Our house was large (to me). And the yard around the house was large. It was big enough to play baseball in or fly kites or have a rousing game of tag. It was a long walk around and around the yard to mow it, so we appreciated it when Dad got a riding lawn-mower.
We went barefoot most of the summer, in the house yard, the barn yard, the garden, and even on the gravel roads (but we did go slower on gravel). There’s nothing like the feel of the grass and earth on your bare feet, and not having to stop and put on shoes before running outside. We just had to be careful not to step in any cow pies in our bare feet when we ran out into the barnyard. Yeccchhhhh!!! I used to wash my feet every night, one at a time in the bathroom sink (even if I hadn’t stepped in a cow pie). My feet were pretty tough in those days; nowadays, I don’t mind walking on the grass, but even a little bit of gravel is torture on my tender tootsies.
There was a small (probably about 9 x 12 feet) flower garden in the front yard. There were some perennials: lilies and peonies, and Mom planted sweet peas from seed which climbed up a trellis and were so beautiful, colourful and sweet-smelling. They made great cut flowers to brighten up the house. There were other flowers that we planted annually as well. This garden was the backdrop of many of our outdoor pictures.
There was also a huge (I don’t know, I’m going to say about 30 x 100 feet) garden in the back. Maybe that’s not so big, but it seemed big to me at the time. We planted all the usual vegetables, peas, beans, corn, beets, onions, radishes, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. Us girls spent hours helping Mom plant, weed, and pick vegetables from the garden. To make the weeding more tolerable, she paid us 5 cents a row.
One day, I came home from school and my sister Judy, who was about 4, was excited to tell me about what she and Mom had planted that day. I guessed all of the usual vegetables listed above, and even weird ones like cucumber and broccoli, but got “No” to all them. Finally, I asked her, “What does it start with?”. She thought for a minute and then said, “Punk.”
There was a massive patch of raspberry plants along one side of the garden. It was probably about 50 feet long, and it kept getting wider every year. I would guess it was about 6 feet wide at its biggest.
We used to pick raspberries every summer for eating and selling. We spent hours picking them, and we would have to reach in and crawl into the thick of the sharp, prickly raspberry patch to get all the berries. If we didn’t wear long sleeves and pants, our arms and legs would be covered with little raspberry scratches. I liked picking raspberries and I liked getting paid 25 or 35 cents a pail for them. But I didn’t really like eating them; they were usually a bit tart. Occasionally, there was a patch of sweet raspberries which I liked.
After several years, Dad roto-tilled down the middle of it, plowing under the middle section and leaving 2 long rows each about 2 feet wide. That made it much easier to pick the berries without getting all scratched up.
Pretty early in our life on the new farm, Mom and Dad bought a swing set that they put in the yard in the front of the house. It had two swings with hard wooden seats and a ‘glider’. The glider was for two people sitting on either side, but one could use it just as well. The four legs were cemented into the ground so we could swing as high and hard as we wanted and it wouldn’t fall over and kill us! We used that swing set a lot, right up until we moved, even though we were almost ‘adults’. We loved to go as high as we could. And, after swinging as high as we could possibly get, we would fly off to see how far we could jump. It’s amazing none of us broke any bones from falling off the swing, but we didn’t.
The swing set is still there, more than 50 years later!
There was also a long clothesline in the yard beside the house. We used the clothesline when the weather was nice, even though we had an automatic clothes dryer in the house. The inside dryer was definitely nice to have in the middle of winter!
The Little House
There was what we called ‘the little house’ in the yard behind the house. This was just a little play house, about 10 x 10 feet square (or maybe only 8 x 8 feet). It had glass sliding windows on two sides and a door that we could lock from the inside. There was a bed in it for sleeping and sitting, and us kids slept out there sometimes in the summer. It was fun and a little bit scary, especially when we would tell ‘ghost stories’ before going to sleep. It was also used by some of the hired men (well, usually boys in their late teens, and often relatives or sons of friends) that came to work for Dad on the farm in the summer.
One evening, my sister and my friend and I had decided to sleep in the little house. We were sitting around talking and laughing, when we heard this scratching on the outside of the house. We were scared and didn’t know what to do; our ghost stories were about to come true!!. It would be near the door, and then it would be on the side of the house near the window. We just sat there and when we heard the scratching, our heads would swivel over in the direction that it came from. I guess we wanted to see what had come to eat us alive. After a few minutes of this, Dad knocked on the door, and came in laughing his head off at scaring us. It was so funny watching us staring with wide eyes and then all heads turning at once to the new scratching place! We didn’t mind though; we just laughed with him and settled down to sleep there anyway.
Coming next, life in the barnyard…
‘Til next time…
From Your Mom