Monday, June 30, 2014

Resolution complete: I milked a cow.

A lot of people get really into New Year's resolutions. I don't. Yet for 2014, I made one that I 100% intended to follow through on: I wanted to milk a cow. Many people have asked me why I wanted to do this so badly. Here is my reasoning:

2. It's good to try new things.
3. It would be an awesome experience to blog about.

I'm an urban girl. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the busy, typical, cookie-cutter suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. You know the opening sequence to the show, Weeds? Yeah, that's my hometown: the traffic, the strip malls, the Land Rovers, the soccer moms… all are very familiar things to me. I'm a city dweller to my very core, and I think that's why farm life fascinates me: because it's different.

Cue the Green Acres theme song.

I met Farmer John Dougherty of Farmer Johns' Cheese at the East Side Farmers' Market in May. I gathered that by his large variety of delicious cheese for sale, he likely had access to a great deal of cows. So I asked if I could milk one. He said yes! Two months later, I was off to the outskirts of Spring Green, Wisconsin to visit the official Farmer Johns' milking barn.

Let's get one thing straight: there's more than one Farmer John (hence the apostrophe). It's currently operated by a father and son (both named John), and before that, it was operated by the generations that came first (yup, you got it, also named John). This is a true family farm business, right down to the name.

My friends Cherie and Caitlin came along for the ride, which took us through some winding country roads to this really awesome waterfall:


Then, we arrived at John's milking barn. He walked us through the cow-filled building and told us all about his family farm, the milking process, and all things cows!

The lineup: Farmer John gets the cows into the barn by leading them in with corn (they love it).
See the pipes above the cows? That's where the milk goes.
After it goes through the pipes, it ends up in a huge tank.
We all climbed up the ladder to peek in.

It holds an insane amount of milk.

After our barn tour, we got to meet two baby calves, Jenny and Ryan:

Beyond adorable.
Then, it was milking time. The cows are milked by machine, but of course we had to start off old school. Farmer John chose Faith as the best cow for us to milk. He knew that her mellow temperament would work in our favor and that she was less likely to try and kick us (he has a lot of cows in this place, and many can get sassy at milking time). He noted that you always have to let the cow know when you're at her side and going to milk her. This way, she's less startled. Of course, I had to get the experience on tape:

Then Caitlin milked Faith!
And Cherie, too! 

Old school milking: check. Then, Farmer John let me put the milking machine on Faith. It's made of 4 little suction tubes that go from the udders to the pipes in the barn.

Just making sure I had everything right.
Voila! I attached the milking machine and Faith was ready to go.

A lot of cows had to be milked, so we went to the front of the barn to check in on the tank. It was very loud in there, but I fit in a quick video of "THIS IS WHERE THE MILK IS GOING! HERE'S THE MILK!"

The entire milking process takes about 30 minutes from the first cow to the last. The cows get milked twice a day (6am and 6pm), and Farmer John noted that he tries to keep the cows in the same order each time so that their schedules are consistent. I could really tell that he loves what he does and cares about the well-being of his cows, which of course makes me want to keep buying more and more of his cheese.

Speaking of the cheese, to purchase some amazing dairy goodness from Farmer John, he can be found at the Dane County Farmers' Market (near West Washington Ave), as well as many other local markets.

I'd like to send a huge thanks to Farmer John for letting us visit, Cherie and Caitlin for putting up with their quirky friend, and of course, this lovely lady:

Many thanks, Faith!

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