As I mentioned in Blog 1, we lived a long way from our paternal grandparents. In the old Landcruiser and van, it would take us a good 12 hours to get to Bellangry, a rural area on the mid north coast, approximately 25km of winding road from Wauchope.
Nan and pop’s dairy was one of the last properties before you really hit the depths of the beautiful Bellangry State Forest. Log trucks were just about the most regular form of transport that passed my grandparents property for the early part of my life with ‘The Mill’ fully operational for until probably 20 years ago (just a guess…and my friend Google was not helpful).
Being dairy farmers, it was early starts for my grand father and uncle. My grandfather would stoke the fuel stove and stock it ready for my grandmother when she rose. They then commenced the morning prayers and gave thanks for their provisions and set off to gather the herd from the night paddock that was situated next to the farm house, which was across the road from the dairy (which they referred to as ‘the bales’ – six stalls with feeders in between in stall that fed the cows as they were milked).
In winter, it was very early, very dark and very cold! Once we loaded on our gumboots (which were strategically placed one inside the other under the house), we strutted off with excitement to the Massey Ferguson for an adventure down the hill. Most of the girls had already commenced the casual stroll up the hill to the gate in anticipation of the mornings milking and a feed of chaff. Our excited friends would be tugging on their chains, bursting to say good morning and do their round up duties, apart from the house dog, who sat outside the side door over night.
When we were visiting, the carry-all would be attached to the hydraulics so that we could travel around with our pop and assist with gate duties. When it was a full house on the carry-all, there was a battle for the best twine or rope attachment to allow you to swing (carefully) at the back of the carry-all. Regardless of whether we were there at Christmas or not, we always ended up singing ‘Jingle Bells’….something about the baling twine brought on thoughts of dashing through the snow…..?
Once we had checked that every cow was accounted for, spotted the odd fox and moved the girls across the road, down the hill and back up to wait for milking. When we reached our destination, my grandfather’s tanned, bent nose would always have a leak, which he attended to after dismount. Pop’s nose had been hit by a wayward cow during milking a long time ago. When you are up close and personal with flighty cows with a wayward back leg, anything could happen…..I used to always think how painful that would have been.
In our younger years we would literally just hang out at the bar gate dividing the bales from the washing/storage room and then the vat room that contained two massive vats that would be filled with fabulous, creamy, white milk! If we were lucky, one of the dogs would sit with us and we could just hang and pat.
As we grew, we were taught to clean teats and whack on the suction caps that would deliver all of that fabulous goodness to Australia! This is where I learnt about mastitis, birth, death, bulls, sex and separation. Of course, separation has to happen to have this beautiful milk that we drink on a large scale. Have you have never thought about that? I’m still drinking milk,cows still look happy in their clover and the word keeps turning.
After milking, the clean up began. Of course, there was only tank water to clean the bales…which sometimes we may have forgotten. When you have a job to do…..and those cows could make some pretty impressive mess!
Once the clean up was complete, it was off to feed the calves. Of course, if you have 100 dairy cows to milk in the morning, there are going to be calves with buckets of milk mix. Calvies (as they were called) sucking our hands was the most fun part of the morning. I think that the thought that we were acting as replacement mothers and giving them some love was also an appealing part of the experience.
Then…once it seemed like half of the day was over and it was only 8am….we strutted back across the road for a hearty breakfast….yes, I mean HEARTY!
If you missed the milking, you prepared breakfast with Nan and fed the chooks. More about that in the next blog.
So…I have got to the end and not told you why I love cows! They have the most beautiful big eyes, wish amazing lashes…and, most of the time, they are graceful. I would say elegant! They produce one of the most amazing products that can ever be consumed! We are so fortunate to have access to this fresh, wonderful product.