A few moons ago, I awoke at home in my bed, anxiously anticipating what the coming week would bring into my life. I threw my very full pack into Steph’s lovely blue, purring Toyota sedan (okay, maybe it has a muffler problem that we ignored), completely unaware of how this time away would prove to be some of my most cherished memories. Excited and nervous, I asked Steph if she had any ideas what we would be doing this week, she happily replied, “I think I heard we are going to be milking cows!”. As a born and raised city dweller there’s not much else to say except that, for me those few words were a literal dream come true. (Please note I am aware of how funny this may sound to those of you who are regular milkers).
After many squeals of excitement in the car, we arrived at Linnaea Farm with full hearts and open minds. Our first full day at the farm included a tour of the animal systems. Resident steward Tamara showed us the barns and introduced us to their herd of cattle, complete with a boss cow (Quill), a milk cow (Jazzy), an angry bull (William), a runt (Waffles) and two sweet calves. While Tamara did spend time telling us about the particulars of keeping cattle, what I found the most striking was how connected she was to each animal and the tenderness that she had when she interacted with them. I remember her telling us that she still cries every time one is sent away for “processing”…
That night we were able to sign up for milking. My chosen day soon arrived and we went off to collect Jazzy and Quill. Tamara performed the inaugural milking, while letting us know that the back teats are where the good good lies for the humans and the front are for the calves (sharing is caring after all!).
Pretty soon after we had taken turns squeezing the first bit of milk into our bucket, Jazzy decided to
take a huge pee and poop release her nutrients back to the earth. No matter, Tamara encouraged us to get right back in there and continue milking, feet in the poop, face warm and steamy from the heat of the milk, ears listening to the sound of her ruminating. Taking Jazzy’s milk to breakfast and pouring it in my coffee left me feeling connected to her, and more thankful for that little bit of milk than I’d ever felt about food, let alone milk before.
Milking Jazzy not only fulfilled a tick off my bucket list and instilled in me an insatiable desire to keep a dairy cow, but it really got me thinking about my relationship to the land, what I consume, and myself.
The milk we all drank doesn’t exactly subscribe to the Food Safe standards we all know and don’t love. I mean we were literally standing in shit milking Jazzy and were committing the cardinal health and safety sin of drinking unpasteurized, non homogenized milk. Fear mongering agri-business has been telling us for decades that this simple, natural way of obtaining healthy milk should be avoided. Familiar with how factory farming has disconnected us from our relationship to the land, this experience helped me dive deeper into unlearning my preconceived notions around what “clean” and “good for you” means and how my ideas around that trickle down from my consumer decisions and out into the world as either positive or negative consequences… *sigh* if only raw milk wasn’t illegal… more on that debate another day I suppose.