I will begin by admitting that I fully realize that the significance of this is likely lost on most, if not every person reading this blog. Some have been milking animals for decades. I even know of an adorable two year old, affectionately referred to as “the littlest milkmaid,” who milks goats. Others probably think, what’s so hard about milking a goat, especially if a two year old can do it? Well, in fact, it’s not hard. It just takes, at least for me, some getting the hang of. Over the years we have occasionally gotten in does at PSGR who were “in milk” and were in need of some relieving along the process of drying them up. I had tried, rather unsuccessfully, to milk a few of these does. A few ounces and I was satisfied that I had made an effort and called it good. Leaving it to Barbara who had far more experience.
Then last weekend 4 goats came to live at Baby Goat Central. Not our plan but rescue work is nothing if not unpredictable. You learn to go with the flow. You learn, as Tim Gunn would say, to make it work. When 4 lovely LaMancha ladies urgently needed a place to go, we figured BGC was ready enough and moved them in. Elsie, a beautiful young doe was in milk. A lot of milk. Barbara milked her out the first night they arrived. A few days into the week, both Barbara and I in the middle of a busy work week with our day jobs, I found myself late one evening, looking at a goat uncomfortably full of milk and realizing I had to take the plunge and figure this out. I put my arm around Elsie and reached under. After dancing around for a few seconds she stopped and let me start trying to teach myself to milk. She quickly grew impatient with my inexperience and decided it wasn’t worth it and went off to resume eating her dinner. The next night I was determined and bless her heart, Elsie let me have another go. I put an arm around her, fumbled around and then, there was milk, a lot of milk! I was ridiculously excited and Elsie seemed quite content with the results as she started to chew her cud and stood, perfectly still, in the pasture and let me milk her. No stanchion, no lead, no holding on to her; she just happily stood and let me milk her.
For me, it was a milestone. One of many on this road of rediscovering my farm girl roots. Of taking on this new phase of PSGR. I had a lot of anxiety of how I would balance my very full time job and all the volunteer work I currently do for PSGR with now adding a barn full of goats to be responsible for. Elsie and the lovely LaMancha ladies have been the perfect transition into this new reality.
Yes, I now get up in the dark, at an hour no person should have to get up, so I have time to go out and check on them each morning. I come in for the night, 14 hours later from when I started the day, so I can spend time with them and make sure I am being the best “goat mom” that I can be. I worry about them during the day and am guilty of asking the wonderful neighbors to do a drive by the first few days to make sure they were all accounted for. But this new reality; worry, exhaustion and all, makes me so happy. This is what I signed up for. Sometimes I think diving into the deep end, unexpectedly, is the only way to do it. You just have to let go of the worry of how it all will go, adjust your expectations and make it work.
The day after my successful milking of Elsie, I was at work, visiting a pumpkin patch with the kids I spend my work day with and one of them asked what the white stuff was all over my boots. I looked down, not having noticed it before and with a beaming smile I answered, its goat milk! I milked a goat!