Ah, the Family Cow … and a Give Away!

   Back in the old west (among other places) once a frontier/pioneer family started to settle and cleared a little land, they bought a cow. If they didn’t have one already, that is.

The useful cow provided milk to feed the family and any calves they might be blessed with could be sold, slaughtered for meat or, if male, trained to plow and pull a wagon. The milk could also be turned into cheese and butter to trade at the general store or used to fatten the pigs and hens. Believe it or not, very little of the milk was used for drinking. As a result, people didn’t get as much calcium as they needed back then and many lost their teeth by the time they were thirty. But cows had other uses as well.

If a Pioneer family ran out of candles they could melt butter and pour it into a small lamp called a “cruisie” or “betty lamp.” The melted butter fueled the linen wick and gave a small amount of light.

In winter when cows couldn’t graze on fresh grass, the butter made from their milk was almost white. Carrot scrapings were used to give the butter a more pleasing color. One of the first color additives!

Families on the move made butter by hanging a leather bag full of cream from the back of the wagon. The bumpy ride churned the butter as the family traveled. Don’t think to hang a bag of cream off your truck and go four wheeling. Unless of course, you’d really like to have that fresh butter!


I don’t have any cows in my latest release. My heroines hail from Boston, they didn’t need to worry about a cow. As they travel west by train and stagecoach, hanging a bag of cream off the back of the stagecoach might have been an option, but they were more interested in meeting their future husbands than making butter. Gee, I wonder if they bought a cow once they were settled? Have you ever had a cow? Had a neighbor that had one? Comment below and I’ll choose a random winner to receive an e-book copy of Dear Mr. Comforts.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with a little snippet! 

Rosie Callahan waved at her latest suitor as he ran down the porch steps. “Goodbye, Nicholas – I hope you call on me again!” She closed the door, groaned and let her head fall against it. “Rats. Lost another one.” She turned with a sigh and went into the parlor.

“Well?” her sister Georgie said. “Is he going to call on you tomorrow?”

Rosie shook her head, fell into the nearest chair and groaned again. “How does Aunt Henrietta expect us to get married when she chases off every potential groom?” She glanced around the room. “Where is Aunt Henrietta?”

“Upstairs in her room.” Her eyes flicked to the ceiling and back. “I hope she stays there.”

“Where’s Hunny?” Rosie asked. Their older sister, Phryne Hunnicutt Callahan, had gone by that nickname ever since she was ten, when she found out what historical figure her parents had accidentally named her after. Rosalind and Georgina were thankful that their Christian names lent themselves to comfortable shortening.

“She hasn’t returned from choir practice. Maybe that nice Mr. Edmonds will walk her home.”

“Mr. Edmonds the land agent? I thought he left town to go further west.”

Georgie shrugged. “Maybe he did. I can’t keep track anymore.”

Rosie beat her head against the back of the chair a few times. “At this rate we’ll never get married.”

“I’m worried you’re right,” Georgie agreed. “The way Aunt Henrietta acts, you’d think she doesn’t want us to marry, yet she’s always talking about it. I don’t understand her at all.”

“Nor I,” Rosie picked at a fingernail. “What if we never marry?”

Georgie’s eyes widened. “Don’t talk like that. Of course we’ll marry – it’s only a matter of time.”

“Only a matter of time before Aunt Henrietta chases off every viable suitor in the city. That woman is missing a wagon wheel.”

“Quiet, or she’ll hear you.”

Rosie folded her arms and sat back. “So what if she does? Tarnation, you know it’s true.”

Georgie gasped. “Rosie, watch your language!”

“What does it matter? I’m never going to be in a room with a man long enough for him to notice my manner of speech.”She got to her feet and paced. “Maybe I’ll bake some cookies. That always helps.”

“You can’t bake something every time this happens,” Georgie pointed out. “Even if it was you this time. My suitors never last past one visit. At least with Nathaniel Bridgewater you got two.”

“I know, but cookies make me feel better no matter who it happens to.” She turned and headed for the dining room.

Georgie jumped out of her chair. “Wait for me!”

Rosie crossed the dining room to the rear door that led to the kitchen downstairs. Aunt Henrietta had a large two-story townhome in Denver, complete with servant’s quarters, a summer kitchen and a lovely backyard with a gazebo. She didn’t actually keep servants – she was too cheap for that. Instead, she had three nieces to boss around and keep the house clean and the meals cooked.

Rosie – the cook – went into the larder to gather what she needed. “Sugar or molasses?” she asked Georgie.

“Molasses. We ate sugar cookies the last time Hunny got jilted.”

Rosie nodded. “True. Maybe we should make a different cookie when she gets jilted next time.”

Dear Mr. Comforts is available for pre-order on <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JDYRR1ZAmazon/a/p?tag=pettpist-20

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Kit Morgan is the author of over 100 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!

39 thoughts on “Ah, the Family Cow … and a Give Away!”

  1. No cows as I was a city girl. My Mom milked her share and more growing up. I remember going to a country home where Mom got fresh eggs and helped churn butter. She also put cream in a jar and shook it until it was butter. We also got fresh milk that Mom made into clabber. It is like an early version of cottage cheese. Cannot do this with pasturized milk.

  2. I grew up on a farm. My Dad milked cows by hand and sold the cream to a creamery. We had plenty of milk, cheese and cottage cheese.

  3. I’m bothered by the second paragraph–with such blanket statements being in a children’s book. I’m not sure where Barbara Greenwood got her research–or who her editor was–that, “Very little of the milk was used for drinking.” I’d like to know her sources. Milk has been around since early man, the Sumerians, the Romans, and into the Middle Ages. I think people who needed sustenance used what could be had, especially farmers and the like. I also disagree with her statement about teeth: I think early people likely lost their teeth over time more for overall dietary reasons than just milk–like having a balanced steady diet or even enough to eat at all. Milk can’t be the sole culprit.

    The issue with milk of course is keeping it cool enough to keep it from spoiling. The other issue with milk has always been differing thoughts about its nutritional value, opinions that have changed time and time again over the ages. For example, one book is titled, “Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracus,” while another has the title, “The Untold Story of Milk: The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows.”

    My mom who grew up during the Depression talked often about buttermilk, clabber and the like. If milk was drunk from the Roman Empire to the American Depression, I just can’t image people starting out on the frontier _not_ drinking milk as a food source, while they were on the move or even after they had crops that needed to be stored for winter or sold to pay for other supplies. Cows and their milk were a constant in history, or so I think.

    As for me and cows, I grew up in my youngest years in an old farmhouse, surrounded by a farmer’s cow pastures on three sides of our house, and I remember as a tot singing to them. Yep. I confess I did. And, the bull was definitely not a big fan of my voice while the cows were far more appreciative!

    • Oh my goodness, Eliza, that’s so great about the singing! My little sister and I used to sing to our chickens when we were little. They weren’t a very attentive audience unless you had some chicken feed. And yes, I like sharing little tid-bits I find in my research books. I wondered about folks not drinking much milk back then and I agree, it would come down to a storage problem. Cows were usually milked once a day, which meant it had to be used in some form or another, be it drinking it (in the morning is my guess) or using much of it to make butter and cheese. They probably didn’t drink near as much as we do now. As to loss of teeth, I think eating a lack of citrus and greens was also a huge contributor.
      Nowadays people are either praising milk or condemning it. Myself, I’ve never had a taste for it and was one of those children that couldn’t stand the stuff.

      • I agree with you that since one got milk every day, morning was a likely time for use. For their cold storage, pioneers used root cellars, and suspended things in wells or rivers.

        As a matter of fact when I lived in Scottish Highlands my girlfriend still had a root cellar for tatties (potatoes), neeps (turnips), carrots and other things I’ve since forgotten. But Lordy, I can’t accuse her of using older style methods since I still read paper books like the old-timers instead of on various electronic devices.

      • Eliza! I’m so jealous! When did you live in the Scottish Highlands? I’ve always wanted to see Scotland. It’s on my bucket list. And hey, there’s someting to be said about paper books! My poor eyes can only stare at a screen for so long! Though I admit I try to purchase the larger print books nowadays. Makes a big difference!

  4. My mom’s name was Bettie, so being curious, this is what I found out about “her” lamp 🙂

    “The “Betty Lamp”… evolved from the simple cruisie lamp in the 18th century and thought to be of German or Hungarian origin. Improvements, so to speak, was a ‘top’ on the oil pan with a wick holder, that reduced smoke and heat and reduced the chance of dangerous house fires. Since it was thought to be ‘better’ it was named ‘The Betty Lamp’ from the German word “besser” meaning to “make better”. It did produce a good light for the time and was used widely by the American colonist and was used until the end of the 19th century in rural areas. “

    • I read about it too. I’d never heard of one before until I was looking for something fun for my post this month. I wonder how much light it actually produced using the butter?

  5. No we never had a cow I do know one time my dad got some calves to bottle feed to raise up for meat but I am not sure that turned out to well. I think they kept getting into something they ate and caused them to bloat or something like that.

    • Oh dear. Did you dad have to get rid of them? I got to help bottle feed the neighbor’s calf once. I can’t remember why they had to bottle feed it, only that it was fun!

  6. I grew up on a dairy farm, so we had plenty of cows! No churning butter, though. We had more modern ways of doing things, thank goodness. It was fun and definitely full of adventures.

    • We didn’t have cows but had fun with the neighbors. I remember they’d get out on occasion and hiking into the woods with our neighbor to find them. He named each, and each cow knew its name and would come when he called them!

  7. Hi Kit! I enjoyed this post! My grandfather and uncle raised beef cattle so I know next to nothing about milk cows. I particularly enjoyed the information about the cruisie lamp and the bag of cream on the wagon. Pioneers were so resourceful!

  8. Good post, Kit! We had a family cow when I was a girl. My mother made lots of butter but never cheese. My father did most of the milking but we would lend a hand now and then only because we had the most gentle Jersey cow ever. When I was about 10 she had a beautiful heifer calf that we named Rosie. I was so proud of her! People still laugh when I talk about her, but she was beautiful and I loved sharing my name with her.

  9. we have or take care of over 50 and have 4 bulls too – they are in 3 different pastures – one is over 100 acres! Hubs and I have been around beef cattle all our lives and yes I have helped milk a beef cow in the past – also milked a mare, goat, sheep and pigs of course! My Aunt and Uncle actually had a dairy with registered Ayreshires as their main breed!! Love the cows and their smells we still have a “bottle baby” her name is Star and still comes when called – she like to be petted and hand fed – this helps as the others will follow her lead!

  10. My paternal grandma had a cow. I remember going with her to milk it. Then she’d bring it back and filter it through cheesecloth a few times. Let it sit for the cream to rise, ladle the cream off, and then refrigerate. Yes, I’ve had raw milk. We’re talking quite a few decades ago.

    My mom had several uncles with dairy farms.

    • Wow, quite a few folks commenting about having cows and milking, making cheese and butter or like you Denise, having a relative that did. I have cousins (12 kids!) and I can’t remember them having a cow, despite the fact they had a huge ranch. It was probably easier for my aunt to buy milk by the gallon for all of them than milk a cow!

  11. What an interesting post. Thanks for all that. I have seen many dairy cow operations. No more sitting on a stool.

  12. Our family never had a cow, but we lived in the country when I was growing up and had cows in the pasture near our house. We begged our mom to get a calf, but she said no, we would get attached to it. We would look into the big brown eyes and it would never make it to the freezer or dinner table. We live in the country now and have cows around us. We get to feed and spoil the neighbors. Our daughter got a calf a year or so ago and raised it for beef. She had no trouble slaughtering it and putting it in the freezer. Except for chickens, I have a hard time eating “friends.”
    I have made butter several ways. I have used an electric beater and a daisy churn. I had the girls in my Scout troop make butter in a mason jar. Even today butter tends to turn out whiter than we are used to and some do put yellow food coloring in to make it look like what we expect butter to look like..
    Thank you for an interesting post and the excerpt.

    • I hear you on the “you’ll get attached to it and it will never make it to the freezer!” We didn’t have cows but my sister and I did have a couple of pigs. When they suddenly disappeared, my mother told us they went to visit their Aunt Petunia and probably wouldn’t be back. Aunt Petunia lived in a much nicer place. Thank Heaven we were little enough we believed her!

  13. When I was growing up we moved to a village called Wyton attached to Wyton was Houghton (in fact half the post office was Wyton and the other half Houghton) Well anyway at the end of Houghton was a farm with cows and you could smell and hear them to my house.The farmer used to bring us bottled milk each day. Good memories.

  14. Being a city girl we never had any cows. But for one year we lived in a rural part of Florida and in back of our house was a huge Cattle Auction house. We didn’t have a rooster to wake us every morning. We were awoken with all the mooing you can imagine.After a year my mom said we were moving. It became to noisy for her. 🙂

    • Moving because of the mooing! Moved, mooed. Move, moo. I can have too much fun with this. But I understand why your mother did it. Sheesh, I think I’d have moved too!

  15. We didn’t have a cow. However, we did have pigs, chickens, geese, turkeys, and rabbits. My cousins that lived across from us had the cows. I miss living out in the country.

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