The Privilege of Home Dairying and Culturing

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The Privilege of Home Dairying and Culturing | Learning to culture my own homemade dairy foods has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. The flavors are beyond delicious, the health benefits greater than anything you can buy at a regular store, and the experience of learning the skills profoundly revealing. |

Learning to culture my own homemade dairy foods has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The flavors are beyond delicious, the health benefits greater than anything you can buy at a regular store, and the experience of learning the skills profoundly revealing.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn to milk both goats and cows and then to turn the delicious, God-given food into sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir (especially kefir!), cultured butter, and a bunch of delicious cheeses.

You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough

I want to share with you a passage from a book we recently got — Greg Judy’s No-Risk Ranching. He expresses why I’m glad my children are growing up doing farm chores — and things I even feel about myself getting this experience as an adult!

“Our family moved to Missouri in 1966, mainly to escape the long cold winters. My Dad sold the dairy cows shortly thereafter and went to work in town. He kept one cow for the family milk needs. I used to watch in amazement how my dad blasted the milk streams into the bucket with his powerful hands and with such great rhythm. When I reached seven years of age I asked him one night if I could try milking the cow. From that point on, I had the job until I moved away from home after high school!

I remember the freezing mornings, how the back of your fingers and hands would freeze as you tried to get done as fast as possible. The cow was always kicking at biting flies, and runny manure-laden tails would smack you in the face while you tried to milk in the hot summer months. After milking, I let the milk cow’s calf have half of one hind teat. You had to wrestle the calf away from the cow before turning the cow out to grass. As the calf grew it got to be quite a chore. You grabbed him by an ear and the tail and with a lot of momentum because the calf always outweighed you. He was never ready to leave.

After the milking, I would strain the milk through a fine cloth to remove any debris. I remember my grade school principal telling me that it was unsafe to drink the raw milk; we were supposedly at risk of contracting all kinds of diseases! I asked him what he drank while he was growing up? I never heard any more from him about unsafe milk. It was an extremely satisfying feeling to head to the house with a bucket full of fresh milk for the family. The cow was always ready to go back to grazing. The calf was full. The barn cats had a little milk. And I usually poured a little out for the meat hogs on the way to the house. Life was good.

As a youngster, there were times when I was milking the cow that I would have rather have been doing about anything else. But guess what? You couldn’t pay me enough to give up that experience now. It taught me responsibility, a work ethic, and a daily job that had to be done twice a day by me or it would not get done. I know this is not possible, but it would be fantastic if every kid had some type of chores with an animal every day.” –Greg Judy, No-Risk Ranching

He didn’t go into it (and I don’t know him to ask him), but I like to think that his mom (or sisters?) probably took that milk and created all sorts of nutritious cultured dairy foods out of it, giving their family another “I wouldn’t trade it for the world” growing up experience.

Important Virtues Nurtured on the Farm

Joann S. Grohman, author of Keeping a Family Cow, shares the importance of farming and dairying in recent history:

“The dairy cow doesn’t ask for much but she asks every day. People who are creating wealth with a cow either are hard working and reliable or they get that way in a hurry. The fine farms of Europe, England, New England and much of the United States were all established thanks to the wealth derived from cows. … It is certainly no coincidence that such a large number of our finest American statesmen were born on farms. Important virtues are nurtured on the farm, including a graphic understanding of the relationship between working and eating.” –Joann S. Grohman, Keeping a Family Cow

How fortunate we are that even today — in the midst of a society that is vastly raised on boxed non-foods and has no relationship to the farm whatsoever — we can still learn to milk dairy animals or make our own homemade cultured dairy… or even both!

Whether you’re doing it all yourself, or taking a trip to the farm each week for your weekly cow or goat share, you and your children are getting a marvelous and unparalleled education. You’re working hard, reaping the rewards, learning how it is all done, most importantly, seeing God’s hand in it all — from how the animals feast on His grass, to how we and assorted farm animals feast on the abundant milk, and finally to how we make beautiful, delicious and healthy cultured dairy foods.

I Am Grateful

I couldn’t be happier about what my family is doing and learning, and I’m just about positive you share the same feelings about the traditions you’re keeping or learning in your home.

Please share in the comments about your “farm life” — whether you live it or you support it, I want to hear your experiences!

A year ago, I put together the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese module of the GNOWFGLINS membership materials. This includes dozens of video and print tutorials exclusively for members of GNOWFGLINS. Check it out here.

But while online videos and lessons and forum support prove to be very popular and helpful, others just want something they can take home and study independently. That’s why we compile all the print lessons of each topic into stand-alone, single-download, independent-study eBooks. We did this to create the Fundamentals eBook and then the Sourdough eBook.

Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eBook — Now Available

I’m pleased to share that our third eBook — the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eBook — is out and available. Ready to learn simple, delicious, healthy cultured dairy recipes? Now you can!

Our newest eBook contains all 18 print lessons of the online module, teaching you how to make your own sour cream, yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, buttermilk, basic cheeses and more! If you’re not into videos, membership, or forum interaction but want to learn how to culture dairy easily at home — this eBook is for you.

Lots of members like the eBooks to save time downloading and organizing single lesson print materials. Plus, members get a discount on our eBooks.

Just to be clear: You do not need your own cow to make use of this eBook. You do not even have to have raw milk. I cover all your options inside. :)

Do you raise dairy animals? How do you feel about it?

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    I have been considering getting a milking goat (after this next baby is at least a few months old). I know it is a huge job. I am glad there are others who get it and can help the daughter of a father who grew up on a dairy farm, a city girl trying to get back to roots.

  2. Jennifer Trujillo via Facebook says

    Grateful my mom and her hubby have a ton of chickens, turkeys, horses and a few other critters my son get to feed often up north! He LOVES to help g’ma, loves the animals and his favorite is collecting eggs with G’ma! Nothing can replace these memories they are making not to mention the good health of the meat we get from the chickens and turkeys and the eggs!!

  3. Sharla says

    I would love to have goats for milk and there is a piece of land not too far from just behind my parents house I would love to buy. Mabe some day my dream will come true.

  4. says

    What a good article, Wardee!

    The last time we had milk cows, they were the really big Holsteins, about 6 1/2 feet tall at their backs. You reminded me of the day the heifers got out of the barnyard and I chased them all over the orchard and down the highway before our neighbors arrived on horseback and got them all back in the barnyard.

    Keeping cows for milk is, I think, more involved and more difficult than keeping cows for meat. You have to get to know your cows and spend lots of time with them every day. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

  5. Katie says

    I spent the first 8 years of my life on a ranch with chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep and a dog. My daily job was collecting eggs, and since I was homeschooled I got to spend most of the day helping my mom with various chores or playing with the animals. I also wouldn’t give that up for anything, except maybe to have some land for farm animals now!

  6. says

    I would love to have a dairy cow! Or maybe a good friend with one. :) But for now, I finally found someplace to get raw milk, so I get to start the cultured dairy/cheesemaking journey. Beyond excited.

  7. says

    What a wonderfully encouraging post!

    We became chicken owners in the early fall of 2011 and couldn’t be happier with our flock. They are such a joy to learn, each one having its own personality. Our girls still rush out to gather eggs and feed, an even clean the coop!

    One of “goals” for 2012 was a milk cow. Little did I know it would be acheived sooner than later! Just last week, our Jersey momma, Bess, and her first calf, Chester, became additions to our little homestead. We hit the ground running with milking her twice a day and have already made butter (delicious!!) and buttermilk. There is absolutely nothing in the world better than raw milk. And to know that you worked hard to produce it from an amazing creation of God… well, that is incomparable.

    Our girls are learning work ethic, responsibility, love of creation, and diligence, among other things, and loving every minute of it. :)

  8. rawesome goddess says

    i visit a farm once a week about fifteen minutes away to pick up a gallon of raw milk. your blog has made me so excited for the day when we can finally have cows of our own!

  9. RobinP says

    I would not trade my life for anything in the world. Yes I get tired of milking twice a day, every day, period. Yes I get tired of the mud (like right now.) Yes I get tired of dealing with 10 gallons of milk a day. But it is a blessing from God when I walk out every morning and every evening to milk our girls, feed our chickens. It’s funny. Our cow shareholders KNOW which milk comes from which cow just by looking at the jar. :) How many people can look at a jar of milk and call the cow by name that it came from?? I always encourage them to come out and meet “their” cows. They know their personalities and quirks. I wish more people could experience this life. It’s a wonderful life…

  10. says

    Wardee,….once again, you’ve touched my heart. What a great post!

    Our experience is this:
    After baby #4 was born (we now have 8 children total), we moved from a city life to the country. While our oldest child was shocked and speechless at the fact that there was no pizza delivery guy,….my husband and I were thrilled to give our children this type of lifestyle.
    I started a garden, for the first time, and LOVED it!
    That was 12 years ago, and that was the time when I came to know you via CHK. Since then, your hard work and inspiration has “fertilized my garden” and I now have egg-laying chickens, my garden, I make my own yogurt, my kefir and kombucha grains just arrived this week, and,…..I soak my nuts and seeds……
    I love the changes we’ve made, I love seeing God at work in my life, and I love the life HE has given me! 😉
    Thanks again for your post!

  11. Emily says

    We are considering purchasing dairy goats, but I can’t help but think of all the wonderful things I could do with a cow instead (butter, cream, etc.) — Does anybody know how to find reliable dairy cows? We are in the midwest (WI to be exact) and I’ve tried things like Craigslist, but never seem to find much. 😉

    • Joyce says

      Emily here is a great website for buying dairy could also call a local farmer or your county for information.Hope this helps.

    • Evelyn says

      Emily, we started our farm adventure 10 years ago and I was SOOOO unprepared when one of our friends pulled up with 4 orphaned boer goats!! Since then, we have branched off into meat cows and lots of chickens, but my FAVORITE thing is my dairy goats!!!! They are so much fun and I had NO idea how good raw goat’s milk is!! Now, we are waiting on our lil pregnant does to have their babies and I can’t wait to get going again! This will be my 2nd time to milk and I hope this time that I can learn to do more with the milk! (If it can get past my kids, cause we drink it up QUICKly!) Anyway, I pray that you get the opportunity; it is so wonderful and makes me so grateful to God! Blessings to you and yours!

  12. farmgirl says

    I am so grateful for my little farm. I am so blessed to have my own cow, Josephine. I thank God for the opportunity to raise our children doing farm chores. They learned responsibility of caring for another life, hard work, and all of us working together for the same purpose. Sometimes it is hard when it’s so cold outside and so nice and warm inside to go out in the dark and milk, but I still love it and don’t ever want to not have my own cow. I am so grateful for the milk! We are totally blessed. What a life!!!

  13. rachel says

    My five children and I have 2 rabbits, a flock of chickens and a mini horse. We have arranged with a farmer to buy two pregnant goats which will be coming soon. Love this life! I would love to have a cow but we only have a small barn and no pasture so its not a good idea for us right now. But our friend and neighbor, just a quarter mile down the road just bought a jersey yesterday! She just brought me half a gallon of milk from tonights milking! By next week I will be buying from her on a regular basis then I will have to get serious about cheesemaking.
    God has given us so many rich gifts to enjoy!

  14. Kimbrah says

    I’m so glad that you posted this Wardee. We have had ducks for about three years now and this spring we are taking the big plunge and getting goats, chickens, sheep, pigs, and maybe a cow. I am so on the fence about the cow. Do you find that it is pretty easy to keep Grace and her calf healthy? I am so worried that she’ll get sick and I won’t know what to do. :(

    • says

      Kimbrah — We’ve done allright with Gracie and her calf and I pray it will continue. When we first got her, I learned really quickly that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. The milk was bad and she lost condition. We began feeding her alfalfa pellets and more good quality hay, plus some rolled oats, and she quickly stabilized and improved. She also gets free-choice minerals. We don’t do much else and she’s doing great.

      • says

        Was the calf already born when you got her? We found a pregnant cow for sale in our area, but I don’t know the first thing about helping a cow deliver a calf. And then there’s pinkeye to worry about and grass fog and bloat. It’s overwhelming for a newbie!

        • Kathryn Forney says

          Hi Kimbrah,
          Hope you don’t mind me chiming in. We have had cows for almost 7 years and of the 30+ calves that have been born here we have only had to help with one birth–they know how to do it themselves and it’s amazing how they seem to know exactly what their doing. We have only had a couple of our cows get pinkeye once–and it was not very bad at all and we have never lost a cow to grass fog or bloat. I just wanted to encourage you to go ahead and get a cow. It’s an absolutely amazing experience and life!

  15. Jay says

    Hi Wardee,

    I will be milking my heifer soon and am wondering what you are feeding your Gracie inside the stanchion. I would like to stay as close to grass fed as possible and I know you are too. I’d love to hear what you’re doing and what has worked for you.

    Thanks very much.

    • says

      Hi, Jay. Congratulations! :)

      We learned early on that Gracie could not keep up condition or milk supply if we didn’t feed a little grain. So we feed her some rolled oats at the stanchion, morning and night. We supplement the pasture with high quality orchard grass or alfalfa hay. And free-choice minerals, which she doesn’t touch very often. 😉 Overall, she seems to be doing great.

      I hope this helps.

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