CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN NETWORK
Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and experience life in a typical Brethren farming community? When life was at a much slower pace, without the vibration of noisy over crowded highways, and the word filth referred to something in a barnyard. Here is at least one opportunity to discover what simple family life was like during the 1840-1850's, in and around the small farming community of Boston, Indiana. For some this will be a chance to discover former ways of more simple living and for others it will be a refreshing trip down memory lane, because of stories that grandparents used to tell. Brethren church historian Merle C. Rummel has graciously permitted several chapters of his book, "Four Mile Community" to be place online, so that people in the modern world may discover what life was like in a more simple time, when people knew almost everyone in town. It was truly a time of sheltered existence for many, a time for cultivating a rich heritage of family experiences when the outside world - was still the outside world.
Four Mile Church: BRETHREN FARMER
Written by Merle C. Rummel ~ Published April, 1998 ~ Last Updated, November, 2009 ©
This document may be reproduced, only if remaining intact, with full acknowledgement to the author.
o the side or out back of the house was the barn. The Dunkers were Germans and such were known for their barns, which often outclassed the house. In the barn were horse stalls, one for each horse and likely a couple extra besides. The stall fronted on a walkway, so the farmer could turn to each stall and fill the manger with feed, grain and hay. The stall was bedded with straw kept from the oats and wheat. In back was the gutter, and behind it was a walk space to bring the horses in. The stalls were separated with heavy wood board walls more than head high. A huge Belgian stallion weighed nearly a ton and could throw some frightful force in a lunge at a gelding or mare he wanted to chase. Hanging from the wall behind the stall would be the harness for that particular animal. He would be harnessed in the stall before being led to his work. The harness was made of leather kept supple by regular oiling. The bridle would fit over the head, having a strap behind the ears connecting to straps going over the nose and under the mouth. It held the metal bit. Normally there would be leather flaps called blinders at the eyes to keep the horse from being distracted by motions to the side of it, including other horses. The reins fastened to the rings at the bit and turned the horse by turning its head. Around its neck at its shoulders was the collar. This was heavy U shaped leather collar which fastened to the traces. The work of the horse was against the collar and pulling through the traces to the single tree (or double tree, if a team was hitched together) of the wagon, plow or work tool. The rest of the harness was formed to permit the horse to pull backward or to hold the traces free, so they would not get tangled in the horse's feet. The collar had to fit correctly and the harness had to be put on right, or it would rub sores, galls, and interfere with work.
The cattle stanchions were across from the horse stalls. Next to the walkway would be a manger for the cattle. Fastened in the edge of the manger would be a chain with rings and a catch. The chain would be looped around a cow's horns to hold her in her place. Each cow learned her own place and normally went to it placidly. There was the occasions when one old bossy decided to tease the boy driving her in, or the other cow, and would stick her head in at another cow's stanchion. It was not infrequent that the offended cow would then turn her large soulful eyes on the master and silently plead for help against the offender. Cattle were not separated by stalls, since normally there were no serious problems between them. This allowed room for the man or boy both to sit down on a three legged stool (some few balanced on one leg) and milk the cows. Caution, you milk on the cow's right side -or something terrible will happen! A cow can be terribly offended when you do something wrong. She might deliberately place as dirty hoof in the milk pail (and the pail half full of milk) or even kick you. At some remote location to the cows would be the bull pen. It was a heavy box stall made with timbers, for again, a bull weighed half a ton and more, and he could kill a man. There would be one or more box stalls for calves and young heifers, and another for colts. Taking care of the livestock took up the whole ground floor area. Above was the haymow, it was high, with lots of room for over winter food for the horses and cows (and to let the hay insulate the animals against the cold). One or two shoots opened through from the mow into the walkway below for ease in pitching hay down to the animals. A sloped drive up to big doors allowed hay wagons to be pulled up into the mow (pronounced as in "how") for easy mowing-back of the hay. Enough hay had to be stored to feed the animals all winter. Outside straw stacks were common and some made outside haystacks, but much feed would be lost due to rain causing mold and rot. A good farmer mowed his hay. Mowed hay had to be dry in the field before it was brought in. Moisture in hay caused it get hot and even smoke, and barns were burned from the fires that ensued. Letting the hay dry in the field had its hazards, rain on cut hay caused loss of nutrition. Please Lord -No more than one rain on good hay.
While earlier sheds had been log buildings, these used pegged beams with sawmill siding. (Iron nails were not that plentiful, and too costly when they could be had.) Somewhere close was a corncrib, just a log building built with saplings, spaced apart for air flow. Corn fed the family and the hogs.
The horses were important to the farm. There were the huge draft horses, which did the heavy work, one team, maybe two, and some even had three. One farmer worked out a smart system with his three teams. One team plowed the length of the field, then he fastened them to the fence to blow, while he hitched up a team he had already brought there to plow back the length of the field. Again, he fastened them to the fence to rest and blow, while he hitched up the third team to plow back the length of the field. At that end the first team had had enough time, so a trade was again made, back and forth across the field till it was done, or the day was done, which ever came first. This was an improvement over the normal plowing, which had to allow the team to rest at each end of the field and went considerably slower. These horses were big. It was according to personal preference, but the Toneys talked of Belgians, and the Mosses remember their Percheons. Then, those that could, there were the riding horses, often a team to pull the spring wagon or surrey. These were lighter horses, lots of people liked the Morgan, and it could work, like harrowing.
In the earlier days the cattle were for milk. A farmer might have as many as 5 cows for milk, cream and butter, and cheese. A couple steers might be trained to yoke as oxen, if heavy pulling were necessary. A team of horses will not pull as much as a yoke of oxen. The ox will just lay himself into the work, slow and steady and unstoppable. A horse will jerk and heave if it is too heavy. Pulling logs out of the woods was work for a yoke of oxen. The oxen could pull a heavy conestoga wagon west far longer than teams of horses. They pulled slower, however. The trains that crossed the plains were at ox speed, and even children could walk that fast.
Hogs were the thing. They roamed the woods, eating the beech mast, acorns, and rooting food out of the ground. Hogs were cash when driven to Cincinnati, or now, often butchered and packed in barrels: hams, sides and slabs of bacon, for Cincinnati and down the river to New Orleans, or for the family at home. Elizabeth Miller's letter tells how hogs were driven past their place all summer, for Cincinnati. Brother Benjamin made many trips with his hogs, buying hogs to drive. The Boston Pike was a regular route for the Upper Four Mile. The Inn at Fair Haven was built with the drovers in mind. The Middle Four Mile was spanned by a double covered bridge there. A drover would gate off the far end of the one span, drive on his herd, and gate off the near end. Then spend the night at the Inn. Travelers could use the other span. The towns were spaced down the pike about a days drive apart. Jacob Ridenour was one destination in Cincinnati. He ran a butcher shop, fresh meat from upcountry. The kin knew they could get a fair price from him. There was variety to his meat, driven with the hogs were geese and turkeys. (No chickens are mentioned, guess they are just too dumb.)
Barnyard fowl nested in the trees; guinea hens, chickens, geese, turkeys and ducks, all the common barn fowl. Later special buildings were built for them, after the family got tired of chasing down the almost wild birds to search for eggs, or to catch one for the pot. Then wings were clipped so they couldn't fly the coop, and they had to be fed and shut up for the night, because a weasel or skunk or other varmints found a liking for these accessible meals. There were cats to keep out the mice and rats, and dogs for protection and hunting and watching the little children.
Work still went by the seasons. For the men, winter was a time to get into the woods to cut next year's firewood, and to get out timbers to season and cut for lumber to build and repair. This might be planned to clear more farmland, for a new field. The ax, crosscut saw and mattock were the main tools, men and boys down to about 10 or 12 could handle these. Snow melted and soaked through gloves, fingers and toes got cold, so cold you couldn't feel them. But hard work took care of that, it stirred up the circulation and even kept your hands warm. Firewood warmed you twice, once while you cut it, and once again while you burned it. It took a lot of firewood to heat the house and cook. Cooking went on year round, so firewood was used even in the summer, and was cut in the winter. A lot of sweetening came from maple syrup, and that took days of constant outdoor fire or in the sugar house, during February. That meant days of firewood. A team of horses, or yoke of oxen, would snake in the logs from the woods. It would slide in the snow easier than on bare dirt. Once up to the house, it could be left for later cutting to fireplace lengths and split and corded. Corded wood is wood stacked in a row. A cord of wood is still considered to be 4 feet high, 8 feet long, and 4 feet deep (the length of a typical fireplace log; a rick is stove wood, about 16 inches long, three ricks to a cord). That work could be done when it was too bad out to do anything else. Winter was also the time to repair harness, and any broken tools. A good farmer had a wood working shop and a small blacksmithy which he knew how to use. These were hand tools, saw, planes, augers and drills, draws, and chisels for wood, an anvil with its various hammers and pliers, and the forge for metal. Winter was a good time to cut fence rails for the snake fences in common use. A man alone could cut to length and split about 150 rails a day, two men with a cross cut saw could get about 400 a day. These were smaller logs, cut to about 12 feet and split to 4 rails, or such, from each log. Again, they were stacked and allowed to season before use.
February brought the first warmer winds and maybe even a thaw. Then maple sap would run, and everything had to be ready. Trees were tapped by auguring a hole through the trunk into the sapwood and a hollowed elderberry branch would be pounded into it, and stick out 4 to 6 inches. A pail of about 2 gallons would hang on this spout and the maple sap would drip into the bucket. Sap would be collected every morning in a barrel or tank hauled around on a sled by the horse. It was very thin and watery, it needed to be boiled down to make maple syrup and even farther to make maple sugar. The sugar house was roofed over a large fireplace sometimes with walls, with one or more pans above the fire. These pans were relatively shallow, maybe up to one foot deep and the fire under them was kept even and low, so it did not scorch or burn the sugar or syrup. For the same reason it took constant stirring. Thirty gallons of water had to be boiled off to get one gallon of syrup. (Caution: DON'T do it inside ones house!) A scum forms on top of the sugar water, of trash and foreign materials, it is skimmed off and discarded. Children thrilled to go to the sugar bush. Occasionally there's a special treat, someone would intentionally throw some sugar water out onto the snow, where it would freeze into candy for the children. Maple Syrup season signaled the start of the summer work year.
During the winter the farmer had readied the ground. The garden and fields received a covering of manure (fertilizer). The stables in the barn had to be cleaned out daily. The gutter caught most of the liquid manure, with the straw bedding soaking up the rest. During the bad days, manure and bedding from the horse stalls, cattle stanchions and pens were pitched outside the barn (on the side away from the house) onto a pile. There it was allowed to compost into a top dressing fertilizer. (At the bottom of the manure pile, could be found white nodules of saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, the basis of black gunpowder.) When the weather became suitable, the manure pile was hauled out to the field and scattered. A team of horses would pull a box wagon that was solely dedicated to hauling manure. In the winter it might have sled runners replacing the wheels. A manure fork was made with four or five tangs, instead of the three used in the hay fork. Horse and cattle manure could be applied directly to the fields, hog dung was not as available since they usually roamed free in the woods, when it was used lime and gypsum needed to be added. Wood ashes were added to sandy soil, but there wasn't much of that around here. Bone dust helped make good fertility and was scattered across the field before harrowing.
Planting could be started while the snow was still on the ground. Red Clover seed would be broadcast on the wheat ground so that the repeated thaw and freeze would help plant it. Timothy seed might be mixed with the clover so that a more bulky feed would be obtained and to help hold the ground after the wheat was cut. Timothy-clover hay was a good horse feed. Clover alone would do for cattle.
The garden was plowed as soon as the ground was dry enough. The oats field had been plowed the fall before and left lay fallow over winter, it was planted (broadcast by hand) as soon as the ground was dry enough to walk on.
The corn field was next. It was the previous year's hay field, or more often, the hay field had been left one year as a pasture, now the pasture was plowed under. Turning plows were used, as opposed to the shovel plow, or breaking plow. A turning plow cut the soil loose in a furrow and turned it nearly upside down, putting manure, the old hay stubble, weeds and trash under ground, where they would decompose and seeds not grow. The shovel plow, or breaking plow, was more crude, simply being a V shaped blade pulled through the ground. It loosened the soil and broke it up. At first there was only the choice between two turning plows in this area. The Old Colony Strong Plow had an iron share to cut down into the ground and an iron bar (coulter) that was sharp in front of the wooden molboard to cut the soil. Iron straps covered the molboard to give it longer life. The share and coulter had to be sharpened each winter before spring plowing, and in the heavy clay soil of the Four Mile, might need resharpening during the plowing season. The Old Colony Strong Plow was heavy. It had a 10 ft. beam and the landside of the share was 4 ft. long. It weighed about 300 lbs. It took a man's full strength to guide it behind a team of horses, and to lift it out of the soil in order to make the return across the field. The Carey Plow was lighter built and much easier to handle. It had a wrought iron share with the coulter combined with the share, running up the front of the molboard. The molboard was still wood, with iron straps to protect it and give it some lifetime of use. Both plows were made of wood, with iron added, except for the share and coulter. There was some hesitancy to use these plows among some people, since it was considered that cast iron poisoned the soil. Plowing was a slow and hard job. It was hard on the ribs, back, and neck, and on the team. This was where the heavy weight of the Clydesdales, Belgians and Percheons was needed. The fields were not as large as today, normally only 10 to 20 acres in size. Even with this, a team could only pull a plow once across the field before they needed to rest. With the Old Colony Strong Plow, the farmer needed the rest as bad as his team. Once both caught their breath, then a return trip was made. The plow share turned the soil to the right, so plowing was done in such fashion that the turned soil fell into the furrow of the previous trip. The first crossing of the field was in the middle of the chosen area to be plowed and threw the turned dirt onto bare ground, and the return to it was clockwise, to the right, across the freshly turned soil and back toward it. Further trips simply moved a furrow-width to the left and threw into the previous furrow. Usually a field was divided into several lands, areas of plowing, so that the ends were not so long to have to cross. This did leave some dead furrows in the field, where harrowing still left as dips. It also left an unplowed strip at the edge of each field. This became a sanctuary for wild birds and animals, for nesting and burrows. There grew the wild raspberries or blackberries, for summer fruit and refreshment. About 1840, the Peacock Plow was developed and built at Cincinnati. It had a wrought iron share, and a cast iron molboard. Wrought iron does not rust, or at least very slowly, cast iron does not have any protection so the Peacock Plow had a painted molboard. The paint scraped off during plowing and it had to be continually repainted. In 1845 the Richmond Steel plow was manufactured. (Richmond is just 8-10 miles north of the Upper Four Mile.) This made a much lighter plow and considerably stronger, for those willing to plow with iron and steel. ("Iron will poison the soil!")
Plowing left the field rough and bumpy. It had to be harrowed. The early harrows were simply a forked branch of a tree with the limbs cut off so that they projected downwards about 10 inches. A single horse could pull this across the field, so it was a faster job. It leveled the soil and broke it up finer. Of course, pulling the wood limbs through the soil quickly wore them out and left short stubs in many places. A branch harrow only lasted one season, or maybe one field. Soon the A-frame harrow was developed. It was a timber V, pointed together at one end with a cross brace to hold it apart at the other. Holes were augured in it and hickory spikes were driven through the timbers reaching into the ground below. The hickory spikes could more easily be replaced. Seasoned hickory was very hard and did not wear fast. The timbered A-frame also allowed the farmer to stand on the harrow and ride, and not have to walk behind. And that put more weight on the harrow which did more leveling and worked the soil better. Later iron spikes were used in the A-frame. These were crafted by a blacksmith and were normally an inch or so thick and a foot long.
With the field plowed and harrowed, corn could be planted. Corn planting started about the middle of May. First the field was cross checked. A horse pulled sled had runners at 42 inches. The sled was pulled across the field with a marker riding out to the side where the return should be. This left even marked rows across the field, every 42 inches, two rows at a time since the sled had two runners. Then the sled was pulled the length of the field, or vice versa, giving a cross-hatched pattern to the field. Corn was planted at each crossing. A dibble stick was used to punch a hole in the ground and usually 5 grains of corn were dropped in the hole.
"One for the blackbird, one for the crow, One for the cut-worm, two left to grow."
This was done by the girls and women, who were followed by the boys with hoes to cover up the hole. A crew of 5 could plant about 8 acres a day (One man and horse to mark, two droppers and two coverers). During the 1850's a wooden corn planter was developed, basically similar to those still in use today. Two hoppers for seed corn were mounted, each with a tube down to a metal shovel. The shovels were spaced 42 inches apart, as were the wheels behind, which were made to throw dirt and cover the seed as they rolled over it. The apparatus was mounted like a cart and pulled by a horse. A man and a boy both rode the planter and as each cross-check was crossed, the boy threw a hand lever which allowed 3 to 5 grains of corn to drop into the ground at that point. He had to be alert or his cross-checked corn rows would wiggle across the field, and the man later cultivating would have problems keeping out of the row of corn. When the corn was up about 6 inches, it would be dragged with the harrow, with the center spike removed, to straddle the corn row. This knocked out most starting weeds. Then a half forkful of composted manure would be layed around each hill. Cultivating was done about every 10 days to 2 weeks all summer, with hoeing in between. The cultivator was pulled by a single horse, between the rows. The cultivator was a multiple shovel plow, either three shovels or five of small size, each about 4-6 inches across. They were mounted on an A-frame similar to the harrow, but much smaller and lighter. The cultivator had a pair of handles for the farmer to use to quide it. The farmer or his son, walked behind and swung the cultivator to get all the weeds. The corn was cross-checked so that once through cultivating in one direction, it could be cultivated at right angles, to get even more of the weeds.
Once the corn was in and up, maybe even having its first cultivation, the hay field was ready to cut. It was June. Hay cutting was done with the scythe. It was tiresome work, since the mowing scythe required the farmer to bend over so it would make the cut level with the ground. He would swing the scythe blade and cut a swath about 6 feet wide. One man could cut about one acre a day of Timothy and Red Clover. He would get about one ton of hay per acre. He would need twenty to thirty tons of hay to feed his cattle and horses over winter. Even then he needed to supplement their feed with turnips and corn fodder. A man needed grown sons to help in haying or neighbors worked together. One man would take lead, then the another would cut the next swath some 15 feet behind him and the next, etc. A young son would carry cold spring water to the hot and sweaty men. But many hands make light work. (See why Baltzer Lybrook was died young, with only daughters?) The mowed hay was allowed to lay and dry in the field. It needed to be raked at least once, so it would be turned over to dry the underneath side. Then it was forked into shocks or doodles and pitched onto a wagon and hauled to the barn, hopefully with no rain falling on it. In the barn, the hay was mowed back to the far corners of the haymow, by the time haying was finished it would fill the haymow to the roof. Mowing back hay was a hot sweaty job, seemingly always done by young boys. A minimum of climbing over already mowed hay was demanded, since compacting it by stepping on it caused it to heat up more. Sometimes a second cutting of the hay field was done later in the summer, although the Red Clover had to be allowed to go to seed, to obtain seed to plant next spring. The familiar horse drawn, sickle cutter bar mower was developed in its original form in the 1850's. Whether it was used by some of the progressive farmers on the Four Mile is unknown.
The end of June brought the Wheat harvest. The crop was golden and the heads hung over. It was ripe. This was a community job. Again farmers worked together from one farm to the next, according to whose field was ripe first. The wheat was cut with a cradle scythe or grain cradle. Five to twelve men worked as a team. Two men with cradles needed two binders and one shocker. The cradle scythe was a scythe which caught the cut grain and its straw on a cradle of sticks. Then he dumped on the ground at the end of a swing. As the harvester walked on cutting his swath of wheat, his binder followed behind, picking up the small bundles of wheat and collecting them together with all heads the same direction. Then a few stalks of wheat would be twisted together into a rope and bound around the bundle of wheat to hold it together. The next harvester would pass and his binder, then a shocker would follow, picking up the bundles of wheat and stacking them together in a shock, heads up. A final bundle would be laid over top of the shock to protect it against possible rain. At each end of the field, a young boy brought cool water to the working men. A good harvester could cut about 3 acres a day. A team of 5 men could cut and shock about 5 acres a day. Wheat harvest was about 10 days long, beyond that a storm could be expected, or the grain would drop to the ground, there would be considerable loss. The average yield was about 18 to 20 bushels per acre. Wheat Harvest usually brought the women and families together as much as the men. The women would cook at home, bring their food and load the dinner table for their hungry husbands. Morning and mid-afternoon snacks could be pies and buttermilk.
Mid July and into August was the Oats harvest, done similarly to the Wheat. Once the cutting, binding and shocking was done, then thrashing took place. Mostly the grain was trodden out on a clean floor by the horses feet, some of course was lost, but the grain was knocked out of its head. Then the straw was separated out and pitched on a stack for winter bedding. The grain and chaff, the remnants of the head and broken straw, dirt and other trash, was winnowed. The normal way was for the grain and chaff to be pitched up into the air and let a breeze blow the lighter chaff away from the grain, which would fall directly down. Several winnowing's would result in fairly clean grain. It was not normal for God in Heaven to give the farmer a breeze when he needed it for winnowing his grain, so an artificial breeze was created by the women whipping a blanket up and down to blow away the chaff. By the 1840's, several mechanical devices became available to help harvest the wheat. One was called the Groundhog Thresher, which was a mechanical flail, or multiple whips which whirled around and beat the shocks of wheat. The grain would fall through a grating or sieve and be practically free from chaff. It was driven by a horse powered belt. A horse would be driven in a circle, pulling the far end of a sapling stick. The near end was fastened to a pulley which was belted to the Thresher. A similar horse driven Separator was developed. It consisted of a rotating fan with the grain poured in a hopper on top and as it fell through the sieves, the wind created by the fan blew the chaff away. The harvested grain would be stored in a granary, lead lined wooden bins, with hinged lids that rats and mice could not get into.
Clover is a perennial, and even though it was earlier cut for hay, it grows back up and forms a full plant again. Sometimes this gave a second hay cutting, a reduced crop would be accepted the second time. Normally the farmer allowed the Red Clover to bloom and go to seed. The seed would be harvested by cutting the hay and letting it dry in the field, but this time treating it somewhat as the grain crops, by knocking the minute clover seeds out of the dried blossoms and storing them for next years planting. The clover plant, now dry, did form a reasonable hay crop, but far from equal to the first crop. This harvest came in early September.
Once the oats was harvested its field would be plowed to plant winter wheat. Winter Wheat would be planted in the fall and would grow to about 3-5 inches tall before freeze and snow would arrive. It would then sit dormant during the winter, until the spring thaw let it start growing again. Colder winters farther north did not allow this approach. This permitted the farmer to do plowing in both the spring and the fall, instead of all his plowing in the limited springtime work season. Wheat planting was late in the fall, after the first freeze killed the flies. If it was planted too early, so that the plants were up before the flies were killed, they would lay their eggs in the young wheat stalk and their weavels would infest the future wheat plants and crop. Since Squaw Winter came right near the end of September, and Indian Summer followed during early October, that was a good time to plant, just at Squaw Winter, so the plant would come up in time to get good growth during Indian Summer. As long as the season followed the normal pattern, a farmer was all right. Sowing was done broadcast. Once the ground was prepared: plowed and harrowed, then the farmer walked his field, carrying a sack of seed, out of which he dipped handfuls of the seed and slung them across the ground such that they fell uniformly over the field. Then the field was harrowed to plant the seeds. A later improvement on this placed a tube out of the bottom of the sack which the farmer swung back and forth, broadcasting the seed as it fell from the sack into the tube. The tube was shaped so that it would cast a uniform fall of seed, and some control was available for the amount of seed that would fall into the tube.
Late September and October was corn harvest. The ears of corn were harvested for their grain, and the partially dried stalk and leaves were cut to make fodder. The corn stalks were cut near the ground and bound into bundles which leaned against each other to form shocks. These were massive enough that they could stay in the field until snow if necessary. Since pumpkins were frequently planted on the edges of the corn field, the familiar picture of fall harvest of the corn shocks with pumpkins laying by is seen here. The shocks of corn were hauled into the barn by wagon, there the ears were shucked off the stalks and the stalks layed aside as fodder. The ears were stored in a corn crib. This was an open air shed, made with saplings or small logs, with the spaces between the logs left open to allow the air to dry out the ears of corn. This could store the corn all winter. The husks would hide weavels and worms which would destroy the ear. If the husks were removed, the open ear would store easily. So following after the shucking of the corn a husking bee would follow with fun and ribaldry for the youth. It was said that if you found a red ear of corn, you could kiss the fair maiden seated beside you. Both sexes were choosy as to where they sat at the husking bee. At the husking bee, a husking peg let you strip the husks off the ear of corn without too considerable damage to fingers. The dry leaves of corn and husks of the ear were very sharp and will quickly cut a finger or hand. By 1840 there were horse driven mechanical corn shellers.
A four year rotation of crops was followed on many farms. Calling the Corn crop as the first year, it was plowed or harrowed in the fall for planting to Oats as soon as spring thaw would allow planting. This was the second year crop harvested in July. It was plowed and planted to Winter Wheat late that fall, which became the third year crop the next year. Snow might still be on the ground when Red Clover and Timothy were seeded in the Wheat. After the wheat was cut, the clover might be pastured some, but it was allowed to grow over winter as the fourth year crop of Hay and then Clover Seed. This was plowed the following spring for planting to Corn.
The farmer's work consisted of more than crop planting and harvest. Potter John Miller had brought the starts of a whole orchard with him which grew around his brick house clear to the end of the 19th century. Records do not tell exactly what he brought, but the common orchards of this area included several kinds of apples, apricots, cherries, plums, grapes and mulberries. Early apples made pies and butter. These included Early Harvests, Summer Greens, Red & Yellow Junes, and Sweet Bows. Late season apples could be stored in the apple barrel or apple cellar. (Apples must be stored in open air, away from other stored fruit and vegetables, especially potatoes, or they rot fast.) These included the Winesap, Baldwin, Russet, and Northern Spy. Other apples were the Grimes Golden Pippen and Myers Nonpareil. Cherries included the Knights Early Black. The Downings Everbearing Mulberry was common. Slips from the branches of Potter John's fruit trees were undoubtedly force rooted and became the beginnings of other orchards around, as would those from others who brought fruit starts with them. Wild grapes, blackberries and raspberries could be found in the forest and along the fence rows. Fruit was readily available and a vital ingredient of the normal diet.
To pollinate the fruit and clover, the Toney's tell of hives of bees kept back in the orchard. Bees meant honey. Hives stand for smokers to get the honeycomb out of the hives, without getting stung too bad, and extractors to get the honey out of the honeycomb. Some honey must be left in the hive to allow the bees to live over winter and produce another year, so only part is removed. These were not our modern box hives, but the old basket hive, which is much harder to access since the hive is all one unit inside the up-turned basket.
When cold weather had arrived, by November, came butchering. The large families required considerable meat, and hogs were a ready source. About 12 hogs were butchered for the winter, on occasion a family would butcher a beef cow. Getting a hog ready for butchering started about 2 to 3 weeks ahead of the planned time. The hogs would be driven in out of the woods to a barn lot where they would be fattened some with corn. The day of butchering started early and everyone was involved, lots of hot water would be required and kettles of water were sat over outdoor fires. Wood tripods were made, standing about 8 feet tall, each having a pair of hooks. The hogs were normally shot in the head to kill them and immediately hung up on the hooks by their rear feet (tendon). Their necks would be cut to drain the blood out of the meat. The blood was saved to make bloodworst, which was packed in the cleansed stomach sack. The hog carcass would then be lowered into a barrel of boiling water, the barrel was tilted some to be more accessible. Once the hog was scalded, the skin was scraped with knives to remove the tough hairs. The hog was then raised back up on the tripod and gutted. The heart and liver meats were set aside. The guts were washed clean and laid aside to later be stuffed as sausage. The head was cut off, and all meat was scraped off the skull along with neck meat to make head pudding. This was cooked in a crock and sealed with lard, it would keep a long time. Jowl meat and the lower legs made souse, which was preserved similarly. The shoulders, hams and sausage were hickory smoked in the smoke house. Some was sugar cured and hung up in the attic for weeks before it was fully preserved. The middlings became bacon and chops which were sometimes smoked or salt cured. Sausage was made by grinding together all the trimmings and miscellaneous meats left over from everything else. It was stuffed in the cleaned guts and smoked. All fat was kept to be rendered into lard. The knuckles, back, ribs and soup bones were used immediately, although the soup bones might be readied for cooking with soup beans out of the garden. Everything in the hog was used.
Heifer calves were kept to increase the herd, or sold to a neighbor. Bull calves might be kept for a yoke of oxen, but often were castrated and raised for meat. If they were raised for veal, they would be allowed to milk feed all summer, long past normal weaning. They were not fed over winter, but grass fed and butchered late in the fall at hog butchering time. Sometimes an old cow might be butchered, because she was no longer productive. On occasion there might be a cow that was injured and needed to be killed, and so was butchered. Beef was not a normal table meat. The calf or cow was skinned before cutting it up. There were only a few of the steak cuts made, because storage was a problem. Liver, brains, mountain oysters, and other delicacies were quickly used. Bones were cooked to get the marrow and gelatin out of them, which was stored in crocks. Some beef was dried. Some was cut into slices which were fried down into crocks and preserved with a tallow covering. The trimmings were ground with seasonings and stuffed into the cleaned guts to make summer sausage. It was kept in a cool place without smoking, and the longer it kept, the more its seasoning worked on the meat for better taste. Beef tallow might be used in soap making, but some was kept to grease wagon wheels, since it was coarser fibre than hog lard.
There was always some work that needed done. From preparing the land, to planting it, to weeding, to harvest, one job would be scarcely done, and the next was ready to start. In between there was repair of damaged and broken tools, and building of new ones. A rainy day only meant that the planned activities were delay, and there were all kinds of little jobs that had been put off before, that now was the ideal time to work on them. The farmer's work was hand labor, with the help of old Dobbin. It was hard physical work and when the day was done, he was tired. He knew what he had accomplished and could feel pride in his work, but he knew that the next day was coming fast.