Sunday, January 9, 2011


The slow-moving fog that has blanketed the valley has crept its way up to the hills.  I can't see down the front pasture to the road, and can barely discern the outline of the feed barn.  The fog has brought along its baggage; damp, bone-chilling cold.  Twenty-six degrees, and the wood stove is struggling to hold it at bay.  The cats are curled up in its small circle of warmth, and Bessie Anne stayed snuggled in the blankets (she moved over to my side of the bed when I got up earlier).  Suffice it to say that using the bathroom this morning was a real eye-opener!  Were it not for the little space heater blasting nearby, this would be a very short entry.

Goats and sheep, like cows and deer, are ruminants...cud chewers.  In common, all ruminants have two-toed feet, missing or rudimentary upper front teeth, and four-chambered stomachs.  Cattle of all types, including buffalo, and sheep are essentially grazers (grasses and ground-level greenery) and goats and giraffes (also ruminants) are browsers, preferring foliage and branches.  This is a very efficient form of dietary discretion, allowing large herds of browsers and grazers to coexist in the same area as they do not compete for food.  They are basically opportunistic eaters, taking in as much food as they can and as fast as possible.  This is partially because they are never sure when they might find another meal in the wild, and also because they are prey animals and could be attacked before they finish.  Cellulose is indigestible in its original form, and so is deposited in the largest chamber of their stomachs, the rumen, where it is softened.  When at leisure, the animal will then burp it up, regurgitate a mass, and chew it again until it can be swallowed into the second chamber, moving through the third and fourth...and on to the end.  It is chewing the cud that gives the impression of thoughtful, placid expression to these creatures.

Humans also ruminate, but our cud is thoughts and ideas which we will bring up again and again, mulling over until resolution or satisfaction.  (Carried to extreme, that's obsession.)  In a few days, it will be a full year since I started this cyber-journal.  I've been figuratively thumbing through the pages, exalting over triumphs, cringing at failures, taking joy from my family and friends and animals as if it had just happened.  They say that if we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it, but there are certainly those things that are worth repeating, and ruminating is sometimes the answer.  Burp.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Wonderful...educational...fascinating - and I like the comparison of the animal rumination to that of us humans! Congrats on almost a year!! And THANKS!