Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I could talk about how much cow milk my family drinks in a week – about 4 to 5 gallons among the four of us. Or how I buy my milk from my friend who has a Jersey dairy cow that gives us the creamiest, tastiest milk we’ve ever had.
Or I could talk about the kids visiting a friend who raises dairy goats. She has given my kids a few lessons on milking goats. We have learned – thanks to those lessons – that buying pre-packed goat milk from the grocery store tastes absolutely nothing like fresh-from-the-farm goat milk. It’s truly delicious when you find a local source.
But no. What I am going to talk about are the efforts of my 14-year-old (and the rest of the family) this week trying to help my daughter's 4-H sheep, Minnie, feed her newborn lambs.
We’re not sure what exactly happened to Minnie’s udder but it is mastitis-like (without the fever) and milk is not flowing out correctly. So my daughter and I have been learning on the fly how to milk a sheep as best we can to get things working again.
If you’ve never milked, let me tell you that it’s not easy for the novice. Truly. It requires a special technique that takes a while to master. With a dairy cow you have a handful of teat to hold but milking a sheep is a challenge because there isn’t much to grab on to. Factor in a blockage that creates pain for the animal, along with the lack of a milking stand and no experience milking (animal or human) and you’ve got quite a task on your hands.
We have fumbled our way through the week milking Minnie round the clock and giving supplemental bottles to the lambs until things are working again.
And in case you were wondering, we are not fans of sheep milk. The smell alone is a big turn off and I doubt our love of dairy will extend to our wooly friend's supply.
But because of this experience we now have much more appreciation for amount of work it takes to get every cup of our favorite Jersey cow's milk to the kitchen table.
Yes, the lambs are drinking milk from soda bottles. A farm friend gave it to us because the nipples she had were made for one. We've had a few chuckles about this since we don't generally drink soda at our house.
Minnie and her lambs out for a walk with the idea that llke humans, a little movement might get mama sheep's milk flowing better.
Wendy Almeida has been writing about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the geocache and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers.
On Twitter and Instagram at @wea1021.