The day after Gimli was born (why yes, we do have a Lord of the Rings fan in our house), my younger son started milking Daisy: to learn how to milk, to accustom Daisy to being milked, and to help relieve the pressure from the excess milk [and here’s where All Women Who Have Ever Lactated wince and nod sagely]

Oh, and to get some milk. 

Except it was colostrum at first, of course. I thought the colostrum would disappear in a couple days, and I thought “colostrum” meant milk with colostrum — that we’d be able to see the cream and milk and the colostrum — but nope. The colostrum looked like milk, and it separated like milk and cream, but the stuff that rose to the top was thick yellow. 

As the days passed, I kept waiting for a layer of cream to form between the milk and then yellow stuff, but that never happened. Instead, right around Day Five, Daisy switched from colostrum over to actual cream-topped milk, no more thick yellow stuff. 

The colostrum didn’t deter my son: day two, he chugged a glass and pronounced it fabulous. 

At first I was a little scared to drink the milk — I always feel this way when we make the switch from store milk to raw milk, or store meat to homegrown; there’s an “ew” factor I have to get over — but then I poured myself a wee glass and it was perfectly fine. Delicious, actually. 

Since then, I’ve been making all sorts of dairy-licious products. As soon as Gimli appeared, I ordered a bunch of starters and rennet and cheesecloth. There’s the yogurt — sometimes I strain it for a bit to get Greek yogurt — which is so good with mixed with jam and topped with granola. It’s my new favorite breakfast. 

I made ricotta, which only requires citric acid and salt. I think I over-drained it — it got a bit dry — but I stirred a bunch of cream back into it and it worked just fine in a raspberry lemon cake that I served to my girlfriends. (They were duly impressed.)

I also made crème fraîche, some of which I used in a cream sauce for the asparagus I picked from my garden (gosh aren’t I domestic). 

Straight up, the crème fraîche has a slightly farmy flavor, but in the sauce, that flavor disappeared entirely. I’m not sure how to use the rest of it — ice cream, maybe? quiche? — but I better hurry up and figure it out. More cream awaits!

My son made a spot of butter, just to try it…

And yesterday I made fromage blanc, a white cheese similar to cream cheese but without all the fat. It’s good, but I have a problem: what do I do with it?! I’m used to certain kinds of cheese that we eat in certain kinds of ways, so this deluge of unfamiliar, creamy, fresh cheese — soft and spreadable — doesn’t jive with our normal dietary habits. Maybe a veggie tart with an herby cheese base? Dip? I need ideas. 

Mid-way through the straining process.

Things I want to make next: cream cheese (though I should wait until I use up the fromage blanc, I suppose), clotted cream, ice cream, mozzarella, and lots more yogurt. 

Which brings me to another problem: we can only eat so much cream and cheese and milk before we begin to swell up like little piggies. My son is getting about two gallons a day from Daisy — and this is before we’ve even begun separating her from the calf at night — which is about ten gallon more than we need a week. YIKES. (And yes I knew this would be a problem, no need to remind me.)

We are looking for a bottle calf to use up the excess (but no luck yet), and we could get a pig (which would be better than us becoming pigs), or we could just dump the extra milk, but it feels horrible to throw out something that’s so delicious and that takes so much time and labor to get. It takes my son about an hour — an HOUR — to get one gallon. Granted, he’s not the fastest milker, and he will get better at it as he goes along, but seriously, y’all, milking is hard

I tried it the other day. Getting the milk out of the teat was easy enough, but directing the stream into the bucket? That was a whole other story. It kept shooting out in different directions or trickling back up my arm, and then I whacked my head on a board and my legs hurt and my neck was at a weird angle. When I quit after about five minutes, I just had a couple tablespoons to show for my trouble, so whenever the kid comes in with a full gallon of milk, it’s like he’s just won a gold medal. 

Daisy’s turning out to be quite the good milk cow. My son reported that the other day she came up to the shed all on her own, leaving Gimli out in the field by himself. When my son was ready for her, she walked right in and just stood there, all ready to go. What a sweetie.

This same time, years previous: an under-the-stairs office nook, freezer coffee cake, transition, Puerto Rico, the quotidian (5.1.17), a simulation, stages of acting, the quotidian (5.4.15), carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.


  • shanitager

    Try Haloumi! Very easy as far as cheeses go, delicious and can last for months in brine (just drop it in plain milk / water for an hour before you cook it if you’re finding it too salty). Loving following along on this adventure

  • Libby

    I have a 1979 French cookbook called “Desserts” from a foreign exchange student. There are several recipes which call for creme fraiche. I have not made the ones listed below but they may give you some ideas:

    Couers a la creme uses 200 grams of CF combined with 2 egg whites “beaten into snow” and folded together. Sweetener comes from a strawberry and sugar syrup poured over it. These are the only ingredients. The CF and egg white mixture is put into a mold and allowed to drain excess moisture for 4-5 hours. These are usually heart-shaped ceramic molds with holes in the bottom.

    A Buche aux marrons – chestnut log for Xmas – calls for 1,200 grams of CF mixed with 1 can of chestnut puree, 50 grams of butter, 50 grams of sugar, vanilla, 150 grams of melted chocolate and 30 “biscuits a la cuiller” or “spoon cookies” more like a lady finger to go around the outside of the chocolate/chestnut cake.

    Creme bavaroise au cafe uses a liter of milk and 300 mililiters of creme fraiche.

    Souffle glace a la confiture – frozen souffle of jam – uses 1/2 liter of thick CF, 125 grams of sugar, 1/2 jar of raspberry jam, 4 eggs separated.

    One of my favorite pizza topping is ricotta and spinach. I spread a little olive oil over the dough circle, sprinkle chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, plops of ricotta, as much fresh spinach or an entire thawed box of chopped spinach, some salt, a little bit of gorgonzola, and mozzarella. YUM.

    Can also top pizza with creme fresh and caramelized onions.

    And finally if you search Pinterest for “recettes avec la creme fraiche” many, many French recipes using CF will come up to give you some more ideas.

    Should we start calling you “Dairy Queen?” LOL!!

  • Cheryl

    Wow! You really are so domestic! 🙂

    Is it possible to borrow a milking machine from a local farmer? Maybe rent one? My grandparents had a dairy farm a long time ago, and I remember all the cows coming in and Grampa and Steve, his helper, would hook up all the cows to milking machines. Heads in the stanchions and away they milked.

    • Eric Miller

      Don’t bother with a milking machine. I tried it and cleaning up was way more bother than it was worth. Then again, your uncle used one all the time for his cow. I just never had a good setup for cleaning it up.

  • Sarah DB

    Great job to your younger son! Milking is a lot of work, no question. It does get quicker and easier. How nice that he has a cooperative cow–they aren’t always!

    I’d highly recommend making your own butter. And when you have that much milk, you almost have to make cheese. It’s time-consuming for sure, but very rewarding. Then you just have all the whey to deal with. You can make whey riccotta to further extract the goodness. Chickens will eat some, and you can use it for cooking rice, liquid in bread or soup, etc. It’s pretty good steeped with mint and sweetened for a drink. If you don’t mind running a burner or slow cooker all day you can make mysost. But you’re still going to have a ton leftover. I used to use it to water my blueberry bushes. If you can connect with someone who wants it for pigs that would be ideal.

    So many fun possibilities, though! And now you can be that person who brings in real half and half for your coworkers’ or church coffee time.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I’ve tried making ricotta with the whey before, but I got almost nothing from it — like, a tablespoon or two of cheese — so it just didn’t seem worth it. (But maybe I’m doing something wrong?)

      I can’t quite wrap my head around using whey for mint tea. Doesn’t it make the tea taste funky? Using it up in bread is more my speed….

      • Sarah DB

        Whey ricotta is pretty low yielding, but if you already have hot/warm whey from another recipe it’s sometimes worth it to extract the last bit of goodness. If I recall correctly it only works if you haven’t already heated the milk to a high temperature. That is, it won’t work with whey from paneer, but will from fromage blanc.

        About the mint whey: have you ever had a lassi? Or maybe similar to your cucumber mint cooler? More like a smoothie than a tea–and definitely serve it cold, not hot. It’s really good with Indian curries and such. Whey for bread is great too, but I could never use it all up that way. Will Magpie let you bring it in? Now there would be a good way to use it.

  • K

    Milking a cow is on my bucket list. So weird for a vegan, but there is something about the trust and relationship factor that is appealing.

  • Eldon Miller

    Tell your son to remove the bottom two boards of the stanchion (at least where he’s sitting) so he can get better access. Even better would be to make the back half of the stanchion either a swinging gate or removable rails so the whole thing can be opened up. Daisy will get used to him sitting there and its MUCH more comfortable to milk with a higher seat and easier access to the cow, particularly one with a high udder like her. On cool mornings, it’s quite nice to lean your head against her side as you milk.
    Id also recommend a platform to get the bucket higher. It will be significantly easier to get the milk into the pail and less chance for dirt to fall in. My dad built a 3 inch high platform with a back guard on it to protect the bucket from any kicking that might happen (that was particularly important during the summer when flies are a huge pain). His bucket was larger, so you may want a bit higher platform.
    That calf is adorable, brings back some great memories! Ours all looked like that and got called Hummy (PA Dutch for calf). Those little guys were lots of fun.
    I wish we lived closer, I would be happy to take some of that extra milk off your hands! Id even be willing to help milk now and then, Im pretty sure thats a skill like riding a bike, once you know you never forget.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Good suggestions! He says he already removed the boards, and he seemed to like the idea about the platform to raise up the bucket. We’ll see if he acts on it…

  • Rachael

    We once bought a share in a milk cow. We paid six dollars per week toward our share and got two gallons of milk:) It was a win for everyone!

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