June Is Dairy Month

June is Dairy Month. Just what does that mean? To me it means the time when I remember all of the hard work that was part of our dairying operation. It seemed the men worked from dawn to dusk and sometimes even more than that.

My husband used to say, “After the haying is done things will be better.” While that was partly true, it was not entirely true. The cows were bred to have their calves in the fall. That meant that summer milking chores took less time. That also meant that we had less money for our paycheck depended on the amount of milk we sent.

The first check received was an advance. There were times during the summer months when the second check of the month was very small. I learned to purchase supplies with the first check because often I did not have much of a budget with the second check.

Running a dairy farm is a way of life — a lifestyle if you will. It was a wonderful way to raise a family. The children worked right alongside of their father and grandfather. No, they often could not please them both, but they certainly tried.

Twice a day they would head to the barn to milk the cows. During the summer months the children took part in both milkings. During the school year they only milked at night.

Our son started milking cows when he was in the fifth grade. The deal with my husband was that as long as his school work did not suffer he would continue. All was well. My son learned to balance his responsibilities as needed.

Here, I confess — I never milked a cow! Some of you may be surprised by that. I figured that it was impossible to please both my husband and my father-in-law and I would come out on the losing end.

At one church event a lady had all of the women stand. She began asking questions. She knew me quite well. One by one other women sat down. When she said that anyone who had not milked a cow could sit down. I sat. After a puzzled look she asked all of those women to stand back up and she continued her questioning. I was to be honored that was her way of getting me to be the only one standing. Sorry, Barb, but really, I never milked a cow.

I remember only one time that my husband could not do the milking. There was a huge thunder storm and the creek flooded as did everything else around here. People sought shelter in the fire hall. Our home was fine but the entire patio was filled with water — about six inches of it. The cows could not get home. My husband got up early the next morning to milk those animals that needed to be milked. It was a good thing that so many of them were dry at the time.

Chores were a time when my husband connected with he children. They did a lot of talking during milking time. Many life lessons were taught at that time. Of course, a close bond between father and son and daughter developed as well. The children also developed rapport with their grandfather. When the children left for college all grandpa said was, “I hope they don’t forget their roots. I hope they don’t change.”

After college and after working a while in his field our son returned. He was recently married and chose to raise his family here on the farm. My daughter followed the same pattern. She returned to her roots to raise her family.

When my husband got sick I was so glad the children were nearby. They got to spend quality time with their father in his worst days. They got to help with his care. Many conversations took place around the kitchen table. I have an embroidered sign in my kitchen that says, “No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like the kitchen best.” That is so true.

We dreamed around our kitchen table. At one point we thought how we could start a cookie factory. During another visit we rehashed all of the good times we had on the farm. The kitchen table was the center of our home.

The table I refer to used to belong to my great grandparents — on my grandfather’s side. I found a date inside where the leaves fit at one point to show that it came from the early 1900s. That is the only table my children remember. When my grandfather found out that I wanted the table he was pleased. He unbeknown to me began to refinish it. It was one happy day when we brought that table into our kitchen.

The farm was our life. It was how we raised our children. They learned responsibility and hard work during their time on the farm. That has remained with them as a part of their personality. They both work very hard. People that they work for have always been pleased with the quality of their work and their dedication to their customers.

When you live on a farm you learn to function as a team. Every member of that team is important. Every member must pull his/her weight. My job was as cook. I perfected my cooking skills while feeding all those who worked for us. I did not start out as a good cook, but that came with experience.

Many thanks to all of the dairy farmers who work so hard to provide a quality product. We appreciate all of your hard work and dedication. June is dairy month. Take time to thank a farmer.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.