Surviving the apocalypse

Milked a cow last month as part of my 'Preparing for the Apocalypse' checklist. I'm also learning how to dig a well, use a crossbow, gut an animal and cut lumber; however, grabbing a handful of cow boob seemed like the simplest activity to start with.

You might notice all these skills infer the absence of electric power and fossil fuel, which seems prudent because I'm guessing the End of Days won't be proudly sponsored by AGL and BP.

And I was wrong about milking a cow being easy; there's a definite trick to it, while also avoiding being kicked in the head or trampled, shat upon and otherwise contaminating your milk.

"So what?" I hear you say, you get yours from the supermarket?

Yeah, well, you'll be one of the bodies I step over when Armageddon arrives - when burning cinders fall from smoke-filled skies, when hair-dryer hot winds suck the tears from your children's eyes, when the lights never come back on and four-legged reptiles feast on corpses in Canberra.

And I'll have fresh milk and cheese.

People talk about owning a dog or cat as a "commitment" but it's not a patch on caring for a dairy cow. Morning and night you have to milk her and the work is truly not done until the 'cows come home' and you've emptied their udders.

A dairy cow produces about 25 litres of milk a day once she's had her first calf and she'll keep producing as long as she's fed, you keep milking her and she doesn't get eaten by wild dogs or poachers (that's what the crossbow is for).

A cow is an immensely valuable asset, which is why most early farmer's houses were really just one big room, split into a space for the humans and a stable to keep the animals safe inside.

It's also how we got diseases like smallpox, measles and tuberculosis, which all evolved from various ancient pathogens carried by cattle.

So, wash your hands and clean the cow's teats with some soapy water before you start, and stroke the udder gently to relax Daisy's lady muscles and bring her milk down.

Of course, prior to doing this, you've tethered her to a pole, given her a bucket of feed to keep her happy and perhaps tied off her outer hind leg if she's a kicker.

Sitting cross-legged to milk a cow might seem soulful but is not advisable, as you can't scramble quickly enough to dodge hooves and hot green poop. A stool - the type you sit on - is recommended.

Start with the teats farthest from you, pinching them high-up near the udder with your thumb and forefinger to close off the flow of milk, then use your remaining three fingers to squeeze open the teat's sphincter and out squirts the milk.

If you know what you're doing, it'll take about half an hour to empty the udder and you'll have about 10 litres of fresh milk from which you can make cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

And won't that come in handy at the end of civilisation?

The Mycenaeans, forerunners to the Ancient Greeks, ruled the Mediterranean for 400 years before their civilisation was wiped out by unknown forces.

They left behind thousands of clay tablets written in a language known as Linear B, which when translated in the 1950s were revealed to be land and tax records listing the possessions of citizens. One tablet even records the name of an individual cow.

Archaeologists still do not know the name of a single Mycenaean king or why they perished, but they do know the name of one of their cows.

I think I would have liked the Mycenaeans.

Next week: How to fire a crossbow.

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Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.