After five days of working from 4:30 am-7:30 pm, give or take an hour, we have our first morning off. We have been milking cows morning and night since we arrived and it was a bit strange to be able to sleep in until 8 am.
Five days. That’s all the time we’ve spent here and I already feel that this is a life changing experience. We are here at North Plain Farm, working as interns for Sean, the owner. We have spent the vast majority of our time with his employees Gregory and Jessie and their three-year-old daughter Sawyer. We eat almost every meal together, work morning and night side by side and they already feel like part of my family.
Here’s a walk through of our first day: woke up at 4 am, slowly crawled out of bed and suited up for the day. Went downstairs to the basement, the head of the farm operations, and met up with Jessie and Gregory. After a small snack of yogurt and coffee, we piled into a truck and drove 15 minutes to Blue Hill Farm. Half of us walked through the fields and moved cows to the milking barn while the other half headed to the milk room and put together the handheld milking machines. Once the cows were in the barn, they moved to their respective spots and we shut the restraints to keep their necks in place.
Every teat had to be dipped in Chlorhexidine and wiped. After a cow was milked, the filled steel container was taken off and weighed. The milk was dumped into a refrigerated holding tank through a filter. Once the cows were finished being milked, their teats were either dipped in iodine or rubbed with bag balm.
After every cow was milked, we let them out and they went off to the fields. The machines were sprayed off, disassembled, and washed carefully. They got a bleach water dunk and were hung to dry. While this was happening, one of us was shoveling the poop, urine, and used wipes off the runway and down the gutters, then pushed down to the ends. Lime and wood shavings were put over any wet spots to soak up the smell and provide traction. Half of the milk from that morning was put into feeding bottles and fed to calves in different pens. This took over three hours for us, but they told me it would take less time as we got more experienced.
Once we returned to North Plain Farm, we had an amazing breakfast of eggs from the farm and other food from local sources. Afterwards, we headed to the animal trailer that was used that morning to transport a few pigs to the slaughterhouse. We hosed it down and raked out the used wood shavings, then went back to the basement for lunch.
At 3:30 pm, we piled into the truck again with Jessie and drove back to Blue Hill Farm. Marya and Jessie herded the cows to the barn while I put together the machine, but this time, something different happened. We left the barn door open and two of the cows walked straight through towards the driveway. I carefully started to walk towards them and yelled to Jess. She got in front while I ran up from behind. A frantic chase ensued, and after getting them back into the fenced pasture, they riled up the rest of the herd and they decided to head back out to the pasture.
Jessie told me cows generally move forward if you walk behind them, stop if you stand in front, and walk left or right depending on which side you’re standing on. But above all, they follow the herd. No matter what we tried, the herd walked all the way back to the opposite end where they came from, and it took Jessie another half hour to get them back. Three hours later, we were done and got back for dinner at 8:30 pm. Gregory had prepared a feast and we ate till our stomachs were practically bursting. Marya and I jumped into the shower and were in bed by 10 pm. We got up at 4 am the next morning and continued this general schedule for the next four days.