The next day is cold and rainy in the morning, and it’s just me because the Teenager warned me not to wake him up early “or else”. This means the backpack is WAY lighter. I am prepared with a waterproof backpack cover and raincoat.
They are still milking when I arrive, so I wait and scratch the baby goats between their horns. When the milking is done and the barn doors are flung open, the sheep stampede out, but the goats linger in the doorway and bleat in whiny voices. Morgane, the herdswoman and cheesemaker who looks like Heidi, shooes them out with a nicely carved stick just for that purpose.
Apparently alpine goats hate the rain as much as my goats do. Once they are in the pasture they just sit under the trees and look miserable until it stops raining. The sheep look happy. I regret that I’ve left my wool sweater behind, but am also trying to enjoy being cold in July.
The early afternoon is dry and sunny and gorgeous. When I hike back from having lunch, Michelle tells me she slipped on a rock and hurt her hip, so she will be very slow walking down and back to eat. So I am all alone, on the side of a mountain, with about 100 goats and sheep for a couple of hours. Bliss! I love this!
That evening, after we descend for evening milking, Morgane hands me a bag full of cheese and sheep’s milk yogurt in exchange for watching the animals. They seem to think it was a hard job or something. I ask if I can return to get raw milk, something I’ve been missing so much. She says I can if I bring sterilized bottles the following evening.
The next day I borrow bottles from our host and walk up the now familiar path. I’ve gotten there early, and no one is about. At first I think I hear someone doing something just inside the barn, but it turns out to be flies getting zapped on a fly light. I sit back and watch the free-range pigs fight over a favorite wallow in the pasture down below.
Suddenly I hear bells and bleating and people yelling, “Allez! Allez!”. The goats are leaping and bounding down the mountain. Horns clash, hooves scrape on the steep path. I meet them at the barn and help to separate the sheep from the goats, a task that is made difficult by the sheep lagging stupidly behind, and the goats trying to sneak over to their side and get milked first.
The milking parlor is a complicated double row of raised stanchions, with a raising door to let everyone in and out, and a divider to move the animals to one side or another.
Morgane is running behind, and is rushing to fill up the food dishes. She tugs at the rope that opens the door to the milking parlor, and says to the assistant, “Voilà, les moutons,” but only the dog is in the door way, grinning and blocking the way.
She doesn’t see at first, and is busy waiting for the sheep to come in, but when she looks up and sees the dog sitting there, and the first sheep peeking around the corner looking sad it can’t get to the food, she yells, “Patisse! Same thing every day! Get out of here! ”
Finally the sheep file in and get themselves hopelessly tangled together trying to reach the food through the self locking head gates (I really need to get some for my animals!). The assistant must climb up and fight with them to sort them out. “The sheep are kind of stupid, ” Morgane tells the assistant.
“My colleague is the one who does the sheep, ” she says to me with a wry grin, “I have the goats.”
I tell her that we used to have sheep and they were so frustrating we just have goats and cows now. “Good idea, ” she says, and climbs up to assist the assistant in untangling sheep.
The next morning I pour myself a glass of both kinds of milk to taste. We usually have so much milk on hand, I am not used to not having it for so long. It is so creamy, and tastes like the mountain herbs.