Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goat Politics, Continued

I am happy to report that things have calmed down considerably in the goat shed. Virginia Slim cries out only when she hears my voice, which I take to mean that she's bonded to me. And Blossom and Alsiki, have abandoned their nasty ways and only butt her occasionally, to remind her that she's the newcomer.

Did I mention that Virginia Slim doesn't like to be milked? Let me make it clear that I was thoroughly forewarned about this by Virginia Slim's former owner. I could have bought a solid, stolid older doe with a proven record and a patient disposition. Instead, I fell in love with Virginia Slim's good looks, and made brave statements about my patience and my ability to sing any goat into submission.

Did I mention that Virginia Slim is kind of wild and doesn't like to be caught for milking purposes? I was warned about this too, as I made eyes at her.

According to Judeo/Christian tradition, I should be punished for my fixation on mere externals by being saddled with an ungovernable, unmilkable goat. But guess what—Virginia Slim is becoming tamer, sweeter, more milkable by the day. This is not without effort on my part, of course.

If I want her to come inside the shed so I can lead her to the milking room I first have to offer grain to Blossom and Alsiki so they will come into the shed. Since Virginia Slim cannot bear to be separated from them, she comes into the shed as well. I then take her by the collar and lead her to the milking room, where she hops up on the milking bench. There is a stanchion there, and a dish of grain.

I fasten the stanchion and she takes a couple of distracted mouthfuls of grain. I wash her udder in warm water, dry it with a soft towel. Then I squeeze her teats, one after the other, making sure no milk goes back up into the udder. Swish, swish...for maybe a minute or two, all goes well.

But then she realizes, to her horror, that she's being milked. She stops eating, and she sits down. I try to hold her up with one hand while milking with the other. I grab her right hind leg to keep it out of the pail. It's especially important to get the last drops of milk out, or the body will get the signal that it can cut down on production. And it's those last drops that are the hardest, for both of us.

For now, I'm milking her three times a day, as opposed to the usual two. I'm doing this to keep the milking sessions short and pleasant, to get her to eat more grain, and to encourage her body to keep producing. And to get both of us used to each other in this strangely intimate business of milking.

And every drop of that thick, sweet, lovely milk is worth the effort. Right now my first batch of rosemary-seasoned cheese is in the press. I'll let you know how it comes out tomorrow.

7 comments :

  1. somehow i think it'll be delicious.

    your falling in love with a completely difficult virginia slim is not much different from my falling in love with riley.

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  2. If goats lactate anything like humans do, the shorter more often milkings will bring more milk than fewer longer ones would...butyou probably know that already. :^)

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  3. Laurie, but at least we didn't fall in love with completely difficult men!

    Bridgett, it's exactly the same! In fact, it was remembering the advice in the nursing books I read almost 40 years ago that made me decide on this schedule. I hope she figures it all out soon, though, because this is consuming my life.

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  4. I've never milked anything. Maybe if one of your calmer goats drops some kids in the fall, maybe you could let me try it someday.

    I am chasing my tail workwise and have yet to do anything with the rhubarb! I want to see how much I have and see if I have the bread ingredients and then just make as much bread as I have rhubarb...but if I have to come get more (if this rhubarb doesn't expire first), maybe I'll test your cheese, just to make sure it's OK.

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  5. I've taught quite a few people to milk--it's not hard, and who knows, since Virginia Slim just now let me milk her WITHOUT INCIDENT, you may be able to try it sooner rather than later.

    Plenty of rhubarb here if you need more!

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  6. Now I must come to Vermont this summer. I'm intrigued as how you make goat cheese. I'll bring a copy of MamaMia if you haven't seen it by then.

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  7. O.k., I'll take this as a promise!

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