17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Tuesday, July 2, 1912: Ruth tried to deceive me this morning about the quantity and richness of Mollie’s milk. I had saved some last evening to see how rich it was, and Rufus dumped nearly all of it out and filled it up with cream. Wasn’t she mean?
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Hmm—I grew up on a dairy farm and I barely understand this diary entry, but I’ll give a whirl at trying to explain it.
Each of the Muffly children apparently had their own cow—and Mollie was Grandma’s cow.
Milk that has not been homogenized separates after sitting for awhile. The cream floats on top of the skim milk.
Cream is worth more than skim milk because it can be used to make butter.
Cows vary in the ratio of cream to milk that they produce. And, cows that produce lots of cream were considered more valuable.
Here’s a quote from a 1908 book about the importance of having cows that produce a lot of cream (butter-fat).
A cow that produces less than 200 lbs. of butter per year should not be kept in the herd, and the 200-lb. cow should only be retained in such a time as is necessary to secure a better one. No one will become rich milking 200-lb. cows.
You can afford to pay $130 for a cow that will make 250 lbs. of butter yearly as to pay $30 for a cow that will only produce butter-fat to make 200 lbs. of butter.
The Farm Dairy by H.B. Gurler
Grandma probably wanted to know if her cow Mollie was a profitable cow. Her sister Ruth (also called Rufus in this entry) apparently decided to tease her—by making it look as if Mollie was an exceptional cow who produced almost all cream.