Interview with a Farmer Part Two

How often do you get an interview with a farmer who’s almost 100 years old? Granted, my grandpa hasn’t worked a farm since 1949, but he’s still a wealth of information!

Interview With A Farmer Part 2


Read part one of the interview HERE.

Interview With a Farmer Part 2

Born in 1922, my grandfather grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. They raised tomatoes, potatoes, and chickens on the farm. They also had a dairy of ten cows. Many of the veggies, eggs, and milk were all sold. Along with the farm, they had a garden to feed the family, which included a total of 14 kids.

Did you grow everything you ate?

Yup or shot it. I would shoot woodchucks in the summertime. I didn’t like ‘em at all, but that’s what we had in the summertime for meat. Woodchuck. Of course in the fall, I always shot a deer, at least one deer. We raised sweet corn just for ourselves. All the eggs were sold. The only time you got to eat eggs was at Easter time. You got to eat all the eggs you wanted then.

Interview with a Farmer - Life on the Farm - IdlewildAlaska

The stuff was all organic naturally. There was some things, like (string) beans, you had to put some poison, I don’t remember what, or otherwise the Japanese beetles would totally destroy them. Always planted a few rows of navy beans. Nothing bothered them hardly. Always wanted to let them get ripe, thrash them in the thrasher, roll them through the fanning mill to blow the dust away. Always had a supply of beans.

Had a couple pigs, because we always butchered one or two in the fall or winter. We lived off the farm. Had to have some meat. We’d butcher a cow, at least one cow or heifer every fall. Always had a couple or three pigs, butchered them.

How did you butcher the pigs?

Pig? Well, we’d get the pig out of the pen and I’d have my .22. I’d get in front of him, get him where we wanted him, about. There is one spot right between the eyes and above, you’d hit a tiny spot like that (dime size) and down they’d go dead. Drag him over where the barrel was with hot water in it with a scaffold over the top with a pully. Pull him up, drop him down in there for so long in the hot water, then turn him around and reverse him and do the same, then start scrapping. You had these scrapers, smaller on the other end, handle in between, to scrap the hair off. You had to scald him a little while to do that.

Did you make your own butter?

No. Most of it (milk) all got bottled up and went to the people who bought it. Same with the chicken eggs. They were sold. We’d take a whole load of wheat to the mill to have flour made. That would be a one day trip. Had to go about 10 to 12 miles by wagon and horses. Dad went into the mill there, he was gone and gone and gone. Finally, I was about that high (3 ft or so), I decided to go home. He come out and I was gone. So he headed back the way we came. There was two ways to go. He went up there, and he found me about a mile away walking.

We’d make cottage cheese, run it through a milk churn to separate the thin part of the milk. That’s what you made cheese out of. But I don’t know what they do anymore. We had milk to drink, for cereal and so on. That was it.

How did you water your garden?

Rain. That was it. (Must have been nice!)

On hunting:

I always hunted for deer. I always shot a couple every year in season. Of course, you’re allowed one deer, but I’d always shoot another one or two for my brothers, who couldn’t hit anything it seemed like. Back in Pennsylvania, I shot one black bear once. They taste alright. Of course, we had the hide tanned. My wife’s sister came down there to visit her the one time. She (his wife) went and got the hide and tossed it to her sister, and scared the hell out of her. It wasn’t a very big black bear, not like these grizzlies up here.

Interviewing an Old Farmer - IdlewildAlaska

My mother would go deer hunting. We had some property out towards the mountains, about eight miles away. There had been an old sawmill there. There was a pile of sawdust about 20 feet high, and dad built her a little place to sit in there so she could watch the trails coming in. Once a buck came through, she said, “I shot at him,” but all the bullets laid right there. She just worked the lever. That was called buck fever!

November was trapping season. As a child, he trapped possum, rabbits, weasels, and skunks. He says he likes the smell of skunks! It got so his teacher would take his coat and hang it outside during school. 

Did you grow any fruit?

We had a small orchard of apples. There was a big cherry tree there. We would go other places sometimes to pick cherries. Mom would can a bunch of black cherries. They were good. The red cherries were sour. Good for pies, but not very good to nibble on. But to get cherreis to can, the black cherries, we’d go 4 to 5 miles away to where people had a big old cherry tree. You could climb up it and pick cherries. Mom canned a lot of everything to feed us 14 kids.

My grandparents were about a mile from where I lived. A little farther going by road, but when I’d go over there, I’d go straight across the swamp, cause they had a good blueberry patch down in the low ground, you know, huckleberry bushes as high as the ceiling. You’d have to try each one cause they all tasted a little bit different. I liked those.

My uncle would go down to Maryland, he had a truck and would come back totally loaded full of watermelons. They’d buy them for less than a nickle a piece. Ate watermelons until I thought I’d die.

Did you can a lot of foods?

Canned everything. Lots. Fourteen kids ate a lot. We’d go over about 10-15 miles to the west from where we lived. They grew a lot of peas over there. Well, they’d go through and mow it and rake it up. Afterwards you could go in and, sprouts or anything that’s still laying around, we’d get out peas that way mostly. You could buy some also from the farmers that raised all the peas. But everything was canned. In quart or 2 quart bottles.

How did you preserve your meat?

Canned it. Somewhere along there, there was a freezer building that you could rent a box down about a mile from home, and you could rent one of those and keep your frozen stuff in it.

Was there running water in the farmhouse?

The well was just outside the door and you pumped it. It was a hand dug well.

With 14 kids, how big was the house?

Not nearly  big enough. There was one major bedroom that had three or four beds, double beds. My room had one double bed. A couple of my sisters had another bigger room that they slept in. Had five brothers, more girls than boys. Most girls had to help do something, if you could get them away from the old piano. I don’t think they ever helped milk cows. They were all milked by hand by Dad, Mom and me mostly.

I had a couple of lazy sisters. There was an old piano in the house. The lazy ones would be pecking away at the piano. They didn’t know how to play really, never took any lessons, but they would spend a lot of time there. (Hehehehehehe)

What kind of cook stove did you have in the house?

It was wood or coal. It had an oven and, right above the firebox, there were two burners. You could take a little thing that would hook in what they were sitting in to open the firebox totally. That heated the house also. So it would be stoked with coal in the evening, then dampered down so it would last all night and put out some heat. Of course, it got cold sometimes in the winter time. There was a crack in my bedroom, a little crack, so if it was snowing and blowing, I’d have a little tiny pile of snow inside there.

What about WWII?

Well, I was exempt. I worked on a farm raising food back in Pennsylvania, so I was exempt from going. I ran a tractor 80 hours in one week. Now that’s a lot of hours. At 3 -4 o’clock in the morning, I’d be out there cultivating some sort of vegetable. At about 3 o’clock in the morning, I’d be out there cultivating, and I’d see frost out there on the little plants, I thought, “Oh shoot.” About 4 o’clock, it warmed up and started to rain, so it never hurt any of the plants.

Did you know the Great Depression was happening while it was happening?

Oh yes. We were out in the country, about 25 miles out of Wilkes-Barre. Many people out of work up that way. So they had the WPA, Workers Progressive Association, or something like that, that they would, the only dump trucks were not very big, but they would have seats in it and load it up with people, and bring them out to the country to work on the roads, cracking rocks or hauling rocks, because the roads were pretty muddy and so forth. They got paid something by the government, but it wasn’t very much. They’d have a truckload of men, drop them off, and about half of them would head for the woods and they’d play poker. The others worked.

On the time he broke his leg:

I rolled a tree on top of me. The tree was a big oak tree. Up about 12-15 feet, there was three or four branches that took off. My brother and I, we started cutting out on the ends, cutting them down into 8 foot lengths, big enough to take them to the sawmill to make boards out of them. Never thinking, the tree was laying where two branches come out, I cut right through there, and the trunk rolled and hit me right on top of the head, and shot back. I twisted away and when it finally got around to above my knee, it snapped it. The ambulance, there was a little ambulance in the area, a mile away, they took me to the hospital. Mom said it was pretty crowded. They got me out of the hospital too soon. It wasn’t set yet (the bone), not really. I started building a bone all around my leg there, trying to form another joint. A year later, in January, the doctor got a specialist out of New York, and I was in the hospital all day while they chiseled all that extra bone off. They put a big rod in my leg, inside the bone, and kept me there until… that was in January, they kept me there until the last day of June. So I was on crutches all that one summer, about, and fall.

Don’t forget to check out Part One and subscribe so you don’t miss Part Three – All about moving to Alaska!

Categories: Homesteading Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homestead Blog Hop #58

Welcome to the Homestead Blog Hop!

Homestead Blog Hop every Wednesday featuring real food recipes, natural health remedies, DIY, crafts, Gardening Tips, and more...

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We’ll be celebrating this filling holiday with family we haven’t seen in a while and can’t wait! Need a tasty dessert for your Thanksgiving table? Check out my Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake!

Now on to the hop…

Homestead Blog Hop will take place every Wednesday and is for all things homesteading: real food recipes, farm animals, crafts, DIY, how-to’s, gardening, anything from-scratch, natural home/health, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, natural remedies, essential oils, & more! Basically anything related to homesteading.

Meet and Follow Your Hosts!

Homestead Blog Hop Hosts - come link up your homesteading posts every Wednesday


Kelly – Simple Life Mom (Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/G+)

Katey – Mama Kautz (Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter)

Jennifer – Homesteading on Grace (Facebook/Pinterest/G+)

Amanda – Idlewild Alaska (Facebook/Pinterest) (That’s me!)

Gregg – The Rural Economist (Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/G+/Instagram)

Bonnie – The Not So Modern Housewife (Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/G+)

Featured Posts from the Last Homestead Blog Hop

Each week we will choose three posts to feature.Each post will be shared on all social media platforms by all of the hosts! Here are the features from Last Week’s Hop:

Featured on the Homestead Blog Hop -Sour-Cream-Apple-Bars

1. Sour Cream Apple Bars from A Mother’s Shadow

Featured on the Homestead Blog Hop -Food-Safety

2.Food Safety in an Emergency from little Blog on the Homestead

Featured on the Homestead Blog Hop - Chicken Hoop House

3. Winter Proof Chicken Hoop House from Flaws Forgiven

Congrats! Feel free to grab the featured on button for your post.

Just right click and ‘save image as…’

Homestead Blog Hop every Wednesday featuring real food recipes, natural health remedies, DIY, crafts, Gardening Tips, and more...

Guidelines for this Get-Together:
  1. Click on the “Add your Link” Button below and add a great image of your project or recipe. Make sure you link to the page of your family friendly post – not the main page of your blog!
  2. Try to visit at least a few other blogs at the party. Be sure to leave a comment to let them know you stopped by!
  3. Please link back to this post somehow (a text link is ok). This is one thing we look for when choosing who to feature. We will share on multiple social media if you are featured!

Let the Party Begin!

 Loading InLinkz ...

Categories: Homestead Blog Hop | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Interview with a Farmer from the 1930’s and 40’s

It’s not very often that you get to have an interview with a farmer who hasn’t worked a farm since 1949. So many things have changed, and yet it still seems to come down to a lot of the same basic things.

Interview with a Farmer from the 1930's and 40's - IdlewildAlaska

My grandfather was born in 1922, (he’s the baby pictured above) not too far from Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. Grandpa is the oldest of 14 children. The family farm was 56 acres. They raised potatoes, tomatoes, chickens, and dairy cows. In 1949, he and my grandma were married. In 1950, while Grandma was expecting their first child, he came to Alaska for the summer in search of work. He got a job with the road commission. In 1951, they moved the little family to Alaska for good. With this wealth of knowledge available to me, I got to “interview” him a few days ago about the farm and moving to Alaska. Below is the first part of the interview, which covers part of his life on the farm in Pennsylvania. Be sure to subscribe via your email so you don’t miss the rest of the interview!

Interview With a Farmer, Part One

 What was a typical day like for you on the farm?

During the summer? I’d probably be on the tractor cultivating, probably cultivating potatoes or corn. We also planted a lot of beans also, navy beans. You have to keep after them or the weeds will take over. That’s after you get them planted and everything is starting to grow. We did have a tractor, a John Deere. Had horses before that, just a team of horses.

Of course, we had cows, so we had to make hay in the summer time. We planted oats, and we planted some wheat in the fall. We had one in late fall, and it would get up about so high, and in the spring it takes off. In July, it was time to get all the oats and wheat harvested. Run through with a machine that would mow it. Then when it got dry, you would rake it up or go through a machine that would tie it up in bundles, about this big (roughly 8 in diam). Then you would stack them up, eight or ten of those little bundles or more, and they would sit there for a while until they dry real good. They had to be dry when you put them in the barn or else they would start to mold and rot. Sometimes barns would get burned down because it would get so hot, it would catch on fire. So you had to make sure it was dry before you put it in the barn. Same with the hay.

(Describing stacking hay in the barn loft.) Mowing hay, when it got totally dry, then you would rake it up. On our farm, we used pitchforks to pitch it up on a wagon and haul it in and hook a horse up to a rope, and you would bring a big fork down and grab a whole bunch of that hay and pull with a pulley, and  somebody up there, they’d open a big open door up high, they would pull it in, and back the horse up so it got loose, they’d get it inside and then trip the forks so it would let loose of the hay.

We had about 10 cows. We spent a lot of time in the gutter shoveling s*&t. You’d put it in a wheelbarrow, and run it out to the big manure pile. Had some boards laying so you’d get up on it and dump it out. Everyday you had to do that.

We planted about 5 acres of tomatoes every year. They were green pack. You’d pick ‘em when they were green, not ripe, because they had to be taken to a plant and packaged and shipped. They’d be shipped to Florida, down south.

The (navy) beans, you’d pull the plants up and stack ‘em up in little piles and let them dry some more. Then when the weather was good and dry, you gather them up in a wagon. We had a thrasher to put them through, that would crush the pods and shake out the beans. Then you’d put it all through a windmill and crank it by hand, and it would blow all the dust off them. Not like today.

There was always pulling weeds in the garden and so on. We didn’t have chickweed, thanks goodness. Lambsquarter, or pigweed as we called it. Lambsquarter, when its about this high (short), it was what we ate.

Did you use any sorts of pesticides on your garden or on the farm?

Certain things you had to use some poison on or the Japanese beetles would take over the beans, especially on that. Something we used… we’d shake lime dust on somethings, but I don’t remember what for. Kept something off. We didn’t have moose or anything.

What about deer?

They were up in the mountains, not down where our farm was.

Besides cows, what animals did you have?

Had a couple pigs, because we always butchered one or two in the fall or winter. We lived off the farm. Had to have some meat. We’d butcher a cow, at least one cow or heifer every fall. Always had a couple or three pigs, butcher them. There were 14 of us kids. We had chickens.

The cows took care of themselves. Right from the barn there was a lane going down that was fenced on both sides; we had the pasture down there, mostly woods. Every morning after milking the cows, somebody would open the stanchions so the cows could all get out and head down the lane. You’d follow them down there and then close the gate at the end of the lane so they couldn’t get out. Then in the evening, someone would go down and let them come up. They always knew where their stall was, always went to their own stall, always. You had a trough built out of concrete right in front of them. As soon as they went in, you’d close the stanchion around their neck and all their feed would fill the trough, the length of all the stanchions. The hay went in there. They’d always eat the hay, especially in the winter time. Some other feed would go in there, dairy feed. One bag every day. I think it was almost 100 pounds of grain and mixture. A big bag of cattle feed for the dairy was $1, and dad bought one every day.

Interviewing and Old Farmer - IdlewildAlaska

What did you feed the chickens?

Feed ‘em? Well, they fed themselves mostly. They ran loose. They can live on grass just fine. There was a big chicken coop, but in the summer time they ran loose.

My dad had his own little dairy, sold the raw milk. So there was milking every morning and every evening. Then had to take it into the milk house, walk up the steps and dump the milk into the tank, and then it would run down over the cooler. It would come out real slow out of a little pipe with holes in it. It would run down over pipes that were cold because of a compressor that ran on electricity. It kept the thing very cold and that would cool the milk off right away, and it would go into another room that had something to cool it, a motor in there. So these two compartments about four or five feet square would be cool and we’d keep the milk in there over night. First thing in the morning, dad would head to town with the bottles. Had to bottle it in quart bottles. Every two days about, I had to wash a whole bunch of bottles. You would stick ‘em in there, then a spray would come out and wash ‘em good.

One of our troubles was they didn’t have big enough power lines. Sometimes you couldn’t get the dang compressor started. There just wasn’t enough electricity in the wires. It would struggle. You’d have to shut everything off, so nothing was being used, then maybe you’d get the thing going so it would cool the big refrigerator. It was pretty close to 4 foot wide and 16 feet long. In the center was where the controls all were and the motor, the compressor. It put everything into these crates that held about a dozen quart bottles, maybe less. I don’t know anymore. First thing in the morning after we milked, we bottle ‘em, and dad would take off. One of the kids would go with him sometimes, to the local town, which was about 5 miles away. So whoever was with him, they’d stop at the different  houses, and they’d grab whatever they had to have, quart or two quarts or something, and run up there and pick up the empty bottles and come back.

So you weren’t just the farmer, you were the milkman too.

Oh yeah. People would buy potatoes. They’d order them the day before, something like that.

Is that how you sold everything? Door to door?

Everything was door to door, or some little stores would want so many bottles. Two little towns they went to. Shickshinny was the biggest one. Then across the river was Mocanaqua.

Any tips for a new farmer?

Don’t let the weeds get ahead of you.

Any tips for someone who wanted to buy a dairy cow?

You could probably buy the milk cheaper.

Sigh… thanks for the tips, Gramps. :)

This is only part one and a small part of the whole interview with a farmer. Be sure to come back for the rest!

Read Part Two HERE!

Categories: Homesteading Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments