By Virginia R. Manuel
My first experience with cows must have been when I was about four or five. We had a jersey cow which we called “Old Jerz.” My grandmother did all the milking. My first job when we went to milk was holding the cow's tail to keep her tail from hitting my grandmother in the head.
One day we bought a box of oatmeal which had a little dipper in it. Actually it was a two-cup measuring cup with a handle, but that became my milk bucket. I wanted to learn to milk so my grandfather made me a little stool and gave me that dipper. My grandmother sat on her stool on one side of the cow and I sat on the other side of the cow on my stool. She taught me how to milk. I would milk my dipper full and pour it into her bucket. I could quit when I had milked two dippers full. For a four or five-year-old thats quite a long time to sit still. You had to sit still because if you moved around or pulled too hard, the cow would kick and you certainly didn't want to end up with her foot in your milk bucket.
My grandmother had a stroke in December of 1955; milking was never the same after that.
Since we had no refrigerator, our milk, butter and dairy products was kept in the springhouse. The springhouse was a small building which stood over a small branch from a spring. It had a wooden trough in it that the water ran through. Once the milking was done we would take the buckets of warm milk to the house and strain them through a white flour sack similar to cheesecloth. We would then pour the milk into gallon jars and store them in the trough in the springhouse. The water kept the milk good and cold. The cream came to the top usually two to three inches thick. It was skimmed off to be used for making butter and put into another jar so that we could make buttermilk.
Most times we would churn once a week. So it took quite a bit of cream to make butter. We would pour the cream into a churn and sit and churn and churn. Finally you would see bits of butter appear. These were all skimmed off and put into a bowl, rinsed and salted and then put in a wooden butter press. Usually made about three to four pounds of butter and then you would also have a gallon or two of buttermilk. There is nothing better than a good cold glass of buttermilk.
If we had extra milk, my grandmother would let it set out and clabber and make cottage cheese out of it. Cottage cheese was a great treat and nothing like you get in those little cartons at the grocery today.
By Virginia R. Manuel