We are now in full milk production! Yes, we are! Oh, well, I know that we have only three goats in our dairy herd, but everyone has to start somewhere!
So how much milk is coming into the kitchen? Just under three litres, and that is coming from the early morning milking because we are sharing the mums with their goatlings, so they have milk during the day, then the little ones are separated off from their mums when they come off the field in the evening which means that the mums are full of milk for the morning.
It is hard work getting up early though. We are finding that if the goats are milked when the sun is properly up then they are fidgety and hungry. We do give them a bucket of food to eat while they are being milked, but they are still restless. They might also decide not to give us milk, because they have some sort of clamping action available to them which can stop the milk flow at will. They might also sit down, like little Ice Cream does. But if they are milked at sun-up then they are still dopey and dozy, and are far more amiable about being messed about with.
So what happens is this: Armed with a milk bucket, a bowl of warm water, a wash cloth, a towel, a bucket of maize, a smaller bucket of maize, and a pan with a lid, Lester and I venture forth into the goat pen after first moving through the smaller pen in which the little goatlings are resting, and making mischief. Lester then 'captures' the big brown goat, Rovi, ties her to the railings, I stand at her head, if necessary gripping her wonderfully big horns to keep her in position if she is not wanting to be milked, and also holding the smaller bucket of maize under her nose in the hopes that she will become involved with feeding her tummy and not be too anti about what Lester is doing to her udders. It will take about ten minutes to milk her.
Lester then hands me the milk pail, and there is a bit of a tangle while I try to take hold of that, plus refill the maize bucket, plus get out through the gate of the goat pen while trying to prevent the goatlings from getting through to their mums, then I have to negotiate another gate which is held shut by a block brick which is heavy to shift and scratches my hands, meanwhile hoping that I do not drop my precious cargo of milk in the bucket. Once through that gate I pour the milk into the pan, which sits on the hay bales.
Lester, meanwhile, is organising the next goat, which will be Blacky. I fill the small bucket with more maize, take the milk bucket and this bucket through the gate, moving the ****** block brick again, through the goatlings, through the goat pen gate which the goats have tried to climb up so it is now hard to shut and requires the use of the foot to raise it up so it can be bolted which hurts the foot but not to worry we are milking, then over to Lester and Blacky, and off we go again, the same as we did for Rovi. Ten minutes.
Repeat all again. Ice Cream now. She is a tarter of a flipping goat, but gives us as much as the other two put together. She was dopey this morning because we milked early, but yesterday we couldn't get out of bed so were an hour later and boy oh boy but didn't we pay the price for our laziness because she struggled and was a horror all the way through the milking. In the end I had to hold her horns to hold her still, but I scratch her ears, and stroke her face, just to let her know that we do not mean her any harm.
All done. Thirty to forty minutes later, and off to the kitchen we go after first re-uniting the goatlings with their mums. That pan of milk is carried with much reverence because I am fearful of tripping and spilling the lot. I am also aware of the animals it has come from.
Once in the kitchen, the milk is poured through a muslin lined sieve into big screw topped glass jars, which are then put straight into the fridge.
And that is all there is milking!
Now you might be thinking that this is an awful lot of effort, and wouldn't it be a lot easier to buy the milk from the supermarket, and at seven in the morning I would agree with you. Plus, I have to run the gamut of having a husband who is not a morning person, so tends towards grumpiness until mid morning. Now this I can normally avoid by being busy somewhere else, but now we are milking and it is a joint effort, I am a captive audience for him. Not to worry. In time we will have 'proper' facilities, like a milking ramp on which the goat can stand, and a mechanical milking machine which will probably be a hand operated pump, although Lester is desirous of an electrical bit of kit especially since Elise, our heifer, will hopefully be in milk production in a couple of years.
But for the time being it is his fingers which have to do the work because we have no extra money available, and if we did we would have to put it towards repairing the tractor which has become dreadfully broken, something to do with the clutch, or gear box, or something or other.
So we have nearly six litres of goats milk in the fridge.
Day One: Up prompt and milking with enthusiasm, and marvel at the milk in the jars.
Day Two: Slightly less enthusiasm, got a bit cold during milking.....
Day Three: Grumpy, and late up because puppies had got me up at 1am, 5am, and 6am. Think the goats 'caught' our mood because they had the grumps as well. Thoughts were "Blimey, we'll be doing this lark for years to come...what the hell are we doing......". Felt quite gloomy until saw the milk stash in the fridge.
Day Four (today): 'Good to go' today. Up at five, did some writing, got Lester up promptly, all out by 7.30, milking done by just past 8. Feel enthused about the whole smallholding lark, think I can carry on doing this daily until I am in my dotage. Need to be more organised though. Need to get the milking stuff ready the night before.
PS. When does one's 'dotage' start? I am coming up to sixty six, should I not be in my dotage now, or perhaps dotage starts for a person when they have time to be in the state of being.
Off to scythe some grass for the pigs to supplement their feed, but don't have to do that for the sheep, goats and cow, because they were finally able to get onto Home Field this morning, and no doubt will be gorging themselves silly on the grass which has grown during the recent six weeks of flooding.
Anyone know how to make goats milk cheese?