Preparing for the milk inspector

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Andreas milking parlor

“Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”

— Sam Ewing

For farm families, spring/summer cleaning takes on an entirely different meaning than it does for most people.

There were a few things that my father could say to us that earned our undivided attention. One of them, without a doubt, started with the dreaded words, “The milk inspector will surely be coming any day now …”

Always and forever the man who believed in playing by the rules, my father would do his own inspection of the premises and start his list.

Oh, the dreaded list.

Necessary work

So, on a summer morning when most of our friends were heading for the mall or still sleeping in after a night at a friend’s house, my sisters and I would finish up the morning milking, grab a bite of breakfast, and head back to the dairy barn for our own version of morning fun, list in hand.

The harder we worked, the sooner we would be done. There was no option of not showing up.

We were equipped with rubber gloves, a ladder or two, the stiffest wire brushes to be found, buckets and rags, super-strength cleansers, and hopefully, a good sense of humor and determination to get that list whittled right down to nothing.

Always, always it seemed the top item on the list was “scrub the back wall,” and we knew from past experience that this alone could take hours.

With a straight-eight stanchion milking parlor, the back wall took lots of abuse, and even though we washed it down each evening, the gunk that got caked on that wall defies definition in terms of its sticking power. It was like cement sticking to those yellow block walls. It would require all the elbow grease that a girl could muster and then some.

The pipeline needed to be wiped down and polished so that even a milk inspector would smile with glee upon landing his eyes upon it. The hot, soapy water would drip past those rubber gloves and run down our arms as we balanced ourselves on those old, rickety ladders.

Every spec cleaned

There were to be no cobwebs in sight. Fly specks? Be gone with them, too! The windows and the walls and the ceiling should be worthy of an overnight guest. And that is only the milking parlor.

Next, we were to tackle the milk house. The stainless steel bulk tank should glisten and gleam, both inside and out. The deep stainless steel sinks must be polished and spit-shined so that the milk inspector could catch a glimpse of himself smiling because he is overcome with such happiness to find himself in a place so nearly perfect that he doesn’t even have to reach for his pen. Although, history had shown us, he would surely find some infraction to note, just to keep us on our toes.

After several hours, we would head to the house for lunch. We were all out of elbow grease, arms feeling like dead weight from physical exhaustion.

Lunch never tasted so good. We knew we had done our duty. The evening milking was only a few hours away, and we just knew those darn cows would un-do all the hard work we had just accomplished, but we tried hard not to think about it.

Next week: Meeting the milk inspector, face to face.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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