Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian
Last night I got to thinking about the first farm my husband and I lived on. It was a huge sprawling place with 18 rooms. It was two houses built together. Obviously it started as one house and then another was added when the next generation started it’s own family. It had a dining room that held a table that could seat 36 people. In those days farm harvests were done by groups of neighbors sharing equipment and horses. Harvests were social events as well as hard work.
Last night I began to think about the barn. It was a lovely big barn that was situated so that the storage end of the barn protected the animal side from the cold northwest winds and yet could be opened up in the summer for wonderful breezes.
It dawned on me that this barn never would have held much livestock. There was a big box stall that probably held a team of horses. There were about four stanchions for cows, a pig shed, and a loafing barn, but I don’t know what they had there – sheep? Beef cattle? The main part of the barn had a huge mow. You drove up into the barn and the mow floor was about five foot off the ground (the loafing shed was under this) On the other side was storage for equipment and grain and a tack room.
This farm supported the large family and built a very nice house. Now I wish I knew more about the folks who had lived there. How many acres did they farm? Did they have a cash crop? Why weren’t they there any longer?
A few years ago I happened to meet the Grandaughter of that farm family on a bus ride. Now I wish I had written down her name. I may still see if I can contact her. If she’s still alive, I want to know more.
I knew that my elderly, well off farm neighbor had made it on ten cows, shipping only the cream and feeding the skimmed milk to pigs. Now I see that most of those big old barns in our area did not hold very many animals. Even with the hard work of doing chores the old fashioned way, there would have been time left for friends and family. Actually doing things the old fashioned way required working with friends and family.
I need to go sit down with some of my older neighbors. I wish I had done that more before some of the oldest ones had passed away. And I wish I had listened better.