Friday, July 16, 2010

A Typical Day.... Was All Work

Because my father, Lee Doyle, never talked about his childhood, all I really knew about his youth was that he lived on a farm in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania. About 7 years after Dad died I wrote to his half-sister, Tressa, and asked her questions about their years on the farm together. She was kind to take time to answer them, and I've been slowly transcribing the many pages she wrote. She went into very little detail about the exhausting labor of running a farm and the day-in, day-out, every-day-of-the-year work, but gave a brief overview of work in this summer season. (The photo to the right shows the barn and farm from the back.)

My daughters and I visited Aunt Tressa about two years later and she took us to see the farm. I was surprised to realize that we'd passed it every time we went to visit her -- and I'd never known it was "the farm." We were not able to go inside the house but had permission to poke around the barn, walk the property, and take photographs. Aunt Tressa's words about the farm and those bygone times are below, accompanied by my photos of that visit.

At least 4 generations of my Doyle family had used the barn for a livelihood. As you can see, the barn was unused, unloved, and had been given little care in recent years. The fields were grown over with grass and weeds, the paths from pasture to barn no longer discernable. It tugged at my heartstrings to see the once noble barn in such a state. It has since been torn down, a part of our family's past and history gone, except for Aunt Tressa's written memories and my photographs.

A typical day on the farm in summer was all work. – Seven days a week the cows had to be milked – morning and evening. The milk was strained into 10 gallon cans which were set in the cold water trough to cool. Every morning the cans were put on the truck (wagon in the wintertime) to be taken to the Meadow Gold Milk Plant at Sandy Lake. We took turns with 2 other farmers at taking the milk to the Plant. Each turn was for a month. Dad [Gust] or your Dad [Lee], when he was old enough to drive, would take the milk to the Plant.

After milking was completed the cows were turned out to pasture.

This is where the youngest of the family had to help. We would follow the cows down the lane, urge them into the pasture and secure the gate. In the evening this procedure was reversed. Our dog helped us with the cows. (Also it was the duty of the children to bring the cows from the pasture to the barn in the early evening so they could be milked.) Dad or your Dad brought them up to the barn in the morning. This was in the summer. In the winter the cows were kept in the shed except at milking time.

In the spring the ground was plowed (always with the horses -- until we bought the [Fordson] tractor [in about 1930]).
After the fields were plowed – the soil was prepared for planting corn and oats. When the corn started to grow it had to be hoed to kill the weeds around the plants. Then Dad or your Dad would cultivate it. When we were old enough (and big enough) we had to help hoe the corn – right along with the men.

The oats and hay didn’t require this much work. They just grew until harvest time. The hay was harvested first, then the oats. In the fall the field corn was cut and shocked until the corn could be husked. The ears of corn were stored in the corn crib. Most of it was ground into feed for the cows. Some of it was used for chicken feed. The corn stalks were used in the winter for feed for the cows when they were in the shed. After they had eaten the good part, the remainder of the stock was used for bedding for the cows. The ensilage corn was cut and loaded on the wagons to be taken to the barn where it was put in the ensilage cutter to be chopped and blown into the silo for feed for the cows in the winter....

At the time [Dad/Gust] died we owned 248 acres. He was becoming a very successful dairy farmer. We had 20 milk cows plus the calves that we raised to replace cows that weren’t good milk producers. We had a team of work horses that were used to plow, cultivate and prepare the fields for planting the crops. They were also used for harvesting the crops of hay, oats and corn.

Neither hay, nor oats, nor corn grow on the farm. There are no fences, silo, nor corn cribs. And the horses, the cows, and the dog are gone. Nearly all the people who once lived there are also gone. I'm thankful to have been able to visit and see the barn before it was demolished and to envision my father and grandfather and the others at work there.

Have you visited the home or property of ancestors? Was it in good condition, poor condition, or was the building gone? How did you feel when you visited?

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