Summer – Chores and Work
Everyone in the family had additional chores in the summertime. Children were expected to gather eggs, churn cream into butter, feed and harness horses, clean the chicken house, feed chickens and hogs, help plant and harvest crops, help cut hay and store it in the barn, tend bees, pick summer fruit and use it to bake pies, preserve and can vegetables from the garden, and much more. After a long day in the field and evening chores, most families ate a late supper by the light of kerosene lamps. Most children were so tired, they went to bed soon after supper. During the summer, farm families and neighbors banded together to harvest wheat and oats and separate the grain from the stalk, a process known as threshing.
Many farm families kept bees. The honey was used on bread and for cooking. Bees were important, because they pollinated the fruit trees in the family’s orchard. As a country school teacher, Ruth Nettleton remembers the fun of keeping bees and using the honey to make treats for her students.
“We had plenty of honey and I can, you can cook with honey… They [the bees] were kept near the orchard. They helped pollenize the flower, the trees…One experience with bees that I had when I was a little girl, father was gone and there was a swarm of bees…My sister, Julie and I thought we better get those bees [into the] hive… So she got a ladder and went up about one step. And I knew exactly how to do it because I had helped father… I had gone up the tree and she held the box and I shook the bees…We were just kids…10 or 11 maybe…I had bees for years and years.” — Ruth Nettleton (Quicktime required)
How do you wash clothes for a big family without a washer and dryer? Almost no rural homes had electricity in the 1920s, so laundry was usually done by hand—washing clothes and feeding them into a hand-cranked wringer. Work clothes, diapers, underwear and socks—everything was washed in water heated on the stove. It was then hung on a clothes line to dry. Some farm women scrubbed clothes on a metal washboard. Norma Ehlers remembered their family’s washhouse was by the windmillWindmill- A fan-like circle of flat metal or wooden blades attached to a tall tower. When the wind blows, the metal blades turn, driving a pump that pumps water from below ground to the surface, which pumped water that could be used for washing clothes.