Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here's another story from Grandma Fern....

I had alot of compliments about my last article written by Grandma Fern. Thanks to every one who responded. I love to look back at what life was like when it was "easier". So here is another article....it is very long and I will put it into two parts, but I feel is worth the read....Enjoy!

They Made it - Could We?

by Fern Christian Miller

Part One

My mother's parents had twelve children. They owned an eighty-acre farm near a small town in central Missouri. I am sure they lived modestly, but they reared ten of these children and sent them to high school. In fact, two daughters got their Masters' degrees from college. The youngest, near my age, is now teaching small Indians in Arizona. All married. None were divorced. The years I remember are from 1912 to about 1926, at which time they moved to town to retire.
How well I remember when, as a very small child, I stayed a week with Grandma during the summer. This was the first of regular summer visits. Grandpa ran a small dairy and truck patch. His customers came out from town for milk, cream, home-churned butter, cottage cheese, buttermilk, eggs, honey, fruit in season, and fresh vegetables.
In autumn, the woodlot and trees along the creek furnished walnuts and giant hickory nuts. Cull trees furnished wood for the big black "oak" range in the kitchen and the huge round wood stove in the living room. The doors were arranged so the two downstairs bedrooms were warmed (somewhat) by heat circulating through. The two slant-ceiling upstairs bedrooms were warmed by registers in the floor over the stoves below.
Grandma and Grandpa were organic gardeners and farmers, although they wouldn't have called themselves that. They just called it taking care of the farm. The manure spreader and horses that pulled it were an important part of that small farm. The soil was rather sandy. Humus was added regularly in the form of horse, cow, hog, and chicken manure, and also straw and haystack "bottoms". Crops were rotated regularly in the cultivated fields. Two long, fenced hog lots, each with it small pond at the end, were rotated also: hogs one year, truck patch the next. The truck patches were planted to Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and crowder peas. As the sweet corn came up, pumpkins were planted between the stalks. First cultivating was done with horses, but as the vines grew, the older children worked with hoes to keep down the weeds.
The chickenyards were managed in the same way. I don't know whose idea that was, as it is the only farm I remember seeing managed this way. A tall, regularly mended, woven-wire fence surrounded two plots, with the chicken house and brooder house set in the fence between. A small pen was put up annually for the young chicks. Grandma raised only enough chickens for fryers, and pullets enough to supply her family and customers with eggs. (She also raised geese in one end of the big cow pasture, but that's another story.)
Naturally all the children were taught to help as soon as possible. All hen house manure, leaves raked in the yard, and other materials available were spread over the chickenyard and plowed under in the fall. After the last vegetable was harvested, the door at that side of the chicken house was opened and the chickens moved. After they picked over everything, all plants were pulled and tossed over the fence and plowed under. Turnips and carrots and parsnips were left to cure, for chickens didn't dig them out. Later they were stored in a pit.
The pasture was along the creek and included the woodlot and small bit of timber. The big spring-fed "swimming hole and fishing hole" in the creek never went dry. This was called permanent pasture, never was plowed, and reached by a lane between the meadow and the hog lots. The meadow was pastured after the mowing and sacking of hay, thus allowing the regular pasture to "rest" until it got a start in the spring. Seldom was any crop sold. It was used to feed the livestock on the farm.
The yard itself was large and well fenced, with a white gate at the front next to the drive. (What fun it was to jump out of the "surrey" and dash up the brick walk to hug my grandparents and young aunts and uncles.) As I remember, the fruit trees were mostly in the yard: pear trees in the back corner, apples trees at the side front, cherries at the other back corner, peaches and red and damson plums at the end of a field next to the yard, and grapes over the well house and along one fence. Wild blackberries and gooseberries and persimmons grew along the creek and were harvested in season. Wild cherries, wild grapes, and elderberries were used for jams and jellies mixed with other fruit juices (usually apple) to make them more tasty. Grandma never bought "store pectin". She seemed to know which fruits naturally had an abundance, and saved juice (often canned) to use with the mild ones. The dwarf wild plums ripened along the roadsides in September. They wee sharp and bitter, but mixed with mild peach juice made delightful pink jelly and jam.
Along under the fruit trees and flowering shrubs and old-fashioned bush roses, Grandma had her beehives. She tended them herself with a veil over her sunbonnet and half-mitts on her hands. She was never stung, but Grandpa couldn't go near them. A small well tended strawberry patch was in one part of the yard. As the children married, they were given "runners" to start their own beds.
A three-cornered patch near the creek was planted to cane. Each fall the stripped cane was hauled to a neighboring sorghum mill. The neighbor made sweet, thick sorghum molasses on the shares. He sold his share, but Grandfather took his home for his family. A few gallons were sold to customers who had asked ahead. A "square" of popcorn was sown at one side of the vegetable garden with big winter squash between.
The cane, popcorn, and sweet corn were separated to keep the seed from "mixing" because they saved own seed. The same was true of the big winter squash, the pumpkins, cucumbers, muskmelons, and watermelons. These were rotated between garden spots to prevent ruining next year's seed.
Part two coming soon......

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