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Cattle were an asset. The sale of young stock brought extra cash and milk and milk products were important in the family diet. The small clearings and fields were fenced, so cattle could run at large. This necessitated each owner having a bell on one cow, usually an older one that was a good leader, and the herd would follow the bell. The women and older children would learn to recognize the tone of their own bell which made it easier for them to find their cows to bring them home for milking. When pastures were lush with grass and peavine, cows produced well and there would be a surplus of butter. Small country stores, as well as storekeepers in larger centres, would accept butter in exchange for goods so this was another source of income. To handle the milk could be a problem, especially in the hot weather. The house was too warm and the musty cellars were unsuitable, so the outdoor milkhouse proved to be the best answer. They were dug down a few steps or dug into a bank, enclosed with low walls and a roof, with shelves along the walls. The milk was strained into tin milk pans which were wide and shallow. The pans were lined up on the shelves and left for two or three days for the cream to rise, then skimmed off in routine order.
Butter for market was packed in wooden tubs that could be had in various sizes. These were usually well soaked in water to "draw" out any taste of wood. but. in spite of that, the butter could take on the flavor if stored in them for any length of time. The milkhouse, too, might import an earthy flavor to the cream. Therefore, through no fault of her own, it was difficult for the housewife to produce butter that had not acquired some undesirable flavor. Absolutely untainted butter was an exception rather than the rule.
Then came the cream separator! !! This was a great leap in progress. At the turn of the century and the years following, almost anyone who had cows could have one. An advertising slogan used by one company said, "It pays to sell a cow and buy a separator." Some wit might quip, "Even if you had only one cow," but it was literally
true. Add to this the one-pound wooden butter print and waxed butter paper now available, the milkpans and butter tubs had had their day. The revolving butter churn had also come along, replacing the upright cylinder churn and wooden dasher or the swishing around of cream in a milk pail with a homemade paddle or whisk. The barrel churn could be operated by a child tall enough to turn it. It also became a job for the grandpas of three-generation households. Clay crocks were also available. They were ideal for packing butter, both for home use and private customers. Many a five- or ten- pound crock of butter found its way directly from the farm to the town kitchen. If butter was well washed and worked free of buttermilk and evenly salted, packed in a crock and covered with a layer of salt or an inch of strong brine, the summer's bounty could be well preserved for the bleaker days of fall and winter. The storekeepers welcomed the printed butter. They soon learned where the best butter came from and were known to set it aside for their own use and for favoured customers. The ladies producing it were the uncrowned dairy queens of their day.
To work a large churning and make it into prints could be quite a heavy job. So, when another step in progress brought the creamery into the district, no one regretted leaving these chores behind for the convenience of selling cream. The early methods of collecting the cream and the grading may have left something to be desired. It soon improved and the cream can became a familiar sight. Government grading assured just rewards. The cream can was a welcome source of cash instead of trade, and greater emphasis was placed on year-round production. Churning on the farm was just for home use or some private customers, but even that dwindled. Creamery butter took over. Any later changes are recent history. Through the decades standards were set by conditions and opportunities. Today's high standards and demands should, however, not be allowed to obscure or belittle the pioneer women's struggles, their striving to cope under any circumstances.
by Nancy Wi/mot
It has always seemed to me that seeding time came a little earlier that year. According to our Almanac though, June 2 was a little late if anything. It was on a Tuesday that John phoned me up and told me he needed me. He was too old he said. It would not be for very long, just this summer. I had already known he would phone. He had for the past ten years.
John decided to seed his entire half section down in rapeseed. For him, this was a big venture. In past years he had managed to plant about four different grains a season, by the time they came up, you couldn't tell which had been planted where. I don't suppose it mattered anyway, they were all bumper crops in the fall, bringing in nothing but expenses. John never had any money in his life. Now, alone and old, he was the study of a derelict farmer.
He seemed to think that this "black gold" would make