Pioneer Life in Kansas, by Mary Barrett, 1912, Part 1

In the spring of 1871, my parents with their family consisting of my two brothers, a nephew, and myself, moved from our former home in Iowa and settled in Kansas on a homestead two and one-half miles south of the Solomon River, at the point where the beautiful city of Beloit now stands. My mother was said to be the first white woman ever seen in that locality.

When the homestead was first taken there was not another dwelling place in sight, but during the first summer so many had settled on our side of the river that by fall we could stand in our door yard and count something like a hundred dugouts and shacks that in those days comprised the homesteader’s dwelling place.

At the time of our settlement on the quarter section Uncle Sam had given us, we had but two neighbors on our side of the river, and both of them were bachelors living in dugouts down in the draw where we could not even see the smoke from their stovepipes! A cheering situation, wasn’t it, for those who had left friends and civilization behind?

My mother, along with the wives of the other homesteaders, got very lonesome and homesick and longed, oh, so intensely, for the blessings and comforts of civilization.

The men and boys, though, for the most part took a more cheerful view, and rather liked the wild, free life. They liked to walk after the breaking plow and see the long black furrow stretch away behind them with never a break in its ribbon-like surface. Not a tree to chop down, not a root to grub out, at which they had spent so many weary, back-breaking hours “back east!”

The boys especially enjoyed the long horseback rides over the smooth miles of prairie they must traverse in making their occasional visits with each other, and their holidays were often spent in summer, fishing or swimming in the clear depths of the Solomon.

The girls, too, took kindly to the new life, and learned to ride horseback in summer, go skating in winter, and, in fact, learned to do most of the things their brothers did.

The first few years of the homesteader’s life were very hard indeed, especially if there was a growing family to provide for. While the children of the pioneers were easily satisfied as long as they were not really hungry and had somewhat of clothing to cover their restless, growing bodies, yet the parents were often sore perplexed to know how and where provision and clothing were to be obtained.

Most of the early settlers brought some money and a supply of provisions with them when they came west and this often would be sufficient for their limited needs until some land could be broken out and a crop of sod corn raised. This, with the plentiful supply of buffalo grass for grazing purposes, would enable the homesteader to keep a team, a few chickens, and a cow or two.

Between the years of 1871 and 1874, the country settled up very rapidly, although there yet remained for many years after this, much good grazing lands, public lands, and the less desirable claims.

Keeping Life Balanced (or at least trying to!)

Hello folks!

Laurie and I have had some discussions lately and both felt that we need to prioritize some projects we have going on. Because of that, we will not be adding any new posts for the next few weeks. Never fear, however, we will return on Nov 5 with more housewife-y stories and inspiration!

 

I Glory in My Job; 1932; Part 1

When the census-taking man called at our home, I parked the babies in the sandpile and sat for half an hour answering his questions. When he came to my occupation, he looked from under his brows in all solemnity and asked, “You don’t do anything, do you?” Without even awaiting a reply, he wrote, “Occupation–Housewife.”

I protest! I refuse to be draply set aside. I demand the title of Homemaker (LOL I like either title but prefer “Housewife.” To each his own!) and defy the world to say that homemaking is doing nothing. It is a profession, and those of us so listed labor at it. It is a labor of love. There is no monthly salary. The pay is merely the little sweetnesses of everyday family life, and I must sift them out of their attendant pains and sacrifices. The business of making a home–an honest-to-goodness home, with cookies and pillow fights and firelit hours and books and beds and joys and tears–that is a job–a great, grand task.

I happen to be not only a Homemaker but a Farm Homemaker. I glory in it.

That I am only one among thousands of others is a point to be stressed. I am representative of my class, and I am decidedly not stooped nor wrinkled. I am sun-tanned and straight two pounds underweight from a summer of strenuous hours in Ye Olde Swimming Hole (I do a rather nice crawl stroke, too.) My hair has a natural wave, and doesn’t string, and I never wear sunbonnets. Instead of drab calico, I make my own house frocks of gay, fast-colored prints with fresh white collars, and I wear happy-looking aprons over them.

While we are getting acquainted, I might add that I have been at my present job for five years, and am still in my twenties. I earned my own living for five years before I married, and at present have two sons–husky young lads of two and three.

From a honeymoon of care free happiness, I came to our Old Homestead, a rambling farmhouse built half a century ago, and typical of the times–high ceilings, plastered walls, no closets, wood heaters, not enough windows, coal-oil lamps. There is a big zinc sink without a drain. Running water has been installed, but drinking water is still drawn from a well with a rope and bucket and pulley. There is a temperamental wood range for cooking, and you raise a door and go down a flight of steps into the dim, dirt-floored cellar.

To be continued…

…too busy to blog!

There have been several times recently when I’ve felt I didn’t have time to write any blog posts. It feels a little ridiculous to find a comfortable seat  and wax eloquent about anything, knowing all the work that badly need to be done this fall.

So instead of a philosophical ramble, here’s just a sampling of my week on the housewife side of my life, beyond all the usual housework, cooking, laundry, etc.:

Gardening work. We had the slightest touch of a frost, not even enough to kill the basil, but I feel justified in cleaning out the garden and calling it quits for another year. There comes a point every fall in which all my gardening enthusiasm has disappeared and I struggle to be grateful for the produce that is still flourishing.  I’m salvaging all the little bits of produce here and there–a handful of broccoli, a meal’s worth of okra, one cucumber, two jalapenos.

We harvested our ONE apple tree this week….. Oh. My. All the apples we could want and more. We’ll have plenty to share. This doesn’t count the bushel or so of windfalls we’ve been collecting and eating for the last 6 weeks. Before I do anything with the apples, though, I have to pickle my beet crop.

Mending clothes.  It’s not that my husband is especially hard on his work clothes, but in the course of a shift, he occasionally loses a button or a seam splits. His supply of good uniforms had dwindled to the point that I was washing the same few over and over. I finally finished mending the last piece so he now has more than a week’s worth of uniforms. Whew. As you’d expect, it was faster to mend them than it was to keep up on the laundry this summer, but…

Drying herbs. I realize I should have been working on this project all summer but the job never feels urgent until fall is imminent. I’m drying lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass for tea, plus sage and basil.

Bullet journaling. My planner for the last 10 years has been a spiral notebook, with each page divided into 6 sections, one for each weekday with an extra space for miscellaneous notes. Adequate, but cramped and uninspiring. I’d heard about bullet journaling for years but only recently understood the concept. The flexibility fits my style better than any planner I’ve ever found. I just need to remember this is about organization, and design is secondary. (But on second thought, it’s the designing that will keep me motivated to continue staying organized…)

4 o’clocks blossoms and seeds

Saving seeds. This year I’m saving seeds from my okra, amaranth, muskmelon, tomato, and three varieties of heirloom beans. I’m also harvesting flower seeds, like zinnias, cosmos, 4 o’clocks, balsam, sunflower, and marigold. The initial seed cost is usually slightly more through a mail order heirloom seed company than buying hybrids locally but saving my seeds means my gardening costs decrease every year. But beyond that, it’s just plain nice to have seeds on hand. Since I’m woeful at estimating seed quantities, I make endless rounds to the store every spring, picking up “just one more” seed packet to finish a row.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to hibernating on some lazy January days.