Doing wintertime chores on the Scheckel farm in the middle of Crawford County near Seneca in the 1940s and 1950s was not always a jolly good time. Snow had to be shoveled at times and the paths were often slippery, water froze in the hog troughs and water tanks, and the bitter winds out of the north and northwest seemed to cut right through a person.
The lee of the Big Barn provided some shelter. But when you stuck your head around the edge of the barn to get into the horse barn and hay mow, that blast of frigid wind slammed the body hard.
It always amazed me how much heat cows gave off. It could be a bitter cold morning, as much as 20 below zero, and when you opened the sliding doors of the milking area, a gust of warm air would hit your face.
I imagined that the cows were talking to each other. They knew we were there for the milking. I surmised that one cow would turn to the other and say “Here comes old icy fingers again!”
We threw hay down two chutes from the haymow to the cows and cattle pens below. It was loose hay when we harvested it in June, July and August. But by January, it seemed to have compacted rather tightly. I recall a few times when my fingers go so cold holding the pitchfork and throwing down hay, that I went to the house crying and hiding those tears lest my siblings saw me.
We washed the cow’s teats, grabbed a milk pail from the milk house, picked up a wooden stool and started milking away. Milking a cow took about 5 or 6 minutes. The milk pail was hand-carried to the milk house and poured it in a large funnel that had a gauze filter in the bottom. We used a cream separator.
Our cream separator was powered by an electric motor. The centrifugal Gustaf de Laval separator bowl spun a hundred revolutions per minute. The whole milk trickled down the 18 rotating disks. The heavier milk was pulled outward against the walls and lighter cream collected in the middle. The milk and cream came out separate spouts.
We used the non-cream part, or whey, to mix with ground oats as slop for the hogs. The cream was put in a ten-gallon milk can and cooled in a two can milk cooler. The cream was taken to the Eastman Cheese factory every 3 or 4 days.