An Independent Economic Unit

A previous section described the house we lived in at the new farm.  We were in that home some ten years, with no improvements being made, although other areas of our lives were better each year.  Because of hard work and good planning by my parents, we were very independent.

Our wood for the fireplace and kitchen stove was cut from trees on the farm.  Each year the growth far outstripped the amount we cut.  We always had a surplus wood.  Every Saturday in late fall and winter, we cut either firewood or stove wood.  Our pile of firewood would be huge.  The stove was stacked in cords that were neat to look at and easy to carry inside.

Since there was no electricity, our only purchased energy source was kerosene, which we used for light inside kerosene lamps and, on occasion, to start fires.  It was also used on our crosscut saw when we cut pine wood so that the resin would not cause the saw to stick.  Kerosene cost fifteen cents per gallon, and a gallon lasted a long time

In the food area, we were really blessed.  A sizable flock of chickens provided all the eggs we could eat, with a small surplus to sell.  In addition, each summer a number of the hens would set and raise a number of chicks.  We always had several roosters to catch and eat.  Whenever unexpected company arrived, Mother would say, 'Go catch me a couple of roosters.'

We always had a good jersey cow, and the milk supply was replenished twice each day.  There was a problem with keeping the milk cold.  This was the one area when our dry dug well became useful.  The milk was tied to a rope and lowered into the well.  That would get it reasonably cool.  By churning regularly, we always had more butter than we could eat.  With a crib full of corn, there was a ready supply of meal.  As mentioned in another section, we always had an excessive supply of syrup.  In addition, we almost always had sweet potatoes.  When they were harvested in the fall, a storage area was dug so they could be placed underground.  This was then covered by cane chaws *, making a freeze-proof storage area.  Whatever potatoes we needed for a meal, it was an easy task to go to the potato hill.  We also grew and stored Irish potatoes and onions.  Potatoes were almost always available.

The farm garden also provided an enormous amount of food.  The garden was started in February when the Irish potatoes and English peas were planted.  Later, pole beans, cabbage, radishes, onions, butter beans, peas, tomatoes, and other vegetables were planted.  These were eaten fresh, and any excess was canned for the winter.  My mother always canned hundreds of jars.

We always had a supply of dried peas, which were stored in the barn loft.  On wet winter days, a ready job was always to shell peas.  In addition to dried peas, we also had peanuts stored in the barn.  The job of picking was also available to keep children busy.

As discussed under ' Hog Killing,' we always had a supply of meat in the smokehouse.  Bacon and sausage were available for breakfast.  Since we grew all the corn, hay, and other things fed to our chicken and animals, none of this was purchased.  The only things we had to buy in the food area were flour, sugar, spices, jars, and canning materials.  We did have to buy clothing, but our wardrobes were simple.

Since there was no automobile, there was no expense in this area.  No insurance of any kind was carried, so there were no  monthly bills.  The only worry was having enough cash to pay the land payment in the fall.  The high school did charge five dollars yearly tuition for each student.  This was always a problem to pay.  One year we sold a teacher a load of stove wood and used the money to pay the tuition.  The school's position was that if the tuition was not paid the student would not get any credit.

NEXT: Hog Killing