Chores and Work

Spring – Chores and Work

Before walking or riding horseback to school each day, children had to get up early and do their chores. Springtime meant additional chores. Feeding newborn calves, baby pigs, and lambs. Mothers and babies needed additional feed, bedding and protection from cold, wet weather. Farmers also trained young horses in the spring to prepare them for working in a harness, pulling wagons and working in the fields.Farmers planted corn, oats, millet, and barley in the spring.

Hollis Miller said it took a lot of work to manage a farm in the 1920s.


“In the spring you had to be organized and know what piece of ground you were going to put oats on or what piece of ground you was going to put your wheat on or corn on and what piece of ground that you were going to go to alfalfa with then. ” — Hollis Miller


Housework and music:

Soon after school was over in May, a farm woman often gathered the children to help with spring house cleaning. They stripped beds of sheets, aired out feather mattresses, and took rugs outside to beat the winter dust out of them.

merna_bailey“Cleaning the house was a big job because we didn’t have vacuum sweepers then. We took a broom and you swept that carpet and the dust just flew all over… Sometimes in the evening when we girls were older … we’d sit around the piano, and when dad would come in and get washed up and … he’d come in and sit with us and we’d sing. I think he liked to hear us play. I never was as good at it as my two sisters, but I got by when I was teaching school, to sing with the kids.” — Merna Bailey


Baking Bread

Ruth Nettleton’s mother baked bread about twice a week, and Ruth helped.

ruth_nettleton life_0404“We were a big family, eight, and hired men part of the time. So she gave me some dough and I could make bread. …So I would make cinnamon rolls and I’d make biscuits.” — Ruth Nettleton



Planting a Garden

Vegetables from the garden fed farm families year-round, so planting and tending the garden were important duties. Farmers planted beans, peas, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, beets, asparagus and squash, as well as strawberries and rhubarb.

Reading from a journal written in 1929, Ruth Nettleton said:

ruth_nettleton“After breakfast, washed dishes and [cream] separator. Worked in the garden. I picked beans, strawberries, beets, and zucchini. I cut down the hollyhocks that were through blooming, then I canned the beans and cooked the beets. I fixed the strawberries to freeze. So thankful to have an [icebox] at the locker in town to keep frozen food. Then I cooked and strained soap grease … to make soap next week.” —Ruth Nettleton




How to Milk a Cow

Like a lot of chores on a farm, milking the cows had to be done each day. Kenneth Jackson remembers what it was like.

kenneth_jackson“You had to [milk] regularly…you should do it about the same time every morning and again at night. You milked twice a day. Their bags usually filled up with milk…you would just take a hold of them, squeeze and pull down. You usually milked one front one and one back one at the same time and change and milk the other fat one in the back. And after it quits coming easy why you’d take your thumb and finger and keep stripping… till you didn’t get milk anymore. But if you only milked a cow half way and went off and left her, why in two or three days she’d be dry. She’d quit producing milk if you didn’t take it regularly…We used to sing…old fashioned songs [while milking]. Cats used to line up and you used to squirt milk in the cat’s mouth. They were always on hand for a milking cause we fed them. Always had a cat pan and just give them some fresh milk when we fed them. So they were always sitting there…and you could squirt it right into their mouth.” — Kenneth Jackson

Tending Chickens

Clyde Ehlers remembers raising baby chickens.

life_0403clyde_ehlers“You had a chicken house. They had incubators, and they’d turn them eggs every other day or something like for how many days it took. You usually had a little stove in there to keep them warm, and you’d turn them loose. You’d have them confined pretty well around this light or this heat, and then they got bigger, why you’d remove some of the surroundings so they’d have a longer area and they grew fast and about three pounds, three or four pounds, why the little roosters [males] they got into the frying pan’ cause that was part of your food. And the pullets [females] why you kept them for laying eggs later. So you’d get in on cleaning the chicken house out.” —
Clyde Ehlers

Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

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