Meet Tashi, the first yak born on Vermont soil! Here he is at three days old.
How to describe our first yak 'napping? (And what verb to use? Removing? Shanghai'ing? Extracting?)
Some context - we want many of our yaks born in Vermont to be comfortable around people, so we can bring our four-legged hairy friends to farmer's markets, use them as pack and plow animals, and yes, ride them, like that crazy CEO in Seattle we talked about last week.
The only way to do this is to bring our yaks into the human family from a very early age - removing them from their mothers and their herd at the tender age of five days or so, bottle feeding them (yes, we are serious) using raw cow's milk, and setting them up in comfortable "digs" (in our case, an 8 x 10 foot corral in the yard).
Laugh if you will. But this process is called "domestication" (right?), and people have been doing practicing it for 10,000 years or so, give or take.
So here we are, with a five day old yak calf and only the experience of others to go on.
Thank goodness (again) we've got a business partner who know no fear. Dave Hartshorn got up in the "upper west side" on Friday afternoon (that's our westernmost pasture paddock) and single-handedly wrested Tashi away from the herd, while almost being gored by several yaks in the process. He is fearless, our neighbor, and we are the better for him (again).
Once he got Stormy and Tashi down to the corral, it was relatively simple to separate mother and calf, nothing a lasso, a corral gate, and some distraction couldn't take care of.
Mother Stormy was not pleased, and who can blame her? She grunted vociferously after we removed Tashi from her care, and returned to the corral several times over the next few days, sometimes in the company of other yaks in the herd, to methodically search the enclosure for signs of her young one, grunting in each of the corral's four corners to satisfy her own sense of loss. The three mothers of the six of us understand this sentiment deep in their bones, and we consoled ourselves by reminding each other than Tashi and the herd would be much better off in the long run, being able to safely and successfully interact with humans (and eventually, the herd once again) after finishing their training.
We brought Tashi home in a dog crate and set him up in the "yak pad" in the yard. All the comforts of home.
And tonight around 5:45 p.m., the first one - we're calling her "May" for now - arrived.
Her Mama (a wonderful yak named Stormy - #53) was back up and on her feet by the time we arrived at 6:15, and "May" followed soon after, being licked and nuzzled by her mama, and occasionally having horns rubbed up against her, as well.
Interestingly, our other three mamas - Lady Slipper, Mary Jane, and Black Magic Woman - all paid a visit, and Stormy backed off and let them each take their turn sniffing and welcoming the new one. The three new bull calves came to say Hello, as well.
On a stranger note -
Papa Ringo soon sauntered over, sniffed the new one, and promptly tucked his horn under the calf and threw her into the air a few times. A bit un-nerving - clearly, our Wooly male needs a parenting class - and Dave hopped the fence to chase him off, almost getting charged by Mama Stormy, but not before Dave picked up the little one and moved her away from the big bull.
Good thing Dave's wife Paula is a counselor. Clearly, Ringo is going need some coaching on the couch.
One week ago now, Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podhaizer and her husband Dan paid Steadfast Farm a call.
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon - sunny, still, and cooling off for the evening - and, all of us had a chance to break the ice at the farm, eating yak sausage on top of Vermont cheddar slices, and quaffing a few Wolavers by the corral underneath the prayer flags.
Backing up, I admit to being a bit nervous - I am a huge fan of Suzanne's writing, especially appreciating her abiding interest in all things localvore, and the prospect of meeting a real live food critic was both exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Kate and I told Anneka and Theron that a "food critic" was coming to dinner, and we had to be on our best behavior, and focus the culinary, and we promised that she'd be much nicer than Anton Ego, the irascibly terrifying character in the wonderful 2007 animated Disney film "Ratatouille." (which we've seen a number of times as a family).
Plus, we are amateur chefs at best, though we love to cook and had already experimented a bit in the kitchen with the sweet and succulent taste of yak.
The yaks proved spirited as we brought them in from the upper pasture for the evening. After we got them settled, we headed up the hill for a dinner of yak sausages, salt-and-pepper rubbed yak sirloins, and Kate's magnificent (if I do say so myself) yak chili, supplemented with local organic greens from Dave's gardens, and local Red Hen bread, dipped in Paula's phenomenal garlic and olive oil concoction.
A fire in the outside hearth, good conversation, and a La Brioche dessert completed a pleasant evening - and, as always, I learned that our Vermont neighbors are multi-talented, full of good stories, and always interested in looking forward.
Thanks Suzanne and Dan for visiting - and come back again soon.