Friday afternoon Jacob participated in the milking. I was occupied in the cheese kitchen getting ready for Saturday markets. I admit, I was a little envious of him. It's been so long since I've milked that I miss it. Odd thing to miss, really. It's smelly, wet, dirty, and hot. You stop trying to keep clean about 10 minutes into the process. But I missed it, and when we got off work I caught a whiff of Jacob's clothes...wow, I exclaimed, that's really...goaty. Did I smell like that all of last summer? Odd how you don't notice the way you smell as intensely as someone else. But I did not have to be jealous very long. I was privileged enough to milk yesterday, and I too took on that distinct odor. The only thing you have to watch out for is that you don't wear the same clothes for milking as for making cheese--milk absorbs odors. That's probably why so many people are suspicious of goat cheese. They had some from an unsanitary dairy, or perhaps one where the goats and the cheesemaking process were not segregated enough, and so they assume that goat cheese tastes like goats.
The toughest thing about milking is knowing how to set up and break down the system. By the time I got to where I could work the system at Sleepy Goat Farm I moved back to Asheville and haven't milked enough yet to get the hang of this one. There's a lot of unhooking and rehooking pipes, knowing what switch does what, and god help you if you push the wrong button. Nothing like sending gallons of milk down the drain or turning the wash cycle on when you're not finished. I haven't royally fucked up yet, but I understand that everyone does something stupid at some point.
What amazed me is the way the kids are with the goats. Sylas, 15 years old, often does the milking totally by himself. He knows every goat by name (we're milking over 60 now), which ones are on antibiotics (the milk from goats on antibiotics is not used--it gets flushed out of the system), which ones are heavy milkers and so get milked together, which ones are new milkers and so are a little jumpy, etc. I try to imagine my sister, a very prissy 16 year old, milking goats, and my imagination just fails. It isn't unreasonable for 16 year olds to have major chores. In fact, I'm sure that 70% of the world's children, possibly more, have very extensive "chores" every day. But in the developed world there are other diversions--television, internet, shopping (my sister's preference)--and so even the smallest chore (would you please put ice in the glasses and set the table for dinner, Kelly?) evokes groans worthy of a woman giving birth.
But then aren't we all conditioned to an extent? As much as I loathe advertising and having brand names shoved in my face all the time, I am accustomed to seeing billboards everywhere. I am accustomed to flipping through a magazine and seeing hundreds of ads (I once calculated what percentage of a Martha Stewart Living magazine was ads, and it was something ridiculous though I can't remember what it was). I suppose my sisters are not anomalies in that they are lazy or that they love watching reality television and chatting on the internet and shopping for things they don't need. They're probably the majority. I'm used to being the odd one in the family. The round meg in the square hole. The last time I went to the beach was two years ago, and I was so bored and restless that I became depressed. I'm not very good at relaxing. My idea of relaxing is reading Proust or baking bread or something ridiculous like that. I'm not bothered by it, and I'd rather be on my feet than drinking sweet tea in a recliner somewhere.
I'm so happy working on the farm and smelling like goat and being up to my elbows in cheese that I hardly know what to do with myself. Is it possible that I have taught myself to love this or is it just my thing? I don't really believe in human nature, and I am more inclined to believe that people are shaped by the lives they lead and their surroundings (nurture, not nature?). I don't mind smelling goaty. It's my pleasure.