The Old Farmer's Daughter has little tidbits of useful knowledge from the old days worked into stories of life on the farm, Growing up on a family farm, farming and housekeeping in the 1950s, Barns farms and the farmhouse, try to post new story every Monday....
And the Old Farmer loved her so he promised to go to church with her and raise the children as catholics too.
The Old Farmer and his wife were active community members
and both belonged to the church societies. The men of the church belonged to the Holy Name Society. And the women had the Rosary Altar Society.
The men did the barbecuing at the yearly church dinner. And helped run the lawn fete. This involved building booths and running the games, there were darts and balloons, with one small balloon in the middle for a bigger prize. And the venerable ping pong ball in the goldfish bowls. Pounding in a nail with hammer, can you do it in one blow!?
The women cooked and served family style at the church dinner. They had a rotation for cleaning the church and bringing flowers in.
My funny memory of the ladies was the teas at our house. One older lady was something of a diviner.
I may have mentioned the Old Farmer's Wife had a teacup collection and when she held the tea was proud to use these. (No? well we will get to it!~)
She went out to buy loose leaf tea special. And the diviner would read the tea leaves. This always struck me as incongruous. But it was "just for fun".
The Old Farm was truely an old farm. It appeared to be a prosperous farm in the 1800s. The house was expanded in Victorian times from
its original farmhouse.
There were old orchards; pear and apple. A quince tree, vineyard, and black raspberries gone wild. Walnut trees and a patch of elderberry bushes.
Elderberries (Sambucus) were/are used medicinally by many.
The berries are black or very dark blue and have a sharp, sweet flavor
that makes them highly preferred for desserts, syrups, jams, jellies.
They are full of minerals, antioxidands, and vitamins.
For many years an old couple would come by in the right season
and ask to pick some berries. Of course permission was given. That was the way in the country.
A couple months later a bottle of elderberry wine would appear!
ELDERBERRY JELLY (From Kraft Foods page)
3-4 lbs ripe elderberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 packet sure jell
4 1/2 cups gran sugar
1/4 tsp butter
berries in a large pot and crush with a potato masher to release
of the juices. Turn the heat to medium and continue to crush
mixture heats up to a boil. Once the berries and their juices reach a boil,
reduce the heat to
low and let the berries simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Slowly transfer the mashed berries and juice over the sieve (or 4 layers cheesecloth)
to strain the juice into the pot. Let strain for an hour.
You will need 3 cups of juice to make one batch of jelly if using MCP pectin,
3 3/4 cups of juice if using SureJell pectin
Place 3 cups (or 3 3/4 cups depending on your brand of pectin) of juice
into a large,
high sided, wide pot (8-quart). Add the lemon juice and
Bring to a boil on high heat.
Add sugar and butter. Stir with a wooden
Bring to a boil again. Watch the pot as the mixture will foam up
You may need to lower the heat a bit to keep the foam from
boiling over the pot. Add sugar and butter. Stir with a wooden
Bring to a boil again. Watch the pot as the mixture will foam up
considerably. You may need to lower the heat a bit to keep the foam from
boiling over the pot. Boil exactly 1 minute, ladle into jars and seal in a hot water bath, 5 minutes.
The spiders are weaving the webs around the front door.
I think the season calls for leaving the webs through the end of the month.
Why you ask? Its soon to be All Hallows Eve!
My mind wanders back to Halloween on the farm.
We always carved the pumpkins and roasted the seeds.
The Old Farmer would get the pumpkins started by cutting out a round lid with a notch to fit it in place. And carefully
held the knife on an angle inwards so the lid was beveled to fit and would not fall in!
The pumpkins went out at sunset with a candle inside. Then there was the year The Old Farmer made a pumpkin man to sit in a chair out by the road. He stuffed an old pair of overalls with straw and put him in an old pair of boots. And he had a spooky pumpkin head.
Something dark and scary happened overnight and in the morning his parts were scattered to all corners.
Are the leaves blowing in the wind?
Is there a chill in the air?
On the Old Farm there was a front woods
and a back woods.
There were beech trees and ash trees and oaks and maples.
There was a chestnut tree. And english walnuts.
The Old Farmer's children as children all over the world
would collect the prettiest fall leaves they could find.
Beech leaves were yellow.
Maples were red and golden.
We would bring our samples home and the Old Farmer's Wife
would iron them between sheets of wax paper to preserve them.
Then off to school for show and tell.
And oh the bounty of walnuts.
We would collect a basket full and spend
an evening in front of tv cracking shells and separating
the nuts into a bowl.
These would make wonderful coffee cakes in the coming months.
This recipe is an easy quick coffee cake we learned in 4-H.
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortning
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
Grease bottom of 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan.
Sift and measure flour. sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
And shortening and cut in with pastry blender or fork.
Add beaten egg and milk. Spread in greased pan.
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over cake mixture.
You want it on chunky so it sinks and and forms pockets of deliciousness.
If spread evenly and thin it will not work.
Bake at 350' for 30-35 minutes, serve hot!
The printing trade was learned through a series of steps. You started as an apprentice, running and toting for
the master printer. When you had learned all the ins and outs
of the materials and how they were used you moved up to Journeyman. Then maybe you assisted in loading the ink and paper rolls. learning to run the presses.
There was a lot more to this than you might think. You had to get the ink flowing evenly. To do it right you ran a test page checked it and adjusted as necessary. If you just ran it and waited for it to get flowing as it went you may have wasted a lot of ink and paper in the process.
And learning to use colors! The Old Farmer was a Master Printer.
Well the point of this story from the Old Farmer's Daughter's point of view was how he always made time to play a game
with me before heading off to shift work in the afternoon, or when getting home after a night shift before going to bed for the day.
It was often chinese checkers. Or cards. We played war where when two cards you each put down matched...
the first person to shout war could confiscate all the cards down on the table. The first person to run out of cards lost.
And our personal family game, Jud. Named with a shortened family members name. This was an abbreviated game of rummy with just 4 cards instead of 7 and you made your sets of 3 or runs.
I hope all children can have these fun memories of their fathers. They seem like little things but are big to the children.
Summer is winding down. We are starting to watch for the geese to be flying south for the winter. We check the Wooly Bear Caterpillars to see how large the band is, are they more brown or more black, will this tell
us how bad winter will be?
What other signs did we look for on the farm? Most seem to foretell rainy weather.
The Old Farmer's Wife liked this one... Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
Then does it follow that rain before 7 clear by 11.
Or a ring around the moon means rain soon.
One time The Old Farmer killed a large snake in the yard. He threw it over the fence saying it would bring rain. I don't remember if it worked ?
He also taught us that if the cows lay down in the field rain was on the way. And if the tree leaves flip over on a particular tree in the back yard, I think it was a basswood. so that the light undersides were showing rain is soon to come.
Or if all the insects and birds go silent, something is up. A storm on the way or a predator may be in the area. (of course you might be the predator in question!) If you stay still awhile and they start up again you were the problem. But if they stay silent something is amiss. Now crows will sound an alarm if there is danger. Crows are very smart.
The Old Farmer's house was a big old farmhouse. The original part where the kitchen was was pre civil war. A later huge addition was added in the late 1800s.
The original house was largely unrestored by the Old Farmer. This is where his son slept. He had a big old bedroom with low ceilings and low windows. There was a door in the back going into a storage area
and the ladder to the attic space. (setting the mood)
As a child this Old Farmer's Daughter often heard footsteps and creaking noises back there. When no one was home that should have been there.
The back stairs were narrow and turned at the top. There was an unfinished room at the top
with floorboards missing. And a small nook closet with no door and an old racoon coat!
Another time when taking a bath someone made noises outside the bathroom window! I think I know the culprit altho at first I was a bit concerned. That one we can chalk up to real people!
We learned to live with the noises of an old house as nothing untoward ever happened. The spirits were benign...
This Old Farmer's Daughter recalls staying over with a friend
in the back yard. Our little tent was right up against the back of the house.
In the middle of the night she woke me up and said someone was prowling around outside our tent.
We did not sleep well the rest of the night.
Of course now looking back I am thinking it was her Dad checking on us.
Another upset was caused by a big canvas tent, 8 girls, and a rainstorm! Can you guess where that is going?
The young hostess was warning us, we'll be fine, just don't touch the sides of tent or it will bleed! Well with 8 girls, air mattresses, blankets, pillows, etc it wasn't long before we were floating in an inch of water!
We all ended up trooping into the living room in the middle of the night
I remember The Old Farmer taking me out to the garden after a heavy shower. It had been dry for several days. He says "Do you think that rain helped the garden?" Of course I did, it rained hard! He reached down and flicked off the top of the soil and only the top 1/8 or less was wet, the rest dry and powdery!
The weeds are winning the garden wars and The Old Farmer works overtime hoeing in the evening and on his days off. We all do. Sometimes on a hot summer evening when working up a sweat and we were all hot and tired The Old Farmer would load us up in the old Chevy and we would head around the corner (a country corner of about 1 1/2 miles!) to the ice cream stand. We thought it was a treat for us, which it was, but also that big milkshake was a big treat for him too : )
The Old Farmer, and most of the rural folk, were active in the volunteer fire department.
Whenever the siren went off they all hopped in their cars
and headed over to the fire department
to see where to go and get the trucks on the road. Day or night.
But this story is about the summer program for children.
Mothers would drop us off in the morning.
We would find our friends and get into the toy room.
This farmers daughter and her friend would get the pogo sticks
and play on the front sidewalk.
Organized activities were braiding vinyl cord into whistle lanyards
and making plaster bowls in stone parking lot,
decorated with strategically placed stones.
Twice a week we got to go to the local swimming "lakes" or ponds to have swimming lessons and fun. We had to have a buddy for safety and periodically the leader would blow a whistle and we had to hold hands with our partner and hold them up. Hopefully there was never someone
without a partner. Happy to say this never happened in my experience.
There also was a church program for two weeks in the summer.
A long bus ride would deliver us to a centrally located church.
We got religious instruction and discussion. And mass. The older kids played ball.
The younger may have raced and played tag. And we juice and cookies.
The Old Farmer's Daughters would enjoy sneaking off to the corner store for a snack we would savor while sitting on a ledge on the front of the stone church.
Childish delight at the city park, laying on a blanket.
As we grew older the delight was in our own explosives!
Playing at home. Spinners hung from the trees. Sparklers running around the yard.
And strings of firecrackers going off. Or set under a tuna fish can to see it pop up!
And The Old Farmer's inner child would come out. M-80s were played with by the adult men in the family, the children could watch. The Old Farmer decided to see what would happen if he put one in the old metal paper box.
POW! It blew it go smithereens. The back blew out and the seam split open. Oops!
And not to be outdone by the adults the cousins spent the afternoon throwing the little firecrackers into a hollow in the tree. Several made a sucessful landing.
Later that evening smoke was seen coming from this majestic old maple tree! Hoses were brought and the water followed where the firecrackers had been. In the hollow and down the inside of the tree. The tree survived this trauma and to my best guess is still living today.