Local Farm offers workshops throughout the year on the care and keeping of a family cow. At the workshops, you will
Report on an August Keeping a Cow Workshop
We had a small, but enthusiastic group which included Debra Tyler's young daughter Margaret who served ably as co-instructor.
The weather was lovely after such a hot, dry summer. The sky was overcast with a fine misty rain.
One thing we learned right away was that weather has a big effect on pasture and the summer's weather has reduced the productivity of the pasture. Since Debra's herd is largely pasture-fed, she has reduced her herd to adjust to the changed circumstances.
Class began with a walk in the pasture visiting with the cows and learning about their habits. Debra's herd is made up a Jersey cows, a very peaceful and agreeable type of cow.
Interestingly, Debra does not own the land the farm is on.
The 20 acre field which makes up the core of the pasture is made available to her by three land-owning neighbors for free. The additional 80 acres that the farm draws on for hay are on free loan from an another fifteen land owners. A community venture.
The farm is beautifully sited and lies in the hollow of a grass-green bowl surrounded by a rim of multi-layered hills.
After visiting with the cows in the pasture, we tried our hands at milking them. I now know why my great-grandfather had such huge forearms in the old family photos we have of him. Milking a cow by hand is a serious workout. When you get the hang of it - practice makes perfect - it takes about 20 minutes to milk a cow. He milked several, twice a day, every day by hand.
Milking is a cooperative effort between the cow and her keeper. Calm, focus and awareness help the process go most smoothly.
We learned that the cow, with its four digestive chambers, is uniquely gifted in the art of converting grass to milk - a miraculous process when you think about it.
After milking, we turned our attention to working with the milk itself.
One project was making butter which involved learning to skim cream off the top of a pot full of fresh milk.
Debra pointed out there are machines that skim cream and make butter, but with the time it takes to set them up and then break them down and wash them, you can get the job done by hand just as fast.
Butter is best churned at 68 degrees. The result of 20 minutes hand churning (a shared task) was a globe of sun-golden butter floating in a sea of buttermilk. Butter is best consumed right after it's been churned. (To preserve it you must thoroughly wash all the buttermilk out of it and salt it.)
We also made ice cream, observed the process for making yogurt, and made a kind of fresh cheese called vinegar cheese with apple cidar vinegar.
Then we ate.
Heaven on earth is sitting at a picnic table; watching cows you've spent some time getting to know; and eating fresh butter, fresh cheese, fresh yogurt, and finishing it all off with fresh vanilla ice cream.
Hope to see you next time.