Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries:
A Month of Milking

It has been a full month of living with a dairy animal as a single woman with a full-time job. I thought I'd check in and let you know my thoughts now that milking a goat has gone from novelty to a regular chore around here. I have now milked Bonita, my large alpine doe, over sixty times! She has produced over 45 gallons of fresh milk! All of it done by one gal, by hand, over the course of thirty days. And now I can not imagine having to buy milk from the store. Just like eggs, veggies (in summer), and most of my meat, milk has wandered from the realm of things I was just a consumer of and am now a producer.

This little dairy is chuggin' along.

I have totally converted to goats milk in my house. I use it in my cereal, oatmeal, coffee, iced coffees, chocolate milks, milk shakes, baking and cooking. I learned to make cheese, watching the curds transform overnight and drain right here in my kitchen sink. Chevre is my new favorite bagel spread. And the time I spend with Bonita has helped grow our bond in a way you just don't get from sheep. It's closer akin to horses, only instead of riding and working, you're milking. It's a quiet skill. I like milking. With one goat it takes minutes, and I have my post-milking chores down to a science. I ice the steel sink first, half filling it with cold water and ice cubes. It cools while I milk outside in my little stainless steel flat-sided pail while Bonita eats her grain and minerals. When milking is done I feed the goats their hay and then soak the milk till it is cold in the sink (about 15 minutes to half an hour). After that it is strained, poured into half-gallon or quart glass containers and set in the freezer for two hours. It comes out pipin' cold and slightly frozen, but really does remove any possibility of "goaty" flavor for a few days.

I appreciate what it is doing for my body. My forearms are the most toned they have ever been. I have dedicated myself to months of regular yoga practice and Downward Dog's got nothing on Descending Udder. It's made my fiddling easier too, since I am using my gripping hand muscles so much more than before. I feel stronger a month into goat ownership. And that fact that only three escapes happened mean my fencing skills are stronger too!

I did say that milking has gone from novelty to chore, but that isn't accurate. Milking is different than pouring grain into a chicken feeder and moving bales of hay. It requires an attention all of its own. It's become a mix between meditation and conversation, never one or the other. It's a mindless action in some senses, letting my head wander a bit, but then a back hoof starts to wriggle or there's a loud fart or something that reminds you to be reacting to the animal your head is pressed against as you empty those teats. So it's neither delicate or brash, just what it is. Just like farming.


Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

I'm curious....what else have you done with all of the excess milk? We currently drink about 5-6 gallons a month, but we LOVE cheese, especially hard, aged cheddars. Have you built or purchased a cheese press yet?

I might see if Lynn is available this weekend for me to pick up her 2 year old nubian doe. I simply can not wait to have goats outside my window!

May 9, 2012 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Oh, you put it so perfectly! I can realte to every single word. It's cool to "know" someone who gets me. I tried to explain to my daddy how the goats give me a "horse fix" and he just looked at me like I was crazy, but it's true! I grew up with horses and miss them terribly, but for me a horse would be sheer luxury. Not something that's an option on our homestead at this time. My goats are an excellent compromise. :-D

May 9, 2012 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love when you describe the details of your goat routine, like the chilling of the milk and how your work it into your other chores, etc. I just got dairy goats myself but they are young and the doe won't be ready to breed until December. As I wait, I look forward to reading more about you and Bonita and your adventures in dairy!

May 9, 2012 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Pretty soon you'll do it all without even thinking. And that's very impressive, getting that much milk. Good for her. And you!

Hey, I wanted to tell you I just saw a kilt today at market. This couple came to my table and the guy was wearing a black kilt. So cool! It was very well worn, in some good ways. And looked very comfortable too.

May 9, 2012 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

I've never been around horses, but after 13 months milking my own goat I can't imagine living without her and her buddies. You so poetically describe how I feel each time I milk her. So zen and yet not disconnected from the real world at all. Bonita is lucky to have you. Cheers to many more months of goaty bliss!

May 9, 2012 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger oukay said...

It is just a dream right now to get a goat! I am wondering, however, does the milking aggravate carpal tunnel problems?

May 9, 2012 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger kristen said...

Well said. I so miss the meditation/bonding time of milking my girls. They were my horse substitute for a long time (like someone mentioned above). In town, I couldn't keep them... but now fate has brought me back horses a bit. :) So glad you're enjoying Bonita. Also, in case you ever need less milk and more time, it is possible to milk once a day (I did for years). You can read up on it online (of course) or ask me for info. :) As a single, working mom, milking once a day made goat ownership possible a lot longer than it might have been otherwise.

May 9, 2012 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Wendy Rogers said...

You have nailed this experience right on the head! It is more like the bond with a horse, I've gotten so close to my gals. When I first started milking I remember thinking NOW we have a real farm. Love that fresh, creamy goat's milk....

May 9, 2012 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

"Decending Udder"! That really did make me laugh out loud!

May 9, 2012 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

Now you have to try halloumi. Easy to make and oh so delicious. Your friends will love you when you throw a chunk on the hot grill and it gets toasty brown on the outside and soft on the inside. The perfect summer cheese with a nice glass of beer or wine.
This is the recipe I use. I leave out the mint though.

May 10, 2012 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Oh Jenna, I am just unpacking the first load of furniture to get settled on the ranch and you got me jonesing for some dairy goats. The dogs, cats and rabbits aren't even moved up here and I am thinking about adding the goats...

May 10, 2012 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger Sharon Wren said...

I thought you had to have at least 2 goats at a time b/c they're social creatures. Wonder how much land you need...geez, I've only had chickens a couple of weeks and now I'm picking the next animals!

May 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

Watch it, they're addicting! I started with the idea of having 2 milking does and no bucks, selling all kids. That didn't last very long...

Jenna - you'll want to filter the milk before leaving it to chill. The dirt and goat hair and whatever floats into the milk will flavor it longer if you don't.

May 10, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

My aunt and uncle have four goats-just as "pets", they started with two and "needed" two more! ;) the first two are named Chev, and Brie, the second pair are Blue, and Gouda!

May 11, 2012 at 7:49 AM  

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