One thing people notice when they come up the drive to the main house is a little sign that says "Goat Milking 10 AM". When they often ask about it, the explanation is that we get all the milk we use in our goats milk cheeses from Skittles and Clover, our mama goats. We started to get a lot of guests who would then ask if they could join us in the morning as the goats got milked. Too often, people don't know the extent to which we source our food from our own land. Most places that refer to themselves as "farm to table" mean that they know the farm that brought the food to the kitchen that goes to their table. Here, we do, too, this one!
I thought that I'd take you with me through the routine since there seems to be some interest in it. Each morning, we start by sanitizing the bottles that will hold the milk. I like to use quart sized milk jars so that it is easier to fill each and pour precise measures with when needed, and also more wieldy between the goats legs. After they are clean, we load them up into the milking basket with cleaning supplies and head to the goat barn below the Provence and Alsace suites.
Brennan, our dog, thinks he is a shepherd. He is a Yorkie, not a Collie, as he would have you think, and as such, his herding instincts are... lacking. Still, it is the highlight of his day, so we let him tag along. He's at least learned he has to wait until we have a lady in the stall until he gets to "herd" the rest.
Most people don't realize how smart goats really are. They know us as we approach, like our dogs. They are surprisingly good at problem solving, as well. They can tackle such complicated problems as "the latch on the gate between us and the rose bushes" quite easily, so we have to be creative with them to keep them in the enclosure.
As we approach, the goats come running. They know what time it is! The ladies are ready to be milked, and the ram and the two kids are ready for breakfast. Skittles gives more milk than Clover and she is always first in line at the milking stall when I open the gate to let her in. She then hops up on the milking platform and pushes her head into the security lock where her personal bucket of feed goes. The latch goes up, the pin goes in and we are ready to rumble.
First step is to clean the udders and nipples to make sure they don't develop any infections and to ensure the milk is clean as we take it. Once that is done, I place a bottle below the tip of the teet and clamp my fingers at the base of the nipple, then squeeze towards the tip like a ziplock bag full of water with a hole in the corner. This technique seems simple to master, but can take a bit of practice to get it just right. My husband is twice as fast as I am at knocking out the process, but I like to think I have more finesse. It's one of those better because it was milked with love situations for me.
We go until the udder is emptied, usually around a gallon per goat per morning. Once the girl is finished giving, we do another cleaning to make sure she is good to go and then let the clamp loose. The happy goat bounds off to find more hay or greens to nibble on and the kids chase after.
After gathering up the supplies, we return to the kitchen and strain, and separate the milk for it's intended uses and store them in refrigeration if the milk is not immediately being used. And that's a wrap, ladies and Gentlement!
If you are going to be staying with us and would like to watch the milking or even help, feel free to let us know at any time. We love the company.