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Life on the Farm, Part II

Swift Home Place

My grandfather was a teacher at the Central Luzon Agricultural School in the Philippine Islands in the early 1900s. After he married my grandmother in 1916, both would return to the Philippine Islands, where their first two children were born. The stories of their times in the Philippines are interesting and worth a later more in-depth post.

We are not sure of the original purchase of the farm, but we know their next four children were born there, one every two years from 1922 until my mother was born in November of 1927. From oral history, we think the original farm was approximately 60 acres, but my grandfather sold about half of it (a point of contention with my grandmother) around 1932 when a new deed was issued for 33 acres. I would imagine raising a family of 8 must have been expensive.

In addition to the house, there were many buildings on the farm. I understand from older relatives the barn was moved from its initial location to the one ‘in the holler’ which is the barn I remember. It was well equipped with stalls for milking cows. Granny had a short three-legged stool that she used to milk the cows by hand. Her hands were large and strong. Milking cows is hard work. Later on they would get a milking machine which sped things up dramatically.

In addition to the barn, there was a granary, a corn crib, a chicken house, a tobacco barn, a workshop, a smokehouse, and sheds for the tractors. The fields in summer were full of field corn to feed the cows, and tobacco which would be harvested in late fall and taken to auction. I have written about the tobacco culture before. Most farmers in Virginia raised tobacco as a money crop.

There was a small natural spring at the base of the hill below the house. Sadly, is the only recognizable feature of the farm that remains. What was once a working farm where cows roamed free to graze is now packed with about 40 brick homes with ample yards and nice cars parked in the driveway. While it is sad to see how the purpose of the land changed, the hills are still there as is the spring both heralding back to distant voices and other lives.

There’s more to tell about life on the farm so stay tuned.

15 thoughts on “Life on the Farm, Part II”

    1. The first time I went there after the houses were built, I sat in my car and bawled. But I try to think that it provided a nice place for a lot of families to grow. I wish I had been of age and working, I would have done my best to buy it.

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  1. Nice memories, Maggie.
    Milking cows by hand was indeed a hard chore. It took an hour after before my hands felt normal again. And then if you forgot to attach the hold-back apparatus to the cow’s tail or if she gave a good yank because the flies were bothering her, her tail would hit you in the face when she switched at flies. And you had to be ready to protect the pail of milk also because when she tried chasing flies from her belly by using her back leg, she might kick the pail and spill it, or she might get her foot in the pail itself.

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    1. It is nice to hear someone that understands the process, Don. I almost put in a video on how to milk a cow, but thought better of it. Cows do kick, and often the bucket full of milk is an unintended target. My grandmother could move a cow’s haunches with a good thump of the base of her palm. We knew not to mess with her. 🤣 The cows learned, too.

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        1. It has been a while, Don. My Granny was pretty tough. I often sit in amazement of all she did even late into life. I am 66 and am afraid have fallen prey to a more sedentary life than she had. I am sure she could milk me under the table. I have the greatest respect for all they had to do.

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  2. It’s so sad all that was swept away in such a short time. I guess, though, such small scale farming wasn’t sustainable – and yet, we lost more than just a few small farms. I worry about the future of farming here when I see huge agri-businesses (they can hardly be called farms) with hundreds of cows kept indoors in barns all their lives.

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    1. Independent farmers have my greatest respect, Mary. Their days are long and the work is extremely physical. We have become a leisure society. A full day of physical labor is something most current day Americans will never experience.

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  3. Again a delightful chapter and very educational too, I absolutely marvel at your recall of it all.
    I also understand your feelings about the housing estate that has sprung up from where the farm was. I am dismayed watching all the green fields around where I live turning in to housing estates…ugly ones to my mind!
    I look forward to more of your memories 💜

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    1. I am so thankful to live in a rural area. When we lived in Florida, there were always buildings being razed and new mega-houses or housing developments being built in the place of older, character-filled homes.

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