It’s quiet, not much noise except the sound of milk streams hitting the stainless steel pail. There are occasional movements, shifting from leg to leg and the scooting of the bucket-seat to find a more comfortable position. It’s seven o’clock in the morning and we’ve settled into a pretty nice groove; it’s milking time. Now, seven o’clock for most of the year would seem late. Daily chores would already be in progress, pigs being fed and water being turned on somewhere in the garden. But now, during these long nights, six thirty is plenty early to be waking, finding and feeding the milk cow.
It was hardly even more than a month ago when we bought Ginger, our Jersey, but we’re actually starting to feel like we can do this. No one ever tells you, but your first time hand-milking a cow will be terrifying and difficult. What seems like an eternity for fresh, novice hands will only yield a quart or so into the pail. The warnings of experts about mastitis and other maladies will be what drives you to keep trying, wringing your hands every so often to allow the blood to flow back into them. Soon though, after the bucket has been kicked over, peed on and stepped in, it starts to feel okay. Rhythmic. Tranquil even. And the more skilled the milker, the more patient the cow. So, after climbing up the curve fast, we’re starting to level off. No longer something to fear, milking time has become something to enjoy. It’s a quiet place in the early part of the day to either collect one’s thoughts, or to simply not think- to meditate on the steady, rhythmic motion and the sound of milk singing against the pail.
Back in her pen, Ginger happily finishes her hay and some newly weaned pigs might be enjoying the skim milk from the day before. Luckier yet, a full bucket with the richness of the cream still inside. Fresh butter once a week, and it’s bright yellow with vitamins. The fridge is always full of bright white jars, proof of the worth of our efforts.
Next on the horizon: fresh, whole milk mozzarella.