The Milky Way

19Jul11

When I first learned the Milky Way was the galaxy which our little solar system calls “home,” I was a little disappointed.  That’s because my earliest memory of Milky Way had the word Farm attached, not galaxy.

I realized when I googled it that my Milky Way Farm is not the only one, but I personally think it’s the best. :)

A visit to Milky Way Farm brings back some pretty amazing childhood memories.  A long time ago, I could count on spending Father’s Day at Milky Way Farm.  That was back when figuring out who someone was involved talk of first, second, and third cousins, and that was only further confused by adding in once, twice, or three times removed.  Having lived a few more years, I can now say with certainty that Farmer Sam is my second cousin twice removed. :-)

There’s nothing like an occasional visit to the family farm to make life seem idyllic.  While the grownups talked genealogies and shared good home-cooking, we kids had the run of the barns and outbuildings.  I remember the coolness of the water flowing in the springhouse.  The smell of the farm’s main occupants – cows. :-)  Gathering as many kittens as possible from the hayloft.  The awesome playhouse – a converted chicken coop.

I remember the time – I was probably seven or eight – a sister and I decided we were having too much fun to leave.  For some reason, my immediate family had arrived at the family reunion in two cars.  Hmmm.  Simple.  We told mom we were going home with dad, and we told dad we were going home with mom.  And it worked!!!  (Yes, we got in Trouble.  But I was still elated it worked.)

Anyway, on Saturday I got to do “family rounds” with a visiting cousin (we had fun!).  What better way to end the day than with fresh-ice-cream-named-after-the-cow-who-lives-on-site at (of course) the family farm?!

I didn’t take pictures of the ice cream because I was too busy eating mine. :D

After the delicious ice cream (HIGHLY recommended!!), we got a personalized visit to the “new” (since the last time I’d been to the farm, anyway!) robotic milking system.  What an ingenious piece of equipment!!!  Of the 80 head of cattle living on the farm, about 40 are milk cows (on Saturday, 34 were milking and the remainder were resting).   I love things that simplify and systematize what would otherwise be back-breaking repetitive labor, so of course I think this robotic milking system is one of the most amazing inventions ever.  No more milking twice a day.  The cows literally milk themselves – as frequently as they want.

It’s not an easy process to capture on camera, and I’m not happy enough with any of the pictures I took to post them, but the process is incredibly simple.  The cows wait in line to step into the milking robot.  A computer chip identifies each individual cow when she steps on board.  Each cow is fed a specific amount of grain – measured in 1/2-pound increments (the grain supplements what the cows eat out in the pasture).  While she’s eating, the robot goes to work.  Teats are cleaned, then the laser-guided computer-programmed milker moves into position.  And then, whoosh, the milk flows!  It’s measured, filtered, and tubed to the holding tank, where it’s cooled for pickup (the tanker comes every other day).

Right now, the cows are producing an average of 5-6 gallons a day EACH.  When it’s cooler and wetter (i.e. in the winter), the average is 8 gallons per cow per day!  The milk produced at Milky Way Farm is sold and then distributed locally – under my favorite milk label (and now I know why it’s my favorite!).  Wawa!!!

Saturday was also a sobering reminder that our resources as a town/city/state/nation are not limitless.  There’s nothing like a visit to the farm to remember where economy push comes to economy shove.  While milk prices have gone up a little in the past year, feed prices have doubled.  In a free market system, whoever has the money gets the goods.  Right now the US is exporting TONS of grain to Asia – because they have the money.  Which means high-quality mom-and-pop farms like Milky Way are struggling to stay afloat…

One thing’s for sure.  Saturday reminded me how much I like ice cream. :D  So I think I’ll go dig that homemade spearmint out of my freezer…

Anybody want to meet me at the Creamery sometime soon?!!

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2 Responses to “The Milky Way”

  1. 1 Ruth

    Sounds wonderful!

  2. Ha, love the story about you & your (unnamed, but I have my suspicions!) sister extending your stay at The Milky Way! I see God refocusing the lens through which you see everyday things, and I think it’s a wonderful confirmation of His calling. Wish I’d had more time on Sunday night to catch up with you.


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