Bessie’s Teachings at Aurora Farm
Barbara M V Scott, MSc
Morning Chores. “Okay Lotus let’s go to the barn for Bessie. Oops, I mean Bessie’s calf, er, I mean Venus.” Lotus , the little Aussie girl dog doesn’t respond any differently even though Bessie is no longer physically present at Aurora Farm. All the animals seem to respond and act on a soul level with all the kindred spirits. And on a soul level it was and is with Bessie, Aurora’s home cow for many years now. She came to us with her grounded manner of being and departed in that same manner, steadfast and always with much grace and ease toward her responsibilities for the land and all those she looked after. One of the biggest hearts and greatest beings I have ever known. She incarnated as a cow and displayed the intelligence and sensitivity of many a great being.
I had never had a cow, only smaller animals: dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, goats and domestic birds; the idea of a milk cow was somewhat formidable. Before Aurora Farm I had spent many years in the wilds of Vancouver Island studying Timber Wolves to fulfill credits for a Master’s in Wildlife Biology. Although that program was associated with the ivory tower, spending timeless time in the deep woods helped shut down my thinking brain and let me open to the heart-mind and intuitive wisdom truly inherent in the hunter-gatherer phase of human evolution. So the idea of going from a hunter-gatherer existence to agriculture related activities with a cow was somewhat foreign and seemingly like a brandnew lifetime. One doesn’t often here mention of the Horned Goddess in Evolution courses either, so that connecton was still to be made.
One of the requirements to become certified BD farm was to have a cow and having worked away at the compost with a cross-section of chicken, sheep, pig and goat manure, having had relatively good results, there was still a voice inside that said ”something is missing here”. So when a friend and local Mennonite farmer said “You need a cow.” I instantly asked, ”Where can we get one?”
And that is how Bessie came to us. A three way trade–Walter, the Mennonite farmer got a windmill we had acquired for our homestead up North, Keith, another farmer got a small tractor, and we had Bessie came to Aurora Farm. She had been roaming with a herd of range cattle and she arrived without a name and no record of her age or breed. Coming to Aurora with no labels and fitting into no pigeonholes, wonderful! [We determined later that she was a Jersey-Brown Swiss cross.]
On a warm July day the horse trailer carrying our first cow winds up the switch back drive. I wait at the barn in anticipation and with some trepidation. I had prepared a large stall in the barn and had the newly made halter shank hanging conveniently for her arrival. The horse trailer stops in front of the barn and I notice first off that she had spattered the back of the trailer quite thoroughly with dung and I flashed, “What am I getting into here?”
Out she comes and I take her on her right side by the halter. I am at ease and my heart is drumming. I feel for an instant through the cow/halter/human hand contact that a bolt of gentle lightning has passed through me. There are no words; the feeling is one of grace and ease and that this cow and I have been together at another time. There is gratitude from her, and total adoration and opennesss from me. My teacher in animal form has arrived at Aurora and I walk her into her stall to introduce her to the first of the “patterns that connect”.
Up to the house, Nathan and William are waiting, having watched her arrival from a distance. “Come and see the cow Boys,” I call, “she is a real beauty.” Down we go to see the cow in the stall. Nathan was probably 5 years and William 7. “ Oh, she’s BIG,” says Nathan. William stands silent, a boy of few words with tremendous sensitivity. “What do you think, William?” I ask. “Yea, Big”. And begins to head out of the barn. Off to the sandbox. I let Bessie out in the field that has been fenced for her. Easy, everything is easy with Bess. It is like she has come home to help me discover that homeless, nomadic part of myself.
Cow days and cow nights , morning and evening chores are the best and most sacred parts of my day. “Good morning, Bess.” I utter as I approach the south barn side door. “Oooahh,” she responds. Like a morning snapshot Bessie is hanging her head over her stall gate…those soft Jersey almond eyes! My heart leaps and I am at once contented and feel the ground of my own being.
Grain with powdered garlic and apple cider vinegar is given and she always says thankyou with her being. When there is grass outside the barn she goes out there to feed while I clean her stall and receive my morning farm duties. Who is transmitting the daily duties? It appears to be a cooperative effort. Through listening and receiving the inner workings of her manure into the heart mind I begin to Show-up, Pay Attention, Tell the Truth and Be Open to Outcome. I’m in life/ land skills training and the teacher, through the land, is Bessie. Who would have thunk it? Is this really happening to me? How will I ever tell anyone what is really going on here and that I (we) actually know nothing and it is the best place to be. Shut off your mind Barbara and just get still and ready to receive the incoming information. She’s out in the pasture and you have work to do.
My first attempt at “showing” Bessie something resulted in more “humility training”. I take her on the halter shank to explain the electric fence to her. As we move along the fence line she looks at me with an air of “You figure I can’t sense that electric field? Remember, I’m an etheric being and futhermore you are under my tutelage. Go do some real work.” Shades of embarrassment come over me and I begin to get it.
As it turned out she was in calf when she came to us which we realized about 3 months later and so got the lowdown from Walter how it would all look close to the calf’s birth. One day in early February when things are looking pretty calf ready Bessie heads to the bottom of the 30 acre field in front of the houses and I sense an air of immediacy about the situation. Fill her milking bucket with warm water and bring along a soft rope and pray for protection, grace and ease. Down we go, Ruffie [Lotus’s predecessor] and I, to the very farthest part of the field. Bessie is lying down and well into the birthing, everything looks good. I see a nose and two baby hooves and as Bess appears to be struggling I hitch that soft rope around the hooves. As she pushes I pull, and after about 4 of those the calf is born and Bess is immediately on her feet licking and mooing and making sure all is alright with her baby. A Mother of all Mothers–no dysfunction here, just pure love and intimacy. I try to work the two of them up toward the barn and then realize that is not my place to control their situation. Ruffie and I go happily up to the barn and greet our family with the good news. Everything is easy with Bessie.
For some time we kept on the goats, sheep and pigs and mixed all their manure together and then used Bessie’s alone (per R. Steiner) to create those wonderful alive organisms that steam on wintry days. Gradually we let go of the initial farm animals, at Bess’s recommendation, and as we realized the quantity of manure that was actually coming from the cow. Not to mention the superb quality of it–sometimes it had formed compost before it left her stall! She snorted and turned her nose up (literally) at the pigs and sheep while basically ignoring the goats, as if to tell me that their manure was not in any way, shape or form fit for this farm and besides the smell was all wrong. So, gradually all the other animals were let go . Bessie very confident in her new role communing with the cow oversoul, teaching me how to love this land, and the virtues of human, humus, humility and being humble in the face of it all.
Her first calf at Aurora was a Hereford and we called him Whiteface, a Bullock. We had been hoping for a Heifer and when Nathan was sorting out boy/girl calves in his own mind he rang out one night at the dinner table that Bessie would give birth to a “hoofer.” We never quite understood whether he couldn’t pronounce heifer or was simply being truthful of the situation. Whiteface grew into the summer and one day in August as I was tying him out to feed on the fence line he eyed me up as fair game as a mate and tried to mount me from behind! After we got done with that nerve racking incident and he continued to jump his fence, he was looking very good in freezer paper for the winter meat supply. We hadn’t known Bessie had been in calf when she came so this was an extra bonus—meat, along with milk and manure. What a Blessing and a Gift. Thirty-three acres and a sensate cow initiating this rocky outcropping and all her beings into a fertile, living sentient being.
The next calf Bessie birthed was a heifer,-Rose a dual purpose Shorthorn. Sold to a local parttime farmer once she was in calf. He left her roped while he was at work and one day came home to her dead on the end of her lead. He phoned us in despair, telling us what a wonderful animal she was and didn’t we have another like her to sell to him.
Then came Buffy,- an Ayrshire bullock who was as gentle as a lamb. When I told the local dairy farmer we had an Ayrshire bull he explained “ Oh that breed can be very nasty.” His words shocked me as Buffy never displayed any meaness at all and was a true joy to be around. I guess in a large dairy operation the bulls are considered only for one purpose and that wasn’t what we were doing at Aurora Farm. When George Baumann of Lofstedt Farm came to certify us Demeter , Buffy was part of the meal. As he had been checking the fields he noticed that Bess had come to visit he and his partner. This had impressed him and he had very much felt her presence. She always checked out everyone who came to the Farm and impressed on them her unmistakable presence.
Bessie’s next calf was born on William’s birthday in early April and she too was a dual purpose shorthorn. Another beauty who developed a limp in her ankle which made her progressively more lame until the neighbouring Jersey collector who bought her felt he had to ship her. To date, Bessie has birthed alternating male/female calves . Neither Bessie nor I liked the idea of this artificial insemination and did our best to achieve the best of possible outcomes.
Along comes Blue, a beautiful shorthorn, born on a blue moon at the last of June. Another heifer. Then two years of some dysfunction probably arising from the non-virtues of artificial insemination. We decide to get a real Bull(the first full grown at Aurora) And Danny Boy helps Bessie become fertile again.
On Friday the 13th Bessie begins that low moo that signals a birthing is iminent. I take her to her stall and let William know (now l4 years) this is an ideal opportunity to view the birth of a calf. He stays by her stall , while doing some other chore and then comes down to see Woody and me in the south field. “ Hey, Mom, Bessie has some blood and stuff coming out of her.” We go up to check and she looks comfortable so we decide to leave her alone and go up and have lunch.
A new cow spirit in the stall, Venus, who was not at all what we envisioned as calves usually take on the characteristics of the bull who was a black Kerry. This one is a throwback and has been blessed with her Mother’s jersey face and the henna colour of her Father’s ancestors. A very ethereal calf and with no skittedness of some . Oh happy day everyone is well and we are all feeling blessed with the Gifts of Fertility.
We finally heed Bessie’s unspoken advice and keep one of the heifers. Venus, the last of the calves is home cow at Aurora now and she will freshen at the end of March.
Last year in the late winter it became apparent that life was no longer easy for Bess. A developing limp and a kind of sad aura. She told me she would not make it through the year. Although one doesn’t expect the home cow to live on forever there is a big difference between expectations and the reality of acceptance. This was almost more than I could bear and combined with a difficult soul period and all the delights of two teenage boys life was somewhat strained.
In early April, I spoke with a friend who knew Bessie intimately and came to understand that although this was painful it was actually perfect. I began to work with Bessie on a deeper level, letting go with as much grace and ease as I could muster and presenting Bess with compassionate choices for her best possible outcome. A lot of sound and cleansing and being with her in gratitude as she had always done for all of us at Aurora. She’s got me meditating again and she appeared to be in one steady meditation calling on the spirit’s that she needed at this time of no sound from within her.
On several occasions Bessie woke me up to the ground of my own being. Although somewhat rough she acted out of compassion.
During the summer months she was often out in the field and I needed to go with the Aussie dog Ruffie , to bring her in to the barn. This time, it was late in the day and as I was stumbling up the hill Bessie planted her head between my shoulders hard enough to wake me out of my slumber and not enough to knock me over.
On another occasion, as two apprentices and myself were working in the garden, she was mooing a different kind of sound than I had heard before. I kept feeling that I wasn’t understanding her sound. As it turned out she was asking us to pay attention to the fact that the dogs were down at a “neighbour’s “ hayshed eating strycnine laced bait.
Bessie knew the whole story and with just one sweep of her tail or watching her chew her cud one could sense her state of being.
She came to me the day she physically left and she hadn’t been in her normal spot late in the morning. I could feel she just wasn’t present. That same day there were water problems and Woody and I were down at the barn for some time with the water man.
As I was stirring Apricot jam , I heard the back door open and Woody come in. I knew what he was coming to tell me. “Bessie’s dead”. He says after he got me to sit down. “Oh, oh , oh , oh….” Was all that would come out from inside of me.
After making arrangements for her burial the next day I was sorting out the feelings that had come over me. It was like everything and nothing had happened here at Aurora Farm. Neither her life, nor her death would she have made into some kind of big deal. Another day on the farm…
Now Venus is home cow due to freshen in the Spring. She is quite a bit younger than her Mom, and born on the place and we are appreciating her being. So let’s go Lotus, let’s go to the barn for Venus.
Thankyou Bessie for your great and immense being. Gratitude from All at Aurora and elsewhere with whom you have shared your teachings.
Sometime after Bessie’s parting the news of the 9th White Buffalo Calf’s birth came down the wire. Bessie’s birth and death coincided on the same day.
Barbara M.V. Scott, M.Sc., is a Biologist by formal training and a farmer , pagan and artist by direct experience. She lives with her husband/partner,- Woody Wodraska and two teenage sons,- Nathan Nass and William Scott, at Aurora Farm. Their livelihood is the production of seeds, herbal remedies, teas and a training program where others come to learn Rudolf Steiner’s methods of Agriculture. Barbara and Woody give workshops in composting internationally.
 A term from Greory Bateson.