Cold morning moon
My alarm goes off at 5:15 in the morning. I put on my tea pot, wake up whichever child I am taking with me to the farm and get dressed in my cold weather gear. I make two travel mugs of chai tea with extra honey, coconut oil and cream for the child, prod the stumbling child into the cold, cold vehicle and point it south. It takes me anywhere from an hour and 35 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes to arrive at the farm, depending on road conditions. So far, every early morning trip has been challenging with either icy roads, deep, unplowed snow or freakishly late in the winter fog.
Usually, said child drinks their tea and then promptly falls back to sleep as the vehicle heats up and their wool blanket begins to remind them of their warm bed.
My milk cans are in a very different environment. To keep them insulated from the warmth in the front of the truck, they are snuggled into a set of cold, old, torn and worn quilts under the vinyl cover in the back of the SUV.
I arrive at the farm around the same time the sun rises. Sometimes we arrive in time to traipse into the field with M. to bring the cows in to the milk house. Other times, he has already started milking and we scurry in with our milk pails and begin cleaning the cows teats immediately with only cursory pleasantries.
This morning, M. has the cows up to the milk house, but is still putting the herding dogs back in their barn. Hugs and smiles, warm greetings all around! We missed seeing K. last weekend. My Girl had made K. a Wool Cozy for her Mason jar. K. likes to drink a quart of milk every morning right from the teat….warm milk. Hopefully the Cozy will help keep her milk warm in this f-f-frigid weather.
The cows are slipping and sliding on the icy cement just outside the milk house. The milk house is at the top of a sloping hill and the big barn and their water and hay feeder is at the top of another gently sloping hill with an ice rink in between. Cows on ice. It isn’t pretty. We move slowly, with arms outstretched at times, using low voices to prod the cows into the milk house.
Snow Covered Guernsey Cows
Some cows walk right in, confidently searching for an opening to step into. Others peek inside with wide eyes, cautiously searching to see if their *favorite* opening is available. If the preferred spot has another cow in it, sometimes we go back and get a different cow, other times we encourage them to “just TRY it, Gertie!” We chuckle when Flying Boy raises his tiny voice to tell the cows the Dr. Seuss story, encouraging the cow in question to, “Try it here or there! Try it with a fox, try it in a box!” Sometimes trying it works, and other times trying it means NOT liking it. Watching a 900 pound cow turn around in a small space on a slippery cement floor is an event observed with trepidation. With your back pressed to the wall. Or standing abruptly with one hand clutching your milking pail and another hand on the side of the cow you were just milking to steady her as she shifts her feet, uneasy with the knowledge that there is a 900 pound cow turning around behind her.
When the labor of the early hours of dawn is completed, we head up to the house. An almost reflexive,collective “Ohhhh!” escapes from our lips as the warmth of the cook stove’s heat blasts our frozen faces. We shed heavy boots and coats to allow the heat to penetrate our frozen parts. There is something magical about a wood fire. M. keeps a tea pot on his cook stove at all times and I am guaranteed to be offered a steamy mug of tea while we wait for the milk to cool down and our butts to warm up. Once we establish how many gallons and how many milk totes we will need to fill, we go about putting together the other parts of the order: sharp cheese, spicy jerky, thick cream, pounds of deep yellow butter and roasts and ground beef.
More tea? Yes, please. I comment that I’m getting soft, only milking once a week. My forearms ached after I milked 4 cows last weekend. M. laughs and says it gets easier the more cows you milk. We talk about what books we are reading, homeschooling our children. “Oh!,” K. jumps up. “”You’ve got to try the crème Brule that M. made!” I beg for the recipe, it is so incredibly thick and creamy. M. smiles apologetically. He hems and haws. He doesn’t really follow a recipe. He ducks his head. He tells me as best he can what he does with a bit of sugar and how many egg yolks, or was it whole eggs? I’m toasty inside and out. We talk about the calves and how much more they grow when they stay with their mamas longer. My backside is hot from being turned to the woodstove. It is easy to linger here- my truck is cold and the hospitality is warm.