Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Make a Cup of Coffee

It’s 7Am and I am sitting down with a hot mug of coffee. It isn’t fancy. It’s the kind that comes in a blue metal can at the grocery store. But it is hot and strong and spiked with creamy goat’s milk. The morning chores are all done. Strained milk is chilling in the freezer while the pails, half-gallon jars, and strainer rest on the drying rack. It feels good to have it all done. Coffee tastes better when things are done.

Milking Ida was just a half hour ago but it seems much longer. There goes that time travel again, my favorite drug. I felt it hunting with a bundle of wool and clay and I feel it sitting on the stanchion and milking a goat while a brooder of chicks across the barn sing their morning demands. I am in kilt, tank top, and sandals. It's been so warm here lately. My hair was back in a bandana and NPR was on the barn radio. A reported talked about police brutality in another state and it might as well be two hundred years away for how far it felt. I change the station to classical music, and not because I have no empathy for the trials but because once I have granted myself awareness of the news my ability to change or help it stops. I do not allow myself to wallow in the pornography so many call 24-hours news these days. It is tragedy wrapped in shiny paper, horror stories selling soda. My life is here and my community is here and this is where I can effect change and offer service. I used to think it was my duty to hear the news and be upset by it. Now I feel it is my duty to live a life that will never make the morning reports to people driving to their air conditioned offices. I went feral.

I listen to the music and milk the goat.

Milk streams into the steel pail and rings. I love that song. Bach plays on the radio and I love it as well. It is only made better by the animals around me. I hear the deep trill of “Grook…groook….groook” and smile. Just above me, outside the barn, is Odin the raven. The large bird has been spending most of his mornings at this farm. He is so large and loud and swoops around the naked locust trees and blooming wild apples as if they are his playground. I keep milking Ida, who is eating her breakfast of grain and allowing me to empty the half gallon of milk she has to offer into the pail.

Ida is the 2-year-old daughter of Bonita, my first milking goat and the still-very-pregnant animal in the pen beside us. She is so fat I could rent her out for toddler dirigible rides if she floated. She watches me milk her daughter and patiently waits for her turn to jump onto the stand and eat her breakfast. She isn’t being milked yet but I want the does down with the routine of morning milking, which is one at a time on the stanchion. Bonita so looks forward to her morning grain and minerals and I so look forward to her kids. Their is nothing cuter than baby goats, nothing at all. And to think I NEED to bring kids into the world so I can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee or the goat cheese omelet with tomato and basil I had for breakfast yesterday morning… It feels like I am cheating at life. Kids, coffee, and the best damn eggs in the world thanks to the flock of hens outside. And here I am, sipping that coffee. It tastes amazing. It is creamy but not heavy. It isn’t sweetened with sugar, just the bitter bite of roasted beans clashing with that perfect milk.

Goat’s milk isn’t like half and half or cream, it’s literally a whole different animal. It is a milk as rich in flavor and as filling as whole cow’s milk but has the consistency of 2% milk. I know some of you put off by the idea, but that’s because you probably are connecting the flavor to store-bought goat’s milk or goat cheese. No. No, no no no no. Fresh, raw, chilled goat’s milk has no taint. There isn’t a tinge of sourness or that “goaty” snap people describe when eating chèvre fro the store. The reason is the lack of heat. Fresh from the goat, their milk is creamy and delicious and tastes exactly like cow’s milk. But unlike cow’s milk - once it is pasteurized it begins to change in ways that effect the flavor. It starts turning to a liquid cheese at 140 degrees and while it won’t hurt you (and some love that flavor) it isn’t what you are used to pouring over your Wheaties. But fresh milk. Raw milk is perfection.

So what went into a cup of coffee on a Monday morning here at Cold Antler? Well, two years ago a goat was born. And that goat grew up, was bred, and gave birth to a darling buck a span of days earlier. That buck was sold and the money paid for a flat of vegetables in the garden. And because of that buckling every day a gallon of milk is on tap thanks to his mother. On this particular morning some of that milk sloshed into a cup of coffee to energize the farmer who had a whole farm to bring into the day before most people have even hit their snooze button a second time.

I know this life isn’t for everyone. I know most people think it is too much work, too financially unpredictable, and too constraining to home and stock. It is true that I never stop maintaining the place for more than a few hours. It is true that money is as unpredictable as summer storms. And it is also true that the three-hour trip to a friend’s house last night was as much “getting out’ as I ever receive. It has been years since I spent the night somewhere besides this farmhouse. Folks who need to hop on plains to feel correct in the world would despise this lot. I know. But for those of us who feel more connected to Bach and milking goats, to those of us who choose time travel as our drug of choice…. to those of us already here.

We are home. And a cup of coffee with a good story is enough.

Photo by Miriam Romais


OpenID said...

I am heading out to milk in a moment. Thank you for reminding me that the financial this and that and uncertainty of a homesteading is for good reason, peace and freedom. Thanks for the imagery. And enjoy the warmth, it's freezing here in Colorado still!

May 11, 2015 at 9:09 AM  
OpenID machina: god of the machines said...

Wow, this was so wonderful to read. You inspire me to keep growing my homestead!

May 11, 2015 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Chautauqua said...

Great post, your writing just keeps getting better.

May 11, 2015 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Christina S said...

Nicely said!

May 13, 2015 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Tori said...

Love what you said about the news. As a kid I used to tell my grandpa that he was grumpy all the time because he watched too many news programs. I was never much of a news watcher, but finally stopped after the shooting at Sandy Hook. I totally agree that we don't change things by watching the news, we change things by doing things for the people (and other creatures) we love.

May 13, 2015 at 8:12 AM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I read the start of this post and was instantly reminded of the children's book Pancake, Pancake (I think by Eric Carle). A boy wants pancakes, but first he has to go through all the steps to get the ingredients: gathering, threshing, milling, milking, churning etc.

May 13, 2015 at 11:12 AM  

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