Our milky way

Belish village

Grass for breakfast – a visit to the farm in the village of Belish

Harmonica has been working with the farm in Belish from the very beginning. Our ‘cowboy’ Nikolay Chernokozhev (or just Nicki) takes care of the close to 100 cows with the dedication of a parent. Yana Lozeva travelled to the village of Belish in the first days of pasture to document the grateful looks in their big eyes at the first sight of juicy green grass after the long winter. Cows living on an organic farm have a big advantage – they get to eat fresh grass even in the cold months because they’re fed silage, a kind of feed that is stored in airtight conditions and fermentation keeps it fresh throughout the winter. Still, nothing comes close to a good romp around the crisp mountain meadows.

 

Vasko the Milk Tanker – harmonica’s first employee. Over the last 10 years he has driven over 3 million kilometres on the route from Belish to the village of Dobrodan and then to Malo Buchino. He gets up at 5 in the morning to get to the farm, fill up the tanker with milk and take it to the dairy. The milk is then turned into yogurt that goes into the pots we find in the shop.
“Nicki, take off that hat for the photo, it’s old!” – “Well, you know what they say – you can spot a good cow even under a shabby horse blanket.”
Most cows here are of the Montbéliarde breed, known for the little ‘cowlick’ on their foreheads.
Eighteen-year-old Vesko is one of the cowherds. He’s been helping his mum on the farm since he was a kid. He went through a training on a farm in Austria and can’t wait to finish driving school so he can start driving around. He’s not happy in the photo – just as the cows were to be let out, he found out his boots had torn. Nikolay’s wife then brought him new wellies and cheered him up again.
It’s not easy to find cowherds, most people in the region don’t want to do the job. Even those who do make up their minds to have a go, often lack experience. That can make a cowherd short-tempered and aggressive. And people who are mean to the animals can never be allowed to work here.
At this time of spring the delicacy on the pasture is the white and red clover. Their flavour can be felt in the milk, making it sweeter and more aromatic.
“Nicki, why aren’t they eating the green plums in the tree? Do they not like the tangy taste?” – “They do but they’re just too busy trying to eat all the grass underneath, can’t be bothered to look up.”
The cows can completely strip a meadow of its grass in about a week. But the grass never stops doing its job – in 20 days it grows out again and is ready to welcome them back.
As usual in the spring, Carmen, the dog who heps the cowherds, has become a mum. Six puppies are too many for the farm so eventually they will give away 2 or 3 for adoption. Dogs are indispensable helpers for the cowherd. They huddle the cows together and make sure the wayward ones don’t get lost.
Nikolay says 50% of what the dogs do is instinct, all the rest needs to be trained.
The cows are all muddy today, because of the heavy rain that flooded the meadows. Ususally on a rainy day the cattle stay indoors because they don’t like slippery ground and are generally fearful by nature.
„When animals are cared for in a way that respects nature, everything works more smoothly, they stay healthier and there is less trouble. And when I’m with them I forget all the bad stuff, all the stress goes away and I feel at peace,” says Nikolay Chernokozhev.
This baby calf is two days old. Her mother is French and her father is French too, she has red-white-and-blue blood :) Babies are named after their mums to keep track of the lineage. That’s why the little one’s name is Aphrodite and not, let’s say, Macron :)
Here you can see a video from the Chernokozhevs’ family farm.
When animals are cared for in a way that respects nature, everything works more smoothly, they stay healthier and there is less trouble.
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