The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


HYDE PARK, Monday—About a month ago, our farmer told us and proved to us that it was highly uneconomical to make butter on a dairy farm; that we could sell our whole milk and make more cash; that the cost of the cream and the time consumed in making butter, even though we had an electric churn, was pure waste.

I remembered that, when I was a little girl, my grandmother made butter in a little glass churn on the dining-room table. It was completely sweet, fresh butter, and we thought it the greatest possible luxury. And my mother-in-law always boasted of having her own butter. It seemed somewhat of a wrench to me to give this up, so I loftily said to our farmer, "I will take the churn, and in our cellar we will make enough butter to last both my son's house and mine for several weeks. It can be stored in the deep freeze."

Last Friday, the farmer brought the churn. Our superintendent was on hand. So was I, assisted by Miss Thompson and the cook. We all stood around, prepared for our first lesson.

The farmer first showed us how to wash the churn and the implements. Then, firmly telling me the cost of the cream which he was pouring in, he poured it in, adjusted the cover of the churn, and started it. All of us were spattered with cream. He stopped the churn, looked at the cork in the bottom, adjusted the top, and started the churn again.

Then the five of us watched with pride for fifteen minutes while the electricity did its work. Finally, I inquired how long it took. The farmer said, "Anywhere from twenty minutes to four hours. It depends on the temperature." I thought he meant the outdoor temperature, and did not realize he meant the temperature of the cream, which in our haste we had forgotten to take.

* * *

Time wore on. Miss Thompson decided she had to go back to being a secretary. The two men decided they had to go and eat dinner and attend to a few chores. The cook decided she had to go and prepare lunch. So we left the churning!

Three hours later, I returned. Still no butter. The men tried putting in ice cubes, which spoiled the buttermilk. It came time for the men to do the afternoon chores, and so they said, "Leave it overnight and turn it on in the morning and the butter may come."

The next morning, around 11 o'clock, the cook and I finally finished our lesson and at last the men could go back to their work on the farm. We had learned how to use the electric churn, how to work the butter afterwards, and how to do it up neatly in half-pound packages. For all of that time and all of that labor, we had 13 1/2 pounds of butter!

I am quite sure now that our farmer's economics are correct, but I had fun and I think the cook and I will try it again. It may be a waste of both time and money, but I am still old-fashioned enough to like the idea of having my own butter. I am rather glad, however, that the churn is electric. I think that if I had had to churn by hand for all of that time, I would not be writing about it today!



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]
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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 6, 1947

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.