I usually do the milking and begin all my other chores at 5:30 A.M. That gives me plenty of time to get in the house and relax a little before our little girl arrives. On weekends I often milk half-an-hour later, not because I sleep later (I wish I could), but just because I like to play around on the computer or read a little before I go outside. It's like I'm treating myself by stealing an extra half-hour. On this long weekend, I've moved my milking time to 6 o'clock, morning and evening.
Once outside, I have to get a cow through the gate to the big lot and move the only calf that isn't weaned to the small lot. This usually goes smoothly: The cow is ready to have some feed and be milked, and the one calf wants his milk. It gets a little more complicated this time of year in the mornings, because I have to do everything by flashlight.
As I sat here reading "Dead Wake" this morning, I heard distant thunder, but it seemed to be coming from the north. If I think a storm is coming, I will head to the barn early in order to beat it, but for the last several weeks every single rain that's been forecast has gone north of us, leaving us in a virtual Sahara. I figured the chances of it raining at our place were slim to none.
As I headed out, there was a light sprinkling of rain, nothing that would get a person wet. I let the cow in the big lot and the calf in the small lot; the rain was picking up somewhat, and the calf seemed scared of it. He refused to go through the gate at first, but I finally forced him through.
Just as I turned Penny, the cow, into the barn, the heavens let loose and it started pouring. Oh well, I was safely in the barn; the old barn leaks, but my spot beside the cow was dry. We need the rain badly, just to green up the grass if nothing else.
My custom is to milk out two of the cow's quarters, leaving two quarters for the calf to nurse. That gives each of us, the calf and me, over a gallon of milk. Once I've gotten my milk, either for the house or for the pig, I holler, "Holstein" at the calf and he comes running. When I open the door to the small lot, he is so anxious, he would knock me down entering if I didn't stay out of his way.
Not this morning, though. He huddled back in a corner of the pen and refused to budge. Well, crap! I was going to have to grab my cattle prod (my cow beater, I call it) and go run him in... in the pouring-down rain.
That four-hundred-pound steer gave me a runaround in that lot like never before. Once I got him right up to the open door, and he still refused to enter. This went on for about five minutes until I realized it was a losing battle, grabbed the outside bucket, and milked the cow's other two quarters so I could pour it to the pig. In case you didn't know, there is no stupider breed of cattle that the Holstein. Thank goodness Penny is a patient soul. I gave her another scoop of feed just for being a sweetheart.
As I came back inside the house, Cliff, awakened by the thunder, called from the bedroom, "Is it raining?"
You wouldn't have wanted to hear my answer. I'm afraid I was a little grumpy. My clothes were dripping wet and I couldn't see out of my glasses.
Then he taunted me with this: "You have a perfectly good raincoat on the back porch."
Through clenched teeth, I growled, "It wasn't raining when I went outside."
By the time the milk was strained and put in the refrigerator, the rain had totally stopped. Yes, friends, it only rained long enough to get me soaked and give me a hard time... and possibly green up the pastures, since it amounted to about two-thirds of an inch of rain.