At 8 A.M. my day begins. I awaken as the rest of the house slumbers and attend to the bathroom, start the kettle to make coffee and then ignite a fire in the woodstove…the fire gently burns, taking it’s sweet time coming to flames in the frigid morning air. I measure out my coffee into the french press and then go back to the woodstove coddling the newborn flames gaining strength even as I throw in a wad of newspaper …the kettle begins to boil and I pour the boiling water into the french press catching the time of the clock and mentally setting ahead four minutes when the coffee will be done.
As the coffee steeps I dress into my warm clothes, a pair of olive green wool pants and a black cashmere sweater (both are thrift store finds for $1.50 each and super warm) along with my woolen socks. When the coffee is done I pour it into my travel mug as I heat about 1/2 cup of our goat’s milk on the stove, I hate it when cold milk super-cools my coffee so I heat up the milk before adding it to the coffee. By this time, the fire is alive and crackling, I add one more log and adjust the vents and close the door. I then put on my boots and my heavy duty goose down filled coat, my woolen gloves with the fingertips cut out for ease of milking along with my favorite knit cap, the dark teal colored one with the brim. I grab my two wide mouthed one quart mason jars with lids sitting ready on the kitchen counter, where I had placed them the night before, and my travel mug full of freshly made coffee with goat’s milk from yesterday’s evening milking (no sugar, sugar just ruins coffee’s flavor..). Readied for battle, I take a deep breath and open the door.
A quick glance at the thermometer on my right lets me know that it’s a nippy 27.3 degrees out, not too bad really. I look around at the slight powdered sugar dusting of snow on the ground and the tiny flakes that continue to fall profusely, just your normal average what we like to call “mountain snow” ..it’ll snow all day like this and we’ll only end up with about a 1/2 inch…that’s my favorite kind of snow. Snow-wise we’ve been really lucky this year, so far we’ve only gotten a grand total of 8 inches…and half of that was one snow of 4 inches with little bits of inches and half inches here and there…I really could not have asked for a better winter so far 🙂
I briskly walk the 100 foot distance from the house to the goat shed, unlock and open it up and turn on the light, the goats immediately rise up from sleeping and greet me with snorts and bleats and wagging tails while licking their lips in anticipation of the hay they know I am about to give them. I load up their trough with hay and as they munch away I turn on the radio to the local pop music station because it has the best morning show and begin to prepare the first goat’s meal, a bit of goat feed with some black oil sunflowers seeds and dried beet pulp added in for extra fiber and nutrition.
I begin with Marissa, the Saanen, she gave birth first and so gets milked first, she’s also the largest and the sweetest most laid back of the bunch and she gives the most milk. Milking is very relaxing and as I get into rhythm, squeeze, squirt, release, squeeze, squirt, release, squeeze, squirt, release…my mind wanders, only halfway listening to the radio, as things are brought to my attention, things mostly forgotten most of the time had it not been for the sweet sanctuary of this shed and the sweet wanderings of my mind aided by the primitive rhythm of a milking hand.
“Not all those who wander are not lost…” I whisper to myself. In fact, they are usually the ones most at home…I think about my home, the inhabitation of my domain and the expanse of my calling, a small and simple yet profound and extremely holy act in the stewardship of my land and my animals….”deep roots are not reached by the frost.” Like the 100+ year old maple tree in my front yard my roots are strong and deep, my feet firmly planted in the ground and yet my mind wanders and wanders. My best ideas, my most potent prayers, coming forth during this simple act of milking my goats…I think of all the women who have come before me, perhaps thousands of generations, who found strength and solace in milking time and how sad it is that so few women participate in such an act any longer, how much they are missing, how much strength is given for the journey in this pure and timeless act of milking.
I move on to the next two goats, Rosie and then her mother, Darlene, both of them LaManchas. We get exactly two quarts of milk, they don’t give as much when the weather is cold. I lock them back away in their pen and refill their water pail and give them more hay before leaving. I head back into the house and deposit the jars of milk in the fridge, put another log on the fire, and then head back out, this time to the chicken coop where I fill up their feeder and collect eggs. Only 6 this morning but with the 9 I got yesterday it will be more than enough for a breakfast of eggs and toast made with homemade bread along with glasses of goat’s milk. I run back to the house through the snow flakes, and happy I am for my finds, the fruits of my labor. I make more coffee and then hop onto the internet as the house still slumbers peacefully away 🙂