Ever milked a cow? It’s a great way to get in touch with your pastoral roots. We took the kids to the California State Fair on Friday and the whole family tried their hand at this entertaining (and very tactile) activity. My kids giggled through the experience, but when I grasped those soft, pliable udders I was instantly catapulted back to my childhood. Cherished weeks spent at my grandparents’ farm in Humboldt County included early-morning sessions with my one-armed grandfather, milking their soft-eyed cow Daisy in the old barn my father had built for them. As a thick blanket of fog rose quietly outside the barn, the only sounds I heard were the staccato spurts of warm milk hitting the can and the contented munching of the cow. Later, I would pour that milk from a big pitcher in my grandparents’ refrigerator, marveling at the thick layer of cream that had risen to the top. After milking, I would often help my grandmother gather eggs in the chicken house, plunging my hand under clucking hens (hoping not to get pecked) as I searched for those warm oval treasures. I wish every child could have an opportunity to experience these basic, yet mostly forgotten farm activities – the more connected they are to “real” food, the more likely they’ll be to seek it out.
The dairy cows are located in the livestock pavilion at the 2009 California State Fair, which runs through today at Cal Expo. For more information, visit www.bigfun.org.