"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Monday, 27 July 2015

The milking stall explained

A little while ago a young lady asked me about keeping a house cow. The lady wants to "get into" permaculture (whatever that is) but was worried about the chore that is milking every day.

The milking stall is one of those oddly special places in my heart. It is center to our daily ritual of the morning and evening chores. Although it can be a burden at times I also find the milking to be a time of quiet meditation. I watch the birds and listen to the milk gently hissing into the bucket. In the background I can hear the pigeons cooing and thrumming as the boys dance for the girls. Rufus will lean through the rails to groom Bonnie, our other cow. In the far background I will hear the call of the crows in winter or possibly the long shrieking cry of a lone eagle high above on a still morning. In summer I will be entertained by the song of the red rump finches as they steal the chooks feed or else the lazy call in descending notes of the King parrots as they perch in the pines and wait for me to leave before raiding the chooks trough. In the wet season the rain will create that throbbing note on the tin roof that we know so well and Anna and I will be joined by numerous guinea fowl and chooks in the milking shed where it is dry. On these days it can be a real task to keep the chickens from fluffing up the straw and throwing bits in the milk for me to fish out. Sometimes it can be a task just to keep the chooks themselves out of the milk.

The milk itself has a most wonderful aroma of cream and the faint scent of the pasture. It is unlike anything you can experience anywhere but the milking shed. In winter a fragrant steam rises off the new milk for me to inhale. A foamy froth is created on the surface as the milk rises in the bucket. My mother loves to see this, it reminds her of her milking days and when she visits she always asks to look into the milking bucket.

I am usually visited by the cat, Jasmine. She likes to rub across my back and under my arms. She is drawn always to the scent of the fresh milk and loves a drink of the whole milk when new but will only drink the cream if it is older.

At the center of this world there is Anna, our house cow. She is a part of the family in every way. I know her better than I know some of my relatives. She is kind and quite affectionate yet can be quite stern if she does not like something. She does not like being patted but does like being milked. She enjoys close company without needing contact and quite likes to listen when I discuss the world. She likes to eat at her own pace and only eats her fill and no more. She is quite strong willed and does not give in easily if she does not want to do your bidding. She prefers a polite request and will sulk if her feelings are hurt. I like her a lot more than most humans I have met.

1 comment:

  1. Such a peaceful description of what a good milking shed should be like. So peaceful and so the cow should be contented in sharing her milk with you too.
    When growing up we milked cows in a standard dairy of those days with cows being milked from one side or the other depending which bail they walked into. Some cows did prefer only to be milked on the one side though.
    The last 2 milking bales I used for a house cow milked from the right side. Odd when you lead a cow from the left side when she is in a halter.
    Close to 40 years ago in the middle of one particularly cold winter, a fellow was telling me how cold it was getting up in the dark to head off to work. He was a carpenter. I told him he should come with me as I was milking the cow, the milk was forming straws as it flowed into the bucket. He believed me for a while.
    Ulf you didn't mention the tunes you can create by squirting milk onto different levels of the bucket, especially if it is a metal bucket.
    The aroma of milking is something I will never forget, even though I haven't milked a cow in 15 years. I remember back to some of the best drinks I have had when milk is squirted straight into a cup and drunk while fresh and warm. Plans are a foot to have a milking cow in 2-3 years time.
    I thought you would have had the milking done in the morning before the chooks rose.
    The results, fresh milk, cream, yoghurt, ice cream custard and some of the fermented drinks and not forgetting cheese.