“Well, did you ever milk a cow?
I had the chance one day, but I was all dressed up for Sunday.”
— “We Can Talk,” The Band
We all gathered round the cow and brushed her, to relax her and help her drop down her milk. She had just been given a bucket full of apples, so she was already in the moo-d, and she was used to fumbling beginners who didn’t know their way around a teat.
Perched on my little three-legged stool, I leaned in, trying to see just what was going on down there. Debra, who was leading the workshop on taking care of a family cow, showed me how to milk her. I encircled a teat at the top with my thumb and index finger, held it firmly for a moment to trap in the milk, and squeezed. I was surprised how easily the milk streamed out, as I had imagined some rigorous tugging would be needed. It was like squeezing Go-Gurt out of a tube, if the tube were an animal’s organ and the yogurt were warm milk. I felt the teat instantly refill with milk, ready for another squeeze.
I even had the opportunity to squirt some raw milk straight from the teat into my mouth. I didn’t know what to expect it to taste like, but it tasted exactly like milk, of course, warm milk that your mamma would bring you if you couldn’t get back to sleep after a bad dream.
My friend Alicia and I both enjoyed this workshop. We were in a group with six others who were there to celebrate a birthday. We were able to spend time in the field with the cows as they chomped up grass as quickly as they could. They effortlessly moved away from my bumbling attempts to pet them. I did get one of the girls to stay near me as I scratched under her neck, though.
Once Pumpkin was milked, Debra took the bucket into another barn to show us how to prepare yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream with it.
Debra had a big bucket of milk from the day before, and we ladled off the rich cream from the thin skim milk. The cream always rises to the top, you know.
As Debra churned away at the ice cream, she told us a delightful story about a smoked cheese she had made based on an elaborate recipe from India, where a cow rescue organization nurses injured free-roaming cows back to health. To make the cheese, they follow rituals to collect their milk and dung. They make flattened balls of the dung that are then dried out and filled with ghee (clarified butter) made from their milk. They smoke the cheese with the ghee-filled dung disks in the oven. Debra followed the process as well as she could in northwestern Connecticut and proudly served us the cheese. It was good, with no hint of dung in its flavor.
We took turns churning the butter and the ice cream, and we were able to try both as part of a potluck lunch we shared. (Debra used store-bought pasteurized cream for sharing with us due to some legalities. She clearly took great pride in her grass-fed cows’ milk, though, and the butter made from it was a rich yellow.)
This was a lovely way to spend a morning on the farm. Local Farm offers the workshops on keeping a family cow twice a year, and they offer other homesteading workshops as well.
Would you drink milk straight from a cow?
Into cows and all things dairy? Check out these posts:
- Homemade Butter (easy and yummy)
- Riding a Mechanical Bull (OK, that one’s a stretch)
- Flavored Milk (an open letter to remove it from school cafeterias)
- Scheduling a Cow
- Keeping a Family Cow, Local Farm in Cornwall, CT
#1 (101 things in 1001 days): Milk a cow.
Thanks to Larry Danvers for the group photo.
Update: I returned to the farm three weeks later for its workshop on keeping backyard chickens.