The Milk Shack

You know the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?”  Well the story begins that I have a lot of great neighbors!  One such neighbor, Vivian tends to look in her yard and ask, “Hey Ntala, do you have a use for that?”

One of these moments was January.  Vivian had been bugging me to look at this old grainery for probably a year.  One day at coffee, I asked Leonard, her husband if I can have it.  He replies that I can have both of them, because there were two, and he was going pull them in the field and burn them down.  The roof and skids needed replacing but basically, “the bones were good.”

Skating on the Driveway January 2012

If you remember January of 2012, in Barrhead County, Alberta it was warm, so warm it rained on top of the snow and formed 3 inches of ice on top of all roads.  It made for not bad skating on the driveway and perfect conditions for pulling an old grainery down the road with the tractor.  As in most of my stories this is when my dear, loving husband enters, eyes rolling and giving heavy sighs!  Kevin has got to be one of the most patient husbands around.  Sometimes it takes a little convincing that this plan is going to work, but as always he comes around.  So twice we pulled a grainery down the road and started repairs.

The unseasonably warm weather for January made for beautiful Saturday projects and before long we had a lambing shed with 6 bunks and a milk barn.

Tractor aided grainery moving.


Another day at coffee at Vivian and Leonard’s, I asked if they knew anyone who used to milk cows and might have some old stuff hanging around.  Well sure enough, Vivian’s son Randy answered that his father-in-law used to milk cows, 24 years ago.  So I came to own an ancient old Surge vacuum milking pump that Kevin installed into the milk barn. Power was dug into the ground and goat milking began.

At first I had only a sliding door to let the goats in and out of.  Now if you’ve ever been to any place that milks you would know that animals enter one door and exit another.  Well this is something that I had to learn.  After a couple of days of first trying to beat the goats back from the door and get in myself I installed a half door with latches on top and bottom.  Now, in theory, this should work great.  But only if you want animals to enter.  Each time after I milked, I would have to let only two goats in, while getting the two goats I had just milked out of the same door. Usually they almost always enter the milk shack in the same order, Mary with Vash, then Mia and Thyme and lastly Rosie with Milly.  Then when I let the next two goats in for their turn, I would realize that Mary and Mia had somehow worked their way up to the front of the line, like they have never been milked.

The front door to the milk barn

Goat Door exit

My goat corral

Enter plan B.  This one was hard to convince Kevin that it was a necessary construction project.

I remember a few evenings of “planting the seed of a story” of how difficult this was.  His idea was a hitching rail, where I would tie up each goat and go gather as needed.  You know, it’s not like this was rocket science, but I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I decided we needed a small corral with an exit door in the side of the milk shack.

Challenge one, removal of carrageenan branches.  Sounds easy enough, startup tractor and put down the bucket and go for it.  Ya, this should have worked but one of the carrageenan branches broke off 2 feet from the ground popped up and broke a hydraulic hose on the tractor.   Out pours $150 worth of hydraulic fluid.  So what should have been a small project now requires me to remove said hose, replace broken coupling and hydraulic fluid and try again.

At this point my husband is shaking his head again, because he NEVER breaks the tractor!  But I did fix it.  So then on the 2nd try I removed carrageenan, pounded posts and installed small holding corral.  Then Kevin helped install a sliding escape hatch to extract them from the milk shack.

Mia the goat peeking into the milk shack

Viola!  Two days later life is good, goats come in one door, and out the next, orderly and with a few entrance attempts from both the milked and unmilked crowd.  That’s the thing about goats; as much as goats are creatures of habit they are also single minded about grain, when and where is the next time they will get some, even if it takes convincing a total stranger.   So when Kevin leaves the house at 6:15, they see him leave, they holler at him like he’s leaving them without milking (PS Kevin has never milked them!).  I was milking with my cousin, (@seelprojects who has started the blog My Animal Health Brian…oh I mean Brain) one morning and she laughed and said, “Do you know that you talk to them?”  Yes, I talk to my goats, they know their names and they usually come when called, it’s a goat thing.


  1. What a hilarious and captivating story! And @seelprojects is your cousin! So cool! Have to meet her, yet! I cannot believe the work entailed – but so worth it, clearly! I am learning a lot about goats – that they are playful, and sentimental, and stubborn – but very anxious, too. Lots to deal with. Talking to them? That is a given! They are adorable animals with names! Holy Gale used to take her lunch out to the field she wanted her goats to eat in and eat with them so they would stay there.

  2. Nice setup! Maybe in spring I’ll be able to convince my lover of something similar… we acquired some goats a couple weeks ago!
    So much until waiting after winter… but this way, if I get them bred, we’ll be milking in spring 🙂
    I’ll be reading through all your good blog posts for advice 😉

    • crazymareranch says:

      Deb, Hope that you have great luck. It’s so fun and interesting to explore these parts of life with animals. Happy Milking!


  1. […] is daunted by nothing. She has made all of the cheeses on the platter above! Is that not staggering? Read her post about acquiring a milk shack for her goats. It is an up close and personal Alberta prairie tale that really drives home what hard work and […]

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