Monday, February 14, 2011

FarmLifeBegins in 1940

The farm had tenants living in the house, Lester Erckfritz and his wife, Bertha, and red-haired toddler Ginger. His brother, Frank,  with wife Cora, daughters, Bertie and Eleanor later moved in, too. And next a cousin, Artie, also lived in the house. Dad had divided the house for we would be driving out from Chicago on weekends. Our weekend visits were much like camping out. 
Eleanor, Bertie, MK, Elayne

Little 7 yr. old Eleanor was a pest most of the time. She had

nothing to do but hang around us, follow us, and we didn't 

know how to shake her presence. Bertie, our age,  was a 

companion to talk with and share. Artie was our age, too.

We kept warm with a brown, metal, oil heater with black pipes through the ceiling. We used a hot plate to prepare our meals. There were no electric outlets along the walls. Cora loved to bake so we frequently bought yummy desserts from her. We ate lots of Irish stew cooked in a Wearever aluminum pot on the electric hot-plate. I cannot conceive how these 2 families could live in so small a space-- but they did. Times were hard for them. Never heard loud arguing. Again these were survival days for many folk. 
Dry Sink with Pump

The families had the house kitchen, without running water but did have a dry sink with a cistern pump on the right side of it. I think this pumped rain water. We had pails to collect any liquids waste including  dish water. We called these slop pails and when full we carried the heavy pail about the distance of a short block to the hog pen and dumped it into their food troughs. Oink, oink, oink, grunt, grunt, grunt. They loved this stuff. There was a board path to the outhouse which all of us shared. I think the men frequently relieved themselves around the place. Yuk! 
Windmill beside Milk House

There was a windmill pumping water for household and stock. We would throw a lever found at one of the legs to control the wind. Days of little wind the men had a small gas engine turned on to do the pumping. The windmill was close by the house and  the small  Milk House was beside it which contained the large cement tank holding the cold water pumped by the windmill to cool quickly the milk cans filled with milk from the morning or evening milkings and awaiting pickup by a milk truck transport to the Borden milk plant in town.

I cannot recall whether these men hand milked the cows in the barn. I am not remembering milking machines.  
Early picture of the house w/o Bridal Wreath Bushes
Corner of horse barn in right rear view
Our father purchased 2 huge, dapple gray Belgian horses. They were kept side by side in their stalls in this large, gray horse barn. There was a hay manger front of each where we were to keep their hay. We also had to feed them oats from a bag we’d hang over their noses. You may have heard grandfather say he didn’t want animals around unless they were useful. We did put this pair to work, literally workhorses.

Our team was grey. The harnesses are correct

They had large and heavy harnesses which had to be slung over their mighty bodies, and don large collars. Today I wouldn’t have a clue how to put them on. Elayne and I did harness them up. After harnessing we would lead them from the barn and hitch them up to this horse drawn cultivator to work the garden soil. Several times a hoof would step upon my foot so I became very leery how to lead one. Wow, this could hurt! I cannot recall their names. What sticks in my memory is their huge size, their dapple gray coloring, thick hairy manes and tails.  I wonder now if dad didn’t get rid of them because they were so large and posed a danger for his children.  Anyway, we would do our cultivating chore, return them to the horse barn, unharness them, give them an oats reward. Where was the water? I do not recall. There was a cow tank across the yard near the cow yard. Jim writes:

 "The horses names were Teddy & Betty, a mother & son combo, who really didn't get enough workout, and hence were quite unruly. Pat Seaman eventually took them as he had lots more work for them on a daily basis - just what they needed to calm them."
My father used the team a great deal. He had this horse drawn shovel or scoop to which he often hitched them. With their help he changed the entire landscape of that yard, from the house to the barn. He’d dig and scoop, dig and scoop, for months until he had a beautifully landscaped yard. In our high school years there were times after a heavy rain, as I slept with my head into the window by my bed I ‘d become aware of strange sounds, heavy breathing, munching, coughs, footsteps and I‘d awaken realizing some cattle had broken through fencing. I’d proudly rouse the household. This was a very sensuous thing for me. The soil dad worked had not yet compacted. I’d drive the cattle out of the yard and onto the road having to take my steps, up and down and knee deep in slushy muddy yard. Was no fun the next day when we had to mend fence, wire stretchers and all that.  Eventually, we tore down the horse barn. We planted trees all about the property. Years later Dad would plant evergreens which grew to a forest and were broken into lovely homesites when the property was sold in the 70s. 
I am wearing the skirt I made in Home Ec Class
The long row of Bridal Wreath, one of our first upgrading tasks, was so beautiful each Spring. They grew shoulder high. We purchased another big bunch of them to plant along an expanse on the south of the yard at right angle to the gravel road out front.  I stretched out a guideline and proceeded to dig my holes and plant the shrubs. When dad came home, recall he was a gentleman farmer and daily took the train to Chicago, he was indeed surprised. The small shrubs were in a straight line all right, but they were lined up probably in a 110 degree angle from the road. We had to remove each and every one and correct to a right angle.  I thought I’d been especially helpful. This was an early learn a lesson time. Elayne could have been out there with me. I don't think so. She was usually the ‘boss’. I think the energy came from my own idea to do it myself.
Mask, work gloves, and hair in kerchief

The house originally had a front porch attached. Could be it was sagging. Daddy didn’t like it and we tore it off. Next project was to remove the leaded paint from the house siding with wire brushes. We wore masks so not to inhale harmful lead. When the wood was wire brushed we next painted with linseed oil and finally with white house paint. Behind the rock foundation beneath where the porch had stood we filled in with gravelly soil and atop that with flagstone. These years many houses were painted white and frequently had green shutters. We never added shutters. The barn would be painted white.

After we moved to Hebron permanently dad had a chicken business to take care of. Dad would take a crate/s of candled eggs into his workplace. He would sell the fresh eggs to an appreciative city folk clientele. Must have been enough profit to be worthwhile. We had our own recipes which would differ depending on which birds were being fed, pullets, hens, roosters, chicks. We mixed our own mash in our cement mixer, ground oats, wheat, barley, meat scraps, egg shells, etc. They loved it with a little water added to make it chunky. I must get the quantity right for immediate use though. If too large a quantity of water the grains could mold and sometimes did. .

Often we were challenged to put the chicken heads to the block and chop off a head. Did you ever succeed, Elayne? I never, ever could. They were pets to me.

Mother had her Easy washing machine and her electric mangle it is true. I want to share how laborious Monday washdays were. I explained this house had a cellar. Out of it came each weeks washed clothing. 
Copper Wash Tub

We had a large copper boiler to fill with pails of water from the pump and then heat up. Mother would let us know when she needed to refill the boiler. This water would be transferred to her Easy, along with soap powders and we would then wash whites. We would move whites to the centrifugal basket to spin out the water back into the wash tub to be reused for coloreds. Now one could run faucet water into the centrifugal basket for the rinse but in our beginning there was no faucet. We needed more pails of water. Cold rinse. 
Umbrella lines by Chicken Coop

Once the whites were taken care of we would toss them into a lined bushel basket and carry it up the cement cellar steps, throw open the doors above our heads, out to the clothes line and hang to dry. We would use the same water to wash the coloreds and follow a similar procedure, next on to the darks, overalls, work socks, etc. We would be constantly working at the machine. One can surely understand one of the early projects dad engaged in was digging out more cellar to include a cement floored basement. Some days the clothes froze on the line. Some rainy days we fussed with the laundry all day long and then some. Hung out laundry rewarded us with the delightful fresh air aroma.

Eventually, we had a laundry space with wash tubs and faucets with running water and adjacent to this the underground garage area to park our car. That original cellar door was removed, gone.  Then we would enter and exit with the wash basket through the garage door opening. We used that Easy Machine for years. Dad grew weary of fixing things, maintenance. Mother never had an automatic washer and dryer. By the time these were in most every home we kids were raised and gone. They took their  laundry weekly to a laundromat in Richmond. 
Later Enter/Exit Basement Through Garage

The rear of the house probably didn’t look like this until 1945 and even later. Double garage basement door swings open on hinges . Overhead is a concrete floored rear porch which leads on the right to rear and side yard and on left leads to farm buildings. The kitchen door is shown. Window on right is the dining room window. Side of dining room beneath where the tree casts a shadow is where the old cellar door and cement stairway once was. 

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