The Family Farm: A Way of Life

Maintaining the family farm was a way of life for this Iowan

My ex-husband and I bought our family farm in 1940 and began farming two years after we were married. We milked cows, separated milk and sold cream. From our cream checks we bought our groceries, gas for the car, kerosene for the lamps and anything our son, and later our daughter, needed.

I raised, canned and later froze the food from my garden for our family of four, the hired men and other men it took to get the farm work done. I baked our bread, dried corn for winter use, made 14-day pickles and cold-packed beef. I kept my cookies in a stone jar in the cellar; they stayed fresh when kept cool. I raised 300 chickens every year, from which I froze fryers and old hens. From my egg money I bought groceries and hot lunches for my children at Tipton Consolidated School, the first consolidated school west of the Mississippi River. My hard farm work and chores helped to feed 65 other people every day, which every farmer did at that time.

I made my own laundry soap, because there were no laundry or dish detergents then. I boiled my white clothing in a wash boiler. The house was the only one built on the land after it was home-steaded and was not modern in any way until I gave up half the bedroom for a bathroom in about 1954. Then I also had water in the kitchen and modern cupboards. We got electricity when the REA provided it. It was such a blessing, because it allowed us to have a refrigerator, electric lights and later, a freezer. Cooking for so much farm help was simplified with modernization and food freezing.

The house we lived in was old and small, but I kept it shining like a mansion. I always used enamel paint on the floors, wood-work and walls. I painted the linoleum when it was worn and stippled it with bright paint and a sponge. I dug violets from the creek pasture and timber by the bucketfuls and planted a border of them completely around the house. I had climbing roses and a row of bridal wreath along one side of the lawn to make our backyard private. I planted a weeping willow in the orchard and enjoyed it there because it shed no twigs to bother in mowing the lawn. We had a big shade tree in the back 40, but I was always helping to make hay, sow oats or husk corn, so I never did get to sit under that shade tree.

We lived nearly 10 miles from town, and it took the children an hour to get to the schoolhouse on the bus. Farming was not just a way to make a living; it was a way of life.

Elaine L. Nebergall
Tipton, Iowa

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.