Somewhere in a recent discussion of wheat harvest and who might get to ride on the combine, I mentioned to my granddaughter, Alyssa, that she might also get an opportunity to milk a cow because one of the farmers who had invited us to visit also operates a small, family dairy.
Milking a cow became even more intriguing than riding in a combine, largely, I think because that was something she had never done and she had already ridden in a combine -- even "driven" one with a little help from brave Barton County farmer, Roger Brining.
So, on Monday, we headed over to the Garden Plain farm operated by Mick Rausch with ample help from his wife, Nancy and son, Steve.
Mick was still slugging through the last of his wheat crop -- a field that had been hit by hail -- and the milking chores fell, as they often do, to Nancy. She was happy to show Alyssa and her sister, Chloe, what kind of work it takes to operate a dairy farm.
"These cows have to be milked twice a day, every day, no holidays, no vacations, no days off," she said. She explained the process of cleaning out the lines and tanks before starting the milking and showed the girls the tanks where the milk is stored until it is picked up for processing.
Alyssa was intrigued with all the machinery but insisted that she wanted to try her hand, literally, at milking. It was a short-lived ambition however, because when the tiny stream of milk came out and hit her foot, she squeaked and backed off, deciding that maybe operating the machine wasn't such a bad idea after all.
When she asked what the milking machine felt like to the cow, Nancy laughed and invited her stick her finger into the machine and find out. With some trepidation, she did. And decided that it felt kind of like her baby brother, Dylan, sucking on her finger. She was even more excited to find a job that she could do to help, watching for the right time to push down the valve that would let the milkers automatically drop off.
Both girls loved the baby calves -- two are in residence at the farm right now.
And they both agreed that, although they liked visiting and the novelty of the job is intriguing initially, doing it twice a day, every day, would be more work than they like to think about.
"I don't think that I'd want to do it for very long," was Alyssa's comment.
And they didn't even witness the feeding, the doctoring, the breeding, the calving or the calf raising.
"I'm glad people do it," was Chloe's thought. "I really, really like chocolate milk. I think I'd like to live on a farm. But I don't think I want to run a dairy."
Nancy Rausch brings the cattle up from the pasture to the parlor for the 4:30 p.m. milking. Cows are milked twice a day.
Alyssa takes the plunge and tries out the milkers with her finger.
Alyssa finds a job she can do -- watching the milkers and pushing down the valve so they will automatically drop off when the milk flow stops.