HOMEGROWN Life: BM (Before Milking) and AM (After Milking)


| 5/14/2013 1:34:00 PM


Tags: dairy farm, livestock, Farm Aid and Homegrown.org, Dyan Redick,

lamb in snowIt’s spring. You can’t tell by the weather since, most mornings, the kitchen-window thermometer is still showing temps in the 20-somethings when I’m busy filling milk bottles for five babes. But other signs of spring are evident as I glance out that same kitchen window and see six lambs sitting atop their mamas or wandering around the sheep pen, waiting—patiently or not so patiently—for me to appear and open the gate to the pasture. Spring has blown into full-born sweetness in the barn, as three new goat kids nicker away in between munching on the bits of alfalfa and grain left over from their evening feeding. They, too, are anxious for bottles full of their mamas’ milk.

Dollie, my sweet Saanen girl, got spring rolling here back on March 10 when that thermometer was showing 10, and 30-mile-per-hour winds were blowing straight out of the north. She delivered twin girls, Seashell (Shelly) and Periwinkle (I’ve taken to calling her Winkydoodle). Deliveries followed soon after in the sheep barn, a single lamb I call Harp, on another brutally cold day, followed by Mairead’s delivery on St. Patrick’s Day—one of whom, of course, I call Guinness. On March 18, Colleen presented me at dawn with a set of twin girls, and finally, on Easter Sunday, my gorgeous Maeve brought two more coal black twins into this life, a boy and a girl. Who needs crocuses when you can have six lambs, all black, appear on the landscape? They are like a breath of fresh air after the long—and I mean long, and still not letting up—winter.

I now label the times of my day BM (Before Milking) and AM (After Milking). At 4:30—I know, I’m a lazy farmer; 4:30 a.m. is midafternoon for some folks—it all starts with filling stainless milk buckets with the richest, creamiest, freshest-tasting milk I’ve ever had. I’m not saying that just because it’s from my girls. Honestly. I had never tasted goat milk in my life before I decided to take that left turn to Seabreeze Farm on Open Farm Day four years ago and took a chance on buying a quart. I am not what you would call an adventurous eater. I know it’s probably good, but I just can’t get past those little suction cups on octopi, and I wouldn’t eat sour cream until I was a teenager because of the name. I love sour cream now, although I’ve replaced it with goat’s milk yogurt because, frankly, my life literally revolves around goat milk.kid in kitchen

So, BM in the creamery: There are bottles and buckets and kettles and strainers and molds and ladles and thermometers and probably something I’ve forgotten, all needing to be set up. Moving to the barn, there are hayracks and water buckets to be filled and three goat babes to feed, who, after what must seem like an endless night, are clamoring for warm milk to fill the empty space in their tender baby rumen bellies.

When milking begins, Dollie is first, much to Frannie’s dismay. Last year Frannie was herd queen and bounded out of the gate, her status firmly intact. This year Dollie gently reminds Frannie every morning, with a gentle nod of her head, that she’s queen now. It rotates from year to year. With Dollie’s milk safely in the bucket and hanging on the weighing hook, Frannie gets her turn. There’s just no other way to say it except, “Katie bar the door,” when Frannie comes out of the stall. All three kids stand in their adjoining stall, tiny heads poking out as they nibble on bits of alfalfa, taking it all in. I swear they’re whispering to each other, “Hey, did you see that backflip?”

AM, I spend time filling my own belly with fresh-brewed coffee that’s been sitting safely out of reach, topped with a splash of warm milk straight from the bucket. I sit on the milking stand, coffee tucked, with kids running the length of the barn, bouncing off the hay bales or shaving bundles or me. Little Bingo, Frannie’s boy, born at 14 pounds with the longest legs I’ve ever seen, loves to stretch himself across my lap. I should call him Spiderman, but I call him Bingo for “legs eleven,” or what they call number 11 in Bingo. He’ll be going to live on my cousin’s farm in Vermont and joining the herd there. Oak Knoll is a special place, I call it a dairy with a heart.




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