The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Rites of Milk

November 22nd, 2015 · No Comments · Posted in farming


Our Jersey cow Emily continues to amaze.

The other day I skimmed a quart of cream from the gallon I’d collected from her over two days. That’s an astonishing amount compared to what she was producing when we first started milking her in the spring. Likewise, when I make ricotta cheese lately, the yield is almost double. It seems the solids in her milk have increased by a huge amount. How does that happen?

Then there’s this. When I start milking Emily shortly after daybreak, I typically find the two rear quarters I focus on flaccid and empty looking. I stroke and stroke, trying to coax out some milk. As I do, her udder and teats swell. Soon the milk is shooting into the bucket in heavy streams. I can’t help but be amazed and a bit stupefied by bovine mechanics.

I still milk Emily by hand. I partially fill the stainless bucket with warm water in the kitchen and toss in a rag. I set a plastic feed bucket with about five pounds of GMO-free grain on the floor of the milking parlor for her to nosh. Then I wipe down her udder, dip the two rear teats in iodine, give them a wipe, then sit on a milk crate to begin milking.

I place three rocks in the feed bucket to slow Emily down. By the time she’s finished eating, I’ve usually collected two quarts (eight pounds in dairy speak), which is plenty for our needs, since nobody in the family drinks milk. We use it to make yogurt and cheese, sometimes skimming the cream for butter or ice cream.

These days, Emily’s calf, Del, somehow finds his way into the orchard in the evening to graze all by his lonesome. By morning, he’s hungry to nurse, so after leading Emily out of the milking parlor and out the far end of the main paddock where she’s spent the night, I have to chase Del from the orchard so he he can hook up with his mom.

We have our milking routine. But as with everything else on the farm, you have to be flexible and ready to improvise.

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