Monday, May 20, 2019

PLAYING THE BLUES; by Carroll P. Streeter; 1933

To say that a depression can cause more communities to have more fun than they have had since the days of our grandfathers may seem ridiculous. And yet that's just what is happening, according to many reports coming to The Farmer's Wife.

"We began to realize that sitting at home, moping over interest and taxes, and thinking about low prices wouldn't help us any," writes Mrs. Sadie Sybrant of Minnesota, "so we decided to get busy and create some amusement."

"At the next meeting of the P.T.A." Mrs. Sybrant says, "we simply announced that we were going to have a chorus and asked all who felt like joining to come to the schoolhouse next Tuesday night. Twenty men and women turned out, the director brought song books, we used the school organ and--we sang."

Spelling bees, checker and domino tournaments, quilting contests and twenty-four other kinds of fun are making life more interesting in several West Virginia counties this winter.

Take the West Milford community in Harrison County, for example. At spelling bees the grown-ups have their own contests, using old McGuffey texts, and the youngsters have theirs. Groups of three or four families get together in various homes for long winter evenings of dominoes and checkers, with plenty of cookies and apples on hand. Then along toward spring there are community tournaments, county contests and finally an inter-county competition.

The quilts are made the old time way with quilting parties in homes. To be eligible for the contest, a quilt must be made by not less than twelve women, who must meet to work on it together. They bring covered dishes for lunch and stay nearly all day. And we'll leave it to you to guess whether they have a good time.

Monday, May 13, 2019

GARDEN CUTS GROCERY BILL; by Mrs. A. T., Iowa; 1927

What is a home without a garden, especially out on the farm? Yet, when I drive by some farm homes, where there are beautiful locations for a garden, I do not see a sign of one anywhere. Many of these gardenless farm homes have big families to feed and it seems a shame that so little is thought of a garden. Is it any wonder that you can hear on every hand. “Oh! It takes all we can make to provide a living,” or, “We are trying our best to make both ends meet,” or, The grocery bills are something fierce”? I hate to hear any of these expressions, because I know that we on the farms can raise most of our food in our own garden or in the field.

We plant a good many string beans and navy beans, usually by leaving an open space for them here and there in the field, while planting corn. It does not matter how hot and dry the weather is, the beans are shaded by the corn and they always bring a sure crop. This method takes only a little work because you can plow them with the corn plow. We always plant them after the corn is plowed twice. By this plan we have more room for other vegetables in the garden.

We also grow cabbage, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, lima beans, parsnips, kale, rutabagas and turnips. The latter do well out in the field after the last corn planting. Kale makes nice greens in the early summer and when fall comes, after one or two frosts have killed the bugs, we run it through the food chopper and put it down in dry salt. Tomatoes are made into preserves and green tomato pickles. Carrots, rutabagas and turnips, even beets, are stored in boxes, with first a layer of dirt, then a layer of vegetables, and stored in the cellar. Lima beans are either dried or canned. Some of the string beans are dried, some canned. We always have fresh cabbage up to February or March and from then on we have plenty of canned to last us till our next crop. We do not care much for canned peas, so we always have plenty of dried peas for pea soup.

With all the other things besides vegetables on the farm,--I mean cream, milk, butter, eggs and meat,--I don't see why any farm woman should have large grocery bills. Of course there are some things that we must buy, but not so many that eggs will not pay for them, let alone the cream check. Surely, there is plenty of time on every farm to make gardens if every one of the family lends a hand, even if only an hour after supper, or a few hours after every rain.

So, my dear farm sisters, if you are in earnest to help hubby make both ends meet by making the egg and cream checks stretch farther, instead of just paying unnecessary grocery bills with them, let us resolve right now to cut down the living expenses by making a garden.

Monday, May 6, 2019

THAT HELPLESS SMILE; March 1930; Tennessee

I wonder if every farm woman ought not to have a nice long spell of sickness once in a while. She needs to be reminded that no matter how willing a servant she is for her family, she must take some care of herself and demand some care, or suffer, and cause her dependent ones to suffer.

I was so glad to keep my family happy and contented that till lately I made myself a servant for each one. Baby knew no other hand. Husband not only took my outside help for granted, but failed to see that an exchange of help would be sporting! Not his fault. I was glad to help, and too often said, "Oh, I will. You'd like to do something else."

Each child had a dislike for a certain duty. It was my pleasure to see that the job was done and out of the way. I picked up books and coats and caps, scrubbed hands and faces, put away toys, hunted lost articles, brought kindling for one little son, coal for another, drew water and dug potatoes. I took on myself a hundred duties that would have benefited the family to do, just through love of serving, and of having a smoothly running institution.

Naturally, they let me carry all the load I shouldered. All at once I went down, unable to carry any of it. My husband had to get a neighbor woman to cook supper. He didn't know how to do one thing, though the winter before I had taken care of every member of the family through flu, fed all the stock, and run the house myself.

It's hard to pick up outside help in the south in tobacco stripping time. When we finally got a girl, the baby wouldn't even let her wash his face because "Mother always does." Nobody could find his clean clothes for all were used to having them laid out ready. I saw that I had not only hurt myself waiting on them but I had hurt them by taking their responsibility instead of teaching them to care for themselves.

I was sorry for them, but I turned on a helpless smile. When I got up. I kept it on! There are such a lot things I can't do, and everybody seems to take pleasure that they can now do these things for themselves.

Monday, April 29, 2019

THE WRONG YARDSTICK, by Marian Parker, Colorado, 1936

Words of wisdom from the Great Depression:

I am a bit disgusted with the hue and cry about young folks having to postpone marrying and establishing homes because they cannot maintain a proper standard of living. Far be it from me to advocate a lowering of the standards in our homes when it concerns the things that make for real

happiness, but I believe many have a mistaken idea of what constitutes a high standard of living. They think of it in terms of a fine car; over-stuffed furniture; radios; shows; good clothes.

A few years ago I bought a piece of linoleum for my bathroom and when I laid it, it was too short one way. I had measured my room with one of the best looking yardsticks I ever owned. But I found someone had played a mean trick on me--given me a 39-inch yardstick, while the merchant measured the linoleum with a 36-inch yardstick. I am afraid when some of these young folks check up on their lives they will find they are short two or three or five years of happiness because they measured life by a wrong standard. Someone has slipped them a 39-inch yardstick.

Love, courage, courtesy, patience, a willingness to spend and be spent, a capacity for simple pleasures, will assure them most of the things necessary for a happy home. With industry, economy, and pluck the other things eventually will be added.

Monday, April 22, 2019


I've truly found the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow. Just wait and I'll explain. I've always loved
washing. I enjoy seeing the clothes come from the suds clean and sweet. But no matter how well I like it, by the time I have the last piece on the line I'm just about ready to bite the dog should he happen to get in the way. And then one day it happened--

You see I've reason to get tired. Married just three years and three babies in succession. Although we have only two now that's enough to sap one's strength alone, to say nothing about the work on top of that. I've always done all my work alone; except with this last baby I had help until she was ten weeks old.

I, too, would start a wash-day bright and early with a song on my lips and I suppose I did prance once in a while. Baby, three months old, slept most of the morning and my little helper, just one and one-half years, busied herself with her doll or teddy.

But as the forenoon wore on, Baby'd get restless and Honey would have to come outside with Mother and first thing I'd see her way off in the pasture chasing Smokey, the dog. By the time I'd chase after her and get her back, either Daddy wanted a little help or Baby was crying. Time to get dinner and the clothes waiting to be taken out! Oh boy! The hardest work of all is to hold my temper then! And some times it did get away the least little bit.

I had an exceptionally big washing one day and as I hung the last piece on the line I rested against the post and viewed my work. I didn't say “O, what's the use?” My no! Didn't I say, “I love washing,” I counted those little dresses (mine are both girls), pink and blue and brown and red and white and even yellow. There were almost a dozen.
“How like a rainbow in the sunshine!” I thought. And then I wondered where the colors came from and what makes a rainbow? Turning I saw the answer to my question. Honey, who made that rainbow of little dresses possible was standing at the other end of the line, her golden hair shining. I laughed. I just had to. I had found the gold at the end of my rainbow.

Monday, April 15, 2019

In Spite of the Mortgage; Maryland; 1931

I imagine we are mortgaged about as heavily as the average young couple. Nevertheless, last summer we found a few extra dollars and a few days to take a vacation. My mother has lived on the same farm for over 60 years and never had been more than a hundred miles from her kitchen door; my mother-in-law the same. So we decided to take them and a neighbor with us. Bright and early one September morning, we left for New York City.

None of us shall ever forget that trip. We traveled through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York states, spending the first night in Newark, with friends. Putting the car in a garage, we took an electric car for Jersey City. There we entered the subway and rode under the Hudson River to New York. The wonderful work that has been done by human hands can hardly be realized. While we were in that tunnel with the river over our heads, we experienced a strange sensation. We felt dependent on a Higher Power that has made such marvelous work possible.

We saw the lights of Broadway, Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, the slums, the skyscrapers, Old Trinity Church, the Little Church Around the Corner, the ocean, the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Coney Island, the famous playground of America.

To see all this at a price of a cheap theater ticket! We has spent only 65 cents each on arriving back to Newark. It was money well spent. It was time well used.

From: The Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt, pages 18-19

Monday, April 8, 2019

Just Minutes; Mrs. S. M. from Oregon; 1931

A few years ago I heard a little story which has had a marked and cheering influence on my life. It had to do with a famous pianist. Someone remarked on how wonderfully he played in thirds, and asked him how he had mastered this difficult feat.

"While I was yet a student, " a great teacher said, "it was necessary for me to earn my way by playing nightly in a dance hall. In the few minutes between the dances, I practiced my thirds. Today I reap the benefit from those minutes of opportunity."

It would have been easy for the pianist to say, "Art cannot thrive in the sordid atmosphere of this dance hall. It must be sacrificed to the lowly end of earning my daily bread." Instead he proved that where there's a will, there's a way.

This little story has been a source of great inspiration to me, because it shows that people who succeed seize on the great possibilities in small opportunities. Since then a moment has been to me something more than a brief lapse of time. Now the minutes are beginning to march by like well-formed lines of soldiers, each in its place, and each with a specific joy or duty.

For the busy housewife odd minutes here and there can contribute to self-improvement and the joy of living. By a careful budgeting of my time, I am finding more and more leisure for the things which I really want in life.

On the window ledge above my sink, there is always a slip of paper with a thought of some sort on it. Sometimes it is a little poem that cheers me, so easy to memorize with my hands in the dishwater, because dishwashing doesn't call for mental effort. Sometimes it's a list of words that I want to make mine--pronunciation and meaning--so that when I meet them again, they'll be old friends.

There are but two of my ways of using "just minutes." My ways would not be the ways of another, perhaps. That doesn't matter. The thing that matters, is to come to a realization that "just minutes," sprinkled through the day, can mean much to us, if we'll only use them.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Try a Little Honey, circa 1930

I have learned what I consider a valuable lesson in discipline and character building. That is, that praise is much more effective in the family than scolding or nagging.

It is especially true of children, but it makes me feel better when I use it with grown-ups too, and I am sure that it pleases them (meaning "him"). A man feels greater responsibility and is more easily discouraged than a woman. So praise is needed most, nagging least.

I find that my young sons respond and try to do even better when I pick out the things they do well and commend for these, saying little or nothing about the others. I praise for specific things, especially those which I have asked them to try to remember, such as little courtesies or acts of thoughtfulness. Also, when they are taking on new, even though small responsibilities, until the habit of doing them has been acquired.
And why not? We never think we are spoiling our friends when we praise them.

It does not mean that the boys won't do anything without having it noticed or praised but it does mean that our children are people and are human, and like a little approval and encouragement. It surely is saving my patience and nerves and helps make a pleasant atmosphere in the home.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Succeed At What You Like Best; M.L. from Georgia; 1931

Six years ago I was a stenographer, making $150 a month and a 10% bonus, in a position that I held for ten years and could have held as long as I cared to. Living was not expensive in this town and I had a delightful five-room apartment. I had pleasant friends to play bridge with and many other amusements. I had access to a wonderful public library and I enjoyed my daily work.

Suddenly, at the age of eighty, my father lost his eyesight and with this blow came confusion of mind. I could not bear to think of him and my invalid mother being in the country without one of their children and they would not consider coming to live with me. Finally I gave up my work and went to them.

I decided that I would call the farm my "home"  indefinitely,--not mark time by planning to do thus and so in the future. I had always loved flowers and set out to see how attractive I could make the farm grounds. Month by month, my savings went for comforts for those I loved and I had no money to spare for plants. I yearned for hollyhocks, hibiscus, columbine, delphinium and every flower that bloomed. To that end I planted seed and rooted cuttings, sometimes with success, again with failure.

At first I gave my surplus plants away and then I chanced to think of selling them and so began my business, which started with ten dollars the first year and now this fourth year has increased to $600. It is practically all profit above the postage, for all my business is done by mail. I do all the work myself. Yet, it is only a side line to housework, cooking, chickens and stock and in times of necessity I go to the field.

My father and mother were both taken last year and my friends took it
for granted that I would leave the farm immediately and take up office work again. But I expect to remain here always and I have a business started which will take care of my comfortably.

I say to everyone, do that which you like best--dressmaking, anything--and your customers will seek you out eventually. Success lies in contentment.

Monday, March 18, 2019


By "For More Fun" from Wisconsin, 1936

I am a farmer's wife with two little tots, and I've decided that, no matter how busy I am, I'm going to take time to enjoy my babies.

This morning we found a little blue jay on the lawn. We put it back and sat for several minutes watching it. Yesterday we went for a twenty minute walk to the woods above the pasture. We picked a few wild flowers, ferns and leaves. Some days I load both babies into the little red wagon and take them with me when I carry Daddy's lunch into the field or when I go after the mail. How they do enjoy it, especially if we have to wait. Sometimes it is only a tour of the farmyard where we call on each of the farm animals and visit awhile.

At bedtime, I take them upstairs and tuck them into their beds and talk a little while with them before the sandman comes too close. A few love pats or a few little rubs on tired backs do much to quiet unstrung nerves and bring restful sleep.

They are just "little whiles" in the midst of busy hours, of busy days, of busy years. But long after other things are forgotten they'll look back and remember those "little whiles" with mother.

Love them while we can...

By "Trusting" from Virginia, 1932

When the kiddies are taking their afternoon nap, no matter how many things are waiting to be done, slip out and fasten the door behind you. Be sure you take your worries and discouragements with you. Walk briskly--are there hills in Nebraska? If you haven't a hill that you can climb and stand on top of, find a lone tree. A tree that is large and powerful, one that knows the fierceness of bitter winter winds. Stand under its branches. It will whisper to you, listen well, and while you are listening, your worries and discouragements will slip away. Go back to your house and your little ones, and if you have caught that gleam, you will feel it, a little burning joy that will grow and grow with the years. It is a great possession!