Making Hay
Week of January 15th, 2012

Milking with Daniel

By Sarah Holm

I studied abroad this past semester in Central America, so it has been a while since I have written for Making Hay. I hadn’t expected it, but, while I was gone, I missed my two-year old brother Daniel the most out of my siblings. I am amazed to see how much he has grown in that short time.

When I left he didn’t know my name. Despite clinging to me constantly, he had failed to master the word “Sarah”. If Mom wasn’t in the room he called me “Mom”. If she was in the room I was demoted to “You!”, or, if the situation was particularly urgent, “Hey you!” He still doesn’t know my name.  He calls me “Fweeba”. But that’s better than “Hey you!”, right?

Barn chores with Danny are an exciting experience. They normally go something like this:

He says he doesn’t want to go to the barn. I tell him that’s fine. He can stay in the house with Mom. I get my barn clothes on and open the door to leave and he throws himself on me, sobbing, “Fweeba! Fweeba! Don’t Go! I gonna go to da barn!”.

“Don’t cry, beautiful,” I say, “You can go to the barn. Here – let’s put your boots on!”

He instantly becomes silent in the cold winter air. I release his arms and shift him to my hip.

He grabs my face between his hands and beams angelically into my eyes.

“Wook, Fweeba!” he announces joyfully. “Da milk truck!”

In the barn we follow behind Dad as he feeds silage to the cows. Our job is to put a measure of dried kelp and a measure of sea salt on every cow’s helping of silage. Danny calls it giving the cows their “salt and pepper” and he stops to instruct every cow to “Eat your pepper! Yum yum!”

So far his encouragement is not appreciated by the cows. He likes to stand on top of their food while lecturing them. A few cows stand in awe of this heavily bundled midget with the big voice and hand gestures of a preacher, but most stare sullenly at the live obstacle prancing about on their dinner.

When we begin to milk the cows, I begin to feel like I need another pair of hands. Last night my 12 year-old sister, Mary, and I were milking. Mary walked out of the milkhouse with the milking machines as I began to wash the cows.

The wash rag I pulled out of the bucket was boiling hot, so I was balanced at the edge of the gutter behind the cows holding it by one corner to avoid burning my hands. Danny was between Mary and I. As he spotted her, a large grin spread over his face and he ran toward me in mock terror screaming “Fweeba! Fweeba! HELP ME!!!!”

Mary obligingly joined in with a large exaggerated evil laugh – ‘Mwhahahahaha!”

Danny shrieked and threw himself at me, grabbing me tight around my legs.I nearly fell into the gutter and my rag went flying, which I caught and scalded my hand on. The cows all turned their heads and stared. I picked up Danny and removed him from the edge of the gutter. I kneeled next to a cow to wash it before milking as Mary left to fetch more milking machines.

“Haha,” Danny said to me, his voice lowered conspiratorially, “Mary scary.”

“Yes,” I agreed, equally serious, “Mary is scary, isn’t she?”

“Mwhaha!” Danny says, clapping his hands together.

Tonight, Danny stands on his tiptoes to retrieve the dipper from the windowsill. The dipper is basically a spray bottle. It holds a weak iodine mixture that we spray on the cows’ teats after milking. It protects them from bacteria.

“Now Danny,” I say, from underneath a cow, “What are you doing with that?”

I turn to be confronted with the nozzle directly in my face. Danny is holding it firmly at arm’s length, aiming for my eyes.

The dipper has been transformed into a gun.

“Hey now,” I yelp, knowing how that iodine can hurt if it gets in your eyes, “Be careful!”

I duck but it is unnecessary as Danny only manages to drop the dipper.

“Oops!” he says, laboriously picks it up and wanders back and forth practicing, his Elmo hat slipping down to almost cover his eyes.

When returns, Danny is ready for her. Laughing crazily he runs at her trying to spray her.

“Hey!” Mary yells as the red liquid lands on her coat. It stains everything it touches orange. She tries to take it away from him.

“Noooo, Mary! Nooo!” he yells.

“Mary!” I yell, “You’re under fire - and I think you’re wounded.”

“Oh,” she says, giving Danny his gun back, “Ahhhh! Please! Don’t shoot me!!!”

Danny is rendered helpless by a fit of giggles, plus his hat is completely over his eyes.

“Hey babyface,” I call, “Get over here so I can fix your hat. Mary, can you get these milkers on? Let’s get this show on the road, people.”

Danny trundles obediently over. I adjust his hat.

“There you go beautiful.”

He starts spraying again. Later I will have to catch him and try to scrub the orange off his face.

We try to entertain Danny as we milk so he doesn’t wander off. But soon he gets bored and walks down to the end of the aisle and lets himself into the calf pen. We only have one little calf indoors right now. Danny calls her “Bambi” and any cat in the vicinity “Thumper”. I relax for a bit only to look up and see Bambi running around in circles in terror in the pen with Danny chasing after her. He is trying to throw hay on her head.

“Danny!” I call down to him, “Don’t scare the baby cow! Be nice to the baby cow!”

He stops and looks at me.

“Okay, Fweeba.”

It’s quiet for about five minutes. Then I hear the calf racing around again and Danny’s “Mwhahaha!” rising from the pen.

“Mary, can you switch this milker for me? I have to go rescue that poor calf.”

I run down and open the pen door. The calf leaps for the opening, trying to escape this fearsome toddler. Come here, Danny, I say. He throws the hay at me instead. He is covered with hay, and his pants and coats are stained with milk and iodine. He runs but I catch him. I calm Bambi down and we both pet her and tell her we are sorry she got scared. She gets over it pretty quickly, associating the sight of me with food and thus forgiving everything.

“Okay, Fweeba,” Danny announces, “I gonna go to da house now!” He takes off for the door.

“Okay beautiful, let me take this milker off this cow and we’ll go.”

Mary holds down the fort while I rush to take him back. We stop in the milkhouse to wash his hands and face and spray off his boots. We step outside into the dark. The milk truck tank gleams silver in the lights from the barn.

Remembering the beginning of chores, I turn Danny’s head slightly and say “Look, Danny, a truck!”

He shakes his head and shakes his finger under my nose.

“No, no, silly Fweeba. Dat’s not a truck! Dat’s a MILK truck!”

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Comments

Lucy from on February 9, 2012 at 08:31:38 AM
I love it -- thanks for sharing.
SarahJean from from Farmingdale NJ on February 8, 2012 at 10:28:45 AM
Great story. Lots of love and happy times!
SarahJean from from Farmingdale NJ on February 8, 2012 at 10:26:52 AM
Great story Sarah. you have a gift and lots of love! Made me long for the life on a farm, as I am still waiting for such. Enjoy!
SarahJean from from Farmingdale NJ on February 8, 2012 at 10:16:48 AM
What a great, happy story! Could just picture it all.
Sharon from from Jacksonville, FL on February 8, 2012 at 09:33:05 AM
I enjoyed your article so much! It brought back great memories of raising my four children on a farm in northern Michigan. Very happy, healthy days! No milk cows, just beef cattle, chickens, goats and a huge garden.
Thanks for sharing!
Christy from from Forest Lake, Minnesota on February 8, 2012 at 07:55:27 AM
Thanks for this story, I really enjoyed reading it.
Marie from from Illinois on February 7, 2012 at 05:04:51 PM
You are so blessed to be living on a working farm and have little ones in tow. It is the life I have always wanted. God bless you always.
Deb from from Socorro, NM on January 18, 2012 at 02:53:03 PM
What a great story. Sarah you have the gift of story-telling. You made me wish I had grown up on a dairy farm with your family. How did your mother deal with the iodine stained clothes?
Tracy at Organic Valley

Hi Deb - Below is Sarah's reply to your comment:

"Thank you Deb, and everyone, for reading my story and supporting our cooperative! I'm afraid we have never been able to get iodine stains out of our clothes, although they do fade over time. This is why everyone in my family has designated "barn clothes" and "town clothes". Do other readers know what to do for iodine stains?"

Darynda from from Iowa on January 18, 2012 at 09:51:20 AM
Very sweet, very well written, and wonderful story. I can imagine being there myslef. Keep up the wonderful work Sarah. You are blessed with great training (patience & love)with your little brother and in all you get to do on the family farm. What a BLESSED way to grow up. Keep up the great work and writing!
jill tennent from from los angeles on January 17, 2012 at 05:45:38 PM
this is cute re 2 year old toddler
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