Sis Sacquitne does milkhouse setup and cleanup June 4 on the farm near Decorah, Iowa. 
Sis Sacquitne does milkhouse setup and cleanup June 4 on the farm near Decorah, Iowa. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
    DECORAH, Iowa – At age 87, Lorraine ‘Sis’ Sacquitne is still feeding calves along with prepping for milking and cleaning up afterward but not for much longer.
    Any day now, her duties in the barn will end as the last 11 cows are sold at the Sacquitne family’s dairy farm near Decorah, Iowa.
    The sale leaves Sacquitne more time for another skill for which she is well known – baking Norwegian treats from lefsa to kringla to rømmegrøt as well as her own bread and butter.
    Sacquitne has worked at the dairy farm her entire married life. First, she farmed with her husband, Buddy (Forrest), who passed away in 2002, and his father. Later, her son, Bruce, and her twin daughters, Doris and Lois, took on the management. With Bruce ready to retire with his wife, the twins will rely on their off-farm jobs while still living at the farm.  
    Another son, Gary, and his family are at the farm often as well. Daughter Kay and son Lars do not live in the area, but their families are quick to place orders for Sacquitne’s baking when a visit is planned. She has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
    Calves were always Sacquitne’s specialty. Even now, Sacquitne said her daughters complain she has spoiled the calves by keeping them on the bottle too long.
    Sacquitne has always been the one to set up the milking system, although she said she is too short to swing the pipeline to the bulk tank. She also washes the outside of the milkers and cleans up in the milkhouse.
    “I enjoy it. They’ll tell me to stay in the house, but I like to get outside,” said Sacquitne, who remembers having 20 cows, remodeling the stanchion barn in 1950, building a milk house in 1960 and installing a barn cleaner in 1962.
    Sacquitne also remembers losing 200 hogs to cholera just before they were ready to market. That was when the farm had chickens and hogs as well as dairy cows.
    As a girl still at home, she drove horses to help load loose hay. But, she never drove tractor and did not get a driver’s license until she was 38.
    “Buddy was in the hospital, and no one in the family had a driver’s license yet,” Sacquitne said.
    Few people visit Sacquitne without being sent home carrying a collection of cookies or one of the seven or eight loaves of bread she bakes every week.
    “Don’t ask me how many kinds of cookies I have in the freezer,” she said. “I love to bake.”
    For 40 years, she was the person who demonstrated making lefsa – a thin potato pancake – at Nordic Fest. Sacquitne used to make 500 dozen lefsa a year but is down to 20-25 dozen. She shrugs when asked why hers is special.
    “Some will say it’s thinner,” she said. “Sometimes when you try to fold the lefsa you get other places, it breaks.”
    Sacquitne still makes plenty of kringla for the church during Nordic Fest and said the family hands out two or three dozen of her treats to friends at the event’s parade.
    Sacquitne’s Christmas baking reads like a Scandinavian cookbook: krumkake, rosettes, sandbakkels and fattigmand. She makes flatbread and klub (blood bread) any time and not only during the holidays.
    But, Sacquitne only makes her lutefisk in the microwave.
    “That way it doesn’t stink up the house,” she said.
    Surprisingly, Sacquitne is not Norwegian.
    “My mother-in-law was a good teacher,” she said of her recipes.
    Born in Clayton County, Sacquitne helped her family as they moved between several rented farms. At 15, she began housekeeping when her mother passed away. She helped raise five brothers and sisters before her father remarried.
    But, it is the Sacquitnes whose farm history is documented in old photos. It began on a sesquicentennial farm seven miles north of their current farm in Highland Township. The original acreage is still owned by the family, rented out and surrounded by state land. A 1909 bridge crosses the creek at the property’s edge.
    “We found certificates from the family’s emigration from Norway in 1856,” Sacquitne said.
    They also found a membership certificate to the Holstein-Friesian Association of America for S.O. Sacquitne and Son, dated 1928, and an award for the National Dairy Association Honor Roll from 1931.
    There are other awards in the family – honors for two cows that produced more than 200,000 pounds of milk each in their lifetimes, a distinguished dairyman recognition for Buddy and recognition for Doris and Lois as the county’s outstanding young dairy producers.
    “I’m proud that we always had such a good herd,” Sacquitne said. “We always kept up the registered cattle, and we sold a lot through the years.”
    But, Sacquitne is ready to give up dairying. Always thrifty, she is worried about buying too much milk house soap that will not get used before the cows go.
    “Lois said we should keep one cow till the fall to feed us and the cats, but I’m not going to wash a pipeline for one cow,” Sacquitne said.
    There is at least one regret, however. For her baking, Sacquitne will now have to buy butter at the store.