Nothing gets me out of bed – correction, out of my tent – like knowing it’s my turn to milk. I rise at 6:15 am, throw on my boots, clomp over to the composting toilet, and pray there are no spiders on the seat. I then brush my teeth, grab some coffee, and bolt up to the milking room. In the milking room we clean out the milk pails and grab some water and hydrogen peroxide to clean the Jersey cow’s udder. It is of the upmost importance that we keep everything pristine, as the raw milk flows straight from the cows’ udder to our fridge.
At about 7:10 am we pull into the luscious green pasture to begin milking. My eyes are greeted by a rainbow herd of three mama cows and two calves. Their brown, black, and white hides stand out between the green earth and blue ocean.
The milking cow’s name is Priti. Her hide is light brown like caramel coffee with a little bit of cream. And she has these eyes; these large, deep, understanding, black eyes. We spray off her back legs and give her hind quarters a quick brushing. She munches peacefully on her feed as we tie her tail back and begin to milk. With a gentle hand I squeeze her teat and the milk flows. Everything is silent save the distant ocean water and the ‘chink, chink, chink,’ of her milk hitting the sides of the tin pail. I’d be quicker at milking if I didn’t lay my cheek on her side to feel her steady breaths. Priti has much to teach me. Priti has the choice to embrace or resist being milked. It’s relatively painless – maybe a little uncomfortable at most. I shake the feed and she walks steadily up to the milking platform to give her milk to the farmer. I pretty much did the same thing in coming to Hawaii. She shook her fresh fruit and I came. But in exchange, I have to give of myself.
In farm school we are studying Permaculture. There are three ethics of Permaculture – care for the earth, care for the people, and fair share/trade. It’s the idea that farming is an orchestrated ecosystem. It’s farming for the good of everyone and everything that crosses our path, not just for profit or for self. It’s using compost to fertilize your land rather than spaying chemicals onto the crops. It’s growing GMO-free and organic food. It’s planting multiple crops and not just one crop (monoculture). It’s a turn away from large industrial farming and producing organic food on a local level. If adopted country wide, it would solve the problem of inner city food deserts and the fight for resources with other countries. It’s a much more intimate relationship with the land which ultimately produces a more sustainable one. But this drastic of a change, from industrial back to local, takes heart and hard work.
With a gentle squeeze of Priti’s teat, fresh, warm, milk flows out. Like her milk, my heart is pouring out of me and it’s raw. The type of raw you can’t bottle up because it’s so incredibly real. I feel as if this rawness within me has just been waiting to be coaxed out. I’ve never felt so authentic, real, and fresh. This world probably isn’t ready for all the rawness pouring out of me. My heart opening in this way is not only a service to me but a service to those around me. If Priti goes too long with out being milked, her udder will ache. So, by coming to milk she helps both of us. It’s fair share, though it does not end there. The farmer gives her open pastures and she provides nutritious manure that makes the soil rich. The farmer then uses that soil to grow food which feeds himself, the cow, and the community.
I’m pouring the rawness of my heart into the earth as I work the soil and harvest its fruit. I have no experience with plants. Previously, I have struggled to keep my hanging plants alive on my back patio. How is it that my hands are now a part of growing food to feed people? I’m pouring my heart into all the new people I am meeting along the way as well. They all have different backgrounds, stories, joys, and sorrows for me to be a part of. I have hope that their hearts have come to care for me, as my heart cares for them. So this week I am striving to be more like Priti, the cow – to peacefully embrace being challenged, even if I feel outside of my comfort zone. I need to remember that when my heart is pouring out of me, this raw, it needs to be shared.