Farm families spent much of their time trying to raise a crop and grow their own food. Weather influenced every aspect of life on the farm in the 1930s. Farm gardens helped keep rural families fed. “Egg money” helped some families survive, so taking care of chickens was an important chore.

old photo of 3 kids

Birdie Farr summarizes the routine of living on an acreage: “We were always busy. You had chores in those days to do… You came home from school, did your chores, helped with supper, get your lessons, and by that time it’s almost bedtime.”

Many chores had to be done daily: hauling water, gathering eggs, tending the garden, and filling the wood box. And some chores like milking cows and feeding livestock had to be done more than once a day. Fieldwork started early, with feeding and harnessing the horses.

OpitzWomen sewed and mended clothing, and washed clothes by hand. They made soap from lard (bacon fat), baked bread, and canned (preserved) everything from beef and pork to green beans and tomatoes. But the canning process meant spending hours over a hot wood stove in the summertime. Even the most unpleasant tasks like cleaning the chicken coop or the outhouse had to be done year ’round. And there was the constant housecleaning, a battle against the constant dust that seeped into the house.

Millie Opitz (right) remembers all the work that she had to do as well as the chores her kids had to do – but they still found time to have fun. And she compares life then to the life in rural America now.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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