Last night was the second time I walked behind the majestic team of black Percheron mares — Pat and Pearl. “It’s like spinning on a swing,” I attempt to explain to Matt Volz, owner of Greyrock Farm, grinning as he hands me last season’s potato. The potato unearthed just now, having spent the winter in the ground remains such a vibrant purple.
Plowing with a horse-drawn harrow is like being on a swing spinning. When you are behind churning dirt and bobbing horse heads, it is thrilling and you feel like you are moving fast. Time stops around you. The sound of clanking and the taste of dust on your tongue force you to remain in the immediate. Looking at the horse-drawn machinery from afar, yes intriguing, but not as breathtaking as when you are behind these noble animals, who at one time carried medieval warriors into battle.
Blood is now dripping down my fingers as I repeatedly pinch my skin in the harrow; dirt is piling in my shoes, and I am laughing and smiling at the pure satisfaction of hard physical labor, the slowness of horse-drawn machinery, and the personality of Pat and Pearl shining through as with each turn towards the barn home their steps quicken ever so slightly.
Matt asks if I want to help with barn chores and milking the cows, apologizing for, “roping me in for all this work.” Work? More like joy! After a lot of repeated directions and with much guidance, I milk two of Matt’s cows — Pete and Porsche…. As Matt rakes hay around he says, “Look, the cows broke that metal guard.” The metal bar, which the cows are normally tied to and stand behind, is now bent at an awkward angle and ‘Piggy’ is uncomfortably straddling it. “Here, just place your shoulder under her neck and push, you can lift her over the bar. She will help you.” The cow shoots me a “yea, okay amateur” look and I return her gaze with a reciprocal “this guy’s nuts” face, but approach her anyway, lowering my shoulder and pinning it against her chest. To both of our surprises she obliges by lifting her front legs and body up and over the bar.
As Matt and I walk the fields of the farm, we turn the horse teams out for moonlit grazing, tuck infant sprouts in for the night, and discuss the honeymoon phase of entrepreneurship; “Honeymoon” and “phase” have sort of negative associations for me because they both end. I explain how I want longevity, and I will balance business owning stress with strenuous farm labor and intense mountain hikes. I think I am onto something. At least it feels so. I feel satisfied which I don’t believe is easy to come by and as hard as I have worked to get here I will work equally as hard to stay. I wonder if Matt experiences similar satisfaction by balancing both the business side and the field operations of his farm?
Matt demonstrates the entire sanitation process involved in producing raw milk. A monthly unannounced inspection, several chemicals to break down the various parts of milk and disinfect. Easy learning hands on. In my workplace wellness presentations, I share some of my farm experiences with participants. When I mention that I tried and enjoyed raw milk, people usually have surprised faces. Matt explains that his milk is close to 4% milk fat, and people usually assume a very rich and thick texture. I would say of the limited raw milk I have tried, from both Greyrock and the Essex Farm, it reminds me of 2% in mouth feel, and it has great flavor. If it weren’t illegal to transport raw milk around, I would be bringing it all over the place offering people samples!
This raw milk thing is quite an extensive topic. I have E-mails coming through about the FDA and raw cheese criteria. I read articles about the health benefits of raw milk and then I read articles about the hazards of consuming raw milk. I guess I am baffled. I am disappointed by the hype and confusion of this topic. Both sides can be a bit extreme. A hazards page contained scarier words than a lot of medication labels I have read. It looks like I need much more time and effort to properly research this topic for myself and for FoodFeasible.
I guess the saying “to each their own” holds true here. Perspective I would like others to consider with regard to the raw milk topic include asking yourself: Are you going to smoke that cigarette? Will you drink that last beer and then try to drive? It seems ironic that many will consume chemically laden processed foods, unable to identify most of the ingredients and yet frown at raw milk. That evening at Greyrock with Matt, I participated directly in gathering and consuming a food source. I met the cow who produced the milk, the farmer who takes care of the cows, and I witnessed the entire process. Matt let me ask question after question. Seemed far from hazardous to me.
Do not write things off without trying them or at least learning more about them. Literally, listen to your head and body. If you feel great because you are supporting a local CSA and humane animal practices and you enjoy the taste of raw milk — Go for it! I did enjoy tasting warm milk fresh from a cow that evening. Until I can complete more research and discuss raw milk with more farmers my simple recommendation is for all you hard-working farmers out there — go milk your cow, take the warm milk in, and add lots of honey and cinnamon – PERFETTO bedtime drink. Those without raw milk, I recommend the exact same with pasteurized milk. Warm Milk + Honey + Cinnamon.
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