You might wonder at the title of this blog post, how in the world can milk be a milestone in a life? Well here is the answer, at least in the life I have lived for nearly fifty years.
As you probably know by now if you are a long-time reader of Letters from a Hill Farm, Tom and I are older hippies. We became aware of "real" food in the late 1960s, and have never let it go. We became vegetarians in 1971 due pretty much to a photograph of some words someone said about why he (Donovan or Paul McCartney, methinks) became a vegetarian. He saw a cattle truck, and looked into the eyes of a cow on the way to its death. I can't recall if there was a photo of the cow or not, but I know just where it hung in our first apartment in Boston.
At this point in our lives, we don't know a single person who is a vegetarian or a vegan. Meat is huge now. Somehow it isn't unhealthy to eat the carcinogenic nitrates or nitrites in bacon anymore. People put bacon in everything, and it is rather a food favorite in the world.
Along with giving up meat, we also began to eat whole grains instead of white bread and rice. We learned about foods that are now common in the US but then were as rare as hens' teeth, such as hummus and tabouli. And we learned about raw milk, the milk our parents would have grown up on. When I was a kid, there was still un-homogenized milk and I remember having to shake the milk carton at school. On the occasion when I drink from a carton now, I have to remind my muscle memory that I don't have to do that anymore.
There was a health food store, and a big Erewhon store (the first) just down the street from our second apartment in Boston, and we did all our food shopping there. When my mother died and we moved back home in 1973, it wasn't easy finding the food we were used to. There was a mail order catalogue called Walnut Acres where we bought a lot of items. We made occasional day trips to Boston to pick up other things. And we grew and froze as much as we could. But raw milk we could get right here! There was a farm in town that sold to the big dairy cooperatives, but locals could go right to the farm and get their own raw milk. We brought our own bottles, and filled them usually twice a week. We have done this for all these years, but now the original owners have died, and though their son took over for many years, now it is his time to "give up the cows". He is 63, and said it would be nice to go to a family get-together or an autumn fair without having to get back to milk the cows. He is definitely conflicted though, and the last time Tom talked with him, the last time we got milk, he said he didn't know how he would react when the last ones were taken away. His son is taking over the farm and raising meat (see what I mean - meat is way popular while milk isn't so much) for local markets.
The last of our local farm milk, and yogurt made from that milk, in the fridge.
This change, this milestone hit us harder than we imagined, and not only emotionally. Our milk from the farm cost us $2/gallon! We would keep track of how much we owed and after a while would bring him out some cash, which he preferred because he would put a check in his pocket and forget about it.
When I first went shopping for milk when our last farm milk was gone, I was pretty shocked to see the difference in cost! And I was happily surprised at the variety of milk that is available now. I don't mean the variety of percentages of fat, but in the opportunity to buy raw milk, organic raw milk, organic homogenized and pasteurized milk. As I've written before, we can get just about anything we want right in our Co-op store - a real miracle when we think back on what was available when we first came home.
So now there was a decision to make. Which did we want? I've tried a couple so far.
We haven't made a definite decision but we are leaning toward the Organic Valley. It is organic, but not raw. It says it is from a New England farm, and has the name of the farmer on it. The company must have farms all over the country now. I've been buying their butter and cream cheese for years. This milk is cheaper than the previous picture, but it isn't raw. There is a local farm that offers raw, organic milk in gallon containers, but when I've shopped the date has been too close and I knew we wouldn't drink it all in that short time. I will try that one when I catch it having a later sell-by date. It is more expensive than OV but less expensive than the Kimball Brook.
Before we started making our own yogurt (blog post about it here), I used to buy either Brown Cow or Stonyfield. Now I see that Brown Cow is distributed by Stonyfield. They are both great, and are the same price, but the Brown Cow has more cream at the top.
So there it is. We are lucky, lucky that we are, as they say, spoilt for choice in available products. But there is a sadness in the reason we must make those choices.
Addendum: the money we now spend on milk and yogurt is countered somewhat by not making a 30 mile round trip twice a week for milk. I also don't have to use the longer wash time in the dishwasher for milk bottles to get them very, very clean. I only use it now when I've got the bread baking bowl in there.