the final week in milk
Winnie's milk to be more correct. It's raw, unpastuerized, real, milk. It is taken from a cow that is grass fed. She is given fresh grass daily in the summer and in the late fall and winter she is given our best hay. I drink anywhere from a glass to a half gallon of this milk a day. Which is, admittedly, a lot. But, I love it that much. I have a glass or two or three with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nick often jokes that I drink as much as a nursing calf. It doesn't do wonders for my waist, but it makes me feel as strong as an ox.
In my opinion it is miles above the best product we make on our farm.
The thing about milk that I think very few supermarket-Americans understand is that it is a seasonal product. Mama cows have around a similarly long gestation as women ~ about 265 days. Just like you would want to give a woman a break between nursing one child and delivering another the same basic courtesy is given to mama cows. We call it drying off. You want to give the mama cow some time to keep her nutrients and proteins and calories for herself and the baby calf she is making (instead of giving it to the milk).
Dry periods vary between farms and cows but we want to give Winnie almost 4 months off this winter. She was quite skinny after her last calf so we are trying to give her a little bump in recuperation so she is healthier when she calves this spring. It is ideal for calves to be born in the spring so they are born on fresh grass and have a whole 7 or 8 months of warmth and grazing. This is thus ideal for the small farmer (me) for the time to dry off is not so coincidentally the coldest time of the year. Milk barns are generally very cold and dark places. Not where you want to huddle in January with bare hands and steel bucket. It is also ideal (as I deign to say) for the most delicious milk is made off summer's sweet grass.
Sunday was our last day milking. Last week was the last week we sold milk to our customers. Its hard imparting the seasonality of milk to our customers. We aren't the only ones who sell raw milk in our little corner of Vermont and we are one of the few that dry off for the winter. (What I described above is provided your cow is bred in late summer, and doesn't work for everyone). So, I worry that we will have trouble finding our customers again come spring when Winnie calves. Someday when more and more small 1 and 2 cow dairies are allowed and encouraged to spring up around the country the seasonality of milk will come too. Then the proclaimed foodies of our country will see summer's fresh grass milk the way they see August's bulging red tomatoes.
Something to be appreciated in its own time and place.
As we get closer to spring when the cows will be set free of their winter pasture I will get back on my milk soapbox and talk to you about the benefits and joys of raw milk. But for the winter we will say goodbye to milk and concentrate our efforts on the June and August butter that remain in the freezer. Little frozen bits of yellow summer gold.
Until April sweet sweet milk.
Posted by kate at 10:34 AM