonstrated the bull’s good nature by scratching his ears, then pulling his horns and nose-ring. Indeed, the bull was indifferent to his handling. Next, the seller pointed at the bull’s hooves. There, nesting next to the pancake-sized hoof was a baby kitten. The bull sniffed and licked the kitty like they were life-long pals.
Pending season, the herd fed on pasture grass, hay, grain, and silage. All feeds required labor: harvest, storage, and feeding. Silage, in particular, was hard work. During early days of the farm, we raked and moved heavy silage, one wheelbarrow-at-a-time. We earned our Mahos and Ro’s big platters of meat, spuds, bread and soup. At a later date, my host Erik bought a shiny red tractor, and our labors eased. We still took our Mahou rewards, despite El Tractor’s help.