When I am hand feeding a young animal like Naomi I do a lot of stroking. I am firm.  I mean; the hand that strokes is firm as I feed her. I pretend to be the licking hand of a great big cow. calf

She always settles. Lifting her chin for the neck scratch. Moving her belly closer for the flank. The cow mothers lick their babies for weeks. So, even though I am only the mother cow half the time, I still need to meet this deep need in a mammal. Touch. I think there is a link between bodily movements, intestinal movements, physical well being, emotional well being and Stroking.  Strong movements towards the heart. Touch. The animal has to trust you.   Trust takes a long time. But allowing touch is a quintessential decision. It is  Trust.

And yes, I have spent more than half my life as a solitary being. I have always been the wary one. Shrinking away from human touch. I will always put my hand out to shake hands instead of hugging. The hand shooting forward -” keep your distance” it says.  Turning my head with a smile so a kiss is always on my cheek.  Like a half trained colt it takes me a long time to accept touch. I seek the Touch that comes in many different forms. Touch does not need to be sexual or carry emotional weight. It can be the head of a dog. Or the movement of a hand through earth. The back against a tree. The kiss of air while riding fast on your bike.  The graze of fingers across a till at the store. The stroke from the hand of an entirely different species like me stroking a calf. The grip of an elder to steady herself. The snuggle of a child.  Touch is magic.  Think like a cow.  Find your herd.

Do you remember how Mama the big old sheep would lick me, especially my head, as I bent over one of her lambs. How the dogs will lick at the scratches and cuts on my hands. Cleaning. Cleaning.  How Tima will nudge, nudge into my legs.  How the birds clip the air about my face with their wings. How Sheila will lean.  Find your herd.


I wish we all had such un-adulterated touch in our lives. Grown cows will lick and groom each other. Lean into each other.  Lie within inches of each other. The Aunties will block the wind for the little ones. The babies will sleep within reach of each other. The big nursing mothers will lean their throats in for a massage. The little ones head butt and play at pushing each other.


People over-think touch. I know I do.   Do you think that many farmers are like me?  Preferring to hang out with animals where there are no mixed signals, no sub text. Just touch.

Hmm. Ah well.

I have such a long list for today. A delightful list. PLUS I have re-instated the Sunday lunches and was going to make asparagus risotto with lemon zest for my guests today but this cold weather has frozen the asparagus into a watery mess on the ground. So we are having Swedish meatballs with cream and home made egg noodles instead. With piles of home grown greens. Only six for lunch today though.. so no worries. My herd. We feed each other. Food is stroking.

Sunday dinners are like church. In fact a priest I knew once said to me: if you cannot get to Mass on Sunday have a big family dinner instead. It works the same, he said. So…  Lunch it is then!

I hope you have a lovely day,

your friend on the farm,







45 Comments on “Stroking

  1. Food for thought. I like the idea of finding our herd, by touch. In France you shake hands or kiss EVERYone, but hugs are reserved for relations and very close friends, and there is a hard to learn protocol about how many kisses to give, which varies geographically from 2 to 4. In hospital, I watched a dear little old man give his wife about 20 bisous when he left to go home alone.
    Love AND hugs,

    • PS Of course, this bisou/shaking hands ritual can sometimes be a pain in the neck: this morning I had to have a blood test, and the Monday waiting room was packed even 15 minutes before the clinic was due to start. François the nurse arrived at 10 and shook hands or kissed every one of us before going iino the treatment room. It added at least 10 minutes to the wait, and it was an hour before I was seen. My back was shouting murder police at me by the time I went in, where the ritual re-bonjour + 3 bisous was repeated.

  2. What a sensible priest, wise words. I’m like you hand out first, I’m very uncomfortable with air kissing strangers. Its only in the last few years that as a family we have started the kissing of cheeks when we meet! I thought maybe it was an English thing, as my grandparents both sides, would of really disapproved of any physical greeting, but maybe that’s was just them.
    Naomi is beautiful, have a lovely lunch. I’m of to London now to have a Sunday lunch in a pub in Piccadilly x

  3. Oh, I so agree about touch. For nearly 20 years I was a solitary creature, far from family, not in many comfortable long term relationships, living alone in a large and sometimes dangerous city. It wasn’t until I got married that I realised how much I had missed close contact. Now I have the Husband, I can get hugged whenever I want! Still catching up…. That is the most beautiful photo of Miss Naomi, who is going to be a goddess among heifers, and wonderfully calm and tame from all the loving care she’s receiving.

  4. I am so like you regards ‘Touch’ – not sure if it is a personal thing with me or the ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ installed in us British! But have a heck of a time here in the US where everyone wants to hug you!! Or call you ‘Girl friend’ or say “Love you” at the drop of a hat! In my book all these take time and need a large amount of trust for me to react positively towards the other person. Unlike with animals, these get all my hugs, and strokes and kisses, even if the animal is not mine! I suppose because I trust animals to honest about what they expect from me!

  5. Indeed; I’m an expert hugger 🙂 Growing up it was an essential anchor to my life. I was/am an ADHD person long before it was a real diagnosis, so chaos reined both in my life and my brain. My mother was a single working woman and it could be extremely difficult coping, there were times she was truly angry with me, yet one of the daily rituals was a hug, particularly a goodnight hug. I never had to fear that it would be rebuffed.
    I agree that recent decades has seen touch being over sexualized, to our detriment; perhaps it’s a reason why pets have become so important. (one of our cats is head butting me as I type this ).
    Touch is a profoundly complex and yet efficient form of communication. Yet it is a learned skill; it took quite a while for me to “teach” my wife 🙂 It is a universal language that can connect us with our fellow creatures and ensure we don’t feel so isolated and alone.

  6. Sunday lunch! We need to take back our Sunday lunch. It got lost somewhere. Thanks for reminding us. Sounds delicious!!

    … also, on cows and licking. Our cows lick each other all the time. Mama-baby, steer-cow, heifer-heifer, bull-Brent. It doesn’t matter the relationship, they love to lick.

  7. I am the director of my little church’s breakfast program. We provide a hot meal every Sunday morning for the homeless men and women of the Austin area. We’ve been plugging away for the last 23 years. I have gotten to know many of the people that come through the doors each week and so feel confident enough to hug them if they seem amenable. I once hugged a man that sort of got in line when he saw me hugging ‘regulars’. After I hugged him, he began to cry. Taken aback, I asked if I’d hurt him. He said, “No, you’re just the first person to have hugged me since……”. It had been 8 months since he had even been touched by another human being.
    I now am even more willing to hug and certainly touch all 75+ of the folks that come through our doors to share a meal on Sunday.
    Touch is a very, very powerful thing. So is sharing a meal. You have so eloquently brought us to both those things this morning. Thanks Celi!

  8. Beautiful post, Celia. Touch, trust, finding your herd is food for thought. We had a dairy goat herd for ten years and learned a lot about ourselves from them.

  9. I think touch is very natural but as humans we’ve become wary of it. Animals too, become nervous of touch or strangers if they’ve been mistreated, though some are shy like people can be. IMHO hugging is a very good thing, as is Sunday lunch. Your priest is right, getting people together is good for them and there don’t have to be any religious connotations. Pets (especially cats) can be quite therapeutic for the elderly, as they provide someone to stroke, talk to and care for.
    …and on a dark humorous note, the first thing I thought of, reading about stroking the calf, was Kobe beef. I know it doesn’t sound great with regard to a young animal, but I’m sure those Kobe cows love the constant massage and stroking – I bet they are content 😉

  10. If I had to vote for a favorite post today, this would be it. So beautiful. And true. There’s almost too much say, so I’m going to stay quiet and hope what I’m feeling travels.

  11. Ooooo lunch sounds marvelous. I love the poetic rhythm of your expressions on touch. As a nurse in the past I came to understand the importance of touch to calm and comfort, as a senior I spend time trying to understand what happens as we age that isolates and makes us invisible to the vital part of life and the world, and I think it is touch or the lack of it. Energy is shared and restored with touch. This is an epiphany that just occurred to me as a result of this post. Amazing. And Thank You Celi.

  12. what a wonderful feeling person you are..I find you amazing!

  13. Yesterday I quietly marked the 17th anniversary since I lost my soul-mate to cancer. Top of the list: I miss his touch, physically or through a look of concern, understanding or sympathy. I have lived alone for all those years and can go for weeks or sometimes months without human touch. Unfortunately I have discovered that where I live widows do not exist after 3p.m. I am invited for morning coffee, sometimes lunch, but never for dinner. I may not like the touch of soil or baking ingredients on my hands, but give me fabric or yarn and I am in seventh heaven!

    There is another form of touch that warms my heart, that is the interaction with bloggers from all across the world. I read, learn, comment and make friends. Thank you Celi, your daily posts touch my heart.

      • Thank you Mame, I appreciate your huggggggggggggs! I am not complaining or whinging, it was more a note of how life is. I do drive, so go out, taking my camera and it often becomes a conversation opener. I go to the movies or to concerts. I find being on my own people will talk to me, but the conversation ends when I leave the building. Hell, life could be so much worse!

          • Viv, I make up for it when I go south to Dublin, in fact I often arrive home with aching arms from all the hugging. Today I have about twelve more rows to knit with a very soft and cosy yarn to complete a cape type shawl. On one hand I want it finished, but on the other I want the yarn to keep going. Thanks for the virtual hugs.

  14. It seems to me that touching has everything to do with your ethnic background. Irish people, for instance, are not touchers or huggers. I guess like the English. Maybe it has to do with geography–living in cold sunless climate. This is a cliche, I guess, but Mediterranean folks are much warmer. But animals! I can’t get enough of them.

    • Equus, I am Irish, born in the South of Ireland (ROI), but have lived for the past thirty seven years in the North of Ireland (UK). Down south we are huggers, but I find the folk in the north so very different. They want to know all about you before fading into the woodwork. Years of unrest and troubles has left people warey of the stranger.

  15. The Daily Cure has expressed what I have been thinking… almost too much to say, so I will sit quietly in the corner and hope my thoughts travel. Such a very deep episode today, Cecilia; I think I need some more time to get to the bottom of it 🙂
    I hope your day is a perfect one — enjoy your dinner mates. Mame

  16. A beautiful post. It resonates so, and mirrors my own experience/s. Well said and well done. Thank you!

  17. I rarely read all the replies to one of your posts Celi but today I just had to and couldn’t stop. Your post ‘touched’ me and many others. I too wish for un-adulterated touch … I go to a government office in social services every day to work and your post reminds me to reinstate something I have practiced in the past …whenever an opportunity to touch presents itself, I will do so, being careful and sensitive to those who don’t really want that touch. I have seen it soften stressed workers and change connections. I have done Healing Touch or Therapeutic Touch and I find it absolutely amazing the healing of simple touch and energy can be. Loved this post.

  18. Oh C. that photo of Naomi is just beautiful…she is a vision! A black beauty! Beautifully written post about touch…now I feel bad about hugging you when we first met before I knew your deep down feelings about the touch from a stranger…(although I didn’t feel we were really strangers)…but like Equus says…Mediterranean folks are warmer and I am Italian, so that explains it! You’re lucky I didn’t kiss you on both cheeks! 🙂

  19. Naomi is just beautiful!!! Her coat is incredible…I want to hug & kiss her!

  20. Eha’s story for the day: During the 15-odd years I lived well north of Sydney I used to stay with a female doctor friend [we completed our degrees together] whenever in my home-town. Weekends she oft spent at medical conferences: arrived back one Sat afternoon with her two children and myself at home. Grinned, called us to her and began giving us each hugs one after the other – counting to 23 for each!! By the end we were hysterical with laughter. Very seriously she ‘explained’ that each human being needed 23 hugs [literal or verbal] every day for mental and physical welfare: we had just had ours for the day :D!! Estonian-borns tend to be awfully reserved: haven’t a clue how I was ‘touchy-feely’ from my early childhood: hugs and kisses to almost virtual strangers!!! Once upon a time when I get to Illinois . . . I’ll watch out 🙂 ! . . . .

  21. Lovely words and wisdom Celi… touching is heaven I often think…. and sitting together round the table eating is a blessing too, as you and your priest so eloquently remind me… sadly, as my family have grown up and scattered, it rarely happens now in this house, and I’m giving my big un-used casseroles and serving dishes away..
    ah well there is a season… etc …

  22. As one of the characters in a novel says about hugs: “It’s so simple, so easy to give, a gentle gift filled with the power to heal and help.”

  23. Having been out of town this weekend, I am catching up on your posts, and love this one. We stopped to see our son this weekend at college. I always insist on a real hug from him not the sideways arm around my shoulder. He goes along with my request with a big grin. Hope your week warms up!

  24. I’m late but I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post. I’m quite touchy feely but I hope I can sense when people don’t want to be hugged. In Spain pretty miuch everyon kisses you when you meet even if you are never ever going to see them again and I’m not so keen on that and can put up a “British” front and extend my hand to try and avoid it if I want. But proper hugs, given with love…oh they mean so much! And then the love and licks and touches from our animals…Big Man is not so well right now and when he’s especially bad one of our dogs just goes and quietly sits with his head on Big Man’s feet as if to say “I’m here, I’m going to look after you”, it’s lovely.

  25. I love these words and thoughts about stroking. I do it with our wild things too. Everyone needs to be touched and loved.

  26. As funny as it sounds, I have a liscense to touch, as I am a massage therapist of close to 30 years. I found it interesting in school to find that most of us were touch deprived as youngsters. I am going to say that I am honored to have been able to touch and help so many people. I have Massaged babies that are now teenagers and still receive massage and are clear about touch and non sexual contact and the importance thereof. I have widows and widowers in my practice. I am so fortunate as many of clients have been with me for my entire practice and we have shared love and loss. I am much better at giving than receiving which is a common dilema a lot of us struggle with and is a subject for another thread !! Love the discussion today, very close to my heart…..Nanster

  27. The writing in this post is an example of why I was drawn to you at our meeting during WP conference. Your heart radiates such love that I could feel it in the audience but could not express it. I too am a hand shaker. I will trust an animal over a human most any day. Your herd is so lucky you are part of it. So many would not be so thoughtful with their care. I’m still looking for mine.

  28. Each and every one of your daily posts is a little gem… but today you really seemed to have hit a nerve with all us. And each day you send us all a big Virtual Hug which warms our souls! I love getting what I call my Man Hugs from my male friends, and never more than the last six years since losing my husband. We all NEED touch, as you so very well understand. A kind touch – and a kind word – go so very far in making the world a warmer place both for us and our animal friends. Even my parakeets love to touch, groom and sit next to each other. ++ You really hit a nerve when you said we have to find our own herd. I’ve been going through a bit of a hard time since moving back to the area where I was originally from…. It seems that many of my herd here no longer understand me. Within the last few weeks I’ve decided to spread my wings, go out into the world (by way of moving away again) and find my new herd!! And I’m so excited !! ; o )

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