Monday, May 22, 2017

The Old Road is Widened

The time came when the old crumbly one lane road was to be widened.
To a two lane road with no lines, but wide shoulders and ditches. 
This was BIG.

I think I mentioned in a previous blog how the pond came to be.
The state road people needed some fill for the new road
and asked The Old Farmer for it. Win Win!

Along the road in front of the orchard was a row
of old rough looking pines. They were taken out.
The Old Farmer's children went exploring along the destruction
and found a nest of baby owls had been upset from a hollow tree.

We were sorry for them.
But it was farm life, in those days nature fended for itself.
I was a young toddler so did not have the say to try and rescue them. 
Perhaps the mother herded them to a safe place....
That is the end of that sad story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Advertising

 Old advertising was always entertainment when on a road trip.
The best were the Burma Shave signs. They came in a series of five or six
little signs, five or six little blurbs that told a story. 

 On the drive to visit family in neighboring town there was a row of these signs.
Everytime we drove by them The Old Farmer says look at these signs,
what do they say!~ And we would try to read them everytime.
Here is a selection of ones I found funny.

We Don't
  know how
to Split an Atom
But as to whiskers
let us atem
Burma Shave

The Wolf
is shaved
So neat and trim
Red Riding
is chasing him!
Burma Shave


If Harmony
is what
you crave
 get a tuba
burma shave

in the town
we hold them up
you mow them down
Burma Shave

 Said Farmer Brown
who's bald
on top
I wish I could
rotate the crop
Burma Shave

Monday, May 8, 2017

Raising Pheasants

Spring projects are in the air.
The Old Farmer's children were all active in 4-H.
One spring project, in conjunction with the game department, 
was raising pheasant chicks to replenish the fields for fall hunters. 
Hunting was and still is a big part of farm/country life.


There was an old building 
on the farm,
 about 10x10 feet square.
It had been a smokehouse back 
in the days they would
preserve meat for the family. 
Smoke would be channeled
into the building from 
an outside source 
and infuse the fresh ham 
and bacon with smoky flavor 
and preserve them. 

 The inside of this building was remembered as being quite black and sooty.
The Old Farmer and wife tried several uses for it over the years.
It was thought it would be a good playhouse for the Old Farmer's children.
This did not work to well as they (the children) came out sooty :  ) 
At one time rabbits were kept in it. 
When the pheasant project came along The Old Farmer moved
the building away from the yard, built a fenced area behind, and 
the interior was whitewashed. 

The big day finally arrived and a box with 30-50 baby chicks arrived, days old.
At that age they were kept in a small enclosed circle with a heat lamp above. 
As they grew the area was enlarged until they were old enough to go outside. 
As they neared 6 weeks of age plans were made to release them into the wild. 

This involved catching them, putting them into a portable chicken coop, 
and driving out into a field to release. This was usually supervised by a game warden.
One year it was thought we could release them at the pen area which backed up
to an old orchard that was quite overgrown. Unfortunately they stayed close
"to home" and many met unfortunate ends at the hands of local cats and dogs. 
This release method was not repeated.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Time on the Farm

Spring is the time of new growth and new life.

Springtime on the farm - that usually looks like a new vegetable garden, 
uncovering the perennial flower gardens, and litters of puppies and kittens, 
mostly kittens!  With one ‘official’ house cat (an outdoor cat with indoor privileges) 
and many barn cats, kittens were guaranteed.  

(An unintended double exposure that turned out well, the cat with
house privileges is in the middle)

Always the kitten litters were lovingly placed into an old cardboard box 
padded with clean rags.  Then the mothers could jump in 
 and out with the kittens safe in the box. 
 And sometimes there was sharing as the mother and kittens 
and an adoptive mother were all in one box! 
 Occasionally the barn cats found a spot so deeply buried 
in the stacked straw bales they we didn't see the kittens 
until they were old enough to be running around.  

 There was one time when the ‘official’ house cat came up to the door 
 from being outside, wanting to come in the house carrying a mouse in her mouth.  
Of course that was not allowed.  As the cat became more insistent and frantic, 
we could see it was not a mouse but a newborn kitten!  
So immediately a box was prepared and the kitten put in.  
Then the mother led us to the rest of the litter in a dark corner in the basement 
of one of the barns.  She couldn't rest until all her kittens were safely ensconced
 in the box in the house.  Then she was happy.

By Guest Blogger today, with thanks to the other Old Farmer's Daughter

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Land

Western New York was a wilderness by white man terms post revolutionary war.
After the war families started moving west. 
Which route west did they take?
Would they take the Great Western Turnpike,
which ran from Albany to Ithaca and Bath?
Or was it the Hudson-Mohawk
and Seneca Turnpikes to Canadaigua, then to Buffalo?
Whichever route the family had to take, it was  through a forested wilderness.

The Old Farmer's land had old wells and dumps
and old barbed wire grown into trees of the back woods.
I remember being told to be careful where there was
an old well with rotten wood beams covering it.
Remnants of a stone wall ran through the woods.
At the backside of the woods was a dump site.
I went rumaging around there one time and found this treasure! 
A cherry tree flask in good condition is quite valuable and a good find.
Unfortunately this one was half a cherry tree flask,
but a half that left the face design largely intact.
really pretty amazing to think of it laying out in the woods like that.

In the front corner of the north forty,
overgrown in the brush edging the field was a huge old log
roller that appeared designed to be dragged by horses?
It may have been two feet in diameter and well on its
way to rotting away. I wonder what its function was?   

In the spring there were beautiful waves of Great Trilliums.
Most were snowy white, every now and then there was a red one. 
We would gather armfuls to take home to The Old Farmer's Wife.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Family Character

I remember Aunt Garnet...
I was very young. 

Aunt Garnet was known as a character.
I wish I had been older and knew her better.
One day an old MG Midget drove into the driveway
and out climbs a older woman of good girth.
And her adult mid aged son. 

There was no announcement of their impending visit.
They drove from Pontiac Michigan on the spur of the minute.
I guess the son told her to hop in the car, they were going for a drive.
I guess he was a character too. 
Going through Canada it was about about a 5 hour drive.
Aunt Garnet had no luggage, no extra clothes, no under garments extra!
The Old Farmer's Wife drove into town with me to buy a few necessities for her.
I had never seen undies like those before!

And one day they were just gone again...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Is Just Around The Corner

Well, maybe spring is here and after last weeks post
about planting by the signs it seems a good time to
segue into how The Old Farmer planted his garden.

The old garden had been plowed under in the fall.
So come the spring it is plowed again to loosen up the soil,
disced the break it up and dragged to get out grass.

You had to wait until it wasn't too wet for these processes
or the soil would just clump and get hard.
You would take a handful of soil and squeeze it, if too wet
it formed a tight clump. if just right it was damp but broke up.
Dragging to get out the grass would help minimize how much would grow
competing with your garden (and having to hoe hoe hoe)

 The garden was laid out in neat rows using a long line.
The Old Farmer would hoe a trench along the line,
We would follow setting the seeds or plants
and he would follow and fill it back in.
He starting the rows with the shortest plants and going
to the tallest, which would be at the north end of the garden.
This was the corn so it would not shade whatever was next to it
and so on.

I think this fellow played in the plantain too long. He is all tuckered out!   

Monday, April 3, 2017

Planting by the Signs

I am another farm blog today as I enjoyed it so much!
I can hear her shaky voice like it was yesterday,
 “You need to get your taters in the ground tomorrow, ’cause the signs is right’.”

The last “Granny Woman” of our family, my ‘Mamaw’ served 
as a wealth of knowledge for most everything we encountered 
in our West Virginia community, and in the springtime, folks from all over the holler 
would seek her advice regarding when to plant their gardens.  
She was a firm believer in “planting by the signs”.

Described as devilish by some and extolled by others; 
I never truly understood what any of it meant until long after she was gone,
 but as I age, I find myself becoming more and more fascinated 
by the complex astrological system she relied upon for the better part of a century.

Today, most everyone who plants a garden does so as a mere hobby 
or at the very most in an effort to supplement their grocery store purchases; 
however, 150 years ago, a successful garden was often the difference 
between surviving the winter and starving to death.

As a result, the folks “back in the day” took a far more serious approach to planting 
and the moon’s phases helped to serve as a guide to improve 
their chances of a successful garden.
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide 
the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, 
and for days, and years… 
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, 
and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” — Genesis 1.14, 16

In its simplest of forms, “planting by the signs” means that you plant crops 
that will produce their fruits above the ground during the waxing moon 
(the time between a new moon and a full moon — when the moon is getting bigger), 
while plants that produce their crop below the ground must be planted during 
a waning moon (the time between a full moon and a new moon — when the moon is shrinking).

Lori Elliott, writes, “Many old-time farmers also planted and harvested 
by the astrological signs. Barren signs, such as Aquarius, Gemini, and Leo, 
would have been considered ideal times for plowing and cultivating the soil, 
while fertile signs such as Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces would have been considered 
the best times for planting seeds.”

Old timers lived by these signs for centuries, but the one question remains: 
is there any science to back up their traditions?  And that’s the million dollar question!

25 years ago, the New York Times set out to determine if planting by the full moon 
was a bright idea or lunacy; unfortunately, they were not able to reach any definitive conclusion.

Scientists at NASA stated that planting by the moon was pure “mythology” 
and nothing more; however, Dr. Mac Cathey Ph.D. in plant physiology, 
told the Times that his grandmother gardened by the signs in North Carolina. 
“And she was a tremendous gardener… 
But all our high-germinating seeds and pesticides have damped out our ability
 to read the signs…  It’s like music. We can’t sight-read anymore.”

Regardless of whether you’re a believer or not, chances are the folks
in your family tree religiously planted by the signs only a few generations ago.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Taxes and the Farm Gas Pump

I remember The Old Farmer requisitioning the dining room table 
for several days each tax season.
Working a trade and being a farmer was no doubt complicated, 
what with the government paying you not to grow wheat and figuring the acres 
and yield and costs involved and the gas for the tractor...

Gas, now that was interesting...there was an old gravity fed tank 
at the back of the driveway circle. You would crank it up 'til it stopped 
and then reverse the direction and let it flow down, each cycle was one gallon of gas. 
The Old  Farmer kept a log of how much gas he pumped every time 
in a Half & Half tobacco tin kept under the tank.
 Of course I didn't know it then, but I suppose that had something to do with taxes.

Evenings when figuring taxes were frustrating The Old Farmer
 and there were occassional exclaimations, we were warned to play quietly 
and especially not to bother "anyone" with questions. LoL. 

I guess some things never change!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Old Farmer's Wife has a Green Thumb

The Old Farmer's Wife had a green thumb.

 While The Old Farmer grew the vegetables and she canned them,
her real domain was the flower garden.
And in keeping with the season today I look at the indoor plants. 
African violets were in a room with westward facing window
and they thrived. Watered from the bottom when the top
felt dry to fingertip...

In the bay window was a large old snake plant,
impolitely mother in law's tongue
or ie sansevieria trifasciata.
These do not bloom often, I remember her's blooming.

  And the Christmas cactus, 
still living many years later.
Here it serves as a nice backdrop 
for this hat advertisement.
The trick to making these bloom
is 12 hours of daylight
and 12 hours of dark in the months
before Christmas.
And there is a peek at the
mother in law's tongue in
the background too!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Old Road

When The Old Farmer moved his family to the farm
it was a crumbling one lane road. 

In the summer us kids roved up and down the road.
There may have been only about 10 houses in 2 miles.
Most to the south end, going up towards the old schoolhouse.
We'd visit the neighborhood kids and play at each others houses.
A favorite place to play was the corrugated steel culvert at the creek.

This was big enough to play in, splashing and slipping
and catching minnows.

Of course there were the tar bubbles
to pop on the chip and seal road
in the hot summer time.
I am sure The Old Farmer's Wife
liked us tracking that in on our shoes :  )

I think that statute of limitations is safely past 
to retell this story...The big hill at the top of the
road came down the escarpment, a land
feature Niagara Falls goes over. 
For me it was famous for The Old Farmer
putting me on his lap to pretend to drive
when coming down the hill to see how far
we could coast! We usually could make it
 past the culvert to the dip in the road where
we could not get up the other side~

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Swamp in Winter

While the swamp was spooky in the summertime,
In the winter it creaked and groaned as the frozen
trees blew gently in the cold breeze.

We would try to quietly tramp through the crusty snow
breaking through sometimes, good boots were a plus.
We would find tracks of aquatic mammals like muskrat.
An occasional deer track passed through, maybe it was
that big buck the hunters had reported. 
There was the elusive ermine, In the prized winter coat of a weasel.

If you stood quietly the squirrels would start to chatter
and run up and down the trees, occassionally leaping from one to another. 
Birds...there were kingfishers and crows. 
Hawks, woodpeckers, and starlings. 

Life was bountiful if you knew where to look,
even in the depth of winter.

Monday, February 27, 2017

old farmers memories 3

Shall  we revisit The Old Farmer's memories of the old days?  

A story from his childhood.
People did not have a lot of treats in past generations.
Even when I was a child candy was not an everyday thing.
Potato chips were once a week...

One day in town The Old Farmer and his brothers
saw a box of candy fall off a delivery truck!
What a bounty! They scooped it up and hid it away
to allow themselves one piece a day, making it last
as long as possible. I think that was about as criminal
an act most would commit in those time too. It was very daring.
I think he even blushed in his later years at the memory.

While zippers were invented in the late vicotrian years
and introduced at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893
they were not in common use. 

 The Old Farmer remembered his first pair of pants with a zipper
when he was a young man preparing to go out on a double date in the early 1930s.
This was a big event. Unfortunately after excusing himself
to go to the bathroom the zipper became stuck at the bottom!
He and his friend spent some panic'ed time in the bathroom
trying to get it unstuck! 

Such are our memories. Fun and daring and embarrassing...

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ice Storm

I remember the great ice storm...  

  Freezing rain came down and built up an inch on trees and power lines. 
No one was going anyplace. The power went out. For three days. 
That was unheard of in those days. Three days! 
Perhaps because there was less population? Things were fixed faster than they are now. Now a storm on that scale you could be out of electricity for 1-3 weeks.

 An electric wire came down by the corner of our woods on the road. 
It was early evening and the wire danced and bounced firey in the dark of night
 against the mirror of ice.

After a couple days we wanted a warm meal and The Old Farmer fired up the grill 
in the basement under an open basement window. He warmed a pot of soup.
And grilled some pork chops. So good!

The house did not freeze with the gravity fed hot water radiators
and the coal fired furnace. Many people took advantage of the offer
of a warm place at the town community center.

And so we survived!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Spring Tonic and Haircuts

Every spring The Old Farmer's Wife 
gave The Old Farmer's Daughters
THE hair cut.

This was not anticipated with glee.
Which made it something of an ordeal.
Then to further torment us the Toni home permanent

became popular.
So we got short curly hair! 

After an hour

and a half of sitting

 getting end papers

and curlers put in,

 saturated with perm,

 timed, rinsed, and conditioned.


Then came the 60s 

and we wanted our hair 

 to be straight.

Big curlers or ironing 

were the solution.

Yes, we laid our heads on the ironing board and ironed away!   Or we used orange juice cans, or with really long hair even a coffee can! as a roller! 


I still have not recovered from the humiliation of
The Old Farmer's laughter and attempt

 to get a picture of me.

 Another old way was dosing with cod liver oil.
It was good for everything! (Probably hair too)
Then Dr. Spock came along and said vacinations were better, toss the cod liver oil. 
Now Cod Liver Oil is back. Full of vitamins,
good for the heart, etc. So the old ways are redeemed.
Then it was in a spoon and tasted yechtttt, now we have capsules.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Winter games

Does anyone play in the snow?
Does anyone make snow forts?
Do you build a snowman
or make snow angels? 

One of our favorite snow games was Fox and Goose.
One fox, as many geese as were players.
We would tramp a big circe in the snow
with a cross of paths through the middle, if big enough
we might get a little crazy and  concentric circles! 

The middle was the safe place, the fox chased until he caught a goose.
Then that person had to be the fox! 
Kept your blood circulating and warm. 

There was a big hill between barns #2 and #3.
One year the Old Farmer and his son decided to ice it
to see if we could sled farther and faster! 
I was a bumpy ride but I do believe we doubled our distance.

Monday, January 23, 2017

To Grandma's House We Go

This was a biweekly excursion on Sundays.
This was not generally a fun excursion for the little ones.
Grandma's house was not to be played in. 
We could not talk loud or out of place.
When we arrived we walked around the yard and flowers
and peach trees and rock garden.
Oh and the crab apple tree. A Bleeding Heart Flower
was on the tour when in bloom!

When in the house entertainment consisted of watching the
mantle clock tick waiting for it to chime. Sitting on the large curved
armed sofa with the deep tuffs, and a real treat was when
The Old Farmer's step mother came in and turned on the
motion lamp for us. We would sit and stare at it for several minutes.
It was a forest fire in action! 

Sunday dinner was lamb with mint sauce.  

But these are not bad memories, but a part of life,
a part of growing and learning to behave as an adult.
She was not a bad grandma, we would get a big old molassas cookie
when we went in the house, it came out of the fridge and was cold and moist and soft.
Eventually that great overstuffed sofa came to live with us.
I never seem to cook lamb, I am sure I could not do it as well as grandma.