Cooking on the Family Farm: Using a Wood-Burning Stove

An Iowa woman remembers her mother preparing meals on the family farm using a wood-burning stove, and recounts what it was like to live without electricity

| Good Old Days

Old-fashioned Stove

Cooking appliances have changed drastically over the decades.

Lee Prince/Fotolia

Older people talk about the good old days on the family farm. We did have some good times, even though we went through the Depression.

My mother cooked on a wood-burning stove. It was our duty to keep the wood box beside the stove filled.

There was a reservoir on the side of the range for water. The range kept the water hot and we could use it to wash dishes in the dishpan on a table. No sink, no dishwasher, no electricity. My mother ironed with flat irons. We kept them on the back of the stove to stay hot. When we went to iron, we fastened a handle on the iron. In the winter, when it was cold and we slept upstairs with no heat, we would wrap the iron in heavy towels and take them to bed with us to keep our feet warm. Sometimes we would fill a hot water bottle and use it to keep warm.

The rest of the house was heated by a potbellied stove. Some burned wood and some coal My father would bank the fire in the heater with wood to last through the night. In the morning there would be enough coals left to restart the fire. The room would soon be warm.

The wood-burning stove had to be started each morning. You can imagine how hot the stove would be to cook on in the hot summer time. Later on Mother had a kerosene stove to use in the summer.

We had no refrigerator or piped-in water. If you were lucky, you might have a pitcher pump inside to pump in water from the well or from the cistern that caught rain water. It would make your hair soft when you washed your hair in the rain water. Otherwise you would carry buckets of water into the house from the well.

12/7/2016 1:52:26 AM

While the article was interesting I was rather disappointed in it. The headline indicates the article is about cooking on a wood stove but there is absolutely NO information on cooking on a wood stove in the article it is just mentioned as a part of their way of life.

charles mallory
3/2/2012 2:48:04 PM

People who complain about the smallest inconvenience these days should read stories like this. It is admirable that your family worked so hard to survive. My own paternal grandparents lived very much like this. I had never known, though, how much canning was done. 1000 quarts! That's incredible. Ironically, I have wanted to have the chance to learn to cook on a woodstove but people tell me I'm crazy to even try.

eugene hunst
2/25/2012 11:46:08 PM

I have a blue stove top perculator coffee pot and the lid has disappeared. 3/3.5" and I cannot find a relacement lid. Any help? Thanks.

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