Winter Chores

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Winter winds blew cold and often brought snow, but inside the barn it was snug and warm from the heat of the animals, insulated by their straw bedding and hayloft above them.

Twice a day, as Papa, Mama and the girls did the cleaning, feeding, and milking of the cows, the barn cats followed them, looking for attention and impatient for their regular pan of milk.

The sounds in the barn were those of the cows being milked, the clinking of milk pails and the snorting and stamping of the horses, as they looked over their stalls to watch the girls bring oats and corn. The hay from summer also fed the cows and horses.

When there had been a heavy snow, Papa plowed paths through the drifts to each farm building. He stood in a large wooden box, pulled by one of the horses, to clear the snow. After paths had been made from the house to the barn, the corncrib, the privy, the chicken house and the pig shed, Papa plowed the lane between the house and the road.

During early morning and evening chores, the neighboring farmhouses and barns, far across the fields, appeared as dark silhouettes upon the snow. The light from their kerosene lamps and lanterns cast too dim a glow to be seen at a distance, but the girls knew their neighbors were there and that those families were doing the same things.

With all of the outside chores finished and animals secured for the night, the girls hurried back to the house, looking for the first star in the darkness of early nighttime sky.

After washing up, the family ate supper together around the kitchen table, lighted by a kerosene lamp. Warmth from the big kitchen stove radiated throughout the room. They talked about school, what had happened that day on the farm, the animals and the weather.

The kitchen was the only room in the house that was heated. Mama often simmered a kettle of soup or hearty stew on top of the stove all day long or prepared a casserole to bake slowly throughout the afternoon. She baked bread, pies, cakes and cookies twice a week.

Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and apples were stored in the cellar for winter use, along with hundreds of glass quart jars of home-canned vegetables, pickles, jellies and relishes which had come from their own garden.

On winter evenings, the girls did their school homework at the kitchen table. Mama often sewed there, while Papa read or worked on an idea for a new invention. As a special treat, Mama would sometimes make a pan of popcorn, then read to them or tell a story.

After working outside in the cold and a good supper, the kitchen' s warmth and the gentle flickering lamplight made everyone sleepy.

The family went upstairs to beds warmed with bricks which Mama had put on the stove. Time for sleep, then the beginning of another winter' s day. The farm animals would be waiting.