Sunday, December 28, 2014

I LOVE WINTER; by 12 year old, Anna De Marse, Minnesota; 1907

Of the four seasons, I love winter best. Then the busy farmers have their rushing work all done, and when the lovely white snow comes down and the old earth wears her white dress, how many nice sleigh rides they give their families.

Our papa often hitches up Mollie and Prince on the bob sleds in the evening and takes mamma and all of us children out for a ride and what a fine time we do have. We go to some neighbors and play games and sing songs and have a jolly time.

Other pleasant evenings are spent at home when the neighbors and their children come in.

And then the nice long evenings to read. I think I can learn more in one week in winter than I can in a month in summer. I think a walk on a clear frosty morning gives one a clear brain to learn with. I never missed a day or was tardy during the five months' winter term last year.

And then, the skating and sliding. I can't skate but I enjoy seeing the others. I can slide, though, and have a sled of my own. We have a hill right in front of our school house, and we school children can hardly take time to eat our lunch at noon, we like a slide so well. Our papas say that hill is a "shoe bill," but we children love it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

DOESN'T REQUIRE "TIME OFF"; by Mrs. P.N.; Wisconsin; 1930

Dear Peter Pan (the pen name of another farm wife):

I read your request in the December issue for a schedule which would enable you to spend more time with your children and their father. Perhaps I can help you.

If you will pardon me, I think your attitude is wrong. A well-known child specialist says, “Leaving the dishes in the sink, to gather the children to one’s knee, does not fill me with enthusiasm. The habit of orderliness is not taught by this method.”

Friends who live in cities often comment on the fact that a farmer and his family have a great blessing in being so much together. We have a boy and a girl. We are interested in the same things. My children and I have seen many wonders of the setting sun, coming in from the field on the tail end of a truck-load of potatoes. My husband and I had a lot of chummy afternoons this fall, traveling over the farm, to pick up piles of stone with which we made a foundation for our new garage.

Of course, we have happy times when we play together, but my point is obvious. We farmers and our children, working side by side, need not seek opportunities to be together.

I think our greatest family joy is our garden. The children get as much out of it as but we do, possibly more, because a child’s capacity for enjoyment is so limitless. Children who help make rows of carrots and spinach, don’t have to be bribed to eat them.

There are trees and shrubs about our home which we four have planted. The children have watched them grow husky with as much interest as I have. Every year our perennial flower border has a few additions. The children help decide what these shall be.

In the winter, when our hired help is gone, we all do chores. Coming in from the barn these winter evenings, we always stop to look at the sky full of glory. I could fill several pages full of things we do together, things that don’t take a lot of time and don’t call for a schedule. This spontaneous way has a distinct advantage. In fact, I think if one were consciously to sit down for an appointed hour with the children, there might be something forced about it. You know we take medicine at appointed hours.

I’m not “crazy clean,” but I like orderliness. The children help me in this, too, by keeping their toys picked up when they aren’t using them, and by hanging up their clothes.

When we review all the good times we’ve had since we had a family, it’s not the long trips we’ve taken over the state, which stand out in memory, any more than some afternoons we’ve spent husking corn, and rainy days when we’ve varnished floors.

Monday, November 3, 2014

HER DREAM CAME TRUE; March 1919; Part 5

He showed her the things he had collected by land and sea and together they fitted up the north room. She touched all his possessions with reverent, loving hands, arranging and rearranging, suggesting, talking a little, laughing softly, sometimes pausing, with a little intake of the breath, to look at his broad shoulders or note his sure movements or listen for his “Mother Cornelia!” The joy in the little white house might well have bulged the walls.

“See,” said Ray, standing at the window, “our happiness has spilled over into the rainy day outside and has made the sun shine through the clouds.”

It was there at the window, watching the sunshine glint across the wet leaves, that they spoke of the thing that had lain in the minds of both. It was with a joyous surprise that they discovered that they had both thought of it. The delicate flush rose in Miss Cornelia’s face as she said:

“I was afraid you would think me presumptuous!”

“My Heavens!” exclaimed the boy, “I am the presumptuous one. But I have wanted it all the time--to be legally your son.”

“And you know,” she suggested shyly, “I have some property--”

He turned quickly.

“Mother Cornelia, could you think--?”

“Oh, no, I didn’t, truly, dear, “she protested, taking hold of his coat. “But can’t I be just a little glad that there is something?”

“I have sometimes wished,” he responded “that you were downright poor so I could support you.”

She laughed gaily.

“And I am so blessed thankful that I am not. Your burdens will come soon enough,” she continued soberly. “I want the rest of your years to be as beautiful as life allows.”

When the long evening, with its music and songs and over-sea tales was ended, Ray turned at the foot of the stairs to inquire.

“Will you come and tuck me in, Mother Cornelia?”

She nodded, not daring to speak. When he had gone, a bright tear splashed upon her hand. Her face looked beautiful.

“To think,” she whispered to Mary, “to think he asked for that! Oh, Mary, I wish he were little, little! And my heart is just bursting with joy because he is so big and strong.”

She laughed a bit at herself and folded away her embroidery and went to stand before the fire. The whole room bespoke some new presence. A pair of big gloves lay on top of the piano, the music had been left scattered about, the fire tongs were out of place, the sofa cushions had lost their usual primness, and the whole room bore the air of having been waked up and used.

Miss Cornelia smiled happily at the disorder and stopped halfway up the stairs to say:

“Don’t straighten things up, Mary. I want to see them just that way in the morning. I want to be sure it is all true. And--in the morning--son and I will have a long talk!”

In the long talk that followed, she learned that the boy’s few, simple ideals were deep-rooted, that the thoughts of her son were clean thoughts. He spoke of some problems he had solved and a few conclusions he had reached. She saw that his lonely life had thrown him back upon his native strength, and she rejoiced at the straight-forward naturalness with which he gave her his confidence.

She pondered it all deeply. Is there a Power behind what seems to be just happenings? Was it meant that out of the loneliness of a maiden woman’s heart and an orphan’s heart, this joy should grow?

“It seems,” she said once, wonderingly, “that all this has happened often before, that it is only one of many, many such talks.”

“Doesn’t it?” he responded quickly. “I have just been thinking that. All my best dream has come true.”

He slept at last, with her hand beneath his cheek. When his breathing grew deep and even, she tucked the clothes about him and kissed him softly and stole downstairs to stand again before the fire.

Then quite suddenly she was sobbing in Mary’s arms with no clear reason for doing so, and Mary was rocking her gently with a low, tender crooning.

After a while the tears ceased and she smiled up into the kind blue eyes.

“Do you know what glorious thought came to me just now, Mary?”

Mary shook her head, then said quickly, “Maybe it’s the thing I was thinking--he’ll marry and there will be little feet?--some day--?”

“Yes. And oh, I just feel that I shall live to see it, and know all the joy--” Mary poked the fire meditatively.

“We’ll have to make the spare room into a nursery--”

“Oh, Mary, Mary!”

And Miss Cornelia wiped up the last tear with a laugh, a lovely mother-laugh.

The end.

Monday, October 20, 2014

HER DREAM CAME TRUE; March 1919; part 4

Miss Cornelia read into this incident an interest on the part of the captain that made her happy.

“He must be just a little more than usual,” she thought. “And his picture tells the same. The mouth and chin are firm, and the eyes--they are fine.” Mary, the spare bedroom doesn’t seem just the thing. It doesn’t fit, somehow. How about the big, high north room? We have always used it for storing things but we can clean it and put everything in the attic.”

Mary agreed that the plan was an excellent one and was for buying new furnishings. But Miss Cornelia was the wiser of the two. Her’s was the real mother-heart, after all.

“Just a bed and chairs and dresser. We don’t know his tastes. He may have a fish net and a torn old flag and maybe some strange knives. Just a new coat of buff for the walls, and then let him arrange everything to suit himself--Oh Mary, Mary, it can’t be really truly true that he’s coming home!”

The short winter days slipped away and the soft spring skies brooded over the quickening earth and almost before one could catch a sharp breath April was in the land.

Then began a great bustling and baking and stewing, in and about the old white house. Hot, spicy smells floated up from the kitchen, and a soft, clear humming floated down from the big north room. Miss Cornelia patted the pillows and wondered with wistful eyes if anyone had ever sung him to sleep or kissed him good-night. It was all strange and unusual but full of heart-comforting possibilities.

When the great day arrived, she did not go to the station. She could not bring herself to face the idle, curious crowd. But she pressed her face against the rain washed pane and, with wildly beating heart, watched old Henley’s ancient “bus” toil through the mud.

Then, almost before she knew it, she had opened the door, and her face was down against a wet overcoat and a deep voice was saying, “Why--mother! You’re crying!”

“No, I’m not!” she denied. “Stand off and let me look at you.”

She took in every detail while the hazel eyes smiled at her, and a big hand held hers. He turned the hand over with a meditative pucker of his brow and then raised it and kissed it softly squarely in the palm. There was no embarrassment or self-consciousness after that.

“Seems like,” said old Mary, an hour later, smiling from the kitchen door at the gray head and the brown one bent together above an old album, “seems like you’ve been here before and belong.”

The hazel eyes smiled back at her. “And don’t I belong, Mary?”

The ceremony of unpacking a small, hide-covered trunk was the big event of the happy day. Mary smoothed and petted and exclaimed over her Bombay shawl and laid it carefully away.

“But,” protested the boy, “that shawl is for everyday use. You mustn’t put it away like that.”

“Ray,” was the spirited rejoinder, “that shawl is too good for everyday. I’ll wear it to the Sewing Circle on Wednesday afternoons and to church on Sundays. So there!

Ray retired from the encounter laughing and placed in Miss Cornelia’s hands a beautiful little, gem-studded Buddha.

“That was the thing,” he explained, “that I wouldn’t tell you about.”

“But Ray, it must be awfully expensive.”
“I imagine it is,” and his eyes sobered.

“Don’t you know?”

“No, Mother Cornelia.”

She looked at him quickly.

“It was given to me,” he explained slowly, “by a man in India who was grateful to me.”

“Why was he grateful, son?”

“I saved his life.”

She put out her hand quickly as if to draw him from some peril, and then laughed softly at herself.

“I must not be foolish. I have to remember day and night that you face danger or the possibility of danger--and not be foolish.

So they went through the happy hours together.


Monday, October 13, 2014

HER DREAM CAME TRUE; March 1919; Part 3

“All must be fair and straight between you and me, my son. I always think of myself as a widow but I am not that in name. I am Miss Cornelia Baker. I will tell you about it, though it is not altogether easy because I never speak of these things to anyone but good Old Mary who has loved and tended me for many years.

“When I was a young woman of twenty-three I became engaged to a man named Ernest Gregory. He was second mate of a merchant ship and had every prospect of advancement. We decided to wait until he should have a captaincy, and then I was to live with him at sea. He got his ship in three years but one thing after another interfered to delay our marriage. One night in an awful storm, his ship, the Grayling, was driven upon the Hampstead reef, somewhere near Australia. Not one was saved.

"It was years before I could get hold of my life again. I could not bear the mention of the ocean or a ship.

"When I read about that good woman in Indiana I suddenly wanted a son who was on the sea. The thought seemed to bring me, somehow, nearer to him. Do you understand? All this was twenty-three years ago, five years before you were born. But I think some way, that you will understand.

"Don't forget to send me your picture. Do you have plenty of warm clothing these cold days?"

Miss Cornelia quite forgot that the Michigan was cruising in the southern Pacific; but the boy's next letter reminded her and she laughed merrily at herself.

"Dear Mother Cornelia:

I am going to call you that if you like it. I like it. It sounds sort of cozy.

"And now I am going to tell you something that will please you.

"We have been near Australia for two days now, and when I came on deck yesterday morning I saw the water foaming over the long line of rocks that lay just outside a stretch of sandy beach. I heard the captain talking to someone and I caught a word that made me stop and listen. The captain is over sixty and he knows all the history of these coasts.

"'Yes,' he was saying, 'that is Hampstead Reef, as ugly a little stretch as the eastern hemisphere can boast. I suppose it has done as much wickedness as any half dozen reefs.'

"'Tell us some of its crimes,' I heard someone ask.

"'Well, for one of its worst deeds, it sent the Grayling to her tomb with every man aboard, Captain Gregory commanding. That was twenty--no twenty-three years ago,'

"He looked over at the reef and his voice was softer than I ever heard it before.

"'Gregory was a fine chap. He was one of the most fearless and one of the best captains that ever docked in New York.'

"That was all I heard but it made me feel proud of the man my mother loved, and, as we passed the reef, I took off my cap to him who had faced his death there so long ago.

"I like your picture. You are a lot like I thought you would be. Here comes mine. It was taken a year ago and I am some heavier now. I'll have some others taken when I come home. Home! A real home with a fire place and a flower garden and a chicken yard. And you told me I could put rings and a punching bag in the big basement. Five more whole months!

"I have some little things for you, seashells and some little things made of bamboo and a little ivory lion and Something Else. I will not tell you what till I come. And there's a Bombay shawl for Mary and a piece of pottery from Algiers. You mustn't tell her though.

"There are heaps of thing to talk over together. We will talk together about everything, won't we? Some fellows don't seem to feel the need of someone to talk to but I do. My vacation begins in April, and I can spade up your flower beds. Won't it be fun?

"The other day the captain walked over to where I was working and whistling away (work seems to go so much faster these days) and he stood looking at me a while. It bothered me like the dickens and I guess I blushed and he laughed and said, "Have you adopted a mother, Durkan?"

"I guess I looked astonished and I stammered, "Yes, sir," and he laughed and walked away. Now how do you suppose he knew?"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

HER DREAM CAME TRUE; March 1919; Part 2

Both women dreaded and yet longed for the reply.

“It would be something to think about,” said Mary, wistfully.

“And yet,” said Miss Cornelia, thrusting away her embroidery frame, “do you know, Mary, sometimes I am afraid, just plain afraid! It seems almost like tempting fate. The sea took the best of my life away.”

Mary nodded understandingly.

“But it isn’t that way, honey. What comes from the sea this time will be making it up to you.”

Miss Cornelia looked at her doubtfully but said no more.

At last the expected letter arrived and Miss Cornelia carried it home with a wildly beating heart. She laid it before Mary, her throat too full for words.

Mary drew her silver rimmed spectacles down to her nose and squinted at the address. The romance touched her too.

Mrs. Cornelia Baker. I ‘spose she thinks you’re a widdy.”

Miss Cornelia flushed a little. “And am I not, Mary?”

“‘Deed, yes, honey, you are. Let’s open it and find out.”

There spilled out upon the table from the enclosed letter a slip of paper. They both looked down at it and then at each other. It bore the name of a man and the name of a ship. Mary put her arms around Miss Cornelia and a few tears of joy were shed on ample shoulder.

Presently they read the kindly letter together, and Miss Cornelia went away to write a reply of gratitude that a little astonished the earnest-eyed woman who helped motherless boys and boyless mothers to find one another.

The first letter from the good ship Michigan was a never-to-be-forgotten event in the life of the little white house set in the gay little garden. Miss Cornelia read and reread it, and then read it aloud to Mary whose eyes glowed as she listened.

November 3, 1918
Dear Mother:
When I got your letter, I wondered if here at last was someone who really belonged to me. Do you want us to really and truly belong? It isn’t just make-believe, is it? I don’t think from your letter that it is.

I will tell you about myself as you asked me to do. There isn’t really much to tell.

My parents both died in a fire in New York eighteen years ago when I was only a few months old. I was found and put into an orphan asylum where I grew up. From the time I was a little fellow, I have always had a hankering for the sea. There was a teacher in the orphans’ home that was good to me and helped me out, and after a good many ups and downs I got into the navy. It isn’t just what you would call an easy life but it is an interesting one. We learn a lot and we see a lot but it gets awfully lonesome sometimes. There’s a pretty good share of us haven’t any home at all. A fellow let me read a letter from his mother once and I cried like a baby over it.

I’m five feet, ten and a half, mother. How tall are you? I’ve just kind of got an idea that you’re little and sort of dainty and move quick, and your laugh--I can almost hear you laugh. That’s funny, isn’t it?

I'll send you my picture as soon as I can find one, and will send me yours? I want to know just how you look and not do too much guessing. And I’d like to know just a little bit about your life. I have a kind of an idea that you are a widow.

You will write again soon, won’t you?

Your loving son,
Ray Durkan

This letter also was addressed to Mrs. Cornelia Baker.

When she had finished reading it to Old Mary, she sat looking thoughtfully at the envelope.

“I must tell him the truth, Mary. There must be no deceit between me and--my son!” She dwelt lovingly on the word, with a dreamy smile in her eyes, then she tucked the letter into the bosom of her dress and went out to cut great bowls of bright cosmos and chrysanthemum to set about the house.

Her next letter included her picture and many questions about the boy’s work and plans and the happy assurance that they really and truly belonged to each other.

The part about herself she did not find so easy to write, but she launched into it fearlessly.

Monday, September 15, 2014

HER DREAM CAME TRUE; March 1919; part 1

When Is “An Old Maid” Not an Old Maid? When a Lad of Discernment Calls Her “Mother”

“Just your magazine today, Miss Cornelia.”

Not a single letter, Mr. Dempster?

A delicate flush rose in the thin face as the postmaster shook his head. Then the little figure in the gray gown resolutely set its bonnet straight and with a determinedly cheery “Good afternoon, Mr. Dempster!” sallied forth into the open sunshine.
The postmaster looked thoughtfully after her and addressed himself to the empty general delivery boxes.

“That niece of hers ought to write oftener. She doesn’t know what her letters mean to the little old lady.”

Now Miss Cornelia was not exactly old. This harvest marked her fifty-first autumn and she was still so young that her spirits were not long clamped by the lack of the looked-for letter. She smiled as a brown squirrel whisked into view, laden with a sample of his winter store. She stepped carefully to avoid the springing crickets that dotted the walk. And when she entered her own garden, she stooped to gather a few bright-faced pansies.

She put the flowers into a crystal bowl in her sitting room and seated herself to enjoy her magazine but her thoughts wandered.

Her gaze traveled over the trim garden into the watery sunlight of the empty street. The she looked around the luxurious little room and sighed involuntarily. She stepped to the diningroom door and called:

“Mary? Mary, bring your potatoes in here to peel.”

Mary came obediently, with two pans and a paring knife. She was used to these requests. She seated herself by the open fire.

Miss Cornelia watched her for a little then her gaze traveled to the empty street again.

Old Mary’s keen Irish eyes did not miss the movement and her voice was deep with tenderness when she spoke.

“What’s in your heart, honey?”

Miss Cornelia started guiltily, but answered frankly:

“I think I am lonely, Mary. I know it is weak, but, oh, Mary, if I had only had a little of life! If only a child had been left to me! Little feet to patter along the floors--muddy little feet, and burned little fingers to tie up with vaseline, and torn little clothes to mend--oh, Mary, Mary!”

Her clasped hands tightened in her lap. After a little she went on quietly.

“But I am too old for all of that. What I want now is a strong young arm to lean upon. And who knows, Mary?” Her face lit with a wildly happy thought. “Maybe even right today, we might be making wedding clothes!”

Mary laughed tenderly and Miss Cornelia raced on with imaginary details from the dressing of the bride’s hair to the color of flowers on the breakfast table.

She came back to earth as lightly as a snow-flake, laughing at her own extravagances.

“It is all very foolish but it did me good,” and she settled to her magazine with renewed zest, while old Mary’s eyes brooded upon the little gray figure, flashing out of the long ago. Miss Cornelia interrupted her thoughts.

“It tells here, Mary, about a woman who finds mothers for motherless sailor boys. She gives a boy and a mother each other’s address and they write to one another, and when the boy has leave he visits his adopted mother.”

Mary’s face lit suddenly, but she saw that the thought had not entered Miss Cornelia’s head. She hesitated a few minutes before she suggested:

“There’s a chance for you, honey--I think you could be making some sailor boy happier.”

“But, Mary, I am not a mother.”

“Oh, aren’t you, though? An’ who is it the kiddies are tagging along the street, and the big boys tipping their hats to so gentlemanly, and the big girls hurryin’ to catch up with? You’ve no born children, honey, but you’re all mother.”

Miss Cornelia’s face lighted but she said dubiously, “I am afraid--”

“Try it an’ see,” encouraged Mary.

It was two days before Miss Cornelia got her courage up sufficiently to write the woman in another state, telling her briefly that she was not a mother but that she wanted to be one to some orphaned sailor boy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

HOME AT LAST; Mrs. L. N.; West Virginia

My third book: The Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt--Inspiring Letters From Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them is due to be released in May 2015. I would have included the following letter in the book, but unfortunately it was too long. No matter--there are still 99 wonderful letters in the new 1930s book.

I am a young farm wife. My husband and I were both raised on a farm but when we married we worked in the oil fields so as to save enough to buy a little farm of our own. Finally, after much sickness and hospital bills, we managed to save enough to come back home and buy a small farm near my mother-in-law's.

When we came here, there were just so many acres of good land and an old log cabin for a house, with porches rotted down, windows broken out, and corn growing right up to every door. The sheep had been running in the house, and grain had been stored in it. So you can imagine what it was like. But it was home at last, and we started in with what vim and vigor we had to fix it up.

When we tore the old paper and canvas off the walls, we found pictures of the Civil War, and descriptions of Indian fights, so we were in an historical place.

We scrubbed, papered and cleaned from top to bottom and I arranged pretty pictures and curtains, fixed it all up cozy and bright inside, while Hubby built porches. Next thing we did was to put in a good telephone so Hubby could be called back to the oil fields to help pay for our home.

Night after night I lay awake with a baby on each arm listening to the limbs of the locust trees scrape and groan on the roof, the corn rustle, the rats run in the loft overhead.

Hubby came home once or twice a week, while the roads were good, but in winter not so often.  The winter was long and lonesome, with pigs, cows and a calf to feed, and milking to do, with an ear always turned to the house listening for the cries of a burned or hurt baby. Many nights I was up and down trying to forestall croup. And how did I feel when I went to the barn to feed, and found a man had slept in the barn loft!

But nothing really serious ever happened and we got through the winter fine. Now we have a new cellar and cellar house, a new barn and some new fences, the bottom in the meadow, the yard and garden fenced in, and are living fine. I'm very proud of my little log-cabin home.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

MY WEDDING RING QUILT; by Alta Booth Dunn; June 1933

You like the pattern called the Wedding Ring?
It is a glowing, many-colored thing
Like Joseph's coat of old--
Ten times tenscore of pieces in its beauty. 
I made it for a pretty coverlet to spread
Upon my best-room bed--
Not just for homely duty. 

Sometimes, when work is done,
I slip off here alone
And softly touch the blocks. It's sort of fingering
Keepsakes...Yes, memories here are lingering...
This lavender sprigged muslin was grandmother's gown
That once she wore to meet a man of high renown.
The figured linen of pale maize is from my courting days;
And that checked gingham, white-and red,
He gave me on our second wedding day--
He's always had a tender, thoughtful way.

Blue-stripe was sonny's first small romper suit--
My, but it made him look as cute as cute!
Pink-posied dimity was frock of baby girl's--
She loved to wear it with a pink bow on her curls.
This sheer white lawn is new grand-baby's dress;
It is the dearest piece of all, I guess...

Like you, I'm partial to my Wedding Ring;
It's such a lovely rainbow of remembering.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

AMUSING CHILDREN; February 1907; by Mrs. E. C. Rocheford

Rain, rain, and the children must be amused, and they must be kept quiet for there is sickness in the house, and the little ones are cross and peevish, and will slip away and get wet, and then the work of changing clothes and the trouble of drying them, and the crossness and scolding and temper matching the weather.

A bucketful of sand will amuse children for hours at a time. Newspapers, scissors and a pot of paste always delight children. They may string beads, the more colors the better; brushes and paints are a child's delight. Colored papers may be woven in mats or made in chains by pasting the links together and for pity's sake give the children plenty of room. They must have their rights, and they must have a happy childhood memory to follow them through life. Play with them, be real company for them. Teach them to work, to sew, to iron, to sweep, to fill wood boxes, to help wherever there is a chance for them to be of use. It is surprising how much children can do to lighten the mother's burden.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A FRUGAL HOUSE MOTHER; March 1912; Mrs. E. W., Kansas

Being a farmer's wife, we of course have no stated income, and can never tell what the amount of money will be that can be used in the home. But I always try to manage so the expense shall not exceed the income. Of course, we keep cows, and have our own milk and butter with some butter to spare to help out the grocery bill. We have a garden, but we do not always raise enough potatoes for our own use, and therefore we must buy. We try to sell enough of some other garden truck, that we have a surplus of, to pay for the potatoes. We keep chickens so that we have eggs and young chickens to use and sell. We have our meat and lard.

I have always tried to get what was needed about the house from the sale of poultry and eggs, or from garden truck. I have bought everything I have in my house with the money I made from the poultry, from a set of kitchen chairs to a $50.00 range and organ and my home is well furnished. Of course, I did not do all this in one year. We have a large family of children to clothe and send to school. I have kept them in school and last winter I put two of the eldest girls through a nine months' term in a city school, paying all their expenses from the proceeds of eggs alone.

I am obliged very often to exercise my wits in order to make a good appearance in matching up outgrown clothing for the little ones from the garments of the older ones; also in preparing food there is a great saving to be made, so that grocery bills shall not be charged at the store.

The farmer's income is very often much less than $40.00 per month and the saving and also earning pennies nearly always come from the good management of the house mother.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FARM MEMORIES; 1907; American Magazine

One morning I was awakened with a strange new joy in my mind. It
came to me at that moment with indescribable poignancy, the thought of walking barefoot in cool fresh plow furrows, as I had once done when a boy. So vividly the memory came to me--the high, airy world, as it was at that moment, and the boy I was, walking free in the furrows--that the weak tears filled my eyes, the first I had shed in many years.

Then I thought of sitting in quiet thickets in old fence corners, the wood behind me rising still, cool, mysterious, and the fields in front stretching away in illimitable pleasantness. I thought of the good smell of cows at milking. You do not know if you do not know! I thought of the sights and sounds, the heat and sweat of the hayfields. I thought of a certain brook I knew when a boy that flowed among alders and wild parsnips, where I waded with a three foot rod of trout. I thought of all these things as a man thinks of his first love. Oh, I craved the soil! I hungered and thirsted for the earth. I was greedy for growing things.

Friday, May 30, 2014

JUNE'S VENTURE; January 1907; A Serial Story by "Gay;" Part 4 of 4

At bedtime Mrs. Gresham directed June up to the little room which was to be hers, a dear little nest of a room, so cool and clean. In spite of all the interesting things there were to think about June was asleep at once.

In a few days June felt as if she had always lived in the country. She was quick to follow directions and the little house shone as if its own mistress were about. June loved to get up early in the morning and go down to the little stone spring house and skim the yellow cream for breakfast. She never forgot some fresh flowers for the table to lend a little fragrance to the meal. She loved to be out in the garden hoeing and weeding and on rainy days transplanting little plants. She liked to gather the vegetables and cook them for the meals. She sang as she worked and her cheeks grew round and plump. She soon made bread and butter that Mrs. Gresham said rivaled her own, and that Mr. Gresham said were nearly as good.

June found the days all very full, but she was young and strong and delighted with the work, and never seemed to feel tired. She learned plain sewing, mending and darning, and though she liked the other work better she knew this must be done. Mrs. Gresham gained rapidly, and she was soon able to walk about again. She and June sang and laughed over their work, and each learned from the other. They put up preserves and sauce, until the fruit closet was so full Mrs. Gresham said it would burst, and besides, where would the tomatoes and pickles go? During the harvest June learned to milk; of course it took time, but she kept at it in spite of lame arms and at last grew to be very proficient. When Mrs. Gresham was strong enough they went into the woods and June soon loved the cool darkness of the hemlocks. On Sabbath
mornings the white haired minister always had a message for the girl, and life began for her. As she lay under the leafy boughs Sunday afternoon, gazing up through the leaves into the sky, she began to understand and feel the Divine help and to know that heaven was very near her all the time.

As autumn came there were apples to dry, tomatoes to can and pickles to make, and a hundred things to do to get ready for winter, but June found time for long tramps into the woods, gathering large bunches of asters, goldenrod, and bright leaves to adorn the house.

"Oh, how lovely the world is, and how happy I am," she would sigh.

At last winter came and covered the ground with a deep, soft blanket of snow, but still June enjoyed the country; the snow sparkled and the air was crisp and bracing. In January she received word from her aunt that the bank where the bulk of her  money was placed had failed, and for the present she was going to make her home with her son. "I am sorry for you, Janet," she wrote, "but I see no way to help you. If you had stayed with me I might have found a way. Now, you will have to care for yourself."

June wrote assuring her aunt she was doing well, and there was no need to worry.

The winter passed and glad spring came bringing back the birds and flowers. For the present June was to stay at "The Populars," and whatever the future held for her, she was content in the happy "today."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

JUNE'S VENTURE; January 1907; A Serial Story by "Gay;" Part 3 of 4

"I shall be so glad to have you," confessed Mrs. Gresham, "John, my husband, is so busy, it's hard for him to do it all. And then, housework belongs to women," with a little laugh, "and I can lie here and boss and watch you work. Would you mind getting supper for a surprise for John, when he comes?"

"No indeed, I'd like to if you can tell me how," responded June.

"That will be easy," was the answer, "and may I call you June? it's such a sweet, bright name."

"Oh, I'd love to have you," responded the girl, quickly, "and now, what shall I do?"

"First, you must have an apron, you will find one hanging behind the door, in that little closet. Dear, dear, how queer it seems to be unable to step to my own closet," exclaimed Mrs. Gresham, cheerily.

June found the apron and put it on. "How funny I look," she cried, "all lost in this thing. I never had an apron in all my life."

"We must make you one soon," declared Mrs. Gresham, "but now you can wear one of mine, I am only a little taller than you. Now the first thing is a fire; there are chips in the basket by the stove."

"I never made a fire in a stove," said June, "but I guess I can."

She followed the directions carefully, and after one or two failures, was delighted to hear the wood sputtering and crackling.

"Now, for some potatoes," said Mrs. Gresham. We don't have warm suppers, as a rule, but, the bread is gone, and I know John will enjoy a nice warm supper.

So, carefully following directions, June cooked potatoes, made some nice puffy biscuits and gravy, and brought in from the garden lettuce, radishes and onion. And by the time Mr. Gresham came in everything was in the nicest trim for supper. June liked him at once. He was so kind and bright and took such good care of his wife. Supper was a success and passed off gaily. The table was drawn close to Mrs. Gresham's bed so they could all be together, and roses nodded in from the open window and lent their sweet perfumes to fill the room.

After supper, Mr. Gresham insisted on washing the dishes, for he said June must be tired and they couldn't afford to lose her now they had just found what a treasure she was. June was amazed to see how handily he did the work.

"I think we must bake tomorrow," said Mrs. Gresham, when the supper dishes were put away, "and the bread ought to be set tonight."

"You may proceed with directions," laughed June. "I am ready for them."

"I suppose every housewife prefers her own bread; I know I do," said Mrs. Gresham. "I always use soft yeast that I make myself, you will find it in a glass jar in the spring-house; bring about half a cupful of it, then take three pints of warm water (not too warm or it will scald the yeast), put it in the bread pail that hangs there in the pantry, put in a teaspoonful of salt, stir in all the flour you can and set the pail on the stove pipe shelf until morning."

After this was done Mr. Gresham came in with a glass of new milk. "Here's our best country beverage," he said.

"Oh, how good it is," cried June, "I didn't know milk was so good. The country's the place, isn't it?

"It is, indeed," declared the husband and wife delightedly.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

JUNE'S VENTURE; January 1907; A Serial Story by "Gay," Part 2 of 4

The question that had haunted her was what if her aunt should die or lose her money. What would happen then if she had not learned to do something?

When the train pulled up at Edgewater, June got out feeling strange and lonely. Her gay, independent feelings were gone for the time. What if she really could not find a place? what would she do? She couldn't, she wouldn't go back.

The station was small and dirty and only a few loungers were in sight. There were a few houses near, and all around lay the fields smiling in the early summer sunshine.

June decided to go farther back into the country, so she started down a shady road and soon was out of Edgewater, and with no human habitation in sight. The river flowed by the road on one side, its banks heavily fringed with willows, reflected in the clear water below. The birds sang from the thickets and June drank it all in with a delightful abandon. She sat down presently near a little spring which bubbled into the river, and ate her lunch. She knew that she ought to be on her way, but it was so delightful not to have her aunt remind her of any duty. At last she arose and hurried along the road. Night would soon come, and she did not care to spend it out of doors. Before long she came in sight of a small board house set well back in an apple orchard. Timidly she went up to the front door and knocked. In a few minutes the door was opened a crack and a woman's head appeared.

"We don't buy of agents!" she snapped.

"But I am not an agent," faltered June, her face growing hot.

The door opened wider. "What be you then?" asked the cautious inmate.

"I--I am looking for a place," was the answer.

"Well, we don't want any city servants," snapped the woman; "but, say, "relenting at June's sweet anxious face, "if you really want to work, I bet they'd take you up to Gresham's. She's laid up with a broken leg, and he has all the house work atop his own farm work to do. That's their place up by them Lombardy poplars."

June thanked the woman and started. Her courage seemed gone, why had she come? but pride and an empty pocket book forbade her return. As she drew near to "Gresham's," she was impressed with the well kept farm. The yard full of flowering shrubs and beds of flowers. Roses clambered over the porch, peeping in at the windows, and pansies lifted sweet faces below. It seemed almost like home to June.

In answer to her knock a pleasant voice bade her come in. The girl opened the door into a cheery little room. On a white bed lay a sweet-faced young woman, whom June guessed must be Mrs. Gresham, for she smiled and glanced inquiringly at her.

"Do you want a girl to work? faltered June, "I--I heard you did."

The little lady laughed. "Sit right down and rest and we will talk it over, you look very tired."

Friday, May 16, 2014

JUNE'S VENTURE; January 1907; A Serial Story by "Gay," Part 1 of 4

"I hate it, I hate it!" cried June, throwing down her embroidery defiantly.

Her aunt looked over her glasses in stern disfavor. "What is this, Janet? Do you dare to say to my face you hate the work I select for you? Here I have given you a good home since you were a baby and now you rebel against a little fancy work."

"I want something different to do," burst in the girl, "housework, or something out of doors, away from this everlasting needle."

She knew this would horrify her aunt and it did. But she was not expecting what followed. Her aunt rose and looked at her haughtily.

"I did not ever suppose a niece of mine would wish to demean herself to do a servant's work," she said scornfully. "But you are different, you are not what I expected. Now for a year I forbid your entering my house, go and degrade yourself if you like by any low work you can find. In a year you may come back, if you wish, a more humble girl, I trust. Now, go, take only what is necessary, and do not show me your face for a year."

In a maze June sought her room. Every since she could remember, she had lived with her aunt Ester, now to be sent away.

"But I don't care!" she declared, "I'll go where they call me by my own name that mother gave me, and not stiff Janet, because it's more proper."

Then she quickly put what she needed in a small grip, donned a plain, serviceable dress, her tam and jacket, and going quickly down the stairs, opened the door and was gone.

Meanwhile her aunt was thinking of what she had done. "I may have been too hasty," she soliloquized, "but she will come back in a day or two and beg to be taken home, and really she has grown so boorish lately. Think of her telling Mrs. H. we were obliged to make our own beds, because the chamber maid was sick! Well, she, at least, will get a bit of experience, and she certainly needs it, and a girl of seventeen ought to be able to look out for herself." And she returned to her book.

June went to the nearest railroad station and bought a ticket to Edgewater, a place whose name she had long admired and which was well out of the city. After her ticket was paid for she found she had only fifty cents left. Her monthly allowance was nearly spent and she was too proud to ask Aunt Ester for more. She had already secured a substantial lunch, and she hoped matters would turn out all right, for she felt sure she ought to learn to take care of herself, and not depend on her aunt.

Monday, May 12, 2014


She was a dear old lady and she lived alone with her flowers and birds and a big gray cat. Everyone loved her for her gentle ways and many an act of kindness and yet when we wanted to do something for her, there seemed nothing that we could give her without hurting her pride and so bringing sorrow where we wanted to give joy. Finally the matter was settled and the result was so satisfactory that the story of it is worth passing along.

The minister's wife suggested the plan, and a score of us saw at once how feasible it seemed. We would give the dear one a floral shower, not a shower of flowers exactly, but of plants and seeds and those things which she loved. In order not to duplicate too much we gathered at the parsonage a week before the date set for the shower and when the time came we marched in a body to the dainty little house where we knew our coming would be welcome, each bearing a tiny gift that we felt could not be deemed a charity.
Not all the gifts need be enumerated but each would have proven a delight to any flower-loving heart. A dear old lady bore in triumph a lemon tree almost as tall as the little girl whose gift of a geranium slip was not discouraged. Some of us brought packets of flower seeds, rare ones which we had purchased for our own gardens but which we could duplicate. Some brought a slip from some favorite flower of our own in a pretty pot or jardiniere. Some came with seeds gathered last summer from flower bed or garden and some with a plant from the florist, burdened down with its load of blossoms. The dear old lady was delighted.

Monday, May 5, 2014

HEALTH NOTES; by Dr. Ella S. Webb; 1910

In the early years of The Farmer's Wife magazine, "Health Notes" was a popular column. It was written by the editor, Dr. Ella Webb. She must have been a fascinating woman. Miss Webb, who was also the publisher's older sister, was born in India to Christian missionary parents. She was a "real" medical doctor--an amazing feat for a woman born in 1850. I like her common sense advice and plan to try some of her ideas.
Dr. Ella Susan Webb

A sensation of fatigue is Nature's warning that we need rest.

Fun, frolic and out-door play is the best medicine for children.

Olive oil taken regularly fills out and clears the skin. It should be taken in tablespoonful doses three times daily.

Deep breathing expands the lungs and broadens the chest improving the health and at the same time the figure.

Before the mornings become chilly accustom yourself to a sponge bath in cold salt water. If the vigorous rub with a coarse dry towel after the bath brings a warm glow of reaction the bath will be better than medicine in making and keeping you well.

With the first cold snap there is an impulse with many to close windows and doors. The warm air gained in this way is soon loaded with germs of disease far more dangerous to health than the cold air. Put on warmer clothing and allow free ventilation and exchange of air.

Lemon juice mixed with honey in a large cup of hot water makes a good gargle for a sore throat or a hacking cough.

An over-tired mother cannot make sunshine in the house. Try to take half an hour of complete rest sometime during the afternoon. If you were ill the children would have to get on without you. Leave some things undone while you sleep.

A few simple exercises before going to bed are beneficial to any woman, as they stretch the muscles, relax the nerves and assure a good night's sleep. Devote five minutes to simple movements with arms and legs; such as touching the floor with outstretched hands by bending the body only at the hips, clap hands together above the head, swing them backward far enough to touch, etc. Repeat five times, then exercise with the legs, swaying the body in such a way as to use all the muscles. This makes the circulation of the blood free and clears the complexion.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SORROW & COMFORT; February & April 1912

The first letter below is one of the very few sad letters that I have come across in The Farmer's Wife magazine.

It might come as a surprise to some people, but references to God, Jesus and the Bible were common place in The Farmer's Wife magazine. Although the publisher and editor were both Christians, that was not the only reason. The God of the Bible was accepted in everyday American life 100 years ago. It is more than a shame that He is usually banned in our present day. As a society, I can't see that we are any better for the change. lah

Dear Farmer's Wife:

Santa did not find us at all this Christmas, for the first day of November we buried our youngest daughter, 16 years old. We were at so much expense, we could not have Santa.

Will some of the sisters remember us in our sorrow and sadness? Let me hear from all the sisters, it will interest me and take the worry off my mind.

C.S. Ireland, Ohio

Dear Farmer's Wife

Mrs. C. S. Ireland has my deepest sympathy in the loss of her beloved daughter. It is indeed very hard to part with those who are so dear to us on earth. But dear sister, your little daughter is far better off than we are. My precious mother was called home when I was 15 years old and my little brother five years old and I am satisfied that she is much happier than we are. That has been 16 years ago, but I do get lonely and long for her, yet, any times. What a comfort it is, dear sisters, to know that if we live a devoted Christian life here upon earth that in the future we will all be united with those who are so dear to us. I have only one little girl of 10 years and am bringing her up to love and worship God. I think it is such a pity to see multitudes of homes where God is not reverenced at all.

Mrs. W. B. T., Tacoma, Wash.

Friday, April 25, 2014


I have lived on a farm all my life and settled the question of pin money to my entire satisfaction a number of years ago. Every woman on a farm can have good, steady income if she has the snap and vim to earn it. I put my surplus money in the bank, and when I want fifty dollars for a new rug or a bed room suite, or want to take a trip I go to the bank, draw out my money and no questions asked. How do I get my money? I earn every penny of it. How? Poultry, bees and small fruit.

I do all the housework and cook for what hired help is required on a one hundred and sixty acre farm. My money-making schemes are just a side issue. I commenced with poultry, Bronze turkeys and pure Plymouth Rock chickens. Have sold one hundred dollars' worth of turkeys in season; keep nearly a hundred Plymouth Rocks; sell eggs for setting in their season and sell crates and crates of eggs all the year around. I raise from 350 to 450 chickens for market in a year and my poultry buyer tells me I send the plumpest, heaviest lot of chickens to market.

Then I bought four stands of bees and they have increased fourfold. I take charge of them and market the honey and wax. They are a splendid investment.

Next I added small fruit. I have a large patch of raspberries, one row of current bushes, four hundred feet long, and a row of goose-berries, the same length, and one row of blackberries eight hundred feet long. I picked and sold fruit with but little assistance. I expect to have a row of raspberries eight hundred feet long planted out next spring in addition to what I have now. I have only a few strawberries as they come on the market in June, just as I am busiest with my bees and chickens, but I am thinking of putting out some and hiring pickers.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Dear Editor:

While children are small it seems to me it is better to teach them to look for pleasure and happiness in their own home. I've heard children cry to go some place until after about so much of it the mother would say, "Oh, go on if you are going to make such a fuss about it." I wonder just what kind of grown persons those children will be.

We have two boys, one in school and one pre-school age. Money has been a scarce article with us the past two years, but I've tried to make home a happy place. In the evening there are always stories to tell or read, and games to play. I've helped our older boy with his school work till his grades are quite good.

"Read a story, Mamma," our four-year-old often says in the evening, and I recite something I learned in school days.

"Your turn, Daddy," he says when I finish, and Daddy recalls something from boyhood days.

"It's your turn, Buddy," he says next. And brother always has something to add to our bedtime program.

"Now it's my turn, Four-year-old, and it's surprising how many rhymes and bits of songs he can repeat.

Then there is the Book of Bible Stories we bought several years ago when times were better. How much good we are getting from it now! Brother is learning Bible history and has his favorite stories which he likes to have read over and over.

In spite of hard times, I'm trying to add a few new things to our home, pictures, some new drapes, and little touches that count. I think children like an attractive home and can be taught to care for home furnishings.

There are so many things on the farm to enjoy--things that can't be bought. We love to watch "the sun go to bed," to watch the clouds and the new-fallen snow. There are squirrels in the cedars and birds looking for crumbs. It seems to me we can be happy while waiting for prosperity.--Homemaker