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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | May 31, 2013

I don’t know why June is dairy month, but I suspect it has something to do with June being the month of the new crop of hay.

That is when pastures fill with grazing cattle and hay mows are replenished with bales in that beautiful shade of green and the wonderful smell of new mown grass.

Growing up on a beef farm, I do not have experience with dairying. My experience with milk production is only with the dairy farms I have visited and I always leave with a sense of admiration to their dedication to chores that have to be done every day regardless of whether there is something else to do or a place to be.

Dairy cattle have no tolerance for sloppy work habits. They teach their owners the value of dedication, promptness and attention to detail and no excuses are allowed.

They have a lot in common with that stern no-nonsense grade school teacher whom you reluctantly describe by saying, “She was tough, but she was the best teacher I had.”

I have met former dairymen and some were relieved to be free of the daily ritual, while others miss the daily routine and believe a part of the farm died when the last cow went to its new owner. Their sadness is palpable.

While I have limited dairy-producing experience, I can say that I can compensate for that by being a vigorous dairy consumer for over 65 years.

I knew I drank my share of milk growing up with my two sisters. My parents’ weekly trips to the grocery store included buying at least four gallons of milk.

The owner of the grocery store saw my dad carrying out four gallons of milk at a time and told him to take one of the metal containers that held four gallons used by the dairy to deliver milk to the store home with him to use for his weekly shopping.

I was shopping with them one time in my teen-aged years when the store owner looked at me and said, “So this is one who is the milk drinker.” I took it as a compliment.

Shortly after my wife and I were married 20 years ago, we would have a bowl of popcorn each evening while watching television. One night I told my wife that I would make the popcorn for that evening as she had been doing it for several weeks.

I had made popcorn for many years and I knew how to prepare and serve a delicious bowl of the hot buttered, lightly salted treat.

But something was wrong that night. It tasted awful. As far as I was concerned, it was not edible.

What did I do wrong? How could I do something incorrectly as simple as making a bowl of popcorn?

My wife asked what I did when I melted the butter. I told her I had used the margarine.

That was the problem. She had been using only butter for the previous weeks. After all, she grew up in the dairy state of Minnesota. What would you expect?

Butter has replaced margarine around here ever since.

We have kept butter in the refrigerator for 20 years along with the milk, Half and Half, sour cream, whipping cream, several flavors of cheese and, occasionally, cottage cheese. Of course, the ice cream is in the freezer.

Our coffee drinking friends tell us, “I always like coming here because you have Half and Half for the coffee.” We only serve the powdered variety when we run out of liquid and then offer it apologetically.

When my wife tries a new recipe, I frequently hear her say, “It has to be good. It uses three sticks of butter.”

Sometimes the recipe calls for a pound of butter which is not a problem because our refrigerator always has a minimum of two pounds of butter available and during Thanksgiving and Christmas, four to six pounds of butter are on hand.

My wife and I have created a mental list and on it is popcorn, sweet corn, baked and mashed potatoes, toast, asparagus, lutefisk (Scandinavians will understand), and probably some more things I can’t remember.

The heading of the list is titled “Ways to eat melted butter.”

Feel free to add your ways to the list.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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