Our local library has a children's story hour once a week and I have had an occasion, now and then, to be the guest reader. Our own five children attended the library story time on a regular basis while growing up and we found it is one of those lifelong learnings that connects children with the importance of the printed word. Parents would do well to take that one hour a week to fill that story time room with children.
At a recent story time, I took the children "down on the farm." I realized with the loss of our nation's farms there are fewer and fewer children who realize what it takes to feed our nation's people. Hearing my cow bells ring, once again, raised up many fond memories of life on our small farm and my grandparent's large dairy. In my estimation, it would be a perfect world if we could all grow up on a farm.
Our family farm was located near a summer cottage business. I once took one of those city girls to the barn to watch me milk the cows. She had insisted that milk came from a bottle and had never realized that it took a cow to fill that bottle. Picking corn from the cornstalks in the cornfield was another big surprise to non-farm kids. Likewise, another city girl would not believe that eggs came out of chickens until I took a recently laid warm egg out of the nest and put it in her hand. She shuddered and exclaimed, "O, it is warm!" while quickly dumping it back into my hands. Life on a farm was in another world from life in the city.
On the farm, once dawn arrived and we were washed up and filled with a good breakfast, we stepped outside and called to the cows from the far pasture-"come, boss!" With that, they raised up from eating grass and started toward the barn. The cow dog, "Beauty," was sent to keep them in line and to get them to the barn. Once in the barn, they went directly to their own stanchion; somehow they knew exactly where they belonged and rarely made a mistake.
We then took our three-legged milk stools and a milk bucket and started the milking - it was before the days of milking machines. The cows chewed on the grain that was waiting for them at the head of the stanchion. On my grandfather's farm, we milked 98 cows and on our farm we milked one to three cows-Molly, Polly, and Dolly. After milking, the cows were sent back to the pasture until the five o'clock milking time.
The milk had to be poured through a strainer into a milk can and stored in the milk house where an ice cold spring pool kept it cold until picked up by the co-op. Sometimes a separator and churn were used to make butter and sour milk was used to make cheese. The co-op made cheese and ice cream as well as selling the milk.
Along with the daily routine with the cows, there were chickens to feed, eggs to collect, pigs to feed, and, before tractors, horses to care for. Growing food for the animals and for the family consumed other waking hours on the farm. Successfully planting a garden and caring for it made farming possible, and when crops failed, life on the farm could become difficult. Much depended on the weather and the help needed to do the chores. Farmers often cooperated at haying and harvesting times to share help, equipment, and horses. In my estimation, labor-intensive farming requires, to this day, a full level of devotion.