There are few things in my life - and by "things" I mean like actual inanimate objects - that I am deeply proud to call mine. The things I am proud of are either living beings, things I've made, accomplishments or achievements. There is one brand new exception to this: my gorgeous new milking parlor.
Even before I closed on the farm, I had already found my headlocks and stanchion. I knew from my time at Coach Farms that I wanted a similar parlor setup and cascading headlocks were an absolute must. A headlock is a type of gate that allows the goat to put their head through to eat, then locks them in for safe milking. Once milking is finished, the gates are released and the goats go on their way. Cascading headlocks are a type of headlock that only ever have one gate open at a time, which means the goats must learn to essentially organize themselves in the parlor and lock in in an orderly fashion in order to get their breakfast or dinner. It's a thrill to see when it's working well, and it saves a lot of herding time during milking.
The barn that was on the property had a very small pit parlor with 6 calf headgates. I knew the first time I saw it that I would have to build on a new parlor for better flow and to accommodate more goats at a time, as well as a new milk room with a bulk tank to store up to 150 gallons of milk. I literally built my parlor around the specs of my precious headlocks. The size, the ramps and doors, the floor drain - everything. In the meantime, I had a great local metalworker adjust the height and railings of the headlocks and stanchion to my exact specifications. And since they had been sitting outside all Winter, we decided to clean them up with some paint - at which time I seized the opportunity to go with my favorite color on the locks and rails.
The exterior and most of the interior of the addition was completed by Winter of 2017. During the Spring and early Summer of 2018, the interior was finished aside from some final plumbing, the ramps and doors for goats were put in and the special feed bunk was installed. At this point I was hand milking 22 goats in the tiny, windowless parlor, often pouring sweat the entire time.
In July 2018 on a rainy Wednesday night I ran the inaugural milking in the new parlor solo.
It was a nightmare. At least no one was injured.
As I mentioned, it was raining. The goats needed direction and encouragement on the new ramps, the queen was NOT a fan of the new parlor and so the rest of the herd was a bit rudderless, and though I had checked the vacuum pump, I neglected to test the pulsator after not having run it for over a year. After spending too much time trying to fix the pulsator, I ended up hand milking. At the end of the (very long) night, I was soaked to the bone with rain and sweat, with my wet skin was coated with goat hair from handling each girl individually, and my back was sore from hoisting rogue goats back up on to the stanchion. I was afraid I had made a terrible mistake.
But as the days went by, the girls grew to love the new parlor and their entrances and exists became less fraught and more fun.
And at this point I am absolutely in love with my new parlor. It's not without its quirks and there are a few things to finish, but I'm not sure I've ever been so proud of something I've owned in my entire life.
If you set up an appointment to tour the farm, don't be surprised if I show off the parlor to you.