Question: What do you do when there is a bear wandering around outside, it’s dark, the goats and chickens are still out, and you have to milk?
Two nights ago, The Animal Whisperer woke me up because he saw a bear in our driveway. We raced around inside the house to different windows to see if we could see it again. Through the kitchen window, we watched it lumber down the stairs toward the barn, over to a watering pan The Animal Whisperer leaves filled for the chickens and wild birds, we heard it drink, then stood silent as statues on the deck as it walked through our yard, down toward the ravine and up the other side until it got lost from view in a bush where it must have been snacking on acorns.
You can see a bear at night because it looks like a shortish, fat black shadow with four legs. And you know it’s not a dog.
And, we were safe. Inside. Or, relatively safe…on the deck. And the animals were safe. Locked in the barn.
Not quite the same story last night, however.
At 8:00, The Animal Whisperer saw it again. The only difference was that Montana, our big white and brown St. Bernard/Anatolian Shepard wildlife evacuator, was out. He was barking like crazy, apparently attempting to keep the bear at a distance.
But. The goats and chickens were out.
Thank goodness they were not all the way out, free to roam and be eaten by the bear, but they were out in their pen, still not locked into the barn for the night.
And, two of them had to be milked.
And, I’m the fastest milker. But The Animal Whisperer is the best protector. I act tough, sometimes, but if I were really confronted with a bear up close and personal, I might just die.
So, after about 3 seconds of thought, he decided we’d both go down and milk. He as the protector armed with two machetes and a rock, me as the master milker.
We headed to the barn with Montana and clanging machetes and the milk pot. The Animal Whisperer graciously went first so that he would get eaten before me.
Upon arrival to the normally loud goat pen, normally loud because at this time of night, the two milkers are usually screaming Miiiiiiilllllk Mmmmeeeeee!!!! Miiiiiiiillllllk Mmmmeeeeee!!! really obnoxiously, the animals were silent. They were lined up at the fence silently, as if engrossed in a really good movie. Silent.
Fast paced milking began. The Animal Whisperer let the first goat out. I yanked out the sweet feed, wiped off Dottie’s teats, and proceeded to milk as fast as I could while Montana lay calmly nearby and my husband stood up the stairs, in the dark, clanging his machete on a rock. He had left one with me.
If you’ve never milked when a bear is nearby, you’ve got to try it.
Dottie was finished, and thank goodness, at night, we only milk two goats. Canela is the fastest and easiest to milk, but if our milking stand is outside, under the cover of the barn roof. I milk facing the barn, with my back to the yard.
Which poses a problem when there is a bear nearby. It requires you to milk blindly while your head is cranked around looking over your shoulder down toward the bushes, where the barn light shines far enough for you to see if something is approaching. You almost get a crick in your neck.
It is around this time, or perhaps a little earlier, that Montana decided his job as protector was over, and he left with our other dog, Oso, to take a trip to the neighbor’s. Great.
Just me and the goat and the milk pan that I clanged every so often. And, thank goodness, The Animal Whisperer was still a little ways up the hill clanging his machete.
The psh-psh-psh of milk hitting the pot was hardly loud enough to keep a bear away. I almost started singing Christmas songs, for lack of any other way to make noise, but for some reason, didn’t.
I finished Canela. Banged the lid on the pot. Put her back in the pen with the movie watchers. Grabbed Lucy, the boss of the goats, led her to the barn and everyone else followed. Easily. Like they wanted to go in.
This never happens. Always, Gaby and her two boys stay by the feeder, eating, and I have to tear them away from their dining experience. Not so tonight. They were the first ones in.
I locked everyone in the barn, even used the padlock. I’m not sure if bears can climb fences, then use their paws to open the latch on the barn door, but if I put the padlock on, they probably can’t manage that, I thought.
I raced out to grab the milk, hollered for The Animal Whisperer and together, machete’s and milk pot clanging, me singing loud in a nervously high-pitched made up song and my husband chucking the big rock he was carrying up toward some other bushes, we made it safely up to the house.
And never saw the bear.
But really, if you haven’t tried milking when there’s a bear around, you should. Just for kicks. Just for the adrenaline of it.
If you’d like to volunteer, let me know. You’re on for tonight.
– The Goat Cheese Lady