OLE STUFF AND SUCH Chores on the Farm: Part 1
By Frances Lowery Garner
By today’s social standings, we would be classified as underprivileged. Life on the farm consisted of hard work but a simple life which would hold many good memories in future years.
Children were not aware that the family’s existence relied on their parents who from year to year faithfully planted crops and gardens anticipating a prosperous outcome. There were times this was not the desired result but they continued to persevere and look forward to the next year.
Neighbors shared their syrup, lard, etc., the men swapped work, the ladies made quilts and clothing, and the children kept up their chores.
At that period in time, unless the woman of the house was sick and there were no girls old enough to take her place, a man’s place was not in the kitchen, or any part of the house.
There was always ample work to be done outside. When a boy was old enough and big enough to control a mule, a plowing job was waiting for him. The ground had to be “broke” in the spring, then the crops planted and more plowing to be done before the crop was finally “laid by” with the last plowing before harvest.
Daddy and the boys would go to the woods and saw the firewood, split the larger pieces with an axe, put it on the wagon and bring it to the house, and stack it for the winter months. This was done in the summer or early fall so it would be dry and burn good during cold months.
The wood for the stove would be cut separately, and of course, cut into different lengths and split after dumping it in the backyard. This was piled into a huge “stove wood pile.”
Probably one of the least favorite jobs for the boys was picking the velvet beans. This was a velvety looking pretty black bean but the texture of the bean was very deceiving. It would sting you if you did not have on long sleeved shirts. Sometimes these beans were left in the field for good cow feed.
They also had to gather in the corn. It was pulled from the dried stalks by hand, put in a cotton sack or basket, then emptied into the wagon. When the wagon was full, it was brought to the house to be unloaded in the crib for later use. Farmers usually planted enough to hopefully fill the crib and a cat or two would be housed around the barn to ward off the rats.
If there were dried peas left from the garden planting and there usually was, they were picked for seed peas or for eating in the winter time. They were put in feed sacks and hung from a rafter in the barn so they would further dry and be weevil free. Mules had to be fed, as well as the hound dogs, the cow or cows brought up from the pasture, fed and milked.
A girl’s life was much easier, especially if she was blessed with older brothers. My sister and I had the advantage because we were the last two of six children and you could say we were “petted.”
Daddy never expected any hard manual labor for us but reserved it for the boys. The biggest daily job we had was getting in the stove wood and making sure the wood box by the wooden range was always full of dry wood and ample splinters (lightwood) to start the breakfast fire.
We did not dare take a chance of letting the stove wood get wet because we knew Mama had to cook three meals a day for a hard working family. In the winter time, we would pile the firewood on the back porch and bring a stick or two inside for the next morning with enough splinters to start the fire in the fireplace.
Saturdays was the day reserved to sweep yards with homemade yard brooms. These were made from a good length of brushes tied together and thick enough to sweep the leaves. That is how the name “brush brooms” originated.
No one owned a lawn mower and it was not popular to have grass on the yard. The dirt was first hoed clean and then swept regularly and it was usually a hard surface unless it was sandy soil.
The house brooms were made of broom sage, long straggly looking golden stalks hard at the bottom but soft and flared from middle to top. These were also tied together and used for sweeping the sand off the floors. Some of the houses had cracks large enough in the floors that the sand could just be swept through the cracks. (to be cont’)