Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NOVICE FARMER AND FARMER'S WIFE By Eve Taylor




Aunt CB writes:

We Taylors didn't have any cousins to spare! Four on the Baker side, all girls, and six on the Taylor side, all boys. The ones we saw most often of the Taylors lived in LeRoy, NY and were sons of Floyd Taylor, Lloyd Taylor's twin. Rexford, same age as Ruth and Arnon, was the older one. Bryant, the younger, was Esther's age. We loved to get together with them as they were full of fun.
Rexford married Dene Chadwick in 1941, and they now live in Ohio. At 89 years, they are still active and healthy and enjoying their two children and four grandchildren.
Bryant married Evelyn Laufer in 1942 and they have three children and five grandchildren. Sadly, Bryant died in 1994 of cancer of the colon. Evie still lives in LeRoy very near where this story takes place.

Eve writes:

Bryant Taylor comes from a family who were farmers in the Oakfield area, but he only knew the fun that kids have on Grandpa's farm. It is a totally different experience to be the farmer.

His first experience with milking a cow was hilarious, but could have had serious consequences. The cow had been delivered during the day and was put into a small pasture next to the house because the stall in the old barn next door had not been fully repaired.

When it came time for milking, Bryant chained the cow to the wire fence, sat on the stool, and started. The Cornell farming books and his dad had given him some instructions, but this was his first hands-on attempt. A thunderstorm came up, and Bryant was still slowly struggling and concentrating on what he was doing. Suddenly, the cow jerked violently, and Bryant was knocked backwards off the stool. All turned out well, except the cow did not give milk for two days! Our herd never became more than two, but they gave us more than enough milk to keep me busy as I will tell you later.

After a large chicken house was cleaned, white-washed, straw put on the floor, and brooder tent and watering troughs delivered, we were ready to have our baby chicks delivered. We picked up two peeping boxes of fluffy,yellow chicks at the post office.

Back at the chicken house each one was gently picked up, beak dipped into the water dish, and placed under the brooder canvas which was warmed by a light bulb. They could freely go in and out. We spent lots of time watching our family of chicks.

A couple of days after arrival, one looked sick, so Bryant sought his dad's advice, which was that it had to be killed. To Bryant's. "How?" was the reply:
"Wring its neck. Hold the head and swing the body around."
I thought Bryant was going to be sick, for the thing he loved most about farming was the livestock. That was the first of many he had to do, for at one time we had 1000 chickens, but he never really got used to it.
Bryant also enjoyed plowing and fitting the land. With Cornell book in hand and his Ford Ferguson tractor, he learned how to plow, disk, and plant straight corn furrows. However, his dad did not think they were straight enough. Eventually, he cut and baled hay, harvested corn and peas, combined wheat and buckwheat, and threshed the grain in the barn with the help of the neighbors and Harry Paul's threshing machine. In return for the thresher's help, he threshed and helped fill silos for them.

In the 1940s West Main Road, Le Roy was still a small farm community and a true neighborhood of people who annually got together for a big picnic, who helped one another at harvest time, and who had a committee to take charge of collecting money and sending flowers for funerals of the immediate neighbors or close family members; The farmer was not an "island unto himself."

As Bryant had his special jobs on the farm, so did I. As was mentioned before, having chickens, cows, and a large vegetable garden naturally led to my special jobs. We could not use the eggs from so many chickens, so I had to clean and grade them as to size and pack them carefully into shipping crates. We sold two crates a week to the wholesaler who picked them up by truck.

Nor could we use all the milk produced. I made butter in a small glass churn, turned by a crank handle, which I recently saw in an antique shop for $155.00.Cottage cheese was made by putting milk in a large pan and slightly heating until the curds were formed. The final liquid, after squeezing the curds through a cheesecloth bag, was the whey. Remember the nursery rhyme?

"Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
And sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.”

Another time when a couple of pigs were slaughtered, I "rendered lard." The excess fat was cut up into small pieces, put in a large roasting pan, and placed in the oven on a very low heat. It took hours for the fat to melt, but then it was strained into 3 lb. Crisco cans, and became beautiful white lard, which I used for my pie pastry.

On a farm one can be self-sufficient as far as food is concerned. The large vegetable garden and fruit required extensive canning and/or freezing and making of jams and jellies. All of these things, with the help of booklets from the Cornell Extension Services, advice from and hands-on working with my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law became part of my new life.

In addition to our special jobs, Bryant and I also worked together as a team. I learned to drive tractor when bales of hay were being picked up for storage. On one occasion I tied bags as Bryant combined buckwheat. That evening we decided to go into Rochester to the movies. Outside of Caledonia my eyes began to burn and water so badly that we turned around and went to Dr. Knoll's; the dust from the buckwheat had given me conjunctivitis. As a result, I spent a couple of very miserable, painful days and nights.

Every farm in those days had a horse. As Goldie and Floyd Taylor were horse lovers, I had become interested during the war period when I lived with them while Bryant was overseas. My interest led to my purchasing a Morgan mare named Peggy. Unfortunately, she turned out to be very stubborn with a mind of her own. Since I knew nothing about riding, I never rode her after she reared up with Floyd on her back, refusing to cross the railroad tracks. This really hurt his ego for he had said that he would get her to behave. It just did not happen.

Therefore, when Bryant came home and we were living at the Greystone, we had her bred to Curate, a half-brother of Man 'O War, the famous Kentucky Thoroughbred. Curate was stabled at Pete and Hugh Hanrette's farm next door.

These bachelors were excellent horsemen. They literally took us under their wings and walked us through the whole process from breeding to delivery twelve months later. When Pete and Hugh felt that Peggy was due to foal, she was put in the same pasture where the cow-milking incident had taken place.

Bryant and I were determined to witness this miracle, so we pulled the car up next to the fence. Supplied with coffee and snacks, we were prepared for the night watch. Peggy kept walking around and around the pasture, whinnying and snorting for hours. Finally, this vigil proved too much for us, and we dozed off to sleep. At dawn, we woke up to see a copper-colored foal running around. It was all over! We had missed it all!

Twinkle Toes had the sorrel color and build of her sire. Peggy, although not cooperative for riding, was an excellent mother and let us share her foal under her watchful eye.

Bryant and I only farmed for two years -- long enough, however, to appreciate the hard work farming is, as well as to know the satisfaction of a hands-on life, close to nature. Along with its “chores”, farming has its “rewards.”

Picture #1-- Bryant and Evelyn, taken in 1992
Picture#2 --Standing, L-R Floyd, B.W. his father
Kneeling, L-R Rexford, Bryant, sons of Floyd, taken fall of 1938

4 comments:

Pat said...

Wow! Eve, thanks for this story.

I loved reading it--from picturing a post office filled with baby chicks, to the wonder filled tale of Twinkle Toe's birth, to actually rendering lard.

Great to read and imagine farming life in New York state in the 1940's.

Send us your stories anytime!

Sue Kinsella said...

I have read this all the way through twice, and parts of it more often. Each time I read it, I think I am hearing about enough work for decades. And then I learn that it was only for two years! I can imagine why! But it sounds as though it was a really special time, too.

The story of the foal reminds me of the story of when my family visited Aunt Doris, Uncle Bud and our cousins when they camped on a river for the summer. Dad tells the story of how he and Uncle Bud sat up all night, Bud determined to watch the log in the campfire burn all the way through. It was just about there when Bud leaned over to put his beer bottle down and . . . missed it! Not as dramatic as foaling, but a story that has reverberated for decades, nevertheless.

Mitch Taylor said...

Thanks Mom. That was a great account of your pre children life for two years. I loved living by the farm and would have loved being a farmer's son. Managed to do a bit though with having the bees hens cows and ponies on the 10 acre block

Pat said...

Hi Mitch,

Great story from your mom.

As someone who grew up with cats, dogs and gerbils, to grow up with bees, hens, cows and ponies sure sounds like a farmer's son! You also must have had some great rural memories when you were young.

While we fished and caught minnows in nets up at our Canadian cottage, and even had goats for a summer or two, our 'herding' stories usually consisted of attempting to coax our cat to come out of the wilds of Ontario when he saw the car being packed to come home to Rochester.

Your cousin,