A bunch of you have asked me to tell more about having a milk cow. If you missed part one, here it is. Part two is here, part three here, Part 4.
So, what's it really like day to day?
It's a big responsibility and commitment. One needs to rise early and milk at the same time, 7 days a week. No skipping. There's manure, fencing, money, feed, hay and gallons upon gallons of water. There's vets and breeders and all this extra stuff that I never even thought about. Plus time. Very time consuming. Definitely ties you down.
There's been some people, family and friends, who have voiced their opinions about my choice about having a milk cow and really a homestead in general. Some not so supportive comments. Those comments stem from only thinking about the work. Let me offer another side...
I wake in the morning, before the sunrise. I gather my upcycled wipes, washing water and buckets and open the door to breathe the morning air. There may be dew on the ground or frost on the ground, it may be hot and sticky or below freezing. Regardless, I roll out of my bed and start my day outside. It's a new day and I greet the new day with a deep breath of fresh air in the stillness of a new morning. Most often, I have little 'helpers' accompanying me. On the rare occasion, I somehow glide down the creaky old stairs unnoticed, and face the morning alone.
I enter the barn and the chickens are just waking, scurrying around. Hop, the bunny is hopping about the barn. A cat may be strutting his prized catch. The goats are still huddled in the corner, resting. But the cows? They are up and eagerly awaiting a morning forehead scratch. It's like a non verbal morning announcement: "So glad you're here".
After the other animals are tended ,my muscles get a morning workout scooping manure. When all is clean, I sit in my 'office space', my milking stool, and begin my morning milking. Most often, I have one or both of my littles with me. Occasionally, it's just me, all alone.
When it's just me, I have the most awesome time of thinking. My mind is clear, it's so quiet as I am stuck in one place, filling a bucket. I think, I pray, I plan, I organize, I dream. I unclutter my mind, sort things out and become a better mother/wife. It's only happened a few times, that I've been alone for an entire milking, but I remember those times fondly.
Most of the time, if my littles didn't join me first thing, they bust into the barn while I'm still milking.
They roll out of bed, throw on boots and perhaps a coat and go from their bed to outside to find me. I tell you, there's nothing like being mid milking and a messy hair kid with pajamas and barn boots bursts into the barn with a big smile, looking for a hug. Even though it's great to have morning alone time, I love when they join me. When they do, they get an extended period of time of me sitting right at their level. They hang on me, sit with me, hug me, talk to me. I answer questions, have conversation, plan for today and dream about tomorrow. I participate in their elaborate pretend play schemas while milking, as of late it's been 'playing entering animals into the county fair'. Prior to the milk cow, I didn't find it easy to give uninterrupted time to my kids consistently daily for an extended period of time. Chores, the kitchen timer, the phone or an animal always distracted me. It's now built into the rhythm of our morning. They know the can count on me to be their listening ear, play partner, question answerer, mama with nothing interrupting that time. I swear they are better kids when it comes to cooperating with one another and with me when they spend the morning with me in the barn. It just is working so well for us.
Long story short, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for this milk cow and how she ties me down and keeps me home. It keeps me grounded. I'm thankful my kids roll out of bed and head outside everyday, no matter the weather. How awesome of a childhood is that?! I'm thankful for time for me and time for my kids having a milk cow provides. I'm thankful for the manure for my garden and milk for our family. I'm thankful to just look outside and see them grazing. Having them makes this homestead complete.
It's really so much more than the work and the milk. It's the lifestyle, the slower rhythm, the time to breathe while doing the work. It's the happy memories that we are creating that my kids will hopefully one day lovingly recall as "their childhood". It's really quite good having them.