Thursday night I leaned against a doorway in someone else’s dairy parlor, watching as she danced through the steps of milking a large herd of goats. It was choreographed. It had to be. While engaging me in conversation she adeptly stripped each teat into a milk cup, cleaned and dried every udder, attached the machine to a few at a time, monitored milk flow, attached the machine to the next doe, dipped each teat, opened the head gates, herded them out. Then another batch came in. It worked efficiently as a machine except it was just her and the grumble of a motor turning, the sounds of milk pumping through pipe, the clang of goats dipping into a metal trough, the crunch of grain being eaten. I remember where I started with all of this, three baby goats curled together in the back of the car. Then the first time milking into my little silver pail, now standing in a parlor talking about gaskets and pumps and vacuum power. It’s been a quick evolution, my experience in dairy, thanks largely to the people in my life who’ve extended a hand to pull me up and in.
Saturday morning, we put our heads down against the horizontal, freezing rain and drove back out to the farm I visited a month ago, where I purchased my commitment equipment along with a whole pile of other miscellaneous, stainless steel doo-dads that I am assured are “really important” and “essential.” Also, I’ve got a stainless/metal addiction which is a blessing or a curse if you’re into agriculture – depending on how you look at it. This was one of the first trips Jeremy’s taken with me, since I’m usually the one making the calls and going on visits alone. We intended to stay long enough only to load the car and trailer but were there for more than two hours, received a tour of all the hydroponic hoop houses, watched the Jerseys graze in their front yard, and Jeremy was given his first official tour of a commercial dairy parlor. They sent me home with a hug and the contact information for a friend near us that can help with the cows, if that need ever arises. Because you just never know. I’m holding firmly to that phone number. I foresee many future trips to this particular farm, where most conversations include the statement, “Of course you can do this. Think about it this way….” with a flurry of ideas and suggestions. Power of positive thinking. It’s a real thing, y’all.
Of course, positive thinking can sometimes lead fools to the depths of stupidity. That’s probably how we found ourselves unloading all of this equipment in sub-40* weather this morning, the wind gusts strong enough to push me forward when I walked, the air damp and chilly – the worst kind of cold front – one that lingers. The equipment required the tractor and the force of both of us heaving a 2 gagillion pound bulk tank onto a pallet, then creeping it up the driveway to its resting place under the crooked purple shed. Just as we got the milking machine onto another pallet, the rain started to pelt Jeremy who was maneuvering the thing into the barn. I could see him growl at me under his black cap and scarf. I literally cannot count how many times I’ve observed him from just this angle: moving one of my metal pieces on the tractor in the midst of unreasonable weather. Jeremy – you’re still my hero, hope you’ll forgive me eventually.
So all this touchy-feely-friendshipy-goodwill-equipment-moving-experience-gaining activity? It makes a gal awfully thankful, and not just because it’s the season for thanksgiving. But because I truly am constantly baffled by the kindness of friends and strangers whose only common thread is their devotion to agriculture. Whose deeply rooted passion invites me into their milking parlor, or into their kitchen to help diagnose my problematic cheeses, or into their barn to pick through old stainless parts. I think about all the mistakes I’ve already made and how many are (inevitably) forthcoming but it’s comforting to know people have made them before me, and someday maybe I’ll pay it forward to another interested soul who’d like the frank talks I’ve been given. The un-glossed version of reality along with the back pats and encouragement. In all my infinite wisdom, I started a farm I don’t know how to operate, purchased equipment that I’m not sure is needed, and have the general habit of jumping in before being ready (what is ready?). It’s the wisdom of others that’s kept us afloat, those hands that are always reaching out to offer assistance. I’m so glad I’ve been smart enough to grab a hold when I see them.