Days on the dairy farm during the great depressionA good friend suggested that I describe a day on a small rural dairy farm back in the early ’30s since times have —dramatically — changed.
By: Bernie Hughes, Superior Telegram
A good friend suggested that I describe a day on a small rural dairy farm back in the early ’30s since times have —dramatically — changed.
Hopefully, it won’t tire you, just reading. I didn’t mind all the work as a little guy and young man; I thought everybody was doing the same. Some farmers had a gas engine or windmill to pump water; we did it like most of our neighbors, the pump handle way.
Drinking water was carried in pails from the pump to the house and kept in a large crock container with a dipper out of which everyone drank water.
Hmm? Times have changed haven’t they? Electricity was not available out in the country until Rural Electrification — one of those helpful government programs — so refrigerators were not common; we had a dirt cellar and milk can sunk in the ground that would keep things somewhat cooler in hot weather.
My friend thought reporting a day on the farm would help people appreciate those days, long past. Me too. Every morning was an early rise. The first stop was the outhouse — ours was about one-quarter block from the house. Toilet paper for poor folks was the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. Two-hole outhouses were common; I always wondered about that since one person used it alone — serious emergencies? In summer, 5 a.m. was get up and get out time; the cows were in the pasture and had to be brought into the barn. In the winter, they remained in the barn except for being let out, briefly, during the day for exercise and to drink water.
Our barn was about a block from the house and the water pump and water tank were close to the barn; we carried water to the hen house, the pigpen and wherever else needed.
After milking by hand, the cans were put in the water tank to cool until the milkman arrived to take it to the creamery. That monthly milk check was our main source of income, supplemented by occasional sale of bull calves, pigs, chickens and eggs. Cows were let out in summer, and fed in winter, before we would go to the house for breakfast.
That same milking duty was performed again in the late afternoon.
During the summer days, the farm work was done, things like planting crops, cultivating and harvesting crops, repairing work tools, sharpening mower, cycle and knife blades. When I was small I turned the grindstone while my Dad did the tool grinding. Barbed wire fences needed periodic upkeep, mainly replacing posts. Cutting and putting hay in the barn mow and corn for silage in the pit were summer chores.
Gardening was a major summer chore as canned goods were our main winter food supply. Cutting wood, piling and sawing for kitchen and house winter warmth had to be obtained.
When it was too wet for fieldwork, my folks pointed out that garden weeds pulled easier on wet days. And they did, damn it. Lamps and lanterns had to be kept clean and filled with kerosene for night light.
Winter duties on the farm were manure spreading on the fields as fertilizer and other animal care consideration. Repair or reconstruction of ropes, chains, pulleys, harnesses, halters, etc.
Rural grade school was about three-quarters of a mile walk. School bus for high school came within one-quarter mile of our place. Those school days were vacation days, but the morning and evening milking chores and animal care were a 365-day a year obligation.