Welcome to another Real Food Quote Monday (RFQM). Each Monday, I quote from something I read, and ask you to add your thoughts. This week, I’m quoting from Keeping A Family Cow, currently a very helpful book in my life. I’m grateful to the eCourse members who recommended it to me.
Our Family Cow
What an adventure we’ve had lately! I’ve been alternately euphoric and depressed. Gracie, our new Jersey, gave birth to a heifer calf a little over a week ago. Certain circumstances in our life have shown us God’s mercy, so we named the calf Mercy. Gracie and Mercy. It suits!
This being Gracie’s first time calving, she’s a reluctant milker. She’s got quite a calm temperament, but she’s sore and uncertain and hasn’t yet submitted to being milked. Many times, I would milk and my daughter B. would hold the bucket, but that being so uncomfortable and difficult (Gracie kicks quite a bit) for all of us, we abandoned that.
For two consecutive milkings over the weekend, I could not milk Gracie at all. I’ve been in this position with goats, but goats are smaller and easier to control. (And cleaner, by the way.) I am not a timid milk-maid either, I don’t think. She knows I’m not afraid of her and I chide her in a stern voice when she misbehaves, yet still she exerts her will against me. It is just a matter of time; I know there’s a good girl in there!
Last night and this morning, I milked her out thoroughly even though she kicked dozens of times. I couldn’t keep the bucket under the udder without B.’s help, yet if she held the bucket, I couldn’t adopt a more comfortable milking position for both me and Gracie. This meant I milked into the ground (for shame). Breaks my heart to let that milk go. But I’d rather milk her and keep her production up, than lose future milk because of giving up. One day, she’ll settle into being our family cow, and hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.
When I come inside from the barn — either happy with our progress, or despairing that we’ll never figure this out — I pick up my new copy of Keeping A Family Cow. I wish I could have a good chat with the author, Joann S. Grohman! What a woman. I want to be her someday. The book is wonderful. Not only educational, but inspiring and encouraging. I feel so good, no matter how little of the book I can digest at a time. I wish I’d gotten this book a long time ago.
For today’s quote, I’ll share from the beginning of the book.
“The cow is the premier dairy animal because of her cooperative temperament, the comparative ease with which she can be milked, the volume she is able to produce, and because of the versatility of cow’s milk. The cream is easily skimmed and made into much prized butter in cold climates and ghee in hot climates. …
The cow is a primary producer of wealth. She can support a family. She not only turns grass into milk in quantities sufficient to feed a family but also provides extra to sell and she contributes a yearly calf to rear or fatten. The byproducts from cheesemaking (whey) and from butter (buttermilk) will support a pig or two. Her manure improves her pasture and when dug into the garden, results in plant growth that cannot be surpassed by other growth mediums. The family that takes good care of its cow is well off.
The dairy cow doesn’t ask for much but she asks every day. People who are creating wealth with a cow either are hard working and reliable or they get that way in a hurry. This is the way it has been for a very long time. The fine farms of Europe, England, New England and much of the United States were all established thanks to the wealth derived from cows. Wherever there is, or used to be, a big barn it was built to store winter hay for the cows which once dotted the pastures. The need to milk the cow twice a day determined the location of churches; people had to be able to walk there and back without disruption to the schedules of cows. … Important virtues are nurtured on the farm, including a graphic understanding of the relationship between working and eating. Over my farming life I have bred and raised all of the traditional farm animals and I love them all. But through association with the dairy cow I have come to understand and accept the words of that great 19th Century agricultural essayist, William Cobbett: ‘When you have the cow, you have it all.’ “
Now can you see how — even coming in from a miserable milking — I can look forward to the next opportunity I have to work with Gracie? She’s really a wonderful creature, coming near for nuzzles and hay. She loves to be brushed and washed and massaged with castor oil (for her sore udder). Her milk flows (if only I could catch it!). She’s good for us, I know it. We’ll get there!
I know you seasoned milk maids have advice for me, so please do share! I should tell you the things we’ve tried — tying up her tail (she loves to switch me), bending her tail forward (to stop the kicking), a stanchion (yes, we have one), catching her urine and poop (bucket and shovel) to teach her not to do it during milking, and I am hopeful things are improving. Tonight I am going to try milking with one hand and holding the bucket with the other. Or I might try getting one knee more underneath her and holding the bucket between my knees, while I milk with both hands. Update: Since posting this, I have milked twice, one hand milking and the other holding a light-weight bowl, and I have been able to keep all the milk! She’s very sore where her legs rub against her udder and when I milk near there, that seems to be when she kicks the most. Totally understandable, and we’ll get through it.
I found this set of videos on YouTube; I found them very helpful in seeing the correct position of the cow’s legs, and the milker’s position. I’m dying to get to the point where Gracie stands and doesn’t kick but once or twice a year, as this farmer claims.
What do you think? Do you have advice for me? Have you read Keeping A Family Cow? If you don’t, and are interested in dairying, I highly recommend it!
Have you heard? The next class at GNOWFGLINS eCourse will be on cultured dairy and basic cheesemaking. We’ll begin in late January 2011. I’ve done alot with goat’s milk and am beginning my work translating those techniques and recipes for using cow’s milk (plus adding some). I’m loving this topic, and I’m really looking forward to sharing and learning with all of you!
The book link in this post is an affiliate link to Amazon.com. If you choose to buy the book via my link, I’ll earn a commission. But I don’t care about that too much. The point of this post is for us to share inspirational words. That’s my sincere disclaimer. Thanks for reading.