Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A PIONEER WOMAN'S GARDEN; 1910s

To encourage the settlement of western lands, President Lincoln in 1862, signed the Homestead Act. This law gave hard-working Americans 160 acres of land if they could live and work on it for five years. The following account is written by one of these homesteaders, in this case an exceptional one--a fifty year-old widow. 

In the one-eighth acre I planned to plant peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabagas, carrots--oh, just everything! Why not? I had most industriously worked the soil beside the porch of my Homestead where I would plant the morning-glory and scarlet bean, adding a few seeds of wild cucumber, a self-sowing annual that would take care of itself once well started. I pictured the vine-covered shelter I should have from the heat of the sun. Someone had told me that if I would succeed as a gardener I must keep my hoe bright. Bright it was! I worked till every muscle was sore and every joint creaked. I planted my seeds with sweat and tears and the occasional drops of blood. Then I invoked the kindness of God and waited.

Slowly there struggled into warped and stunted being, perhaps half a dozen onion spears, half as many lettuce plants, two or three radish tops which fleas promptly destroyed. By the porch one wild cucumber squeezed itself out of its hard soil and spent such vitality as remained to it in climbing some five feet up a string and then died. And that was all--no, not quite. Over the entire unplanted portion of the acre, following the lines of disk and drag, something green appeared, a lusty weed. When it was a few inches high I examined it and gasped. I was sure it was Russian thistle and there were millions of it. This was too much!

Well I knew what a pest the Russian thistle is for it has made as deadly a record for itself in the peaceful areas of agriculture. I had heard homesteaders “cuss out” men who had abandoned claims where ploughing had been done, for the thistle grew thickly on the unseeded land, came to full growth and was carried by the wind to multiply itself as far as the wind could carry it. I had a hatred all my own for the Russian thistle. I had ridden behind the half-broken bronchos of the plains when they stood straight up on their hind legs or danced a break-down when the big prickly spheres blew against them. I had watched them bound and roll before the wind on dreary days when the clouds hung low and they were the only moving thing on the landscape. I had seen fences flattened by their mass against which the wind flung its weight. I had crossed coulees filled with them. The only time a Russian thistle could make me smile was when my dog Lassie would catch the short root of one of the huge prickly spheres between her teeth and with head up, carry it as sail, the wind bearing them along to her huge glee.
And now, on this beloved land of mine, which I had dedicated to fruitfulness, here was the pest! Could I by any possibility hoe out the young plants before they matured? I estimated the work. Surely I could. “It’s dogged as does it!” I simply would not let them conquer me. So that very hour I set to work, bent on doing so much every day till the last nasty weed was laid low. Heroic task! And not profitable in dollars. And I needed dollars.

One morning, I was resting for a moment on my porch when a cowboy rode in and asked me for water to fill his water bag. I was so tired that I pointed out the barrel to him, begging him help himself and adding, “If you want fresh water, you can get it over there,” indicating my neighbor, Mr. Quinn's place.

“Like some fresh, yourself, wouldn’t you?” he asked genially and taking my two pails, walked away in the direction of Mr. Quinn's pump. He was a handsome, likable lad and as I watched him go I envied the good son he could be to a good mother. He came back with full pails and hunting up a cup, brought me the “fresh drink” I so seldom had and seated himself beside me on the porch, frankly curious to know how I was “a-makin’ it all sole alone.” As hungry for talk as I had been thirsty for water, I found myself telling him some of my troubles and among them this Russian thistle aggravation.

“Too bad!” he agreed sympathetically. “But shucks! ‘Tain’t noways your fault, lady! I wisht none of those who come out here to take up land never did nothin’ no worse to us than that!” I did not need that little “us” to tell me he was western born and bred. “D’y’know,” he went on, “I’m hatin’ like everythin’ to see the little ole plains all messed with fences, tame cows and these here ornery shacks. Reck’n it had to be, though! Spoiled the place for me all right, all right. I’ll be movin’ on one o’ these days. One more round-up and then me for open country! Say, let’s have a look at these here Rooshin’ weeds you been tellin’ me about.”

I escorted him to the scene of struggle, he pulled up a handful of the weeds and looked, then threw his head back in a hearty laugh and patted me on the shoulder. “Shucks, lady! You ain’t wise! Them thar ain’t Rooshin’ thistles--I kinda thought they weren’t--I’ve knew folks been fooled before. Them thar is nothin’ a-tall but a rotten alk’li weed. It don’t hurt none--ploughs out and dies.”

“Are you sure?”

“More’n sure--sartain!

Say, know what I’d do if I was you? I’d let this place go cheap to the first fellow wanted it and buy me a lot in town and build a little house on it and live comfortable. It don’t cost nothin’ hardly to buy a lot in town now. You can cook, can’t you? There ain’t much good cookin’ thar, I can tell you! Think about it! Well, I got to git along! Thanks for the water! So long!”

He rode easily away and I watched him disappear in the dust of the road--one of the last of the cowboys. Then I looked at the handful of weeds I still held. “Nothin’ a-tall but a rotten alk’li weed.” I felt let down. My big balloon of trouble and effort was a child balloon, and pricked at that! I thought of the check I could get for writing about this story and laughed. The Russian thistle had done me a good turn after all! I turned my back on the acre of barrenness and weeds and thought about the cowboy’s advice. Was it sound? Could I hold out? Ought I to?

She did stay...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

SHE NEVER KNEW DEFEAT; 1933; Oklahoma

Just before Thanksgiving we had some dear friends visit us,--a "used-to-be" prosperous farmer, his wife and children.

The little lady had always had a cheerful, jolly disposition,--never seemed to take life seriously. Though she had been a hard worker, she never appeared to worry if her plans were upset. But now, since I had learned of their misfortune, I thought probably she might be different. Their beautiful country home,--their life's savings--had been taken from them through a mortgage foreclosure.

If I had expected any difference in her, I was certainly surprised for she was her same dear, jolly self. Only once did she mention their misfortune.

"I know God will provide a way," she said, "if we will only trust in Him and do our best."

So the dear, brave heart had thought more deeply than I had thought, and although she secretly grieved for their lost home, she was ready to begin all over again. She smiled, and in that smile I saw her very soul, the soul of a fighter, one who never gives up, who never knows defeat.

As she was about to leave, I helped her with her coat. It was thin and especially worn at the elbows. Her toil-worn hands were gloveless. I watched her climb into the wagon beside her husband. They now had nothing but the wagon to ride in, having sold their car to pay a note at the bank. She seemed proud of her husband and he of her, and the children of both of them.

I watched them until they passed from sight, then I walked slowly into the house. All that had occurred had "put me under my thinking cap."

Thursday, January 4, 2018

PIONEER DAYS; by Mr. A. D.; 1949

                                 HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

If the following account sounds reminiscent of the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, it would not be surprising. Mr. Dahlin was born less than a month before Laura, and his home was only 120 miles west of "The Little House" in the big Wisconsin woods.

I was born in Dalsland, Sweden, January 10, 1867. When I was two months old, my parents together with their eight other children, immigrated to America. Our belongings consisted of clothing, tools, food, and a very small amount of money.

After a four week ocean voyage we arrived in Jordan, Minnesota, where father obtained employment on the railroad at $1.25 a day.

In 1869, we moved to Belle Plaine where we purchased 40 acres of land. Here was built our first one room log cabin. With the aid of two oxen and one horse, three acres were cleared the first summer. The winter was spent in making railroad ties and barrel hoops. With the arrival of spring, it was a familiar sight to see buckets hanging on the trees, and to hear the echo of maple sap dripping into the containers. Maple sap was cooked in a huge iron kettle which supplied the family with syrup and sugar.

In 1875, the farm was sold and a 160 acre tract of land was purchased at $6.00 an acre in Hale Township, Mcleod County (about 50 miles away.) Here we built a two-room log cabin, with two windows, and a low slanting roof. Our furniture was made up of home-made benches, a table, and sleeping bunks. The cabin was lighted with candles made by mother. By this light she spun, knit, and made straw hats.

Mcleod County was a “Poor Man’s Paradise.” There was an abundance of all kinds of wild fruit, berries, and nuts; which provided food for the family table. On a moonlight night, one could see several deer in the rutabaga patch. Lakes were filled with fish, and pools were covered with ducks. The pioneer’s alarm clock was the song of the birds. It sounded as though the whole earth were joined together into one choir of song.

My father built the first log school house in 1877. In 1891, my brother and I erected a new building on the same lot and it is still in use. School was in session six months out of the year and attendance was largest on stormy days, as children had to work when weather permitted.

Every Sunday morning we walked six miles to church. Sunday afternoons, I attended Sunday School at one of the pioneer homes.

Spelling bees, square dances, skating, sliding, and husking bees were the main sources of entertainment. Many  hours were spent playing with a rag ball or mouth organ.




Sunday, January 1, 2017

OUR GRAND ADVENTURE; Katherine of Michigan; 1929

Dear Farmer's Wife:

"My Boy" and I started out fourteen years ago, he, fresh from a bank job, and I, from the schoolroom. We knew almost nothing about farming, but felt as truly "called" as Abraham did in the days of old.

"They'll be back in town within two years," our friends prophesied. But we're still here.

After seven years of stock-share renting in the richest state in the cornbelt, we felt that we must launch out and try to buy, and to farm independently. But where? Farm land there was booming, and we felt unwilling to try to carry such a load of debt. Then the promise came to our minds:  "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." And this one, "All things are possible to him that believeth."

The past seven years have been one grand adventure. We were marvelously led to Michigan, and given opportunity to buy a splendid farm in an ideal location. Our children love the farm, although they attend town school. But best of all, we feel that here we have a real opportunity for self-expression and service.

We owe our incentive to "launch out" partly to the splendid example and encouragement of others. But most of all, our inspiration is of Divine origin. We take no credit to ourselves for our small measure of success. We still have far to go. But this we do know:  God will lead those who want to be led and "All things are possible to him that believeth."

More success to The Farmer's Wife.

DAUGHTER WISHES TO DANCE; 1906

Dear Editor:

My daughter of seventeen has learned to dance from her schoolmates and is making both herself and me very unhappy because I cannot feel it is right to permit her to attend dances. She has always been a good, obedient girl in everything else, but now says that if she "can't do as other nice girls she knows are allowed to do, she will leave home when she is eighteen and earn her own living and do as she pleases." I have prayed over this, and reasoned with her, but she will not give up, and says she will dance. I would be so glad if the editor or other mothers who have had the same experience would advise me what to do.--A Troubled Mother

Dear Troubled Mother:

The editor may not be the proper person to make any suggestions in this matter, as I must admit to sympathizing with all young people who wish to enjoy youthful pleasures while they may. Personally, if a young girl has been properly taught and is safe-guarded as she should be by her parents when she goes out, I can see no more harm in dancing than in skating, walking or riding with a young man.

To this day I very much enjoy watching a dance, and, so far as my observation has gone, at no other gathering is there so much real courtesy, and pleasing manners shown as at a dance. But I have never looked on at a public dance, neither would I allow my daughters to attend one.

Were parents in country neighborhoods as careful of their daughters as really well-bred people should be, there could be no possible harm in their dancing. But it is customary in most rural communities for young girls to go out evenings unaccompanied by any member of their families. Girls should be not allowed to go out with young men who are not personally known to their parents. And a girl so young as seventeen years should be accompanied to and from places of evening amusement by some member of her family. Attended thus there could be no harm in a girl's going to a dancing party, to which invitations were issued only to the young people in the neighborhood known to be of irreproachable character. And if a girl has received proper home training and teaching from her parents she will not want, in fact cannot be induced to attend a party of any other character. Such a dancing party is much more respectable and productive of less harm than many church sociables, which are "free-for-all," where anyone who pays the price is admitted and allowed to mingle with the young people in games that are often "kissing games," and highly improper.

Young people must have amusement and if parents exercise a little thought in providing them with pleasing recreations, properly conducted, with companions of known good character, all will be well. But, alas! too many parents seem to have forgotten the desires and pleasures of youth, and either seek to keep their children entirely at home, or leave them free to go where and with whosoever they will, to save themselves the trouble of getting ready to go out, or because it is customary in their neighborhood.

OUR HOME CLUB; January 1906

DAILY REST HOUR--

I was glad to see that my practice of taking a little time daily for rest was practically endorsed by at least one of the writers for The Farmer's Wife. Every day after the dinner work is done up I lie down for from a half an hour to an hour.

Sometimes I do not fall asleep, but generally I get a few moment's sleep, which is most refreshing and I get up really feeling like a new woman. In the summer time, when the days are long and we are up early, I often lie down awhile in the forenoon, and get rest that is needed to help me through the morning. Of course there is work for every moment of the day, but if I tried to work all day without rest I should soon be obliged to go to bed and leave all undone. By never missing my rest hour I keep well enough to manage my housekeeping with the children's help. While I am lying down they play quietly and are careful not to disturb me. Try my plan, some of you busy, overworked mothers of the Home Club and take a new lease of life and cheerfulness.

TO BASHFUL BILL--

Just "speak up like a man," and tell the young lady the state of your feelings toward her and your wish to make her your wife. From her acceptance of your attentions the past year, I think there is little doubt but that she may answer as you wish. Leave the details of the ring until afterwards, she will undoubtedly be glad to be consulted. There is no formula for proposing marriage, every man does it in his own way, and generally has no trouble in making himself understood. Sure of your success, we send hearty congratulations.

WOMEN AS MILKERS--

The idea seems to prevail extensively in the United States that milking is not proper work for a woman. We cannot but think that it is somewhat unfortunate. The girls growing up in the household ought to learn to milk. Such work is not beyond their strength, though they should not be required to carry pails of milk. By assisting in this exercise girls will be encouraged in habits of industry. Many of them seem to think it is undignified to engage in such work. Such a view is not well grounded. Labor that is right and proper is always ennobling and no one should be ashamed to perform it. Every girl, therefore, brought up on the farm should be as carefully instructed in the art of milking as she is in performing on a musical instrument.

There is another reason why women should take a share in the milking. Cows as a rule, will give more milk in a given time when the milk is drawn by women. This is owning to the more gentle way in which they go about their work. Men are oftentimes harsh and petulant when cows are refractory: women are more patient. Let no young girl on an American farm blush to acknowledge that she is able to milk a cow.


JUST US GIRLS--A BOY'S PERSPECTIVE; 1919; Marion Craig

Published in The Farmer's Wife magazine, Marion Craig's column, "Just Us Girls," was written to advise and encourage girls and young women. Considering that this was a "family-friendly" publication, I think that she handled the subject quite tactfully. 

Somehow I wish I need not talk about this subject. There are so many things in the world more inspiring and interesting and constructive and I had hoped that each of my girls had thought it out for herself and had come to the right conclusion in her own mind.



However, it keeps coming up and so I decided we would have it out and then we would put it away and not speak of it again--ever.

By this time, you will wonder what I am talking about. It is the old, old question of familiarities between girls and boys--where shall a self-respecting, fun-loving, truly nice girl draw the line? Some question, is it not?

Perhaps if I had not most unexpectedly been shown a boy's viewpoint, I should not have answered your questions here but as he told me this of himself I felt that perhaps fate had planned that I should pass his message on. He told me exactly how he and other boys feel toward certain types of girls and he told it so straight, that I am sure you will feel his sincerity.

First I want to explain that this boy is a typical boy--not a prude in any sense of the word, possibly cleaner minded than scores of other boys, but very human. I know, that as every normal boy should, he likes girls and seeks their company whenever he can.

"Of course boys are attracted by girls who will let them be familiar," he said. "Maybe they seek them out rather more than the other kind but deep down in their hearts, they do not respect them and they do not choose them for wives--at least not often."

"And why not?" I asked.

He hesitated. It was hard for him to explain.

"I think," he said finally, "it is because they do not trust such girls. They feel that girls who are not true to the principles their mothers taught them and people like you have impressed upon them and that they can learn in so many ways even if they have not had the right influences at home, are not to be trusted in other things. That's the way I feel anyway. A boy may take that kind of girl out for a picnic or a ride but as for marrying her--well that is different.

And there is the secret of the whole thing. A young man wants his wife, the mother of his children, to be "different" from "that kind of a girl."

Do you want to be the kind of girl whom a boy tolerates only in picnics or rides or other good times? Or would you like to think he might some day ask you to share his life, too?

More than once girls have written this to me: "Boys do not ask me to go with them because I do not let them do the things other girls allow."

My girls must be little missionaries to such boys! Do not preach to them; do not tell them familiarities are wrong or assume a moralizing air. They will hate that! Simply set them an example so fine and high and desirable that they will want to imitate you. Let what you do tell them what you are--and what they should be.

The next time a boy wants to put his arm about you or kiss you good night, say something like this to him:

"I do not do such things because I feel there should be a basis of true love for such actions. I do not love you nor do you love me. We are just friends. I do not want to cheapen real love, for some day the right man, I hope, will come into my life and I do not wish to cheat him--or myself."

No truly fine girl will marry a boy who is careless in these ways.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ENCOURAGING WORDS IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE DEPRESSION; 1931

This is Grandmother speaking--speaking out of a rich experience with life and a sound wisdom:

"When times were hard with us sixty-odd years ago--and they were harder than you know about even in these days--Father would gather his family around him of an evening and say, 'Let us pray.'

"And when we had had a short season of communion with God through which we gained new strength and courage, Mother would say, 'Now let us play.' Then would follow an hour of such active games as blindman's buff, and puss wants a corner, and later such quieter games as tic-tac-toe and old mill. Sometimes other families joined us and before they started for home we would make a feast of pop corn.

"So, playing and playing, we got a spiritual and mental refreshment that made the trials of the morrow seem much easier to face. Seems like to me that this generation of today might get something of value out of praying and playing just as we did sixty-odd years ago."


Never--once--since the world began
Has the sun ever once stopped shining;
His face very often we could not see,
And we grumbled at His inconstancy;
But the clouds were really to blame, not He,
For, behind them, He was shining.

And so--behind life's darkest clouds,
God's love is always shining,
We veil it at times with our faithless fears,
And darken our sight with our foolish tears,
But in time the atmosphere always clears,
For His love is always shining.


Dear Editor:  Our little six-year-old had been getting perfect spelling lessons for some time. One day his paper was marked "Good+." This grade was nothing to worry about, but we questioned him as to his lower grade. 

"It must be the depression, Mother," he said. "It does so many funny things."--Mrs. R. L. W., Iowa


Thursday, September 22, 2016

NO STRUGGLE--NO FUN; Perfectly-Farm-Crazy in Wisconsin; 1929

Dear Folks:

Don't we young folks nowadays want a bit too much? Most of us have a car. We want a beautiful home, telephone, radio, electricity, a new hat every season, silk stockings, and what not? Our parents weren't brought up in silk underwear. Are we better than they?

We bought our farm a year ago. Although it hasn't been easy sledding I don't regret our step. If there were no struggle, there'd be no fun.

Times of discouragement come to all humans. When I wish for modern improvements I think of my Mother, who came from a city in Germany, and whose first home in this country, after marriage, was a sod shanty in Nebraska. I have many more advantages than she had. Why grumble?

God said to Adam:  "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." He knows what is best for us. He has decreed that struggle and attainment shall go hand in hand.

I've often heard the remark:  "Farming is the worst job on earth." Let him who thinks so, spend a day in the mines, a week in the stone quarry, a year in the factory. Perhaps even the so-called "white-collar-jobs" aren't as easy as they look. Farming is the job where head and hand may work together.

Before closing, I wish to say that The Farmer's Wife is not a mere magazine, but an honest-to-goodness friend.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

PREVIEW OF THE BIBLE SAMPLER QUILT

As you can see from my last post, the editors of The Farmer's Wife magazine didn't shy away from printing letters that spoke of the love of God. I find this so refreshing, especially in our present day. If you appreciate the stories and wisdom found in the Bible, I hope that you will enjoy my upcoming book, The Bible Sampler Quilt. The book features 96 Bible passage paired with 96, six-inch Bible-themed quilt blocks. For the following verses, I chose the quilt block, "Love Knot."
"Love Knot"

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day, we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord...Romans 8:35-39

The Bible Sampler Quilt includes a CD with templates, full-size block line drawings, foundation patterns and rotary cutting measurements when applicable. It is expected to be released sometime in the next four to six weeks. If you are interested in purchasing an autographed copy, please write to Laurie at thefarmerswifequilt@yahoo.com. Another option is to preorder the book directly from Amazon (link to the left.) If the second option is chosen, you are eligible to download a free "bonus block" from http://www.fonsandporter.com/pre-order-bible-sampler-quilt

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever...Isaiah 40:8