When we bought Ginger our dairy cow two years ago, we had no idea what a blessing and an asset she would be to our little farm. We had already tasted the goodness of raising our own poultry for meat and eggs and also growing gardens. But acquiring a 700 pound bovine beast who can give up to four gallons of milk a day, well that just catapulted us to a whole new level of sustainability. We had a new appreciation for the term LIVESTOCK. We quickly realized that we didn’t have to go to the store as frequently. We had our own eggs, chicken, fruit and vegetables, and now milk and dairy products, right outside of our door. All of these homestead systems take in food and grass from our farm and turn them into the products that they have to give. In addition to the food they offer us, even their waste (read manure) is an asset to the farm in the form of nutrient fertilizer. The best homestead systems are sustainable closed loops. Using our cow as an example, she takes in our grass then gives off manure which feeds the land to grow more grass. In the process, she also gives us milk and meat. And that is why our dairy cow makes us wealthy.
This is our third go-round with Ginger in milk. It’s an intense 9 or 10 months of daily milking, bottling, drinking, cleaning milk jugs and equipment, and scrambling to make good use of ALL.THAT.MILK, and then waking up and doing it again. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not unusual for us to have 10 gallons of milk in the refrigerator. But as all things go, the more we do it, the better we get at it. Not that we are experts in the slightest. We make many errors. But we are getting more used to it, like a comfy pair of shoes that needed broken in. We know Ginger’s idiosyncrasies like how she gets cranky waiting for Mike to take her to the milking parlor, and how if she can’t see her calf she will likely kick her milker and maybe even pee or poo extra just out of spite. I’ve tried my hand at more dairy product making only to churn out less than palatable alternatives to store bought products. I’ve read dozens and dozens of blog posts and cookbooks. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos. Talk about analysis paralysis. How can there so many ways of making yogurt and where is the most basic- for dummies- how the heck did they do it in the olden’ days recipe??!! But in our modern times of lost skills, we have to wade through all the information out there, and then get out there and give it a try.
So no matter what our bank account says that we have, we know what real wealth tastes like. It tastes like a cup of cold, creamy, living milk. It’s bright yellow butter and raw kefir fermenting on counter. It’s health insurance against future illnesses. It’s having the head knowledge and skills to make our own food in times of high prices to eat “real food”. It’s also having a commodity so valuable that we can share with friends and family. This is why our dairy cow makes us wealthy.
Raw Milk Kefir (aka yogurt on steroids from a probiotic standpoint)
-1 pint raw milk or the best you can obtain
-1 TBSP milk kefir grains
Place both ingredients in a pint ball jar. Secure a paper towel or coffee filter over the top with ball jar ring or rubber band. Let sit undisturbed for a day or two until the milk has thickened like yogurt. Spoon out the kefir grains and add to a new pint jar covered with milk and start the process all over again. Drink as is for a probiotic boost or use in smoothies like we do. Try to keep the grains alive so you can pass them to your children like it’s reportedly been done in times past!