Rendered Lard in a Copper Boiler: Chores on the Family Farm

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By Capper's Staff | Feb 9, 2012

I have so many memories of my youth and the life we lived on the family farm, I hardly know where to start. There were nine of us kids, so we were always cooking and washing dishes. In winter, when a cow and hog were butchered, we rendered lard in a big copper boiler on the wood cookstove. Mom would stir it with the long wooden ladle that was used to churn butter in the tall crock churn. Apple butter was also made in this old copper boiler, and wash water was heated in it too.

In early spring Mom would get baby chicks, possibly 200 or so. She would get up in the night and go out to the brooder house to check on them and add wood to the heater. These chickens would be our meat supply for summer, as we had no way to keep meat. Later on in the summer more chicks would be raised for fryers.

We had no electricity, but we had the kerosene lamps, the wood cookstove and heaters. I recall in winter how the dipper in the water bucket would freeze in the water. In summer as well as in winter we ate in the kitchen by the big wood cookstove. I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about how hot it was, as we knew nothing else.

Mom was a wonderful cook, using lots of cream, butter and sugar. Most every night for supper we had a huge skillet of fried potatoes; to this day I still love them. We baked bread every other day in big, black bread pans that were my grandfather’s when he batched; he was 40 when he married Grandma, who was 20. These pans were so worn that there were tiny holes in the bottom.

On the Fourth of July we would get ice! What a treat. We would have a big freezer of ice cream, and Mom would make orangeade from real oranges and lemons. This was made in a five-gallon stone jar with a big hunk of ice in it. This stone jar sat on the floor by Mom. The empty glasses were passed down the row of kids to Mom, who would refill them and pass them back up the row. We sat on long boards that rested on five-gallon cream cans.

Though it sounds as if we lived a hard life, it did not seem so to us, as it was all we knew.

Lena M. Wyrick
Waverly, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.