Milking Muscles

Milking by machine takes all the pleasure out of keeping a dairy cow. Half the fun is learning how to coordinate finger and wrist motion to squeeze a beautiful white stream of milk into a pot. And of course seeing how big a head of foam you get. Supposedly, the bigger the head of foam the better you milk. And, (coughs apologetically) if you get really good, you could even take a shot at the black and white cat sitting primly in the barn doorway and scare him half to death!

All this takes time though. Time and patience galore. But hey, when you stop and think about it, way back in the 1800’s and beyond, folks surely didn’t have machines to do their job. Alot of it was done Manually. So until the first milk machine was invented in 1870 people milked by hand. Think of all those corded hands and forearms!

The first time I milked it failed – totally. I thought I had pretty good muscles for a girl. That is – until I tried milking by hand. By the time my sister and I had milked the cow dry a whole hour had been and gone. And our hands! Talk about pain! They were so stiff and sore we could hardly bend them.  But we kept at it. You know the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again?” Well that’s exactly what we did. Not that our milking skills improved by leaps and bounds those first few days – the milk still went everywhere but the pot it seemed. But at least we stuck it out.

Now two years later I can milk in 15 minutes. It just might take me an hour to get inside since we gab between chores! 🙂

Recently I talked with another handmilking fanatic. Just by chance. We were at a dog training class and happened to start up a conversation to break the ice. She raised and bred dairy goats for 35 years. When I told her I milk my Jersey by hand she said: “All right. Roll up the sleeve and let’s see that forearm!”


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