Farm Wives

May 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm (Life, Memoir) (, , , , , , , )

On this rainy Mother’s Day, I give to you a tribute to farm wives & mothers in memory of my Aunt Alice and my eldest sister’s former mother-in-law, Eunice who both passed on recently. They are gone somewhere, one hopes, where the sun shines, the crops grow, baby animals frolic and the fields smell like flax & wheat & honey.

Photo courtesy of eldest sister

The farm wives I knew growing up were  the type of women who got up every day, day after day, and did what needed to be done. They were up with the sun and didn’t go to bed until everyone else was safe inside.

They got up and did their job though none of them would have called it a job. I never aspired to be like them.  I knew that I could never do this job. I could never be a farm wife and mother.

I am too lazy to be like them. I enjoy, too much, the lure of a good book, the quiet of aloneness and the bliss of sleeping in or, heaven forbid, staying in bed all day.

WDM display - Saskatoon

I remember Christmas at the farm. My father’s parents didn’t retire off the farm until I was in my teens. My grandparents had four children and on Christmas day they were 19 grandchildren running underfoot in a two bedroom, five room farmhouse. There were babies, toddlers, preschoolers and the bigger kids – we were all pretty close in age. When the youngest was a baby the oldest would have been sixteen or so.

I remember two hour cooking sessions, spending an hour or so eating & talking, then spending an hour doing dishes before the grown-ups sat down to cards and we kids were chased outside.

We made forts inside the hay bales (there were square then, smaller and easier to rearrange). We ran wild, got chased by the geese, tried out our new sleds, climbed the rock pile across the road, teased and loved each other. I miss Christmas at the farm.

WDM display - Saskatoon

I didn’t find going to the farm in Summer as much fun as Christmas! We kept a second garden on the farm, it must have been a half acre or so, and summer was spent doing chores, like weeding. I hate weeding. It is tedious work and I sunburn easy. I do, however, agree that there is nothing like fresh produce from the garden and will happily pay the slightly-higher Farmer’s Market prices to feed my fresh veggie habit.

I remember sitting down for tea and gossip. I remember party lines, a life line for those isolated woman spending long, lonely winter days listening to the wind howl across the vast yard.

My sister’s mother-in-law was lucky; Grammy was just down the road and when she was gone my sister was there and then there were grandchildren and great-grandchildren next door (separated only by a small copse of woods).

WDM display - Saskatoon

What do farm wives do all day? You should do a quick google search – it’ll shock you.

Farm Wives:

  • milk the cows
  • feed the livestock
  • feed the children
  • bake bread – oh the smell of fresh bread when you come home after school & that first taste warm with butter – nirvana
  • make cookies, cakes & other dainties – you never know who will drop in
  • prepare numerous meals
  • cart meals out to the field
  • tend the children
  • tend the chickens
  • clean the house
  • muck out the barn
  • wash clothes, mend clothes, make clothes
  • keep the freezer full
  • can veggies – & chicken (I miss my grandmother’s canned chicken)
  • move cattle
  • herd children
  • drive a tractor
  • go to town for parts
  • weed the garden
  • do the books/banking
  • help a neighbour
  • work off the farm

Small Garden in town

What surprises me is that there was always time for tea and a visit. There was seldom extra money – I don’t remember matching dishes – but there was always time.

I relish my memories of these two women; my aunt and my sister’s mother-in-law.

I spent many a happy afternoon with them sharing tea and learning family gossip.

So, on this lovely mother’s day, I remember joy and laughter and family and hope you enjoy the same.

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