Lake County History, Chapter 121: Farm Life

This written narrative was found in an old desk that belonged to a long-time resident of one of the Upper Lake families. The writer is unknown.

“In 1910, when our house was built, it was made of single-walled construction. I think it was called ‘Board and Bat’. The original section had two small rooms we used as bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen. My sisters and I slept in one bed between feather comforters. There were no closets in the house, no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom. My sisters and I bathed in a tub behind the kitchen stove. The water was brought in from the outside, and we heated it on the stove and took our bath, one at a time, in the same water. The toilet was a privy in the back yard, quite a distance from the house.”

“When we went to town to sell eggs and buy groceries, we traveled by horse and buggy. The road was dusty in summer and a foot deep in mud in the winter. Our big treat was a five-cent ice cream cone or, maybe, a few pieces of hard candy.”

“We raised most of our food on the ranch. We had several cows, which we milked. At first, the milk was put in big pans and placed in the little milk house near the house. This was a tiny double-walled building with sawdust for insulation between the walls. It was our only ‘refrigerator’. The cream would rise to the top of the milk, as thick as leather. We would skim it off and put it in our cream can to sell to the creamery.”

“Later, we got a separator, which was a large bowl at the top for milk. By turning a crank, the milk flowed down through metal discs, then came out through the two discs, cream from one and skim milk from the other. We made butter from some of the cream and cottage cheese from the skim milk. The hogs got the whey.”

“We also had cattle, and we ate lots of veal. The chickens ran wild, and the hens hid their eggs all over the place, in the weeds, in the hay in the barn, and under the buildings. There wasn’t any crawl space under the barn, just a slither space for me and the animals. I went there often and came out with several dozen eggs, most of which were past their prime.”

“We raised hogs. On butcher day, water was heated in a big vat. The hogs were scalded and scraped. A big black kettle was set up in the back yard, and the fat was cut up and rendered into lard to be stored away in the little cool house.”

“For fun, we were allowed to cook doughnuts in the boiling lard. We made sausage and buried the lard. When we wanted some of the lard, we would dig it out of the ground. Hams, shoulders, and bellies were salted and sugared and smoked. The feet were pickled, while the heart, liver, and other parts of the animal were cooked and eaten that day. We boiled the head for head cheese. We ate lots of chicken because there were always lots of them running around.”

“Threshing Day was always great sport. The big old thresher came in and was set up out in the middle of the field. Grain shocks were hauled in to be threshed. On that day we always cooked a big dinner. The workers came in and sat at a big table out in the yard and at mounds of fried chicken, corn on the cob, pie, cake, and everything else we served.”

“We always had a garden and fruit trees. We canned lots of fruit and vegetables. These were cooked, ‘open kettle’, on top of the stove. Then we put it into tin cans. The cans had a groove around the top into which we poured hot wax to make a seal.  We also dried some of the fruit and the vegetables.”

“Of course, there were no radios, so we made our own entertainment. We were happy, and we had fun.

Next episode;The Man who wouldn’t Die


To enjoy and learn more about Author Gene Paleno’s books

visit Gene’s website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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