When I began sharing my life with Randall Blues
, as they were called in 1987, I had no desire to milk the cows. I didn't have the time and sure didn't have the know-how. My job was to protect the few cows I had and get more of them on the ground to secure the Randall breed. Those remained my paramount goals for several years.
As time moved past us, as I learned more about the cattle and came to understand them, I changed my mind about milking them. Their efficient, natural production of milk was such a huge and important part of the Randalls, I started thinking that I just had to be a part of that. Plus, if I wanted other people to take a chance on milking them, it seemed like I should, too. Every time I talked to Phil Lang
and heard stories about him milking his Randalls, I almost felt envious that I wasn't sharing that. I thought more and more about it and by the late
1990s, when I had decided we were moving to New England, I had also decided I had to milk the girls.
In summer 2004, after arriving in Connecticut, Phil helped me wrangle "Pia" into a death grip and after a few days of flailing and kicking (my girls were all field cows, seldom handled), she was milked for awhile. Then in January of 2005 I started really learning and helping hand milk at the Langs' farm. My "Freida" was brought unwillingly to, and cajoled into, the stanchion and with less flailing and kicking, I milked her - test results here
. Freida was my first cow to really sit comfortably beside and milk with any confidence, and we continued for several months. As this is written on the 4th of July, 2005, Aster has just given me a heifer calf, Astilbe, and will be the third of my girls to be milked. All of the cows being milked eat only hay, baleage, and now grass.
Now, I hand milk a couple of cows twice a day and it is as necessary for me as breathing. I just love doing it. Sitting on a crate with my face against a cow, warming my nose in winter and setting me aflame now that it is summer, feels like second nature. They each smell differently, the milk has different opacity, the skin on their teats has different textures, little lumps, or scratches, and certainly different amounts of pressure required to extract milk. Who knew milking the girls would be so wonderful. Now that I am woven into this defining part of the Randalls, I feel like I have been waiting all of my life to milk them.