With two princesses living under one roof, one might fear being overrun by tiaras, glass slippers, ball gowns and highfalutin ideals, but not in the Mehuren household. When a princess spends her days trudging through mud and manure and playing indentured servant to a herd of 80 dairy cows, it’s hard not to stay grounded. Sisters Elida, 16, and Emma, 12, are the next generation on Faithful Venture Farm, a dairy farm in Searsmont that sells its milk to Horizon Organic. They are also the Maine Dairy Princess and Jr. Dairy Princess, and while they do get tiaras and lovely silk sashes, and there are a few wardrobe changes, that’s about as far as the glitz and glamour goes when you’re a dairy princess.
So what are the duties of a dairy princess?
“Well, we’ve had to make ice cream a number of times,” Elida laughs. There have also been a number of school visits where they read to the students and color pictures of dairy cows with them. And the obligatory appearances at events such as Farm Days, the Agricultural Trade Show, a benefit for the Association of Agricultural Fairs, the Dairy Shrine Awards, Agricultural Day at the Legislature, and the Big E – Eastern States Exposition, the granddaddy of them all as far as agricultural fairs in New England. They were in a parade at the Big E along with Maine’s other agriculturally-themed princesses. “We got to ride in an old convertible,” Elida says. “It kills your wrist, waving that long.”
But their most important duty is the education of people outside of agricultural circles – those who purchase and consume milk and other dairy products without fully understanding how it came to be on their kitchen table.
“A lot of people think it’s not much work,” Emma says.
“They’re like, ‘Oh, you milk the cows,’” Elida adds. “They have no clue about being in the barn at 2 in the morning, trying to get a bottle of calcium into a cow because she has milk fever, or the endless hours spent in a hayfield.” (Milk fever is Hypocalcemia, the result of a reduction of blood calcium at the time a cow gives birth and starts her lactation.)
While jobs on the farm are always changing depending on the season, the weather and the various unavoidable, unplanned events that can happen on a farm, the Mehuren sisters and their siblings (a brother and sister) have daily chores. They rotate turns to help their father with the milking and then they have the responsibilities of taking care of and feeding the calves and heifers. There are also pigs, horses, sheep and other critters that need to be cared for on the farm. But the sisters don’t mind the work.
“It’s good,” Emma says. “It may seem like a pain in the butt at the time [like when you’re a little kid and the cows have to be milked and fed before you can open your Christmas presents], but it makes you more responsible and makes you appreciate what you have.”
Elida adds that it also makes their family that much closer. “We’re in the barn helping our dad, not on our iPads 24/7.”
“You take the good with the bad,” she continues. “When it’s the middle of January and you’re doing chores in a blizzard, you can think of summer and going to the fair with your cows.” (As members of the Kindred Spirits 4-H club, the sisters show their dairy cows at several fairs.)
During one storm this past winter, snow drifts were 8 feet high in front of the barn doors and had to be shoveled out before they could get to the cows. “The tractor was in the barn,” says Elida, laughing at the irony.
Coffee Can Ice Cream
You’ll need 2 coffee cans – one 3 lb coffee can and one 1 lb coffee can. One will have to fit inside of the other.
Inside the smaller coffee can, combine the following ingredients:
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla or scrape 1 vanilla bean
For flavors – add ¼ cup strawberries or other fruit (prep strawberry and rhubarb puree ahead of time for a real Maine treat), or 2 tablespoons of chocolate, instant coffee grounds, maple syrup (you could probably cut back some of the sugar and add extra maple syrup), or any other favorite flavors.
Put the lid on the smaller coffee can and secure it with duct tape to avoid any unnecessary ice cream lossage. Then place it inside of the other coffee can and surround it with crushed ice and rock salt. Put the lid on the larger can – you might want to save some duct tape for this one also. There are a number of methods you can then use to make the ice cream but standard time is about 10 minutes. You can shake the cans vigorously, have two kids sit on the ground and roll it back in forth, or they can kick it around, however you can think to agitate it. If the ice cream isn’t hard enough after 10 minutes, add more ice and rock salt and go for another 8 minutes or so.