We all do it, that picture on the milk bottle, that image of a content cow that is grazing in a dark green pasture, that happy girl in a long skirt and pretty ruffled top with either a baby sister tagging along or a cute puppy or the family collie keeping her company as she brings in the pail of fresh milk.. or that darling imp of a older child that still has so many of the baby face aspects to their face, drinking a glass of perfect ice cold milk..
What everyone forgets or does not know or think about for about six months of the year in Canada, we are feeding hay, that you need to raise, groom, feed, breed, and calve that cow, that you have a wee babe to then raise and train and look after for a year to two if you want to do freezer camp, or you have two plus years if you intend to have a second milk cow or at least a year before you can even think about placing her in a different home or the fact that most will want her to come bred and they will want her breed early or at the standard time which is pretty early if you ask me
that the first freshening cow is not going to stand perfectly for you, that her udder is full, sore and swollen, and that when you are learning to milk that it hurts, I am always so sad when I read about someone saying their animal hates to be milked.. if that truly the case, the odds are “you” are the problem.
On my cow board, I can’t even begin to tell you how many folks are trying to learn to milk and teach a animal to be milked at the same time, a match made in hell if you ask me.. its a lot of work to properly teach a milking animal to be a good one be it cow, sheep or goat, it takes practice, and skill to milk properly and when you try and combine the two, well lets just say that its fair to say that many a cow, or goat has been moved on, sold or went to freezer camp that in the right home with someone with the right skills would have thrived..
Today has been a week into the milking routine and I will not tell a lie, last Friday I went over to Farmer T’s kitchen and had a mini and short melt down.. The milking took so long, the routine was in fact destroying MY routine, everything had to be shifted to fit around that seven and seven milking time, and the milk, the never ending milk, the cream, the butter, the cheese and that never ending milk, the extra washing of dishes, pans, jars, bucket, THE NEVER ENDING MILK and wash cloths, yet another load of farm related washing for the week, the lack of room in my fridge, the whole middle suddenly became nothing but MILK area, figuring out how to get two days worth of milk in there was a feat to say the least, and what I had not counted on was that with that much milk coming in, and me wanting the cream, which means it needs to be chilled and skimmed before it can be used for other things is that, I would not only be adding in the hour in the morning for milking and the hour in the evening for milking but the half hour getting ready and dealing with the milk (that’s three hours folks) but that it would take me around another hour to do different milk related products if I wanted to go no-holds barred.. did you do that math.. yes that is around four hours per day..
Hense the mini melt down.. how was I to find and fit in four hours of more work daily into my routine, my fingers hurt, my hands hurt, my arms burn, the milking is building up slowly, the third day in, everything was so sore and burning that I went to lift a pail of water and dropped it in pain..
O that milk was in the fridge, that fresh butter was made, that cream was used and the cow was being milked and the calf was thriving but me, I was slowly falling apart at the seams, I could not seem to keep up, and felt that I was treading in place..
So after my ahhhhh moment where I owned up to all the above to my friend, I had a little cry, took a couple deep breaths and picked myself up and gave myself a shake..
That was a few days ago and things are better, its not that the work is really less, or the time less per say, its that I had to let go of what I thought it would be, and embrace what it in fact turned out to be..
I still want that cream but I am now aware that I am just going to use what works out to one full milking goes to the critters in different ways and that if I am so tired I can’t see straight, just milk her and feed it warm and whole to the purrpots, hounds and pigs, better to allow yourself to just let that go when you need to..
Part of its Girl, she is learning to be milked, she is learning to release better for me, she is learning to stand and eat her freshly done hay when she runs out of her grain mix or to just stand there when I milk for a couple days we did the dance on this issue.
Part of it is me, I am getting stronger, I am getting more relaxed, I am getting better at talking and sharing the moment with girl, I know when to go faster and I have the strength to make that happen, I know when she holding back and to go back for a second round, and the difference when that quarter is in fact done I know when to call it and use Glenda to finish her off, rather then fight my own burning arms and hands.
Part of it learning how to do things in parts, taking the time to find recipes and repeating them, something that you are just learning can and does seem stressful but once you know how to do something, it still takes the same amount of time but it does not seem like it, a good example would be yogurt.
I now know what temp to set the stove, to set the timer and I can walk away, when the timer rings, I take it off the stove, mix in my starter, whisk it and instead of doing jars or crock pots or the other means, I pop the lid on and the pot goes into the shuttle chef and six hours later, I have extra thick greek style yogurt..
There are many joys to this system, I have measuring amounts on the pot itself (no measuring cup to dirty and clean) I know the stove and the length of time, I can put the pot that the milk is heated in into the shuttle chef itself, so not heating pot and then a curing pot, and I don’t have to worry or check on it, it just does it’s thing..
Each time I find a way to make what I want to have happen and do it, the faster and easier it becomes to repeat it in a way that is more relaxed and it allows me to multi-task, that means that more gets done and I don’t feel so overwhelmed trying to do the milk extra and keeping up on the rest of the farm, house and critters.
A week into it and things are starting to come together, and in a month, I will be just clicking along and in three or six months if someone says to me.. how are you doing all that, I will just shrug and say.. you just do..
I’m not wrong, it is a matter of “You just do it” but lets be honest, it takes work, hardship, skills and the willingness to push yourself to get to that point, that moment of it coming together that allows hard work to seem effortless.
Many blessings and lessions have come in the last week, and I am grateful!