My Mother use to stand on a box and harness a team of horses like these and go out and cultivate corn, she was 10 Years old at that time. When I was 10 Years old, my Grandfather would drive the team (different team of course) and my brother and cousin and I would follow the hay wagon and pitch the hay into the wagon. When the wagon was full we would pitch the hay in to the barn loft. When I reached 14 years of age my Grandfather was to old to farm any longer and I was busy chasing girls.
Life on the farm
Lorna’s post on “Wood stove cooking” got me daydreaming about life on the farm. And I thought that what my father told me about food preservation might be of interest to some of you. It is not about the specifics of preservation but it is about what was preserved for a family of 12 including grandparents and 14 on Sundays (the preacher and his wife ate dinner every Sunday with my grandparents).
My grandfather had a building the size of a one car garage. It was divided into two equal size rooms. One room had a potbelly stove in the center and deep shelves on the outside walls. The shelves were hinged to the walls and supported with chains. They were used for drying fruits and vegetables. When the harvest was complete and the weather cooled, it was time for butchering. My grandfather would take the flue off of the stove and fold the shelves against the walls. First came the hogs, my grandmother would cold pack some of the meat and store it in the pantry. The rest of the hog would be smoked. The bacon, hams and link sausages were hung on hooks in the ceiling. Some of the sausages were made into patties and partially cooked. Then a layer was put in a five gallon crock and covered with lard then another layer of sausages and lard until the crock was filled. These sausages were stored in the springhouse. Then came the beef and some was cold packed and some was dried.
On the onset of winter the other room would be filled with hams, bacon, sausages, dried beef and feed sacks filled with dried apples, peaches, pears and plumbs and I can not remember what vegetables were dried, all hanging from the ceiling . There would be several “hogs head barrels” (60 gallon wooden barrel) along the outside walls. One would be filled with pickles another with sauer kraut and one with apple cider vinegar. I can not remember what if anything else that was stored there. But I can remember that building still being used when I was a kid and the aroma when you entered it.
The pantry was off the kitchen and almost the size of the outside building. It was lined on three walls with shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves would be filled with cold packed meats, canned vegetables, canned fruits and sacks of wheat flower, buckwheat flower, sugar and salt. I don’t know what herbs and spiced they used.
There was a spring fed stone trough directly below the kitchen which fed a hand pump at the kitchen sink. Butter and milk was stored in that trough. The spring in the house also fed a stone trough outside in a stone springhouse which was primarily used for a root cellar. The springhouse was about 8’ X 12’ and the only part above ground was the roof. You could stand up without hitting your head. Both sides were filled with all sorts of root crops some winter apples and some winter pears and onions. The trough held the five gallon crock of sausages and lard and another five gallon crock of just lard.
That sounds like an awfully lot of food but I know what teenage boys can eat and I know how I ate when I was helping my other grandfather farm. The farm raised food was always supplemented with squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, turkey and deer. John
When I was a very young boy, my family would spend almost every weekend on the farm. My grandmother died at a very young age and my mother being the oldest child felt a responsibility of taking care of her father and sisters and brother. My grandparents on my dad’s side were elderly when I was young and I only have a vague memory of them. My dad had four brothers and three sisters and they needed little help running the farm. Next to my immediate family, it is probably the most memorable part of my life.
The first thing I would do upon arrival would be to check the pie chest to see if any of my aunts baked any pies. Usually there would be one piece left, what a coincidence. As I got a little older, it became my job to clean all the chimneys on the oil lamps and take the chambermaid to the outhouse and empty it. That was one job I wish I never had. I would usually help collect eggs for breakfast and sometimes we would find an egg that everybody else missed for some time. That is another odor you do not want to experience. The garden was located between the house and the barn with a grape arbor running the length of the garden. On the other end of the house was a large old orchard with pears, plums, sweet and sour cherries, peaches and several apples with different ripening dates. The apple trees were huge and there was no way we could pick the apples on top, we could only pick the apples on the lower branches from a ladder. The apples from the tops would be collected as they fell. The orchard was covered with a very dense growth of orchard grass and many fallen apples would be undamaged. The damaged apples would be made into sauce and pies or sliced and dried for storage. Other jobs that I had were taking the horses to the watering trough twice a day and taking the cows to pasture in the morning and bringing them back to the barn in the evening for milking. Milking was one job I was not good at. Cows that were never known to kick, tried to kick me and that job went to someone else. My grandfather had a 60 GAL wooden barrel that was used for hog swill, it would be filled with mash, the excess milk along with table scraps except for meat, and bones and they went to the dogs. When the butter would turn rancid, it would be mixed with lye and used for soap. It was also my job to keep out of the way of the farming activities.
On my grandfather Best’s farm, my aunts and uncles married at an older age and two of my uncles never did marry. So labor to run the farm was less of a problem and most of our time there was just visiting. The most memorable times on both farms were mealtime. There was a brick oven in the back yard and it never cooled down, my grandmother would bake every single day. I use to travel in my employment to most of the states including Canada and Mexico. I was on expense account and ate at some very fine restaurants, including one of the worlds ten best located in Lancaster, Pa. None of them even came close to an everyday meal on a productive farm.
While, I am in school now, we still spend weekends on the farm, and I still have the jobs as before. In addition, my brother, cousin, and I are spending most of our summer vacation helping my grandfather. The garden and farm crops have all been planted. In the morning, we have to get the hay in the barn that my grandfather cut with a scythe and raked into windrows. I am still too small in stature to pitch the hay up onto the hay wagon, so it was my job to stack the hay as my brother and cousin pitched it on the wagon. My grandfather drove the team, Jake and Clyde. When a fork full of hay would come extra close to me, I knew there would be a black snake in it. It seems that when a field is cut the black snakes head for the windrows to get in the shade. When my brother or cousin seen one it would come straight at me. They just wanted to see me dance I guess.
Once in awhile my grandfather would leave and go shopping or visiting and let us boys alone with my aunt. My aunt was young but older than we boys were. You know the old saying,”boys will be boys” well we decided to ride the old sow. We put some corn in the trough and when she was distracted, my brother slung his leg over her back and grabbed both ears. Well between her and the pen was all this slop and the opening she was headed for was only big enough for her. You guessed it, my brother ended up on his back in the middle of all that slop. Pay back time for the snakes, HA HA. On another occasion, we decided to ride the calf. She did not go for that shit, threw my brother, and jumped a fence. It took my grandfather three days to find the calf. To say my grandfather was a little POed is an understatement but I thing it reminded him of his own children.
At the end of the day, we had to clean the horse stalls, put down new bedding, feed and water them. After that we had to take showers, oh my. The shower consisted of a pipe coming from a spring into a horse-watering trough and from the overthrow of the trough over a bank above a wood platform that looked like a skid, maybe it was. There was a community washcloth and a bar of soap but no towels. The water was so cold, it was like someone standing there and hitting you with a baseball bat. After that, you stood in the sunshine until you were dry enough to get dressed. Soon we would hear my aunt calling, “suppertime” you would be so hungry that you could eat the north end of a southbound skunk. Soon after dinner, the sun would start to go down and you headed for bed. On each bed was a feather mattress, feather pillows and a feather comforter. All I can remember is laying there listening to the owls, foxes chasing rabbits, katydids singing for mates and watching bats flying in one window and out the other trying to catch insects. All of a sudden, it is morning, not quite daylight yet and that damned rooster is out there crowing his ass off. Oh my it starts all over again I wonder when school starts.
Usually on Saturday evening we would head for New Bethlehem, Pa to do some shopping or get a haircut. Even if we were farm boys at that time, we were not permitted to look shabby. We had to get back to the farm in time to listen to the Judy Kenova show and the Grand Old Oprey on a battery operated radio, our only contact with the outside world. My grandfather may have known that once we boys started chasing girls that we would not be much help on the farm and decided to retire. Soon after, he sold the team and the farm equipment. We continued to visit quite often but it was not the same. In the fall of 1954, my father and I were getting dressed to go deer hunting on the farm when we got a call from a neighbor who said that my grandfather was fine but the house burned down. What a loss, most of the furniture was from my great grandfather and every single piece was an antique. My grandfather then sold the barn and a Sears one hole outhouse. Surprisingly, he got more $ for the outhouse than he did for the barn.
Any comments will be appreciated.