As someone who was raised in the city, I found it incredibly novel to be on a farm in rural Bulgaria. This experience put an entirely new definition onto the word rural. It happened to be mentioned in conversation with our lovely hosts, Joe and Julie, that I had never been on a farm or done any farm-like things. This includes milking a goat. They offered the experience to me, and I promptly added it to my list of must-dos.
One balmy evening, at around 8:00pm, Mark, Joe and I set off in the car to meet their friend with the goats. I shall call him Tony because I forgot his name. We arrive to Tony’s house and he meets us and we start walking up a rocky, dirt road. Joe leaves. Up and up the three of us climb. We have to go pick the goats up from their little goat daycare. All the people in this village in Bulgaria drop their goats off in the morning and then pick them up in the evening. Absolutely adorable.
We arrive to the goat daycare just as they are dismissed for the day. Tony has two goats – a black one and a white one. He quickly locates them and then we begin our walk back down to Tony’s house. It’s not just us and Tony. Children, their parents, and their babas* come to pick up their goats. There’s a dozen people and many more goats all sauntering down this hill. All of the goats have bells wrapped around their neck, creating a symphony of bell tolls and goat noises and baba chatter. I find it hilarious.
Goats are rather stubborn. You probably knew this. I had no idea. So every now and again your goat will decide to just stop to take a pee or it will stop to kick someone or it will stray away and try to nibble some grass. Or it will try to run away from you. So you have to kind of thump them on the noggin to keep them walking the direction you want to walk.
I’m growing severely attached to Tony’s white goat that’s loyally walking next to me on this sojourn back to the house. I give it a pet name. We get to Tony’s house and he takes the goats and leads them into their little goat area. I watch him as he takes the goat and he ties the goat’s lead around a post and he secures it. He distracts the goat from what we are about to do – confiscate its milk – by giving it a wholesome snack to munch on.
I squat down in front of the goat and Tony is right behind me. He makes an O with his thumb and his forefinger and, using it as a tourniquet, wraps it about halfway up the goats “tit.” I say in quotes because I couldn’t help but snicker every time he said “tit.” It was with an English accent and positively delightful.
I digress. So you make an O with your thumb and forefinger, wrap it halfway up the tit, and then close your remaining three fingers around the rest of the tit. And you squeeze. Not a pansy squeeze. You work every single muscle in your hands to get out just a second’s worth of goat milk.
The tit is warm. The milk is warm. My hands are warm and sweaty and I’m nervous this goat is about to kick me in the face.
Repeat this process for about ten minutes. And you’re in the clear so long as the goat is eating something and is apathetic to your groping and milk stealing. It’s much harder, as a first timer, than it really looks.
We fill up a pail that’s maybe a liter of milk, maybe more. It’s hard to tell. To me it felt like a gallon. Afterward Tony asks me if I want to milk the other one, too.
I can’t. My hand is cramping and I begin to worry I’m going to have a super muscular right hand and a bony left hand.
And now I can officially say, with pleasure, I have tickled a goat’s tit and milked it for all it has.