Farming isn’t all work and no play


“It seems that our farm is a world away from the world. We have our chickens for eggs, we have our cows for milk and butter, we have the fun and work and joy and worry – we certainly don’t have to go looking for any of that!

When the sun comes up each morning, there is plenty to do. When the sun sets each evening, there is so much to be grateful for, and our tired bones let us know we have accomplished much. We gather on the porch together and know that we are blessed.”

– Rachel Peden, written in 1960

I remember as a kid going to visit my Aunt Dee and Uncle Howard and realizing how different their farm was from ours.

My Uncle Howard is a carpenter, a fine man of integrity and talent, who was taught the carpentry trade from his Uncle Jake Steigerwalt. Their business always thriving, Howard only had time for farming as a sideline.

So, while we had at least a hundred head of cattle at any given time, Dee and Howard had one milk cow that was somewhat a member of the family. Her name was Howdee, an appropriate name, wouldn’t you say?

One cow show. Howdee provided enough milk with heavy cream to take care of the family’s needs, and I remember to this day the wonderful taste of homemade butter Aunt Dee would churn. There was just nothing as good as a piece of toast with that amazingly tasty butter.

The other thing that amazed me when staying at our cousins’ place was how much fun they all had! Work was secondary, which was an amazing breath of fresh air to my sisters and me.

We got to swim in the pond all day long if we wanted to, without first being required to bale hay or straw or milk the herd – their herd of one was always taken care of by Uncle Howard before he left in the morning and again after he returned home at the end of the day.

The children were given permission to play and even to go inside and watch the Cleveland Indians baseball game if they wanted to. It was like getting a glimpse of life at a wonderful resort!

Just one job. The only time we were asked to drop what we were doing and pitch in to “work” was when the sheep broke through the fence. It didn’t feel like work – it felt like an adventure!

At least the first couple of times it felt like an adventure. After this repeated itself I could begin to understand the frustration in my cousins’ voices when we were asked to come help get the sheep back in.

“How can they be so stubborn and stupid?”, our cousins grumbled, but Aunt Dee and Uncle Howard seemed amazingly calm about this minor glitch in the day.

We played endlessly – hide and seek, freeze tag, cowboys and Indians. We went mushroom hunting, arrowhead hunting, hunting for imaginary bad guys on the loose.

I remember swimming and diving until we were bone-tired, then resting on the raft that Howard and his sons had made, with barrels under the wooden frame to keep it afloat.

After resting awhile, we always felt the need to have swimming races to see who could get back to the raft first. A bonfire was the great treat at the end of the day, with Aunt Dee making some of the very best food any kid ever tasted.

We did fried pies over that campfire for dessert, and it was a delicacy beyond compare to any fine restaurant’s fare.

Vacation over. We never got to stay long, and packing up and heading for home and our full-time farm felt like the end of a wonderful vacation cut far too short.


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