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"About a Thousand Quarts...Every Summer!"

Fri, Jun 15th, 2001
Posted in

June 18, 2001

The Art of Farming is a project of the Collaborative for Watershed Sustainability to gather stories about farm life in southeastern Minnesota before World War II. Stories have been gathered from individuals near Harmony, Lake City and Wells Creek near Red Wing.

We raised hybrid seed corn in Indiana and had quite a few nephews. In the summertime these kids would want to come. My sister-in-law had boys who wanted to come too, which was great; they were kids youd like to have around. Sometimes I would have as many as nine extra people with us at meals. My brother-in-law lived with us part of the time because he was single and no place to go. My husbands brother and wife and seven year old little girl lived across the road. This brother was a schoolteacher and had some type of illness, which now I think was Alzheimers. So actually I had a big family all the time and a lot of them to cook for. This sister-in-law across the road was always very helpful and the situation was beneficial because I could share with them things they could very well use. (There was no government assistance back then, just what you could make on your own.)

We raised a big garden, loads of vegetables and fruit which was our main diet anyway and what we all loved. I always canned about 1,000 quarts every summer. So I had all this stuff in the basement plus milk, eggs and butter. Butterfat was 5 cents a pound during the Indiana years. Eggs were maybe a nickel a dozen. We had our own meat supply, so what more do you really need? I could fix a pretty good meal. (without spending a cent!) Well, you always had to buy sugar and flour. (and canning jars!) The energy expended was the thing that was valuable.

But back to explaining why we had all those extra kids around... In raising hybrid corn, you have to de-tassel. Consequently those kids were the hand-detasselers. Of course that had to be done periodically. They pull the tassel out of the top of the corn stalk. Eventually they had a stool on wheels to ride along in the cornfield because some of it was high. So you had to have large-sized kids and they were big eaters. They even used to like lunching in between meals. My husband never lunches if he can avoid it. He eats three meals a day and thats it. So it was a new thing to him to have kids forever eating.

~ ~ ~

I de-tasseled corn in Iowa when I was in the fifth grade, thats how I earned my first bicycle. I was tall enough. You see, back then the boys rode the machines and the girls walked because they told us girls we were more efficient. The girls would come in after the boys went through with the machine, and do the clean up.(And we fell for that!) Yes, I de-tasseled corn from the time I was in fifth grade until I was a sophomore in high school. It was an easy way to make money. My mother also raised a big garden. So I was more or less cultivated for the farm, although I didnt know it at the time. I canned also when I got to the farm but not that much. Not a thousand quarts.

Well, there was all that fruit...what else would you do with it? We had peaches, pears, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, and apples. And then you could go out and pick the blueberries (huckleberries) in the marshes. The mulberries grew on the trees and that was just a nuisance fruit. The birds come along and then theyd sit above your clothesline and you were in trouble. One of our little daughters, barely talking yet, prayed grace at the noon meal one day. She had seen her pajamas hanging on the line and the birds had flown over and she said, "please God, kill all those dirty birds." It was enough to break up the whole meal!

Our farm also had fruitapples, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries. And I froze or canned all of it (for jam and fruit.) When the Amish came into our area the truckers came for the Amish with their peaches and pears and Bing cherries. So I started to buy those and can those. But never in the multitude that you did. If I did 30-40 jars of fruit I had enough, in more than one way.

The following stories where gathered from Harmony natives on April 7, 2000 at Greenfield Lutheran Church with help from Opal Schrock, Drucie Milne, Pauline Austin, and Loni Kemp. They are edited by Beth Waterhouse. She can be reached at 952-401-0591.

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