Keep­ing cows

Those were the days…

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Early in the morn­ing and late in the af­ter­noon, my late granny and grandpa would take turns to milk the Frisian cow in the grass pad­dock be­side their house. (This was be­fore they re­tired and moved to town. Milk was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story there: they’d buy coupons to put in the necks of the pot-bel­lied bot­tles they left on the front stoep – the next morn­ing these bot­tles were full of milk. As a child, I thought this was the grown-up ver­sion of the tooth fairy.)

The cow on the farm – let’s stick to the cliché and call her Daisy, even though she was a can­tan­ker­ous devil who’d kick over the milk pail with great gusto – would await my grand­par­ents like clockwork in the cor­ner of the pad­dock, where they’d get to work with the milk­ing bench, a gleam­ing pail and a milk­ing cloth, a jar of ud­der cream, and another bucket con­tain­ing lovely warm wa­ter and a cloth for wip­ing clean Daisy’s ud­der and to en­cour­age her to “let down” her milk.

Dur­ing hol­i­days and over week­ends we would drink end­less glasses of Daisy’s ice-cold milk, es­pe­cially with cheese sand­wiches, but I couldn’t bear the thought of the warm, foamy milk fresh from her ud­der that my gran and ev­ery­one else loved so much. I re­mem­ber say­ing to my­self time and again: when I grow up I’ll have my own cow. My own milk. My own cream. My own but­ter and but­ter­milk. My own yo­ghurt. My own cheese.

But al­most four decades later I’m still go­ing through life sans cow be­cause: • it has long since been illegal to keep a cow on a town prop­erty; • it’s no longer per­mis­si­ble to buy or sell raw, un­pas­teurised milk; • the oh-so-busy mod­ern hu­man doesn’t have the time to milk a cow and then churn the but­ter and make yo­ghurt and cheese – nor do they want to go to all that trou­ble; and • shop-bought milk is so much cheaper than it would cost to pro­duce it your­self on a small scale.

With­out my even re­al­is­ing it, the near-kitsch nos­tal­gic ru­ral movie in my head has turned into a sci­encefic­tion film in which Daisy’s ge­net­ics and food have been trans­formed into a su­per-milk fac­tory.

Those were the days

Kassie Kas­sel­man ( pic­tured above right) of Kas­selshoop near Stil­baai (we wrote about them in last year’s spring is­sue of Plat­te­land), says wist­fully that his is prob­a­bly “one of the last gen­er­a­tions to grow up fa­mil­iar with milk cans and milk­ing by hand”.

“Peo­ple in re­mote ar­eas have al­ways been forced to pro­duce their own milk, and that’s still the case to­day, for ex­am­ple in iso­lated parts of Namibia. In the past, trans­port

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