Blog

Life on the Farm, Part I

Swift Home Place

My two sets of grandparents were born in the same era, but to me, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum. My paternal grandparents were 17 years apart, my maternal grandparents, 7 years apart. My maternal grandparents lived on a farm, my paternal grandparents lived in the country and always planted a large garden, but they were not farmers. My two grandmothers both involved in the church, although different protestant denominations. My maternal grandmother a fearful, repentant Christian and my maternal grandmother a matter-of-fact practical Christian. Their homes were also very different.

My maternal grandparents, Granny and Grand-Daddy, were hard workers. They raised milk cows, grew tobacco (although neither ever smoked), raised pigs and chickens, and planted a huge garden every year. Every day meant rising early to round up the cows and milk them, only to repeat that process at the close of the day. Days were always full and everyone knew a visit to the farm meant you pitched in and helped with chores. There were no days off other than Sunday and even then the cows still had to be milked.

Granny never put on airs. She was short and stout, with her gray hair always slipping out of her bun and falling around her face. Grand-Daddy was a farmer but also a carpenter. He had a wood shop on the farm that always smelled of sawdust. His tools were bolted to his hand-hewn wooden workbench and were well used.

By the time I remember going to Granny’s, it was one of the few surviving farms along a fairly industrial highway. What once had been the main road, now ran parallel to the highway and was busy with semi-trucks passing all the time. Even though you could always hear the trucks, turning into the driveway brought you into a whole new world.

The house was a large white clapboard house, with a front porch leading to the large front yard. No one used the porch, instead they chose to sit in straight-back chairs outside the side door which was always used as the main entrance to the house. Right outside the door was an old cast iron hand-pump that pumped water out of the well.

The side door brought you into the entryway, a utility type room. Under the window was a huge ironing machine or mangler. I do not ever recall seeing it in use, but the crisp white and neatly pressed sheets on the bed were proof of it. There was also a large farm sink where vegetables were washed and dirty farm hands as well. At the back of the room were steps that led into the basement where all of the grandkids hated to go. It was dark and damp, often filled with cobwebs. This is where canned goods were stored for the winter. It also had an open shower coming from open visible pipes. We shuddered when we were told to shower in the basement.

Upstairs there was a large living room with a fireplace, a piano, a single couch and 4 or 5 rocking chairs, handmade by Grand-Daddy. Off of the living room was the master bedroom where my grandparents slept. It had a large pineapple four-poster bed and my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine.

The kitchen was off the utility room and connected to a large dining room completely furnished with furniture made by my grandfather. At the center of the room was a large dining room table that seated 10-12 people complete with cane-bottom chairs caned by my grandfather. Off to the side were corner cabinets used to store the Jewel Tea Autumn Leaves dishes, and a side-board or buffet used for serving. (This is also where Granny stored her caramel covered cakes hidden under a dishtowel.)

There was a bathroom, complete with tub, off the kitchen in the main hallway. Grand-Daddy’s razor strap hung off a towel rack on the back of the door, always swinging menacingly – we always heard it was his choice of a discipline tool. That was enough to keep us all in line.

Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bathroom with a tiny shower. One room had a tiny closet under the eaves which made the perfect place to play. If all the grandkids were there (15 in total) feather beds were pulled out of the closet and placed on the floors for the kids to sleep on.

I appreciate the memories now much more than I did as a young child. The drone of the passing trucks throughout the night was the loneliest sound on earth.


This is similar to the ironing machine that sat in the entryway of my grandparents home.