When we moved into the parsonage in Pahiatua in 1951, we found that we had two and a half acres of paddocks and half a cow. I'm not sure which half of the cow was ours, but I always seemed to get the back half to milk.
The previous minister had made an arrangement with the Buckley boys whose parents owned a farm at Mangamutu several miles away. The boys lived in town, and kept a cow in our paddocks. We milked it in the mornings and they milked it in the evenings. However, the cow was sometimes two, or even three, plus calves, depending upon the feed. The unusual thing about the arrangement was that the Buckleys were Roman Catholic. At that time the Roman Catholics did not mix with the Methodists. The children went to separate schools, and mixed marriages were unheard of.
When Neal left home to attend university, it was my turn to milk a cow each morning before going to school, rain, hail, frost or sunshine. The Wairarapa winters were pretty fierce. I always had to fetch the cows while Dad collected the buckets and hot water and took them to the bails near the house. On cold or wet mornings, I always hoped that the cows were not at the far end of the paddock. Once in the bail, the cows were tethered by a bar that we fastened across their necks, and hay was put for them to munch while we milked them. A leg rope kept their back foot out of our way and a rope around the tail stopped them swatting you. It was then a matter of washing the teats, squirting each teat onto the ground to clear them of any muck, and then methodically milking them by hand. Left squeeze, right squeeze, left squeeze, right squeeze... The first few squeezes made a ringing sound in the bucket. Sitting there, your head nestling into the cow's side was quite pleasant on a cold morning. Squeeze the teat to force the milk out and make the milk froth up. Change to the other pair of teats. Left squeeze, right squeeze. Watch out for that foot. The tail is being raised, shift the bucket and let them release their stream of water, or worse. Back to the milking. Keep going. Strip the teats one by one and you are finished. Let the cow go and take the steaming milk inside and wash up. I found that the cow smell lingered on my hands all day.
Mum would take over from there. In the wash house there was one of those separators where the milk was put into a large bowl at the top, and the cream and skim milk came out two spouts at the bottom. Turning the big handle was wonderful. As you gradually built up speed, the separator would start to hum louder and louder until it settled down to a constant speed. The cream was separated by centrifugal force. It did a wonderful job. We used it for the first few mornings when we had surplus milk and never again. It took another hour to dismantle it, wash out all the hundreds of pieces in hot water, and put it together again. Thereafter, mum set up one or more bowls of milk in the pantry, and left them for 24 hours. She would use a skimmer to skim the cream off the bowl. The fowls would get the skim milk mixed with their mash, and we would have to use the cream up that day as we didn't have a fridge. We would often have bread with jam, no butter, but a thick layer of whipped cream on top. Being a Birkdale boy, dad also always had plenty of strawberries.
Sometimes we made butter. We didn't have a churn, so we made it with an eggbeater. We seemed to beat it for hours before it turned. We would then pour off the butter milk, and pat the butter backwards and forwards between two wooden, grooved butter pats to remove the remaining butter milk. A little salt was then added to it. We always preferred the homemade butter as it had a different flavour from bought butter.
After five years at Pahiatua, we moved to Christchurch and milk bottles.
- Alec Utting, September 1993