Monday, November 20, 2017

What is a first cousin....

There were many discussions over the years 
Especially at Thanksgiving dinner,
about extended families and who was who. 
Especially Cousins. Can you imagine such a mundane
subject becoming intense! It can!
Who was a cousin, what was a cousin once removed? 
Who was a first cousin, who was a second cousin..
Oh good grief, now I am getting confused all over again! 
There were many opinions.  

I'll try to sort this out a bit,
First cousins, the children of siblings to each other.
Second cousin, the children of first cousins to each other. 
Cousin once removed. Once removed refers to generations,
So your once removed cousin is the child of your first cousin. 

Now The Old Farmer's Daughter is going on vacation! 
Let's celebrate our farmers who make this possible. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Church Life

The Old Farmer's Wife was a good catholic. 
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".

Monday, November 6, 2017

Elderberry Wine

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! 

(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

Place berries in a large pot and crush with a potato masher to release 
some of the juices. Turn the heat to medium and continue to crush
 as the 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 pectin. 
Bring to a boil on high heat. 

Add sugar and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon. 
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.
Add  sugar and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon. 

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.  

Monday, October 23, 2017

All Hallow's Eve Memories

I look out the window and see the leaves falling
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. 
Halloween did not disappoint.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fall Leaves and Walnuts

Does it feel like fall yet? 
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!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Getting the Old Farmhouse in Shape for the Winter

The Old Farmhouse needed a bit of work from time to time.
Painting those fancy corbels was tricky! 
( The ornate decorative brackets under the eaves. )

One Old Farmer's Daughter remembers
 being on the roof where they overlapped
with the Old Farmer 
  reaching to paint them.
Of course in places you could put a ladder
on a porch roof, which made it much easier. 

A blessing was the Old Farmhouse 
having permanently colored shingles.
They were cement asbestos, 
very rigid and stonelike.

Every fall the screens were taken off 
the old windows and storm windows 
put in their place. 
And vice versa in the spring. 
No triple tracks back then.
And think about all the storage space
this took in the off season too! 
 The Old Farmer's children's job was to wash them prior to installing for the season.

This one picture shows the corbels and the siding
and some of the many windows needing to be changed spring and fall.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Shift Work and Children's Games

The Old Farmer had another job. 
He was a printer by trade. 
But his heart was in farming. 

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.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Old Farmhouse Needed a Lot of Work

 As mentioned in my previous entry
the old plaster was coming loose from the lathe. 
If anyone was too rambunctious upstairs a new crack
might form on the ceiling downstairs! 
An interesting aside about old plaster, the coarse base layer
was full of horsehair, which made it strong and then the
skim coat was thin and smooth, sticking well to the coarse base. 

The Old Farmer spent many years as time and money allowed
knocking off the loose plaster and putting up drywall.
 The Old Farmer's Wife was usually in charge of choosing
a suitable wallpaper to finish the project.
She was conservative and classic in her choices
so not to offend anyone's sensibilities.

There were places with old wallpaper and sound plaster. 
Removing old wallpaper was quite the project. Not the easy
damp and strip of the new glues. This stuff was on there!
and in many layers! You had to rent a steamer. It had a big flat head
That fed the steam to the surface, then followed scrapping, 
there were places with 10 layers of old paper! 
It was a hot messy job.

The fascinating thing was when old dates
were found penciled on the wall under the paper. 
I remember in the front hall a place
marked with the paperer's name and date of the project.
My memory recalls 1896, altho there is some disagreement
about that!

Monday, September 18, 2017

How We Got a Farm

I heard a story.
The Old Farmer got a deal on the farmhouse.
He had a growing family. The proposed house was in disrepair. 
An old gentleman lived there. He had an old horse. 

An arrangement was made that the old gent
would continue to live upstairs
and the Old Farmer and his family would live
in the downstairs and renovate as time allowed.
He had his farm! 


It was a grand old farmhouse, 
made for entertaining.
With double doors between rooms
that could be opened to make a large space. 
The whole ground floor could be opened 
but for the back room,
which had the huge wood cookstove
 and washtubs 
and a swinging door.

The plaster was coming loose from 
the lathe in several places.
A couple times a large section fell
 and it was luck for no one to be
 under when it happened.
 The Old Farmer's wife,
expecting a child was under one 
such fall, and had moved aside just 
before catastrophe might have struck. 
Over the years new drywall was 
put up and walls were papered. 

The Old Farmer's Wife made her personal project
stripping the paint off the main staircase railing and posts.
It was a beautiful thing of black walnut when done. 
That project took several months.
I can still see her sitting there step after step, 
moving upward as she worked on each piece.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Woolly Caterpillars and other Signs

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.

Monday, September 4, 2017


It is Labor Day in America.
A day set aside to recognize the American Worker.
Traditionally a day off from work. 
A picnic day....

Here the average american goes about his day
interacting peacefully with coworkers, shopkeepers and neighbors.
Despite what the news would have you believe. 
These are the American People. 

Thank-you for reading my blog!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Unexpected company

Company was a part of life at The Old Farm
Neighbors might stop by to say hi. 
Strangers sometimes stopped to ask if they could
pick the daffodils that grew wild across the road. 
And sometimes relatives arrived unannounced.

Communication was not what it is now. 
Yes the Old Farmer had a phone.
But "long distance" cost $$$. 
And people used long distance pretty much only for emergencies. 
So you might get a postcard in the mail
that says we'll be there tomorrow for the weekend.
Or you might not, the cousins might just show up! 

Company was always welcomed with warmth.
Coffee? tea? Let us take your coats and bags....
The girls will sleep in together and you can have their room. 

And once in a while one of us girls would get invited
to go back from whence they came for a visit and sightseeing. 
And that would be an excuse for another visit
when The Old Farmer and the rest of the family
came to pick us up!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Family Reunion

Every August we had the big family reunion.
Most of the relatives lived within an easy drive.
It was held at the park on the lake.

This reunion wasn't a complicated affair.
Everyone knew to come that particular Sunday in August.
Everyone brought a dish to pass.
Everyone chipped in on the meats, sodas and beer.
Ice in big galvanized tubs.
The men grilled the hot dogs and hamburgers.
Drank beer and played horseshoes.
The children ran around and played tag...or jarts. 
The women sat and visited. 
Sounds kindof normal, doesn't it? 

But now families live so far from each other this is not so common.

The picnic was set up next to the big open area in the back of the park.

That field was for the big move up baseball game.
When the Old Farmer got up to bat everyone moved way way back.
He would put it the whole length of that field between the roads.
All the cousins yelled, uh oh, move back, move back, back to the road!

The town had amusement parks with nickelodeons and rides.
Some of the kids would sneak away to play before eating,
or after eating. Sometimes we forgot the time and got in trouble.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The BIG Eclipse

We are eagerly anticipating the great solar eclipse of 2017!
It is crossing the whole of mainland USA. 
Will it be clear? Will it be cloudy :  ( ?

This is a big event for children and should be a family event.
With at least one parent involved.
The children will remember it their whole lives!
I promise. 

I still rememeber a solar eclipse when I was young.
The Old Farmer and his brother were very excited
to share this event with me.

We were at Grandma's house in the garage.
The Old Farmer's brother was "smoking" glasses
to make them "safe" to view the eclipse.
Actually this technique is not recommended now! LOL
Another case of  "how did we survive the 50s" 

But the event came to pass, we all took turns looking
and it is a memory that will last forever. 

If planning to view this year 
please invest in eclipse safe glasses.
Or use a pinhole camera, quite effective. 
Put a pinhole in a
piece of paper and shine the sun 
through it onto another
smooth surface/paper. 
Adjust distance to focus.
You may want to practice
 this before the eclipse so you are ready! 

Here is a great page with time, location information.

Monday, August 7, 2017

ghosts in the house

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...

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back Yard Camping

The dog days of summer,
it is hot. The house is hot.
The windows are open
to let in that elusive breeze.

So the youngsters want to camp out! 
Of course the times that live in your memory
are the ones that ended in disaster.

  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 
waking up the household in the process.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Living is Easy.....

...or not.
It is hot hot hot! 

 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 :   )

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Recreation Programs

What to do with these kids in the summertime!
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.
We were bad   : 0

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fourth of July Doings

 How did we celebrate the Fourth of July?
Picnics and parades, family and fireworks. 

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.