Life Flows with Milk


Aunt Lizzie, my mother’s oldest sister.

When I was a child our family had two cows at the most and the milk we drank was raw. If you wish to explore how most of the milk in our supermarkets has been treated click here.  According to my faint childhood memory our family had enough milk and money to buy a hand operated machine to separate cream and milk.  Farmers of that era were inventive. Get an idea of the variation in such separaters by clicking here.  Separating cream and milk was the first step in making buttermilk.

Antique butter churn

I have a clearer  memory of allowing the cream to come naturally to the top of our raw milk and skimming the cream off the top. This was Aunt Lizzie’s jurisdiction. She let the cream (clabber) in a mason crock. This was when the bacteria did their work.  She put the clabbered milk in a wooden churn and allowed me to turn the handle till the cream separated into butter and fat-free butter milk. I learned to like buttermilk as a child.

Antique Butter mold at RaggedyRee,

Antique Butter Press

I don’t remember drinking butter milk, but I do remember licking it off my fingers.  And I remember that Aunt Lizzie molded the butter by packing it into a box like the one pictured on the left.

I don’t believe that Rhoda learned to like buttermilk as a child as I did.  She learned it by blending her life with mine.  When we were road weary from traveling we often bought and shared a quart of buttermilk. It was more refreshing to us than a cup of coffee.

I don’t belittle friend Jep or cousin Carroll for not liking buttermilk. We had a little boy at our table temporarily who thought he would like everthing that I liked. He asked for a taste of my buttermilk and exclaimed “Me don’t like that stinkin stuff”.  I trust no one will look up to me, or down, because I had the privilege of an Aunt Lizzie who cultured me to like buttermilk.


Aunt Lizzie’s hands. I wish I could show you tiny shoes.

Aunt Lizzie was useful in our home and in the Mennonite community.  She made prayer veilings, bonnets and plain dresses for the plain women of the community. Her hands were busy sewing and her feet were busy pumping the treadle on her sewing machine.  Rachel still has that machine.  I remember playing around it as she worked. She was 57 yrs old when I was born. She was in her 60’s when she taught me to like buttermilk. She lived to age 92.

Seaweed salad

My Joyce’s 86th birthday was on Friday, August 12, 2016   She and I celebrated by going for lunch to Kelly Jae’s in downtown Goshen.  You know that Joyce Buschert is my kind of woman. One reason is that she wanted to taste something new on her birthday so she ordered and enjoyed a serving of seaweed.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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5 Responses to Life Flows with Milk

  1. Mary Bew says:

    Please pass the seaweed salad. Bob will have the buttermilk.

  2. Rachel Lehman Stoltzfus says:

    By the time I played in Aunt Lizzie’s room as she sewed her sewing machine had been “converted” to electric. I could pump the treadle to my heart’s content without affecting her work. What fun for a little girl!

  3. Wilmer Lehman says:

    Besides sewing, Great Auntie Lizzie made pies to take to market. When I came to work on Friday morning I would see a huge number of pies on tables, counters and other places waiting for the time to leave. The times I went along to market I remember those pies selling quickly.

    • Yes, but the pie baking period was much later than the buttermilk time I was describing. Aunt Lizzie and my mother worked together in the pie baking enterprise. You are right that their pies sold quickly.

  4. carroll lehman says:

    Oh, that butter churn. To this day, I sure wish I had that churn. We found a farm nearby where we can buy raw milk. I had forgotten how good it tastes. I bought it
    to attempt to make cup cheese, it was quite good, but solidified too soon–will try again.

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