Milking the cow

We had a cow called Silver, a jersey cow. She gave good milk and cream for many years until she was replaced by a younger cow called Bonnie. One day as we were sitting down to dinner Mum said that the meat we were going to eat was silverside, which is a pickled beef. I couldn’t believe it! All during my father’s thanksgiving prayer I was agog, and as soon as the word ‘Amen’ was out of his mouth I up and raced outside to look. But Silver was still in the paddock! So I raced inside and demanded an explanation. Silver is still in the paddock so how come we are having silverside?

Proof! Silver was still in the paddock! Our neighbour’s house – actually more a shack – in the background. Source: Private collection.

Silver was also the cow on which I learned to milk. All you needed was a small stool, a galvanised bucket, and some patience. Sit on the stool, put your head into the cow’s side, squeeze a little milk from a teat on to your hands so that you can wet the teats, and then simply squeeze the teats with a downward flowing motion so that all the milk would be squeezed out into the bucket. Don’t pull the teat because that is uncomfortable for the cow and she will let you know soon enough by trying to kick you. But do it right and soon there would be satisfying squirts of warm frothy milk going into the bucket. Even more satisfying was turning the teat to aim a stream of milk at the face of a brother or sister who was trying to annoy me and got too close. I got to be a good shot after a while! It didn’t take long to empty the udder and to fill the bucket and bring it in to Mum. Most of the time. Sometimes Silver decided that she didn’t like the proceedings and kick over the bucket which made my Dad cross. He would give the cow a thump on the hindquarters with the flat of his hand. That settled her!

Dad milking the cow. This was very early days because he was milking her under a tree. Later he built a rudimentary bails near the outdoor toilet. I don’t have any pics of me milking the cow. Source: Private collection.

Butter making was part of the deal, but we didn’t have a butter churn, so we used an eggbeater! That was hard work and we all had to take turns. Eventually we had butter. I used to love to drink the left over fluids, the whey. There was always plenty of cream, because Jerseys are bred for high butterfat content.

We used to sell some of the milk to friends to supplement a pretty tight budget. Looking back I can see that Dad and Mum struggled financially in those years, and every bit helped. As I got a bit older it was my job to deliver the milk. On my bike, with three quart glass bottle of milk insides a small suitcase – one of those small brown suitcases that we used to use for for school – strapped to the carrier at the back. It was about a five mile ride along Railway Parade alongside the railway line, to deliver the milk, and then a five mile ride back again. Quite something for a seven year old on a clunker of a bike that had been rescued from the tip and rebuilt. But that didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the ride.

© Copyright Willem Schultink