Woodworking is one of those skills I greatly admire. I grew up watching This Old House after all – watching the craftsmen take bare lumber and create buildings, cabinets, and more just fascinates me. Power tools, though, that’s a bit intimidating. I can be clumsy and have long lived with an irrational fear that I would hurt myself in some horrendous way while I was alone. Well, given our goat situation I had to get over that fear and get to work building a milking stand last week.
I’ve built small, simple things in the past – shelves, steps, that sort of thing. I only used hand tools, though, avoiding the circular saw in particular. I took a home maintenance class years ago and knew how to use one – they are just incredibly powerful and, again, that darn irrational fear was holding me back.
The roommate and I scoured the web for milking stand plans, and I found this one from Mother Earth News. It’s a one-sheet plan that includes supply list with price estimates – the prices are a bit out of date, but that just shows what a great plan this is – it was top of my search parameters. We headed to the hardware store for supplies and I got to work.
Nothing helps you get over an irrational fear like the knowledge that you just have to do the work. At least in my experience. Milking needed to be done twice a day, Miss Leia was skittish when we milked her in the run – I would be too if a baby goat (Luke) was jumping all over and his mama (Padme) was staring me in the face.
I started by working with the 2″ x 4″‘s, carefully measuring, cutting, and labeling each piece. I did all the straight cuts then worked on the plywood sheet. I laid out the pieces before nailing together the base – lo and behold I had a table. I felt confidence rising as I assembled the pieces in the barn – how good it feels to put aside fear and do the work I love!
The angle cuts – braces for the legs and stanchions – were quite tricky for me. Although I measured and cut as directed I struggled to hold the saw in place and ended up with several off angles that needed to be recut. It was the most frustrating part of the plan for me, and if our goats were larger I would worry about them more. But at about 30 pounds I’m not overly concerned.
Next came building the stanchion pieces. This required learning to use a new piece of equipment: a drill. It looks and functions much like an electric screwdriver, so it wasn’t intimidating. It was even fun to watch the blade whirl through the wood making space for the dowels. BTW – I’m now totally sold on dowels as fasteners – they are amazingly strong and sturdy.
A previously built set of steps sits at the foot of the stand and Miss Padme walks right up into place – just took a few times for her to get used to the process. I was a little confused about the stanchion part – I imagined it swiveling to hold her head in place so she couldn’t escape while we milked her. Talking with my friend Kelly’s son Matthew, though, lessened my confusion. They use the same stand and just use a chain to hold the animal’s head in place while milking. For now the roommate and I do this chore together, one holding Miss Leia’s head and feeding her treats and grain while the other milks.
We’ve been using the stand for a week now and are collecting 2 1/2 cups of milk a day from this first time mama. Baby Luke will be weaned shortly and we’ll be milking two goats. The fresh milk has been a wonderful addition to my morning oatmeal, and I’m excited to try my hand at yogurt making later today. As our milk collection increases we’ll work to make butter, cheese, and ice creams from this wonderfully rich farm product.