Thursday, August 30, 2007

Was some milk*

Via Wikimedia Commons

For several years I've been buying meat and milk from a couple who run a farm east of Nashville. (The POL contingent has already heard me blather a lot about this. For the rest of you, here's an article I wrote about the farm, and you can see their website here.) The wife, Jenny Drake, has become a friend, and I've spent some time helping out at the farm--or trying to, anyway. Jenny was Nio's original rescuer, so we'll always be grateful to her for his sake.

I like having this little bit of my consumer life that happens off the grid. One of the things that is especially good about it is that it helps wean me away from the habit of instant gratification. The Drake farm operates according to the seasons and the life cycle of the animals. There aren't any eggs in winter, because in the real world chickens don't lay eggs in winter. The lambs are born in the spring and go to slaughter when they reach the right weight. I don't bother hoping for lamb the rest of the year, because there isn't going to be any. Once a month I pick up roughly 20 pounds of whatever's available--plus milk in the summer--and I enjoy what I get. It's a just a nice baby step away from the manufactured, shrink-wrapped world of modern shopping.

But I'm not yet weaned altogether, as I discovered when I learned this week that the Drakes are getting out of the dairy business once this season is over. They've been selling raw cow and goat milk for years on the "gray market"--it's illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in almost every state. The law is skirted by marketing the stuff as pet food; hence my refrigerator often contains a gallon jug of milk labeled unfit for human consumption. For some reason, that delights me.

Anyway, I've gotten really attached to my summer supply of goat milk. Now that it's about to disappear for good, I find I am extremely disappointed and annoyed. Not at the Drakes. They've got a lot of good reasons for getting out of the milk business, not the least of which is a nationwide crackdown by state ag agencies on small farmers who bend idiotic laws. The regulators operate in the interests of giant agribusiness, which has such a tight grip on our food chain that it's almost impossible for small producers to survive by just selling natural food in its unprocessed state. It's going to be tough for me to find another reliable supplier.

I'm angry about that, but the truth is my inner spoiled consumer is the one who's really fit to be tied. It seems unjust that I should be unable to get this simple thing if I have the money to pay for it. I could, of course, get my own damn goats (I have room for them), but that would involve, you know, work. And I think you all know how I feel about that.

*A friend from my Chicago days liked to tell a story about asking her young son, age 4 or 5, to tell her the earliest thing he could remember. The title of this post was his answer: "Was some milk." I know how he felt.


Mary said...

This is how paranoid I'm getting about stuff we buy in supermarkets: I hauled the plastic jug of milk out of the fridge recently to splash in my tea, and I actually found myself thinking, "I wonder if this is really milk? Did this actually come from a cow?" How depressing. I'm old enough to remember having milk delivered in cold little bottles with the cream on top. That stuff was milk, by God. Gracie, I love that pic of the little goatlings.

chayaruchama said...

Are you allergic to cow's milk, or do you simply prefer goats' ?

Like Mary, we used to get milk in glass bottles, with the cream on top.
My cousin Miriam was allergic, so we got her goats' milk from a dairy in the Bronx [Yup, really. At one time, my grandmother had goats and chickens in her own kitchen, in the Bronx !]

I'm extremely fond of goats.
There's something wonderful, and awe-inspiring, about eating what is seasonal.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but thank god Ben & Jerry's isn't seasonal.

BitterGrace said...

Ha! Bozo, Dave is with you on the Ben & Jerry's. Food of the Gods.

Chaya, I drink very little milk, actually--I use nearly all the milk I buy to make yogurt, or occasionally paneer. I'm not allergic to cow's milk, but I think the goat is a little healthier, and I do like the faint taste difference. And I just love goats. I helped out at the farm one day by feeding the kids, which were about the size of housecats at the time. They try to climb your leg and nibble at your clothes. Too cute. It made up for the day I spent shaving udders and tattooing ears.

Mary, I think that's a perfectly natural reaction to the way we get food now. There's an interstate exit I use sometimes as I drive into Nashville that goes right past a big concrete warehouse. Above the steel and glass door there's a sign that says, "Country Delite Farms." It's funny, but it freaks me out if I think about it.