We have a vacation coming up.
Used to be, we’d head to Cape Cod for a week every summer for some much-needed time at the beach after spending the rest of the year working inhuman hours at the restaurant. When we moved to the farm, however, the idea of a vacation was not only unrealistic, it seemed unnecessary. After all, compared to the life we were leading in the city, every day on the farm felt like a vacation, no matter how much work there was to do.
But there’s something about a week on a beach that is rejuvenating and wonderful. So we saved our pennies and we made a plan. No small part of that plan was finding someone who could tend the farm in our absence. This had to be someone who was not only willing to have a sort of farm vacation him/herself, but who could be counted on to wake up at 6:00 a.m. everyday and milk Cindy.
Our friend Spencer volunteered almost immediately for the “job.” Having grown up on a farm, and being an active proponent of permaculture, he was eager to get a week alone in a peaceful part of the state. Spencer currently lives in Brooklyn and is a server at applewood. The opportunity to get out of the city for a week and eat freshly-grown, organic veggies was as appealing for him as it was helpful to us.
He came up for his second visit to the farm yesterday so that we could show him the ropes and help to feel comfortable when we’re away later this month. We spent the day doing the usual farm chores, along with a handful of other small projects.
This morning, it was time to show Spencer how to milk the goat. This was probably the most important thing he needed to learn. Everything else allows room for error, even forgetting. You can forget to feed the pigs and then feed them later. You can forget to close up the chickens and then go back out and do that when you remember. You cannot forget to milk the goat.
We lured Cindy with apples that had fallen to the ground from our apple tree. This is one of her very favorite treats and with it, we can get her to do pretty much whatever we need. Spencer hadn’t milked any creature since he was a kid, so this task was a bit daunting. He was up to the challenge, though, and got the hang of it pretty quickly.
Interestingly, Cindy could obviously tell there was a difference in who was milking her and her patience quickly ran out. Spencer persevered and got the milk he could get, but then Cindy decided she’d had enough. She started bucking her hind legs to get him to stop. I took over for a few minutes while he went out to the apple tree to collect a few more apples. We thought we’d try appealing to her love of the treat before giving up on the milk entirely. While this worked briefly, she quickly became irritated again and began kicking so furiously, we worried she’d break the milking stand.
And so we stopped and let her out. And today the kids got extra milk and we got a bit less than usual. But Spencer learned to milk and so our goal was met.
I guess the most important thing in all of this is remembering to listen to the animals. They may not be able to speak to us, but they certainly communicate clearly if we are paying attention. Cindy was done teaching Spencer how to milk and so we respected that and didn’t force the situation just to get more milk. I think our relationship will always be amicable if we can keep this in mind at all times.