Each Friday at 9:30 am I drive to milk the Nubian milk goats at White Mountain Ranch. I’ve been on a quest for local, raw milk for a while now. For a year I waited for a goat milking co-op to gain momentum through City Farmer’s Organic Nursery, only to have it fizzle out. I’ve responded to countless Craigslist ads for dairy goats and cows for sale, inquiring instead about raw milk availability. In the meantime, we’ve cut out most dairy products from our grocery list. (Which has created problems for my own ongoing dairy goat argument. Now Chris thinks we don’t drink milk!) Finally, after two years of searching I happened upon Cari at White Mountain Ranch.
Cari is young, full of newly acquired knowledge, enthusiastic, and like us, trying to make a go of it farming. She’s got mushrooms growing in her refrigerator, eggs incubating in her living room, and kombucha tea fermenting on the counter. Their ranch is home to rabbits, turkeys, chickens, ducks, sheep, and said Nubian goats. (They are looking for one more lamb CSA member and have lots of baby heritage chicks for sale!)
Not only does she sell me milk (not for human consumption, of course, I promised with a wink) and allows me to interact with the goats from which I am being provided this long awaited treat, but she lets me do the milking.
My hands are weak and uncoordinated. Right hand, left hand, pinch, then squeeze; a frothy stream slowly finds its way to my bucket. Sometimes I miss aim and the white gold lands on the milk stand to my embarrassment. What a lost art this is. Shouldn’t I have learned this in like, Kindergarten?!
I whisper to the girl on the milk stand to bear with me for I am new at this, and I give her an extra cup of grain to keep her occupied. I quickly move my bucket out of the way when she kicks out of impatience.
I travel home with my glass jar buckled next to me in the front seat, making grand plans in my head for che’vre and feta and mozzarella.
I thought this Friday was going to be like every other. Upon arriving to the ranch Cary announced that it was a special day. One of her pregnant Nubians was showing signs of imminent delivery and it could be any time now. She invited me to stay.
We got out her birthing kit, consisting mostly of stacks of clean towels. We waited around in the manure, heat, and flies for 5 hours. I started to feel a little lightheaded, as it was 80 degrees and I had only had a big cup of coffee, no breakfast.
The mama-to-be paced around the goat yard, pawing at the ground with mild contractions, her belly quivering and her breathing fast. Cary walked me through the many signs of labor. She was a first freshener (FF), as they say (first pregnancy).
Around 2:30 pm the mama placed herself downhill where her water broke and she arched her back, throwing herself against the fence in pain. This contraction was not like the others. Her loud bleating drew the attention of all the farm animals. Even the horses halfway down the mountain stopped their grazing to look in our direction with concern.
Out came a slimy hoof, and with it a nose and another hoof! (You want them positioned superman style- front legs and head first). A soft tug and out came the baby. A girl! I dried her off with a towel and positioned her so her lungs could expand and she could take her first breath. Then (much easier this time) came another girl! We milked the mama and gave them their first drinks of nutritious colostrum from a bottle. The firstborn baby, her coat a soft chocolate brown, slept in my arms as Cari assisted the mom with the after-birth.
With farming, and even more recently with all the swarm catching we’ve been doing, our days are never as we anticipate them to be. But what a beautiful unexpected chink in my planned day. Surely, as we are learning together on Sunday evenings, no matter what happens under the sun, it is good to be alive. Light is sweet and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.
I feel so privileged to have been able to learn from someone more experienced than I, and to have made a new friend in the process. I am tucking this experience away for the day when, God willing, we will birth sheep and goats of our own.