So I thought I was having a bad week. And then I thought again.
It’s been a tough week. As I type I have one little boy in arm my arms burning up with a fever, medicated to cool down into sleep and there is little else for it but to hold him for a while. His brothers are shivering and feverish on the couch. It’s one of those parental days when you put it all on hold to get them back on their feet.
It comes on top of a lot of other things. The bills, the poor milk cheque that we thought would resolve things, the upcoming anniversary trip that maybe we shouldn’t take. The parlour that looks like it might never be built. Poor me.
And then I think of her. She’s putting layers of clothes on her boys so she’ll have enough for them to survive the Eastern European winter. She can’t carry non-essentials. Leaving photographs behind, his first baby hat that she kept because she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away, the little sheet on the wall with the first scribble of his name. Will they make it? Will they survive the walk? Where will it bring them? Will they make it out of the war zone alive?
He is beginning to cool down. He breathes deeply in his little sleep and of course I know he’ll be alright. The bills, well, you know, they always get paid. Farming is a sticky old business. One year you’re doing good enough to invest back into the farm with a new road, an extra spread of lime, reseeding and then along comes the year that is wet and the market dictates your every move. And we sulk a bit (well I do anyway), adjust the budget and recollect ourselves and count our blessings. In a few hours time they’ll be up and running around, fighting and healthy. The parlour, believe me, will get built. It will Dan, it will. We’ll take that trip because we can. And we’ll laugh the whole time. And continue to count our blessings.
So as I sit and type with my boy in arms, I walk with you. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But I walk with you. That you and your little boys be safe, that you are delivered to safety soon.
I imagine if you needed to wake the dead, you could just pasteurize milk in their vicinity. Think high pitched buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
If you’re a visitor to our home and not accustomed to this buzzing (we’ve become so familiar with it that we no longer hear it), you might jump from your chair. But really, the pasteuriser is a behind the scenes sort of affair like the rollers in the farmer’s wife’s hair of a Saturday evening, so you’d have to know and love us to ever hear that buzz.
The farmer carries the steel bucket to the milking parlour daily. While he’s milking, he’ll fill it up with creamy milk and run over at some point to bring it to the kitchen table. It’s laborious but like anything worthwhile, worth it. From here, I place the steel bucket into the pasteuriser and fill up around the bucket and plug it in. It takes about ten minutes to come to boiling and then comes the earth shattering buzz. Instinctively, at the hint of a tiny warning buzz, I get to the machine and switch it off. Then comes the glugging. A water hose is attached and milk it cooled. Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug. You might use the water coming out to wash the dishes or when it’s cool, water a couple of plants. Glug, glug, glug. It goes on for a while.
When it has cooled, I lift the stainless steel bucket out and start filling the jugs. I use a funnel to pour the milk into the thinner necked bottles and fill a few small jugs for the dinner table or fancy jug for a visitor. It’s messy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a lucky thing I married a Dairy Farmer with my tendancy to produce sons, for my God, when I say I pasteurise milk daily, I pasteurise milk daily. One gallon a day. In their defense, I also use the milk to make bread, bechamels, yoghurts and any dish that I can liberally apply milk or indeed cream. It is gorgeous. It’s the only word to describe it. Gorgeous. When you pour the milk into the jugs you see the creamy content and it’s true, the cream does rise to the top. It’s an accustomed taste, because it tastes strongly of farm if you catch my drift. When the cows are on grass, really lovely June grass, it’s best, you can taste the lazy rumination of a Summer’s day. By November, when the cows are in, you can almost taste the strength of silage. And I love to open the fridge and see jugs of creamy fresh milk on the top shelf waiting for their culinary adventure or pour into a little boy’s glass.
It is the best part of the job. Watching the cows outside the window grazing on green grass, I am thankful for their milk and the abundance it brings to our dining table. We are very lucky indeed and I love our cows for that.