Did Sister’s Milking

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, September 7, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon. We got a most refreshing rain towards evening. Ruthie is away to spend the day and I had the milking to do.

"Broken" cows standing still while being milked. (Photo source: Kimball's Diary Farmer Magazine, December 15, 1911)

 Grandma probably milked cows in a barn that looked similar to this one. (Photo source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine: December 15, 1911) .

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Based on the diary, I think that Grandma and her sister Ruth shared the chore of milking the cows. The family probably had 6 or 8 cows—and each girl milked 3 or 4.

If one sister went somewhere, the other would milk all the cows.  Over time the informal trading of the milking chore would balance out—and each sister got some needed breaks.

Grandma visited her cousin Alma for three days in August—and Ruth probably milked all the cows while she was gone.  Now it was payback time.

24 Responses

  1. Brings back memories of when I milked a cow :-)

  2. And those girls couldn’t both go visiting the same day because the cows will NOT wait!

    • You’re right the cows can never wait. The always needed to be milked twice a day–12 hours apart.

      I hope that their parents were willing to occasionally do it for both girls so the two could go somewhere together.

  3. I tried milking cow once during a Taiwan tour and it is not easy task.

  4. That is a huge chore…. And unlike our kids today there was no iPod dangling from their ear as a distracting! ;-)

  5. Its nice that they had two people to milk the cows so one could have a much needed break :)

    • Yes, I’m sure that it really helped. When I was a child, my brother and I used often trade barn chores. We tended to be interested in different events and school activities so it worked well. And, if we both needed to be somewhere at the same–our father would do the work.

  6. I can’t even imagine having to milk a cow as a regular chore. I can’t even imagine milking a cow once. :) Your Grandma had a lot of excellent skills for survival.

  7. That’s a lot of milking for one person.

  8. One for all and all for one. Life on a farm means doing what needs done. I know some dairy farmers, the son took over the farm now but their dad once drove all the way to BC and back in two days because he didn’t want to leave his cows in the hands of anyone longer than that. I can’t imagine NEVER going on vacation.

  9. For those of us who’ve never lived on a farm, it’s hard to imagine how much hard work is involved (even harder in those days).

  10. So fascinating to read of Miss Muffly’s experiences/ daily life at the age of 18 which is so very different from that of my Ancestors, of the same age here in South Australia, during that same period of time.
    Thanks so much for sharing your Grandma’s diary Sheryl…

    • Thanks for the nice note. There were (and still are) so many different factors that affected what life was like for young adults–whether they lived in a rural or urban area., their parent’s background and jobs, their educational level, whether or not they married early, and so on.

  11. Aw, she called her “Ruthie”, not “Rufus”. I think somebody misses her sister. :-D

    • I think you’re right–even though Grandma had to do extra work (milk the cows) because her sister was gone. It’s somewhat surprising that she used Ruthie instead of Rufus.

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