Beyond the pail…


Growing up, I spent almost every summer on my grandparent’s farm in North Carolina. They had hundreds of acres in tobacco, peanuts and corn as well as farm animals raised for ham and bacon.
My favorite part was the barn yard and area around the house where much of the work was done by my grandmother. They had three Guernsey cows: Daisy, who was the Queen, and two others…Star and Molly, who would always follow Daisy from the pasture to their places in the barn every morning.
I rose at dawn to the tune of our rooster alarm…’cause if not, the best part of the day would be gone…crossed through the garden behind the washhouse and climbed over the fence into the back pasture. I called the cows with all the authority a ten year old could muster. Opening the swing gate for Daisy who came first, I led her out of the pasture and waited for Star and Molly to catch up and then walked with them up the path to the barn…all the while their heavy bags swinging from side to side and Daisy’s bell keeping time with each step.
In the stall I put out their hay while Cousin Wilbur placed an enamel pail underneath the rear part of Daisy and sat down on the stool beside her. He bent forward, his head resting against Daisy’s flank, and took a teat in each hand. Soon the jets of warm milk spurted out between his fingers and into the shiny white pail. Even as he occasionally aimed a stream of milk at me or the open mouth of the barn cat he quickly had two big pails filled with warm milk. We carried them to the wash house where I helped Grandmother strain the contents through cheesecloth into round enamel pans. The milk flowed thick, clean and fresh. While the cream was left to rise to the top of the pans we went inside for breakfast.
Grandmother had been up since before dawn cooking as she did every morning. All I could smell was her warm buttermilk biscuits just out of the old iron woodstove when I walked into the kitchen. Sitting down on the bench at the oil-cloth covered farm table I reached for a biscuit, slathered it with fresh butter and homemade strawberry preserves and  greedily grabbed another. By then she had placed a huge plate of country ham and red-eye gravy, slab bacon and fried eggs on the table…and my favorite…coffee milk! Oh my, I can still smell it all now!
After breakfast there were many other chores to be done until it was finally time to check on the cream in the wash house. Grandmother skimmed and poured the heavy cream part into the glass churn. It was my job to turn the handle until the cream inside began to solidify…it seemed like forever, but really was only a short while, if
I didn’t dawdle! We scooped out the pale white or slightly yellowish butter that had ‘made’ and packed it into molds to set ‘til hard. The atmosphere in the wash house was calm and still, the smell…fresh and sweet.
Today, I still make butter occasionally using heavy cream from organic milk and the same old churn and molds from my grandmother’s farm…milk that is fresh and sweet from cows not given growth hormones or injected with antibiotics. Milk from cows raised in pastures getting fresh air and exercise, grazing on clean fields untreated with synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides…cows raised on an organic farm! An environmentally friendly farm! Milk and dairy products produced by families such as Organic Valley and many other local farms are available nationally. Imagine that fresh cream poured from a glass bottle [recycled] into your coffee or over just picked berries…superb!
Oh sure, organic milk does cost more than the stuff in plastic [ick] jugs but…WORTH EVERY BIT OF THE COST! Think about it…healthy fresh milk that tastes sublime, free of hormones and pesticide residue…aren’t your children or grandchildren and or you worth the extra cost? You’d pay that much and more for a soda [ick again] or popcorn at a movie theatre or coffee from Starbucks. Think priorities here…milk from farm versus factory. Health issues posed by industrial food production are proliferating the food markets. Won’t you please consider supporting the small grassroots or local farms? Search out, request and buy their family produced organic products…if for no other reason other than the health issue.

KNOW IT…little known facts from those Europeans again…the Swiss do not consider pastures fit for bovine consumption unless it contains at least a dozen herbs and grasses…and the Danes, they are banning intensive farming and claim the whole country will be farming organically by the year 2020!