Posted on Mar 19, 2021
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
Cows are a matriarchal society, led usually by the oldest and wisest female. For the last 12 years, the matriarch in our California barnyard has been Karma. We are not exactly sure how old she is as we rescued her as a full-grown adult, but she is anywhere from 18 to 25 years old. Karma leads her family to eat, reminds them to drink, helps raise their babies, disciplines the adolescents, and grooms everyone in her family after breakfast. And mid-morning, she leads a family meditation circle. Even though she is the smallest and oldest cow, they all respect, honor, and love her.
Several months ago, Karma started slowing down and didn’t seem as bright as she normally was. We asked our veterinarian to pull some blood and have a look. The results showed that Karma was in renal failure. We have been giving Karma intravenous fluids, Pedialyte, Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food, Jill and Joan CBD, Puremedy for any skin irritations from laying down, energy healing, acupuncture, and massage therapy. We hope all these things will give us more time with her, and at the same time we are preparing ourselves for the eventual loss of our queen. And Karma is making departure preparations of her own.
Crystal is second in command. She follows Karma around, enforces her rules, and helps her take care of their family. Lately Karma and Crystal can be found alone together in the barn, face to face, clearly communicating. Karma is training her to take over the family when the time comes for her to leave. Crystal is extremely respectful of Karma, but she is starting to extend her authority with the other cows, making them get up when they are laying down and making it clear to everyone that she is the new boss. In earlier years, Karma would have never allowed this, but now it is encouraged as Crystal is in training to be manager soon.
Whenever I had a bad day, I would go straight to Karma for a life-altering hug; she made everything better, and I would encourage our guests to do the same. But lately I have not wanted to take too much energy from Karma, as she needs it for herself and her own wellbeing. In past years, Crystal would hang back, allowing the focus of our tours to stay on Karma. But now, Karma is hanging back and Crystal is coming forward in every tour to offer her healing to all of us. And just like Karma trained her to do, Crystal is closing her eyes, chewing her cud in a meditative way, and giving us all her energy and attention.
Over the 21-year history of The Gentle Barn we have watched many matriarchs pass their wisdom to their prodigies. Our fist cow Buddha passed the torch to Buttercup, Buttercup passed it to Karma, and now Karma is passing it to Crystal. It is always so excruciating watching our beloved queens fade and prepare to transition—for me it feels like the loss of a mom. But knowing that all of us will be left in good hands and she is taking care of us even as she leaves, is indicative of how much she truly loves and cares for us. And that is the sign of a truly great leader, someone who cares for her family more than herself, up until the very end, and probably beyond!