The soft yellow glow of the backyard floodlight promises false warmth as it illuminates thousands of tiny snow flakes drifting down across the beam. “Crunch, crunch, crunch,” echoes softly almost in cadence as the booted feet of a warmly dressed figure slowly march through the previously fallen snow down the hill to the barn.
A sudden “Blaat!” loudly splits the quiet December night as a sheep in the lot next to the figure claims that it should be fed even though that just happened an hour ago. The figure looks, and then continues to the barn. Neither cow nor calf utters a sound as he enters, flips on the light switch, then sets the one of the pails that he was carrying on a shelf. It tinkles slightly as the handle falls and strikes the rim. He carries the other pail over to the first stanchion on the right and dumps most of it into a feed box mounted there. He reaches into a small pen behind the stanchion and picks up a small feed pan. Filling it he replaces it in the pen. Then he sets the pail on a different shelf.
He opens the gate to the small pen then heads away from the stanchions to the middle of the barn. Puffs of breath showing clearly in the chilly night air he rouses a resting calf and herds it into the small pen, shutting the gate behind it. Moving to the middle of the barn he opens another gate and a cow enters and heads to “her” stanchion. Twisting her head she slips one and then the other horn through and begins to eat. The man comes up beside her and closes the stanchion then pivots and steps to retrieve an anti-kick device hanging above the nearly empty grain pail. He walks around the cow to her left side and places the device over her back, adjusting it to fit snugly. He walks back to the cow’s right side and brushes loose bedding off her then he cleans her udder.
Stepping away he retrieves the first pail and removes its’ lid, setting that back on the shelf. Reaching over by the feed pail he grabs his milking stool and moves back to the cow. He sets the pail under her udder as he seats himself at the right side of the cow and begins milking. “Swinck, swinck, swinck,” then “swish, swish, swish,” comes from the pail as the streams of milk strike the bare metal and then fall on previous milk as the pail fills. Soon he finishes and stands up grabbing the stool and pail. Returning the stool to the shelf he then grabs the lid and places it back on the pail which he also returns to the shelf. Turning back to the small pen, he opens the gate making sure to be out of the way for an eager calf charging out to get her share of milk from momma. As the calf begins to suck he removes the anti-kick device and hangs it back up.
Grabbing the pail with the remaining feed and a nearby pitchfork he heads to the center of the barn when he empties the pail into a feed pan then he forks hay into a feeder. Next it is back to the stanchion end of the barn where he replaces the pail and pitchfork. By now the calf has the cow drained but is still trying for more milk. He turns and herds the calf, not nearly as eager, back into the small pen and closes the gate. He moves to the side of the barn and opens a gate then releases the cow who heads out that gate and around to the hay feeder. Closing the gate because the calf would love to go right out to the cow he frees the calf and closes that pen.
Grabbing both his pails he flips the light switch bringing night to the barn again. Exiting the barn the figure trudges back up the hill through the lightly falling snow. Noses telling them that the pails contain no feed, the sheep ignore him as he enters the house and hands off the pail of milk for straining. So ends another night of milking for Phloughphie.