Milking goats is just like riding a bicycle, right? Once you learn, you never forget. You might get rusty, and your muscles might get weak after a long break, but once you start doing it again, you'll be just as good as you were before you stopped! Maybe.
I milked the goats for the first two years after we moved out here. The first year, I had two milk goats, and when one proved to be completely intolerable within the first week --she laid down on the bucket -- I dried her up and proceeded to milk only one goat for the duration of 2002. The next year, I bought another goat in milk and freshened the three does I had purchased, two of which proved to be impossible to milk -- one because of personality and one because of tiny teats. The third year, my youngest daughter helped with a lot of the milking, and we had several goats by then, but I don't think we ever milked more than about three at any time. That year both my daughters got interested in goats, and by the end of that year, they had completely taken over milking duties.
With Katherine gone to camp and Margaret's arms and hand being injured, I have become the only milker again. Although she had been milking nine goats, I knew that it would be impossible for me to milk that many since I was accustomed to milking none. Since six of the goats had a single kid left, I put the kids with them to keep up the milk supply, although they probably won't keep the production up where it had been when those goats were being milked once a day. That left me with three that had to be milked twice a day. I think my hands have finally managed to get strong enough that I can milk the three of them without too much pain and moaning. But ...
My aim is not what it used to be. I fail to understand why it is so hard to squirt the milk into the bucket. By the end of milking each morning and evening, I generally have milk squirts on my pants, my shirt, the wall, the milking stand, the floor, and even on the goat's hooves. My hands are soaked with milk. I am amazed that the bucket has only been kicked over once, and that's because Mike said something and distracted me just as the goat decided to move her foot forward. There have been a couple of times when the goat picked up her rear leg and started to kick, but I moved the bucket or grabbed the leg just in time.
I'm slow. The goats are probably going to get fat unless I can milk faster. They won't stand still unless they have grain, and it takes me "four cups of grain" to milk each one. That's way more than they need for the milk they are producing. I think the general guideline is one pound of grain for every three pounds of milk. I'm only getting two pounds a day from each one, so if you do the math, you can see they're eating about four times as much grain as they need. At least that's what the bag of goat chow says.
But I'm having fun, and that's the most important part. I had forgotten how much fun it is to milk goats. Of course, it's always fun to spend time with goats. A couple days ago, we got the bright idea to let out the does with kids in the morning, so only the three who needed to be milked would be in the barn. Brilliant idea, but we underestimated how badly the goats would want to follow their herdmates. Mike opened the barn door as I held onto the collars of two goats. Everyone started to run, including the two I was holding. I went splat, face first, into the straw! I was screaming, "Close the door" but laughing hard at the same time.
Margaret update: Tonight when I was milking, Margaret walked into the milking parlor and said she wanted to try milking a goat. She did well, so tomorrow morning the two of us will milk together, which is great because it will give Mike more time for gardening. We added a fourth goat to the milking string, so I'm hopeful that we'll be back up to milking nine again soon!
Garden update: Mike is picking about 5 pounds of green beans every day, as well as a couple pounds of okra. Today he got six medium-sized yellow tomatoes, and there are a couple dozen banana peppers on the plants that need to be picked. It's time to get busy with more canning.