The Happy Homesteader
by Erin Baldwin
The overly ambitious milking pail
The first winter after bringing home our four dairy goats, I purchased for myself a shiny, nine-quart, stainless steel milking pail. For almost a year now, it’s been sitting idly by, waiting to be filled to the brim with fresh, delicious goat’s milk. Our small herd of four Nubians should provide more than enough milk for our family to drink with a little leftover for making cheese, yogurt and soap.
Finally, it’s time to milk.
The goats are just learning the routine, which I would like to go something like this: one goat at a time calmly walks to the milk stand, hops up into the stanchion to leisurely munch on grain while I skillfully milk. Just the sweet smell of dew, cool morning air, chirping birds and the satisfying ting, ting, ting of delicious, goat’s milk hitting the side of my milking pail.
Here’s how it’s been going:
The sun is barely up and my alarm goes off. I mix my udder wash and grab my still shiny milking pail. At the goat pen, I crack the gate. Four full-grown Nubians, push their noses through with all the muscle they can muster, as I do my best to let only one through at a time.
Three escape, but I wrestle two back into the pen.
Gypsy is first, and it’s me versus her to the stand. She knows there is grain waiting at the finish line. I slip in goat poop and she takes the lead. Around the stand we go. “Come on girl, up here. Not that way. Wait. No. Jump up here.”
Finally, I get her to stretch her head through the headpiece and I quickly secure the lock. But her back legs are off the stand to the side. Maybe I can lift her the rest of the way up.
“My gosh, how much do you weigh?”
Now, she’s laying down on the stand. How can I get her up?
“Up girl, up.”
I dig deep and finally get enough umph to lift her onto all fours. By this time the grain is almost gone. I grab my wipes to clean her udders. Wipe. Kick. Another wipe. Kick. Finally, I’m ready to start milking and get a squirt in the strip cup. Kick. I quickly realized that my nine-quart milking pail might have been ambitious. One teat at a time, I get a couple of squirts in the pail.
Repeat. Times four.
What would have taken an experienced goat and milker just a few minutes to accomplish, has taken me an hour. And I still need to clean up. It’s time to head to the office, and I’m sweaty and smell like a goat.
I figure if I keep at it, things will fall into place.
Each morning brings progress. And before I know it, we will find our rhythm and I’ll get to spend my afternoon enjoying the fruits of my labor with a side of goat’s milk cheese.
Until next time, Happy Homesteading!