Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Crisis of Two Virgins

This would be so much easier if:
1) I had hand milked before (I merely sucked the machines on to the teets at my g'pa's farm)
2) Hendrika had been milked, or tamed
3) I knew at least one other person who had a personal milk maker.
Instead, what we have here is the common philosophical conundrum known as "The Crisis of Two Virgins" wherein one of us is clumsily fumbling around the teets and the other is tied up and mooing.

But I wasn't going for easy. Whatever I was going for is buried deep in my subconscious. But is wasn't anything called "easy". Easy involves a car, a grocery store, and a Winnebago-sized fridge with all the homogenized, pasteurized, and fat reduced (or not) pink, brown, and white options of milk products ever imagined in the history of mankind.

My first week of milking will hence forth be known as: Enormous Challenge Week. Mark your calendars.

My interactions with Hendrika always start out the same: "Hi, my name is Hendrika, and I weigh 700 pounds. And you are?" "Yes, my name is Sarajoy and you weigh about 5 times more than me. Would you please go stand over there, now? I mean, if you're not busy and you're feeling up to it and all. Would you like some oats or alfalfa?"

I have to cajole her with food and patience to do anything I want. I've tried coaxing her twice with buckets of goodies. This is a very bad idea. One should never stand between Hendrika and food, it turns out. The first time she tried to gore me, I dodged like a mighty matador. The second time, I was very thankful she's polled, meaning naturally hornless, otherwise I would be dead, or at least missing most of my stomach. She took that head of hers and tossed me up onto the side of the barn.

She's a SMALL cow! And generally gentle, except where it comes to food and bribery.

She'll stand for milking, or my mangled attempts at it. But when she's done with the grain she suddenly notices she's tied up and she has a "moment" during which I stand very far away.

We are waiting to ween Sukey until we get back from our vacation. So this month is all about getting down the routine and learning that most awkward and unnatural movement called hand milking.

A couple of goat milker friends have stopped by and donated tutorials to my cause. One even confessed that learning to hand milk was the hardest physical skill he'd ever had to learn. It's a bit like patting the tummy and rubbing the head (or vice versa).

I'm at the middle part, the discouraged and disheartened stage of learning something new. Every morning, I sigh deeply, and trudge out to the barn with my buckets. I'll slave away for my 1/4 cup anyway. One day I did get about two cups, but then she plopped a perfectly poopy hoof right into the bucket. Bah! I'll show YOU kick the bucket, girl friend!!

Sukey's a cute little escape artist. She's gotten out 7 times at least. Getting her back in usually involves accidentally springing Hendrika. She's got four acres to mow, and the grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence. We put up another wire last night, and tried to electrify it. But she was out this morning again. So I put a halter on her. Yes, I was calf roping at 6 am this morning! I've never roped a calf before. It took about 20 minutes and now she's tethered. Now Hendrika is a free mom. She's got childcare and she's off on the other side. Poor Sukey, wants to nurse, but mom has her own agenda. Will she ween before we want her too?

So, I joined a web chat group about family cows. Apparently there are enough of us to warrant such a thing. Too bad it's useless. No answers, just rumors and gossip and no way to find your question, but that's okay because there are no real answers, just a lot of real know-it-alls supposing they know more than you, and you, and you.

Too bad for me, I said Blue might get a pony. I bought her a horse care book in hopes that would stall the begging. But she's read it through twice. She knows way too much about horses now. She's been visiting the neighbor's bay. She was commenting on how well behaved it was even though it was a mare and it was so hot out. Huh? Oh... yeah... I haven't really cleared up that "in heat" misunderstanding yet.

During this past week, it's also been my great pleasure to host a couple of friends passing through town. Before now, before this life, we would have hosted anyone and shared anything. But, alas, we were holed up in the corner pocket of Pullman, not a thoroughfare like Spokane. And even if someone did take us up on our hospitality, it would have been obvious we had little space, or food, or time to share. For all our feelings of generosity, we had precious little to give.

Here, we have a guest room and bathroom, private, tucked away in the new basement. Our guests have all commented on how they don't feel like they are imposing on us down there.

It feels so good to have something to share, and enough of it so people don't feel bad receiving it. This too is something I've wanted. I've had it in mind all this time... a dream to have enough, so that there's enough left over to accommodate my impulse toward generosity. Enough so that what I give flows over, from the top of my full cup, and not from the last drop in the bottom.

Hey, Hendrika! How 'bout you return the favor!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh the joys of milking. It is by far one of the most challenging skills I have learned to do. I was a goat milker for a short period... short because I had a hard time having the strength to milk fully and the poor goats would be in pain. All that hitting the udder to release the milk and showing who was boss when the goats would start to fuss,did my head in. The biggest help I ever got was just by watching how the kids fed (goat kids I mean). Then I tried to mimic it.

    All I have to say is good luck and post photos!



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