When I designed our small, farmstead dairy and creamery in 2005, I unknowingly left out what is perhaps the most important and useful room – the Baby Milk Kitchen. After working through a handful of chaotic kidding seasons, struggling to maneuver around whoever was milking, cluttering up the milk house with bucket feeders, etc., I realized that a space to fill and wash bottles; pasteurize and store milk for babies; and keep medications and records should be present in every efficient dairy.
When providing floor plan reviews and consultations since this realization, I recommend adding a space with refrigeration, sink, shelving, and even a range or heat source for warming milk. It should be located near the baby rearing area and not share any facilities with rooms where milk for human consumption (or cheesemaking) is being processed. It doesn’t have to be fancy or large, but should be efficient.
For some time I thought a baby milk kitchen was out of reach for our facility, after all, we had no room to expand or convert a space, or so I thought. Last fall while making cheese I was looking out the window to the two sided, covered back porch where we had two chest freezers, one for frozen, pasteurized milk for kids and one for personal food; a refrigerator for yogurt and milk for kids; a barbecue gas grill; and a lot of stuff that comprised a general look of clutter. Suddenly, this multi-use porch started looking a lot like our future open-air kid milk kitchen.
Over the winter we framed in one of the walls, leaving a large glassless window that looks out to our cabin and the mountains. Along this wall I built a 11 foot painted plywood counter into which we set a deep sink (purchased at a Habitat for Humanity store for 15.00) that runs to a trench. Under the sink I added a draining shelf using a scrap piece of metal fence panel. Vern ran the plumbing out the wall from the adjoining boiler room and the porch already had an outlet for power and an overhead light. We moved the two chest freezers to one wall, the grill to the unframed, screened wall, and the refrigerator to the back wall of the boiler room. We pasteurize our kid milk by using an inexpensive turkey fryer as a hot water bath, so we made a place for it as well. We had a little trouble with the liquid, natural dishsoap freezing solid during the first month of kidding, but other than that, this room- we now call the KMK for kid milk kitchen- has made our spring birthing season almost, and I emphasis almost, heavenly.
Foot traffic in the milk house is now limited to whoever is milking, so it stays much cleaner. The clutter of milk buckets and lamb bars and baby bottles is gone. There is no concern about medications being near the milk. And no one has to struggle to carry filled bucket feeders out through the milk house door, dripping milk as they slosh their way through the milking parlor.
Our KMK is rudimentary and rustic, but it does the job. We’ll plan on improving it during the down season, but it will get us through this spring. The only problem with the room is that it is a distance from the baby pens. Now, as I stand at the sink washing buckets and bottles, I find mysekf gazing out to the open space behind the barn (well it is not that open, but
crammed with Amelia’s rabbit house, recycling bins, and stacks of buckets, barrels, and fencing that we just might need someday) and wondering about a new kid barn…