Thursday, November 24, 2011

A-Milking We Will Go

Brother in love Bob invited me to go goat milking. My farming days are, I hope, far behind me but I'm fine being a spectator.

It was a stereotypical little red barn that housed the goats and cows out of the fifty degree day and the sudden bursts of wind moaning through the trees like the ghosts of Thanksgiving past.

Celo describes itself as an Intentional Community, a not quite commune of privately occupied homes on shared ownership of land where all community decisions are made by consensus. In this world of families treading lightly on the land the call went out for volunteers to help milk the cows and goats. Bob took one day a week on goat duty.

It is a fussy little barn with copious instructions on how to coexist with dangerous farm animals. I read the instructions and recoiled in terror. Then I remembered this is a place where caution is the byword and normal life can be attempted without necessarily fatal results.

I read the second sign literally and wondered why Bob didn't feed the cows. "I'm a goat milker," he said patiently as though I were slow witted and couldn't tell the difference between this:

...and this:

With the goat head stuck between the bars and the creature wolfing down breakfast Bob, at the rear, sprang into action first washing the teats with soapy water, much to my astonishment, as I had never seen that done before. Then he got stuck in, in full-on Biblical style.

Silently and with determination he sat alongside his goat and I could hear the results of his labor tinkling into the bucket. He had mentioned previously he was new at this and I was on no account to make fun of him. There was nothing to mock, he worked like a Trojan.

I kept an eye on the food level at the front while Bob beavered away at the back. He said that the goat remains passive as long as the is food to keep it's interest. As soon as the food bowl is empty she starts to kick with sub-optimal results in the milking end of things.

Eventually Bob straightened his back and proceeded to disinfect the teats, another first for me. The elderly milk farmers I knew as a child were far less fussy. Indeed I have drunk milk from horses and cows squeezed directly into the glass, no filters or soapy water involved.

We took the milk back to the house where Bob thanked me for being then lucky charm that kept the milk flowing and the goat still while he tweaked her teats. Perhaps I should have confessed I handed the goat a little extra feed as he tray ran dry and that was enough to hold her interest while he finished.

We had last week's goat cheese and herb spread created by his wife, as an appetizer for our early Thanksgiving yesterday and it was quite pleasant even for me who dislikes the flavor of goat in my food. It was mild and creamy and my sister in law seems to have figured out how to leave the flavor of goat back in the little red barn, where it belongs.

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