Sometimes on a hot summer day, Mum would decide on a sort of working picnic and would make sandwiches for herself, Peter and I. We would gather a load of laundry and head off down the hill to the little creek that came from a cave on the next hillside. It was very shallow – only about a foot deep but was crystal clear and icy cold. There was an old copper there and while Mum cleaned it out and filled it with water from the creek, Peter and I would hunt the flat area for wood to light it to boil the clothes. When they were done, they had to be fished out with a big stick and rinsed in the creek, squeezed out by hand and spread out on the grass or along a fence to dry. We would paddle in the creek and catch little brown crayfish then let them go again [I think they are called yabbies in Australia]. We would hang around until the washing was dry, then gather it all up and head for home. It seemed like a lot of hard work but I think it was Mums way of getting away from the house for a while and still doing the washing.
The little creek ran past the cowshed to join the river and the clear water was used for swilling out and cleaning up after milking. That was done twice a day by hand. The cows were eager for their turn at milking and would walk in to the bail and wait patiently. Mary did most of the milking and I helped by leg roping and washing the udder with a clean cloth. The milk was poured into large milk cans for delivery to the dairy factory or into the separator. This was a large vat with two spouts – one for cream and the other for the skim milk. There was a big handle on one side to spin the vat to separate the cream. It was fascinating to watch the cream trickle out and the skim pour off in to separate buckets. It would be fed to the pigs, while the cream was taken up to the house and made into butter. Some of the butter was for home use, the rest was sold along with the meat. To make butter, the cream was poured into a small churn which had paddles in it. A small amount of salt was added to the cream, then it was churned until it was solid. It is a wonder I don’t have arm muscles the size of an elephant after all the churning I did.