We're on our way with an actual morning milking routine!
Sasha and Darth are penned up in the evening ... I put hay in their stalls, and they agonize over going into the stall, knowing that I'll close the gate behind them. Eventually their desire for hay overrides their desire for freedom, and in they go.
The Reluctant Farmer has made some changes to the milking stanchion for me, so I can reach in and get to the business end of the cow more comfortably. There's also a very clever 'tailgate' at the back: a bar can be raised up to let Sasha in, and in the 'up' position, the bar latches into a regular gate latch, so you can push the bar up and latch it into place. When you need to drop it down, you just reach up and press the latch release, and down it comes. Very slick! This keeps Sasha from backing out of the stall, and keeps her positioned so I can easily reach the udder.
At the moment she still moves her feet around a fair bit while I'm milking, so I'm milking one handed into a bucket that I hold in place with my other hand. I figure eventually we'll get to where the bucket can be set down and I can milk with two hands, but this is working and that's exciting enough for now. :)
Yesterday was the first 'milk into the bucket' day, and we got about a cup of milk. This morning I got at least twice that amount, with only 15 minutes in the barn. Sasha is really quite cooperative about the whole thing. Even the washing that has to be done before milking commences doesn't seem to annoy her in the least.
Once I come back inside, the milk is poured through a cloth filter into a clean glass canning jar and put in the fridge for the day. We tasted our first fresh milk last night - and it was amazing! It tastes like ... well ... like milk! Very fresh, clean and creamy (we didn't separate the cream out ... most of the cream comes at the end of the milking, and I didn't milk long enough to get to the rich stuff). Yes, we do know how to pasteurize the milk, but given that our cow is healthy, grass-fed, and free from mastitis, and that none of us have compromised immune systems, we're choosing to drink the whole fresh milk. It sure tastes good, and there are many advantages to raw milk (when it comes from healthy cows milked in a sanitary environment, of course).
There it is... the first bottle of milk!
The whole process is just so amazing. I mean, sure, it's nothing earth shattering or stunningly scientific, but when you wrap your hand around the teat and feel it fill up with milk, then hear that stream of milk rushing into the steel pail ... there's something really incredible about being involved in that.
A cow of my own. Fresh milk in a pail.
That, for me, is a dream come true.