Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Milkman Rings Twice


Keith was always the milker in the family. I was the queen of pork. He milked our herd of twenty-thirty cows at any given time year round in all kinds of weather, while I bonded more naturally with our hogs and my (worthless to the bottom line) horses. 

My horse face
My cow face
I tried milking with him a couple times, feeling guilty that he did it so often, even though he never complained. I did not last long. A few weeks here and there over the years. My last true attempt on the old farm ended in splintered wood. I was walking behind a Jersey named Salt, holding a broom in a total non-threatening manner and for whatever reason in her psycho head, she kicked at me. Hard.

She had a habit of doing this.

Fortunately she hit the broom, breaking it cleanly in half, instead of me. I announced my resignation to Keith, giving no notice, and buried myself in other outside and inside chores. Keith didn't object, I'm sure he was relieved he would only have to deal with one surly cow in the barn from then on. She died not so long after, hmmmm, can't recall the exact circumstances, but I do know I had an iron clad alibi.  I kept her skull on a pole in my garden, all Lord of the Flies like, for several years after that.

What can I say? She had a nice set of horns.

Now, the bovine world is a pleasant one. We milk just one cow on The Poor Farm and she is so lovely I am thinking of putting her in my will. We moved Lis up from our old farm a few months ago and she has been amazing whether Keith is milking her or I am. All three of us are one happy Ménage à Trois. Don't judge me, it works.

Where we once had a four stanchion milk parlor on a concrete floor, we now milk out of a three sided earth floored shed. Our vacuum system is old and loud but very effective and it operates our single can milker.



Lis willingly comes in the shed where fresh hay awaits her. She does not requiring any tie downs or a stall of any kind, she just stands and eats while I fumble around with the milker.







Teats are washed before milking and dipped in iodine after. It only takes about 10 minutes to milk all four quarters, then she is disconnected, machines shut down and I'm off to share the milk with her calf who resides on the other side of our farm. He'll be weaned in about a month and we'll have even more milk for our use.

What is leftover now goes to the broilers (milk fed chicken is fantastic!) and into our frig after straining through a filter. We drink it just like that, raw, as millions of farmers have always done.  I also make yogurt and cheese with our milk. Raw milk is so much better for you than the dead milk sold in the grocery stores collected from who knows what farm, feeding who knows what kind of junk. Once pasteurized, all the good bacteria is killed in conventional milk, so you might as well drink chalk colored water.

Cleanup of all the equipment takes another ten minutes and since we cannot yet afford to build a small milk house for cleanup and washing, all our milk equipment is stored in our bathroom. The whole process, milk equipment set up, feeding Lis, milking, stall cleaning, equipment cleaning and milk storage, takes about 45 minutes twice a day.

In a future post I'll address those maroons at IDPH who felt the need to regulate raw milk production in Illinois this past year, and what it has done to destroy the small dairies of our state, but for today just wanted you to see how we'll doing the raw milk thing here, just for ourselves.

The Awesome Lis (short for Lisdoonvarna)


16 comments:

  1. Maybe you're doing better because all the while you're writing poetry in your head. Maybe poetry makes for a better cow-woman connection.

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    1. Often, while milking, I'm listening to music and singing. Lately she's been hearing a lot of Leonard Cohen. Like me, Lis prefers those gravelly throated artists.

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  2. Brilliantly written post and fair play to you for carrying on. No rules are ever broken at my place! But if you send me an email I could possible tell you a few things that I suspect might have gone on near here...

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  3. Cows are so beautiful. I always thought I'd eventually have a couple of dairy goat but after having my son I have no interest in being part of anyone else's lactation. We keep whole organic in the house for the little guy but every time I see the carton I think "this is cow....um...breastmilk" and there goes the enjoyment

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    1. Funny stuff indeed. I am so hooked on our own raw milk, I block out all weird thoughts that might get in the way of my gustatory enjoyment. I'm a selfish wench.

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    1. No, it does not. Unless it's real cheese, real butter and real yogurt made form real milk. Love it all.

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  5. She is beautiful. So is the milk. Thanks for continuing to share your raw milk adventures.

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  6. There are very few farms here with dairy herds, all too much work for too little return. Gone are the days when I took my little one litre aluminium churn to next door's parlour each morning. I don't suppose those days will ever return.

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  7. "All too much work for too little return" sums it up Cro. The exact reason we sold the big farm where we worked endless hours to provide good food for others but were too exhausted at end of day to enjoy our own food. A bowl of cereal sufficed. Now we grow food for ourselves and although it still takes time, the satisfaction level is astronomical. There are a couple large raw milk dairies in California who deliver, but unlikely Illinois will loosen their ridiculous grip on raw milk anytime soon.

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  8. I dream of a 10 minute milking! We milk by hand, but it's so much less cleanup afterwards. The bucket can go right in the dishwasher to get cleaned and sanitized. You're living the dream sister!

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    1. I applaud you Jen! I've milked goats by hands, whole different teat system there, but a cow is a real commitment. Perhaps you'll feel better when I tell you we don't have a dishwasher, so what I make up in milking time, I lose in cleanup time. Ah, well.

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  9. Thanks for the post and information, Donna. I will admit to never having tasted pure fresh milk and will take your word for its better quality because I know store-bought products can never (ever) compete with the "real" thin and homemade butter and yogurt...how wonderful!

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    1. It is wonderful. Now, that will probably be the last time I say that until spring. When the snow blows I'll be pulling the two cows together to form a V while milking, to protect my sorry butt from the cold winds.

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