Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Confessions Of A Milkmaid

At first I thought I would keep the events of this morning to myself, but I've read too many pop psychology books not to know that unpleasant things will fester if they're hidden. And as a recovering Catholic, I have retained a belief in the salutary effects of confession. So here goes.

It is customary in goat circles to separate the babies from the mother at night a couple of weeks after birth. In the morning, the goatherd feeds the babies from a bottle—which results in goats who love people—then milks the mother and reunites the family.

Last night, I separated the babies from Blossom for the first time. First thing this morning I warmed a bottle of milk and picked the kids up one at a time and fed them. Then I put Blossom on the milking stand.

This was not the first time I'd milked her. We'd had short practice sessions since she'd given birth, and though she had started out compliant, she had become more and more rebellious. But this morning she reached new heights of obnoxiousness. She bucked, she kicked, she yelled—all the while swallowing great mouthfuls of grain. The minute I slid the milk pail under her, she sat down, by which I mean that she lowered her hind quarters and put her entire udder inside the pail. This made it impossible for me to get my hands around the teats.

I was quite calm at first. I sang my usual milking ditty—a Spanish folksong about shepherds leading their herds down from their summer pastures. I tried to speak soothingly. But it's hard to speak soothingly while wrestling with a small but amazingly strong goat.

Every once in a while I'd be able to squeeze some milk into the pail. I tried holding one of Blossom's hind legs up in the air and milking one-handed, but that put me in a contorted position that I couldn't maintain for long. And the whole time Blossom yelled and screamed. I know you're thinking “edema,” or “mastitis.” But no, her udder was not hard or hot or swollen. She was just being contrary.

With every squirt I managed to get from her, milk spilled onto my hands and clothes. I gave both of us a break, dried myself off, breathed deeply, and tried again, but when I slid the pail under her, she kicked it out of my hands.

And that, Reader, is when I lost it. I picked up the milking pail and...emptied its contents on top of Blossom.

This of course left me feeling terribly foolish, and with some cleaning up to do: the goat, the milking stand, the floor.

I spent the rest of the morning mulling over the situation. I have dealt with a few recalcitrant milkers in my time, but I've never been beaten by one. And this morning Blossom beat me.

I decided that I would milk her three times a day. I would use a small stainless steel bowl instead of the big milk pail. I would ground and center myself and breathe deeply and say a short prayer to the goat gods. I would expect whatever milk I got to be useless for human consumption, as a result of having been stepped in—in other words, I would not attach to outcomes.

And so I went out at noon, and again this evening, and centered myself and brushed Blossom and petted her and sang to her and did not attach to outcomes. Which was good, because there were none—she refused to let her milk down. But at least she was a little calmer, and so was I.

Tomorrow morning, as soon as I open my eyes, I will sally forth once more to confront my goat. I will be calm, I will be understanding, I will not attach to outcomes. And I will not get my feelings hurt if she kicks the pail again.

6 comments :

  1. I await updates.

    This is beginning to sound like a full-time job.

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  2. you have way more patience than i do. i would have dumped the milk over her much sooner than you did.

    and no i wasn't thinking mastitis. i was thinking "ornery." and i was thinking "patience of a saint."

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  3. Well...basically, more of the same. She's still struggling, kicking, bucking. But the good news is, I haven't dumped the milk on her. This is becoming a sort of spiritual exercise for me.

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  4. Who can blame her? It's hard-wired into her to nurse her babies. I loved nursing my babies too :) Good luck. I'm sure you two will be back on good terms soon.

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  5. I agree, mrb. In fact, I think the reason she's so obstreperous in the morning is that she's dying to get back to the babies. When I milk her at noon and in the evening, she's fine...though of course then there's barely any milk, since the babies have been nursing.

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