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Pigs in my new stove and other memories.

7 Jul

Pigs in my new stove and other memories.

Mom continues to talk about her early days on the farm. “Then there was the time Paul brought in a box of newborn baby pigs. He wrapped them in a blanket and laid them on the open door of my new electric cook stove. It was zero weather outside. I had never smelled such an odor and besides that I didn’t want my stove contaminated with such.
He only did that a few times until he bought heat lamps for the hog house. We didn’t always have sheep, but when we did he would also bring baby lambs in the house to warm them up.
I cooked on the new electric stove and and heated wash water and bath water, ect. on the wood stove. I always kept a large tea kettle of water on the wood stove just for general purposes.
As spring advanced, I got out into the yard more and was delighted to discover the flowers coming up.                                                                                                The yard was fenced in and in the northeast corner were holly hocks and in front there was quite an array of pink roses. There were peonies, iris, sweet williams, lilies of the valley, jonquills, violets and spirea bushes.                              There  was a storm cellar in the yard and the top came up to a rather tall mound. The little lambs would come into the yard, climb up on the cellar and butt each other off. Then they would run around to the other side and climb up and do it all over again. I loved watching them.                                                                  I was terrified of storms and one day a really bad one came up and I went to the cellar. It was so dark in there that I was more terrified of the cellar than I was of the storm. When the farm work started, Paul’s dad and the hired man ate lunch with us. One day I baked a raspberry pie, and low and behold, I had forgotten to put the sugar in it. I was so embarrassed that I just wanted to crawl under the table and die, but Paul’s dad just lifted the top crust and sprinkeled sugar on it, ate it and told me it was delicious. As far as I know that was the only time he ever lied to me. I had never baked a pie before in my life. Well that’s it for now, we’ll have more pie talk later.” Hattie







Life on the farm 70 yrs ago was a beautiful thing

10 May

 Life was beautiful back on the farm.  My Mom, Hattie, tells the story:  “It took quite a while but I finally adjusted to this farm routine.  The farmhouse was a pretty ordinary  two-story white house, with three bedrooms upstairs and four downstairs with a very large pantry, which I loved. The kitchen was a really big room with a wood cookstove and a sink with a red pitcher pump.  The water came from a cistern in back of the house. The drinking water came from a different well.  There was also a deep water well outback, the water was brown and had a really bad chemical taste, which we almost never used.  We had a granite bucket on the cabinet for the drinking water.  I remember a couple of times when the bucket froze over.  The living room had a wood and coal stove and a bay window.  The front porch was a medium-sized porch with a porch swing, which I loved and still miss.

After we had been married about 16 years, we built a red brick ranch house, right over the spot where the old one had stood.  But no porch!!  No Swing!! The back porch was glassed in and covered the whole east side of the kitchen and then wrapped around the corner and covered almost half of the north side. It was great, lots of room.. There was a long galvanized bath tub hanging on the inside of the porch, Paul’s mother had left her old refrigerator and a large oak wooden table.  The table had six leaves which were stored inside of the table , and when all of these leaves were in, I could seat a lot of people.  Over the years I put a lot of big meals on that table.  My son, Paul and his wife, have it now. 

We had only been married about 3 weeks, when Paul brought home a nice young man from Kentucky and told me that he had hired him to help with the farming that year.  He lived with us and ate his meals with us and I did his laundry.  After the work was all done in the fall, he went back to Kentucky and married his high school sweetheart. At the end of their honeymoon, he brought her by to spend the night with us.  We immediately fell in love with her, too. Later they had children and we had our three, so we visited many times.

I was 18 and Paul was 25 when we got married, and I thought I was all grown up.  But I soon found that I had a lot to learn. Mu first lesson came when Paul came home one evening with 125 baby chickens.  They were so cute, fuzzy and yellow.  I understood that farm women usually took care of the chickens, so the next morning early, I went out to take care of the cute little chicks.  But when I opened the brooder house door, it was so hot and smelled so bad.  But I went on in and there to my horror, lay 6 dead chickens on the floor.  I REALLY did try to pick them up, but I just could not, I got sick.  I told Paul about it that night.  My kind and understanding husband told me not to worry about it, he would take care of the chickens.  After that my only outside job was to collect the eggs.  One day I went out to the hen house and there was a dead hen on one of the nests.  It must have taken me 10 minutes to get her off that nest. I would reach for her, but I just could not stand to touch her.  But FINALLY, I grabbed her and threw her on the hen house floor and got out of there fast. Well, that is the chicken story, next time I will tell about the pigs!!!!!!!!!”


Mom(Hattie) and Dad

16 Apr

Mom(Hattie) and Dad

Mom tells what life on the farm was like when she got married in 1942 (70 years ago).

“My introduction to farm life,began on Feb.22,1942,my wedding day.
Paul, my new husband,took me to his family home.
When his parents knew that we were getting married,they bought a house in Mattoon,IL,a town about eight miles away.They left the home for Paul. They had come to the same house when they were married.
The Hortenstine farm lay right against the edge of Gays,IL, a small town of 250 people.
That first night it seemed that a freight train roared through that little town every hour on the hour.And then very early in the morning, the roosters started crowing. The thought came to me “This must be why farmers get up so early, it’s those noisy roosters.” I had no idea how early Paul got up, but he was up at 4:30 sharp every morning and went out to do chores.
He milked three cows and took care of the cattle, horses, hogs, sheep, and chickens. Of course that meant that I was expected to get up and have breakfast ready when he came back in. And this was not toast and coffee, it was a real farmer’s breakfast.(For one fleeting moment I wondered if maybe I could get this whole thing anulled.) On top of this, he brought in a big bucket of warm milk, which had to be put through a special strainer. He helped for the first week then I was on my own. How I hated the smell of that warm milk. Sometimes when he wasn’t looking I would pour some of it down the sink.
I had so many crocks of milk in the refridgerator that there was little room for anything else. As the milk cooled a thick yellow cream would rise to the top. I skimmed the cream off and churned some for butter and Paul sold the rest to a creamery in town.
Once a week I would set some of the skimmed milk out of the fridge to clabber. Then I put it into a large granite pan on the stove until it steamed and the milk solids separated from the whey. I then took the milk solids out and put them into a cheese cloth bag and hung it up to drip dry. If it wasn’t freezing outside I hung it on the clothes line.
After a couple hours or so I took them out of the bag and put them into a crock, added some of that good thick cream, added salt and stirred it, and the let it set for at least 30 minutes, and it had an ‘out of this world taste.’
One day Paul came home with this big tall, awkward separator. It had about 40 metal discs among various and sundry other parts that were a real pain to wash every day. But separating the cream from the milk meant that I could throw out alot of the skimmed milk, which helped to free up the fridge for other things. Much later we bought a pasteurizer, which was great.
After we had been married about a week, we had just gone to bed one night , when suddenly there were two shotgun blasts outside our window.Then there were pots and pans banging together plus other strange noises. At first we were startled, but soon realized what was happening.
In those days family and friends often would “chevari ” newly weds. There were about 25 of them and they put me in the manure spreader and made Paul pull me uptown down Main Street. Of course, some of the men helped push the spreader and everyone else walked behind laughing and whooping it up. I was very thankful that it was dark and most of the town was in bed. They put Paul in the spreader with me and let him ride home.
They had brought lots of good food with them and we had a real party. It was quite late when evey one had gone home.
But nothing could deter Paul from his appointed rounds and the next morning he was up at 4:30, ready to begin the day.
It took quite a while but I finally adjusted to this routine.
And thus my wonderful life on the farm began seventy years ago. I’ll have more to say later as a lot has happened in seventy years.” Hattie


My First Year In 4-H, My First Show Calf, My First Winner

9 Mar

My First Year In 4-H, My First Show Calf, My First Winner

When I was ten years old I Joined the “Whitly Whiz Kids” 4-H club. For my first project Dad helped me select a couple of steers from his feedlot. We picked a Hereford and a shorthorn. We moved them to a small lot ajacent to the main lot that still had access to the barn. I had a great time taking care of them. For the first time I felt the satisfaction of ownership and responsiblity. I also learned that my least favorite part of farming was keeping records. This would remain true throughout my farming career.
As fair time approached it was evident that I was behind in training them to lead so Dad decided he better give me some assistance. For two weeks we hitched them to the back of the hay rack and Dad would drive while I got them used to being lead.
When time for the Arthur Fair arrived it was decided that I might be a little young to leave at the fair by myself so my cousin Jim was sent to keep me company. We put a tarp over the stockrack and made a pretty comfy room for us in the back of the truck. We were given twenty dollars each that was supposed to last all week. You may have already guessed that we spent it all the first night. We got pretty hungry before Dad finally got there late the next day. All I can say is I’m a pretty fast learner, and after many fair stays in the years following, I can say the carnival never got me again. Lesson for life. Learn from your mistakes.
After weighing the steers it was determined that the Hereford was a heavy weight and the Shorthorn a middle weight. In the bottom picture I’m showing the shorthorn and my cousin Mike was also showing a shorthorn just to my left in the picture. I ended up in fourth place which I thought was pretty good for the class.
When it came time to show the Hereford (my calves never had names) the judge had us lined up in a big circle around the ring. To my astonishment he signaled for me to line up in first place. I was a pretty happy kid. My sister was also happy for me and baked a celebration cake for me. The Hereford won his class at three local shows and was Reserve Champion at one. He did so well that we decided to take him to the Illinois State Fair junior show where he placed a respectable fourth. In those days the State Fair was a ten day deal which was a whole other story.
I showed steers for two more years, then switched to purebred Hampshire Hogs. All steers were selected from Dad’s feedlot. The last one I showed was returned to the feedlot when we were through showing. One day after that I was walking across the lot when he came up behind me and stuck his head under my arm for a little pet. It was one of life’s memorable moments.
There is nothing like the fair for a farmboy. I’ll never forget that first calf, and that first fair. I will look forward to a day or two at the State this year. And oh yes I’m “Agriculture Proud”.


Mom or as known by most of the world”Grandma Hattie”

21 Feb

She did all the Cooking. As a young girl feeding the farm crew for the first time, Uncle Richard told her, this chicken is better than it looks>

The Way it was half a century ago/ Cattle feeding on a Midwest Grain Farm

20 Feb

      Recently Ryan Goodman @AR_ranchhand ask if anyone could help him with information about the origin of cattle feedlots. I thought no I can’t help with that, but my mind was flooded with memories of Dad’s small feeding operation on our small family farm. I wish I could show you a bunch of pictures, but back then it was just hard work and nobody was thinking about taking pictures, so let me tell you now. Take lots of pictures even of the routine things in life. You will be glad you did later. I was born in 1947(first half of last century). My memories probably start from about the time I was five or six years old.         

      Dad had two barns connected to five lots that converged in the center around a large round water tank, fed by a windmill over a deep well(almost 200 feet). The water from this well was very unique as you could actually see rust particles in it and taste the the strong iron content. Everyone commented about it but on a hot day putting hay in the barn no one turned it down. Each barn had long wooden feed bunks, made from two by twelves. At my first memory of them they were well worn and rounded. We fed about twenty five head in each barn. Dad would buy feeder calves from Missouri and have them shipped in by rail. My first job of coarse was learning how to use a pitch fork. We had a wooden ground driven New Idea spreader. We stoped all livestock production in the mid Nineties and that was the only spreader we ever owned. My brother Doug and I put a new chain in it not long before we quit using it. We came down to the farm one day, by then we both lived In Gays, the small town just down the road.

Dad had burned the speader and sold the metal for scrap. We were both very upset but we never told him. We had two large ear corn cribs and an ear corn grinder. Much later we got a grinder mixer. I spent many Saturdays as a young teenager grinding corn into wooden box wagons. Ground ear corn  was fed from these wagons into the feed bunks by shovel and supplement was added on top. Local markets were available but if the price wasn’t right Dad would load about eleven fat steers into his 1947 Chevy ton and a half and make a two day trip to the Chicago Stock Yards. It was about a two hundred mile trip one way. I always wished I could have gone on one of these trips but by the time I was old enough to go we had begun to relies totally on local markets. I,m still amazed today that he made those trips in that old truck. Dad was a good record keeper and I,ll always remember him telling that he fed cattle for two years and with his labor donated he made five dollars. I guess you could say it wasn’t always profitable, but I’d love to try it all again. This is my first post and if their is another one maybe we’ll talk about my first show steer picked from one of these lots.