Sunday, September 6, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Cows III

Milk is not my favourite beverage.  In terms of volume consumption, coffee ranks first, tea second, water and juice third. Milk is about 257th. I enjoy chocolate milk or on corn flakes and other cereals and any kind of dairy product that doesn't taste like milk.  Natural yogurt is out as is buttermilk or kefir. I love cheese of all kinds, ice cream and milk shakes, flavoured yogurt.  Anything but liquid drinkable milk. I have drunk kumis (fermented mare's milk, bluish, 6% alcohol) and shubat (fermented camel's milk, thick, no alcohol) just for bragging rights.

It is a learned behaviour going back to the days of my youth when milk was forced upon me. If you put a bag of mothballs up to a cow's nose, the taste and smell will be in the milk within minutes. Our milk cows feasted on stink weed laden stubble fields in spring and fall, crested wheat grass pasture in summer and absorbed the flavours of 10 to 15 animals, bovine and equine, kept in a small barn during the winter.

Until my dad got a job driving school bus in the fall of 1960, we depended on the cream check for cash money.  Not sure how many cows dad milked but likely 5 or 6 maximum.  Our cream separator was driven by a small electric motor after 1953 when we got power. Skim milk went to the calves who were stunted for lack of energy.  Cream was kept cool down the well in long slim cans hung from chains.  Not sure how often we shipped.  We had two five gallon cream cans and one three gallon.

Our separator was rigged with a pulley and electric motor after 1953

Typical cream can, though some were painted around the top
The cream was taken to the railway station in Cavell and sent to the creamery in Biggar 40 miles away.  The empty cans came back two days later.  The cans were tagged with a cardboard tag fastened with thin silver wire. Tag wire served as the duct tape of its day as it was useful for fastening anything.

Mom would wash the separator, cream cans and milk pails and scald them with boiling water.  Milk was strained into the bowl on top of the separator through a cloth.  Especially in winter it "took the lumps out". Shelf life of unrefrigerated milk was about 15 minutes.  If I drank today what I drank as a kid, I would be so sick as I would have no tolerance for the bacteria. There are other dangers as well.  Two of my friends spent a year in a sanitorium with TB from drinking unpasteurized milk.  My late wife did not get TB but her blood titre was so high that all the scratch tests for TB were positive and so it was X-rays all the way. To this day, I am fanatical about people drinking only homogenized milk.

Eventually I was old enough to milk cows, though Dad always did the morning milking. Unless a cow is an easy milker, a young kid with not enough strength in their hands to milk quickly and smoothly can ruin a good cow by making her hard to milk.  Some of our cows were killers to milk.  One cow, Jane was her name, part Jersey from her horns but quiet enough to milk in the yard untied, was so hard to milk.  I hated milking her and was glad when she was old enough to retire to hamburger and roasts.

Ollie tried to slip the ring on Leena's finger while she was milking.
 For 20 minutes he was engaged to Bessie the cow
Her teats* were a bit on the large size for small hands.  But she was apparently nothing like my grandfather's cow named Turnip Teats. Another cow I recall was called Brenda, after the neighbour's daughter from whom we bought her.  She was a good milker and easy to milk, (the cow, not the daughter).  Other cows were Ramona and Beauty, purebred Red Poll.  Good cows but a bit spooky.  More than one bucket got kicked over.  Worse case scenario, a cow would get her foot in the bucket, necessitating a trip back to the house for a clean pail.

Once the school bus checks started coming we were down to one cow milked for home use.  She would be milked at night for just how much we needed and then her calf turned loose until next morning.  I have always been in favour of letting calves do the milking

*Note: it is teats, not tits.  A tit is a bird. Though I suppose that if someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger is a dedicated music lover, then a dedicated bird watcher would be someone who can see a pair of Great Tits and not think of Dolly Parton.

Cows I and Cows II are here and here.

12 comments:

  1. I love the taste of whole milk, although not fresh from the cow (I want it cold), and the idea of drinking raw milk doesn't faze me with one huge caveat: it has to come from a cow I've milked. Milk is just too obliging a medium for various bacteria for me to ever take a chance on raw milk otherwise.

    The S.O.'s family sold milk in cream cans that got shipped by rail, too. We still have at least one of the shipping tags kicking around here somewhere. The milk went to a cheese factory somewhere. They got rid of the cows sometime after his mother died in 1948. Typical Finnish farm -- dairying was what women did. The men would make hay and plant grain crops, but the day to day taking care of the cows was women's work.

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    1. I suppose if you milked the cow yourself it might make a difference but it would still taste like milk.
      Funny how different cultures approach the gender issue of milking cows differently. Many of them are as you describe - it is women's work to tend the cattle. Others it is the men.

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  2. I'm with you on milk...ugh..I use it in cooking and on cereal..period..but I love buttermilk..if you had cornbread and lots of cracked pepper I think you would like it..there is something about the combination...I have a scar on my forehead from crawling up on the butter churn to get at the butter..tipping it over and we both went head over heals down the stairs and I got a cut on my forehead..I also have another cut on my forehead from crawling on the dining room table going after the butter...cute stories for a kid but I was 27.....(joke)

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    1. Buttermilk, corn bread and cracked pepper sounds like a good combination. Sounds like you really wanted that buttermilk to tackle the churn.

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  3. Like your note. Saw Dolly Parton in concert, she does have a pair of Great Tits!!

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    1. She is so good natured about her attributes. she once described them as weapons of mass distraction

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  4. If I had to choose one single food that I would consume to exclusion of all else for the rest of my life, it would be milk. I drink it for every meal and never tire of it.

    The cattle were gone from our farm by the time I was old enough to remember. My dad raised hogs so milking was a non-issue. The only downside of that was that we were forced to drink powdered milk - now *that's* a disgusting beverage! Don't know how I managed to make it through childhood with my love for milk intact...

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  5. Powdered milk and the pasteurized version of milk in the 50's were even worse than stinkweed flavoured milk. Not having milk cows on the farm may have saved you as at least the powdered milk was consistently bad.

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  6. Down here on the farm the weather gets messy,
    Hangin' around with nothin' to do.
    When you went away you took my cow Bessie.
    I miss her darlin' more than I miss you.

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    1. Where oh where are you tonight?
      Why did you leave me here all alone
      I searched the wold over and thought I'd found true love
      You met another and pfft you were gone

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  7. My sister raised goats for milk and chickens for eggs. Never had any of the milk but the eggs and chicken were amazing.

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    1. My grandparents kept a goat back when I was a small child. Lots of goats here in Ukraine. Don't know if I have ever tasted goat's milk.

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