Saturday, October 29, 2011

BACK ON THE FARM; part 11; By A Farm Woman Who Went Back; 1930

Meanwhile I am not idle. Cooking, washing, ironing and feeding a family of six--to say nothing of the mending--is no snap. Right now I am enjoying it.  I go around with a tiny thrill in my heart as I make my house tidy, and I never did that in town.

I am an advocate, then, that a woman's place is in the home? Yes, if she has work there that can be done better by herself than another. Duties neglected there can not be made up by good done outside. And in no place should a woman's work be more in the home than on a farm.

I mean:  If a woman does all the work for a sizable family--which includes gardening and canning--she has done enough and should not be asked to do more. There are times of need when a good farm wife will want to help out. I have worked in a hay field, driven the horse for the hay fork, and many other things when need was urgent and I had no sons to do that for me. But a farm woman should have no regular outside work. She is no more proof against weariness than other women, and all work and no play makes her as dull as it does Jack. She should have time to read and to relax. No family gains whose mother comes to the table too tired to give them mental as well as material nourishment. Many farm women try to do a man's and a woman's work, but I do believe that they can not do both, without one or the other suffering, and too often it is the home that does. Just the other day I read this: It takes such a small amount of effort for the country woman, with her wide serene vistas, her delicious fresh food, to be the healthiest, happiest woman in the world, and at the same time the least tired. So truly I believe that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BACK ON THE FARM; part 10; By A Farm Woman Who Went Back; 1930

There have been times, too, when, driving home in my horse and buggy to work and a late supper, I have envied the town woman sitting on her cool veranda, her day's work done. That feeling always disappeared, however, the moment I felt the country breeze on my face; and again recent days have taught me that most town women work in one way or another, as hard as farm women, though perhaps, they call it social life.

There is that other kind of work that town women do, I mean in Women's Clubs, P.T.A.'s and all uplift movements. I speak of them with highest respect. They do much good and those who work in them, according to their intent, gain much from them.

As for me! I prefer down right labor. I feel as though I never want to go to a bridge party again and stretch my face to a polite smile. Nor wear a dance slipper, nor shop for a fancy dress. (Yet, oh! how I revel in a new supply of house dresses!)

It is not that I do not like fun, nor people. I love an evening at cards with friends. I dote on picnics and good theatres. I love to take people riding in my car. I have always been passionately eager for friends; so much so that I go almost to any length to have them, even to changing, or trying to, my personality.

But, now, somehow, I want my friends to please me, to measure up to my requirements. I do not want to say, "Yes, I love to read poetry," when I don't, just because the person inquiring does. I want friends who can enjoy this farm with me.

Lately I read that every one should have an island--such as had Robinson Crusoe--to which she could retire occasionally. I want to make this farm that island. For a little while I want to live away from the worrying, hurrying world and to forget it. I do not even want to read the newspapers. I know that Hoover is still president, that Lindy is still having a hard life with reporters, and I'm glad that I'm just a common person.

Perhaps this deterioration. Perhaps I have lost ambition or am shunting duties. I cannot think so. Right now it seems that I am getting more from the soil than the world can give me. And who knows but that, in time--like things that grow from the soil--from my sojourn here I can give four worthy citizens to the world; and what I can give to the world is always of more importance than what I get from it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

BACK ON THE FARM; part 9; By A Farm Woman Who Went Back; 1930

Just a while ago, on my way to the garden to help with the resetting of some plants, I paused on the porch again, to look over the valley. A recent rain had intensified every color. Grey clouds, too, darkened the land with their shadows. Against the reds, the browns and the greens, the wet rocks stood out like mounds of dark velvet. Over all, broken only by song of birds or brook, was that hallowed stillness that comes after a rain, as though every inanimate object paused to breathe a prayer of gratitude for the drink. It was all so clean, so fresh! I found myself wishing I could say this beauty, as one sings a rhapsody. There came a feeling, too, in that moment on my porch, that no matter how hard one must work, could she, in raising her head from her labors see such beauty, that were enough. I felt pity for all who, pausing in their work, must gaze upon city walls.

Which brings me to the clean, cool fact that I do not believe that any one can live entirely away from soil and live fully. No story of mythology so appeals to me as that of the giant who lost his strength when held away from his mother, Earth. Only so did his enemy conquer him.

Some believe that the nearer one lives to the soil the more he degenerates. That which lies upon soil often decays, true. But the tree, whose roots go deep into the soil, the grass, does not. Nor does anything when there is an upward reach.

I, myself, never work with soil without a quickening heart beat. I seem to feel the pulse there that needs--as the air, the radio--only right forces to bring beautiful things into being. One gives into its care flower seeds and their beauty delights the eyes, their bloom fills one's home with fragrance. One plants vegetable seeds and the increase feeds his family. One gives it labor and diligence and patience and the harvest nourishes the soul.

The color of soil in New England is different from Iowa's.

"That looks like dirt," I exclaimed, as my husband mixed with the soil he was putting around the plant I held for him, a black substance he called mulching."

For Iowa soil is black and rich and beautiful. Yet the changing browns in the soil here are beautiful, too, and must be as full of good for those who put their faith and work into it.

Now don't form the opinion that I live in some kind of Utopia if your idea of Utopia is a place where there is no work to do, no problems, a place of self gratification , for this is just the opposite. On any farm there is work and trouble. (Nor do I know of any place where there is not.) I admit that the trouble with farm life is too much work and too little money.  That  condition, too, exists in town.

There has been the time when even I, loving farm life as I do, thought spring, for the farmer, signified hope; summer, work; fall, hopes blasted; and winter a time to be existed through to meet and begin again the perplexing circle. While I admit the need of money and the right of the want of it, I could meet a meagre harvest now with clearer vision, conscious of my spiritual harvest. Then, too, recent days have taught me that plenty of town people are poorly paid for their labor.

Monday, October 10, 2011

BACK ON THE FARM; part 8; By A Farm Woman Who Went Back; 1930

The sound of the hammer and saw came to my ear the other day when I drove into the yard from town. Walking down through the wet grass, following the sound I came to the hog house. Even before I got there I heard them laughing and talking. Putting my head through the small window I found them, father and son, making a pen for a sow and her new babies. They immediately became eager that I should know how the room was to be apportioned, and began explaining. I hardly heard them for I could not help thinking, as I watched them, that they were having as much fun, or more, than if they were playing golf together.

And how I enjoy our only daughter! Singing as she makes cookies, swearing me to secrecy as she concocts some delicacy with which to surprise the boys, asking me riddles as we make the beds! "I never knew," once she looked up from her dusting to exclaim, "how much work there was just keeping a house clean." I am glad that she has this opportunity to learn. That opportunity was available in town, I know, but there it was such a tug to keep her with me against the enticements that her friends offered.

As to our neighbors! We have been invited places. "And we really must go and get acquainted," we keep insisting. Yet when evening comes--no, not because we are too tired, but because we are too deliciously content to stay at home--we resolve to go next time. So we sink into deep chairs around our own fireside. While I read Heidi, or one of the Alcott books, to the whole family, my youngest son and daughter, squatted before the fire, sew on the family buttons. Only the crackle of hemlock breaks into the story, or the sudden excitement caused by the rescue of a spark that has jumped over the fire screen.

Perhaps this is selfish. I only know I'm jealously eager for an opportunity, for a little while, to get acquainted with my family. The pity is to me that so many parents are unaware of the fun they can have with--or give to--their children just in companionship.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BACK ON THE FARM; part 7; By A Farm Woman Who Went Back; 1930

Helping Dad feed the calves in the warm coziness of the barn, helping mother take a biddy off the nest with her new chicks, their eyes eager, their tongues busy with questions; pitching down hay for the cows all by their "lonesome"; learning the worth of expert workmanship in no matter how small a task; to me such lessons in kindness, in care of something beside themselves that are available every hour of every day on a farm are invaluable.

When they will play there is the most helpful play. Picking wild flowers, playing school on the grey rocks, building dams in the brook, making maple syrup and trying to sell it! They made a raft, too, from which Bud slipped into the pond. He can not swim, but he caught hold of the edge of the raft and pulled himself to safety.

Then the bag swing! I stood watching my oldest boy fasten it to the highest peak in the barn. He stood on a ladder that stood on a plank supported by his father's shoulder and a six by six, the top of it braced against a rafter. It looked so precarious.

"Mercy!" I protested. "What if it should slip!"

"Then it's good-bye me, he laughed, yanking a knot in the rope.

Yet somehow it's not scars to their bodies I have ever feared, if only I can keep their minds clear!

As I finished up the kitchen work that night I could see them, through the wide door of the lighted barn, swinging. Their happy voices came to me through the warm night. They swept me back to the days when I myself had leaped from the leafy branches of a tree to such a swing. Stuffing the dishpan out of sight I went out to them.

"Let me try once."

They looked quite shocked for a moment; then quickly grew eager.

"Yes, let mother swing. Get off and let mother try. F'r gosh sakes, Bud, get off the swing, I said."

I stood on the ladder a long time, bag in hand.

"Go on mother, go on."

And, finally--