Monday, July 28, 2008


One of my father’s oft repeated admonition to me was, ”learn to work” by which he really meant learn how to work, and on our farm that meant knowing what to do and when to do it. It was also important to understand why the work had to be done, and the consequences of not doing it and/or not doing it right.

I’m not sure how old I was when I was officially expected to perform certain chores, as well as being available to my father to help with the constant demands of the farm. I would guess about 9-10 years old. During the school year I was expected to perform after school chores, usually lasting about one and a half hours, as well as Saturdays and occasionally Sunday mornings. The amount of work varied with the time of year-less in the winter and more in the summer. During summer vacations my father asked that I be available to him for a half a day, so I could usually have part of each day to myself. Looking back I can appreciate how he balanced my need to accept responsibility with my need for childhood freedom.

The usual daily chores consisted of collecting eggs after school and on weekends, feeding the chickens (I’ll have more to say about the chickens later), and milking the cow. I loved milking the cow, especially in the winter when I could lay my head against her flank and feel the heat of her body as she warmed the barn. I still believe a barn and its animal during the cold winter days is just about the coziest place one could be. There were always cats and kittens around, and I enjoyed squirting them with the milk to watch them lick each other clean. Another routine chore was helping my mother grade and pack the eggs, something that had to be done daily.

On weekends and during summer vacations there were numerous jobs and projects that demanded attention in addition to the routine chores. But that’s another story.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Your post reminded me of the job my sister and I hated most: feeding the chickens. "It wouldn't be so bad, if the dumb things appreciated it!" I said more than once.

We loved the baby chickens, though; they were so soft and cuddly, quietly chirping in the corners of the warm brooder house...