Chores and Work

Fall – Chores and Work

Children had to do chores before school — milking cows; feeding and watering cows, horses, sheep, and pigs. After school, they did similar chores and helped gather eggs, chop wood, and gather corn cobs to heat the cook stove in the kitchen.

“We always had lots of chores and even as a small kid, growing up, we had to take our to turn…We had chickens, we had hogs, and we had cattle, both dairy cattle and regular cattle. Lots of horses because we farmed with horses.” — Hollis Miller

Merna Bailey remembers her chores.

merna bailey“As girls we didn’t have to do anything in the morning before school…But at night, fill the cob baskets, several cob baskets. And it wasn’t too bad when we had nice corncobs in the
, but when they were gone, we had to go to the hog pen and pick up the hog pen cobs. That wasn’t too much fun…We helped to feed the chickens, gather the eggs… The corn they picked by hand with wagons, the team pulling the wagon…My dad…was a good corn picker… I sometimes went out…so I learned to use the peg.” — Merna Bailey

Preserving food for winter

Walter Schmitt remembers their big garden and many fruit trees. “Mother canned a lot of cherries. We had a couple apple trees and…currant bushes, blueberry bushes. We did raise a lot of food of our own. We raised a lot of potatoes. We had a big garden.”

Ruth Nettleton said their orchard had many trees, too. “I suppose six or eight different kinds of apples. And there were plums and there were cherries, and there were grapes. Mother canned a lot. After I was married I planned to can a hundred quarts of apples and a hundred quarts of tomatoes.” She also pickled beets by boiling them and putting them in a vinegar solution to preserve them.

The Whole Hog

food-for-winterFarm families used every part of the hog. Some meat from hogs was smoked or cured with salt (bacon, salt pork, and ham). Meat had to be cured or preserved because most farms did not have electricity to run refrigerators. Even the fat from the hog [lard] was used to make soap.

dean buller“You saved everything in those days … saved the liver. You made the liverwurst [sausage]… We had a lot of sausage and hams, cured our own hams … Even when we butchered…we had other couples come over or some of my aunts and uncles would come over, and you’d kind of divide up a little bit when you went home.” —Dean Buller

life 1302

life_1302Some people rented a freezer box in town where they could store meat because they did not have electricity on the farm to run a refrigerator/freezer.

First the hog was killed, then dipped in a barrel of hot water to help remove the hair. The skin was scraped over and over to remove all the hair. Then the hog carcass was cut in pieces: some for smoking and salt curing, some to be ground up for sausage.

albert friesen“We had a regular little building for a smokehouse. Made a fire underneath…a fire that wouldn’t burn, just smoke. Apple wood would be the best bark to use for to give it a flavor… And the hams, we cut, made hams and we salted them. The night of when we butchered we’d salt the hams and the hind hams…and you’d be sure and put that full of salt [so it wouldn’t spoil].” — Albert Friesen 

Recipe: How to Make Soap

Sometimes Merna Bailey’s family asks her for recipes. Even though she knows people don’t make their own soap anymore, she is happy to share her recipe:

merna bailey“Accumulations of lard and fat from various butcherings plus bacon grease and the lye would be poured into a big stone jar. Using one can of lye, two and a half pints of cold water, mix to six pounds of fat, lard and what combination. The lye solution is poured slowly. At the end steady stream and even stirring, continuing to stir with a wooden spoon until it can stand on its own. Leave for 24 hours and then cut…into bars to dry and spread out. I felt so proud, good and proud when I looked at those big chunks of soap…Using the lye could be dangerous.” — Merna Bailey 

Pumping and plumbing

wooden outhouse Few farmers in the 1920s had indoor plumbing. Instead, they dug a hole four to five feet deep and placed a wooden outhouse on top. The entire family used the outhouse year ’round. Hollis Miller said their family’s “privy” (outhouse) was a small wooden structure that rested on the dirt over a deep hole that had been dug by hand. Inside were two seats. No flushing water, no toilet seat, no toilet paper. “You always saved the Sears and Roebuck catalog,” he said. “We didn’t have the tissue paper that you have today.” He remembers running to the outhouse on cold winter days and using crumpled up pages of the Sears catalog as toilet paper.


Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

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