Spring Chores the Same from Day to Day

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 6, 1913: These days of spring bring to me the same tasks which vary little from one day to another.

Cover of Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

Cover of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds boring. What were the tasks that needed to be done every day?

  • watching cows to ensure that they didn’t escape from the pasture?
  •  milking the cows?
  • gathering the eggs?
  • feeding the farm animals?
  •  planting the garden?
  • cooking?
  • cleaning closets and other spring housecleaning chores?  (Does anyone do spring housecleaning anymore?)

34 Responses

  1. I guess we all feel like that some days; same old, same old.

  2. I’ve read that some homes had interior walls that were washed every spring and often it was with lye water.

  3. I’m sure their chores were much harder work than ours today!

  4. I need to do my spring cleaning… except winter keeps coming back. lol Usually in May it is in the 80’s and 90’s. this year it has been in the 30-40’s. Had my winter jacket on yesterday morning when we were gathering the cattle.

    I love the pic on the magazine… we use a chute to milk our cows.. can’t imagine a cow to mellow that they don’t need to be haltered/tied or in a milking pen to be milked. Great pic.

    • It’s been cold here, too! But, I think that we’re on an upturn in the weather. It got up to the low 70s today.

      I also thought that it was amazing the cow would just stand there for the girl to milk her. The holstein cows we had when I was a child never would have stood still.

  5. I need to do some spring house cleaning. I was worried that your grandmother would have a pretty repetitious day after she graduated from school.

    What did your grandfather do after he graduated? Too bad he didn’t keep a journal too.

    • Times were so different a hundred years ago for girls after they graduated from high school than what they are now.

      McEwensville High School was an old-fashioned “classical high school.” and in 1913 it was not considered as good as the much larger modern high schools that offered a range of courses and tracks (academic, commercial, home ec, etc.) My grandfather continued his education by attending the modern high school in nearby Milton–and would graduate from high school a second time in 1915.

      My grandfather did write a short entry in for a family history about his life after high school. This is what he wrote about what he did after high school:

      “The next five years I spent working for father on the farm with the exception of three months in the winter of 1918 when I worked at the Watsontown Brick Plant. To do that, it was necessary to get up at four o’clock in the morning in order to get some of the morning chores done on the farm and then leave home to drive a horse and buggy to work about six-fifteen. Work at the plant started at seven o’clock and lasted until five o’clock. Then I drove home and helped with some of the chores in the evening. We worked five hours on Saturdays. For the three months work I received $228.00 which was good wages in those days.”

      I previously included this paragraph in a post about the Watsontown Brick Company:

      http://ahundredyearsago.com/2011/03/10/watsontown-brick-company/

      • That is an interesting contrast. Since your grandmother was going to be a farm wife, what she did after graduation really did prepare her for that life.

        • I’d never thought about it exactly that way, but you’re right. What she was doing on her parent’s farm was preparing her to be a farm wife. I like the positive lens that you used to think about her activities after she graduated.

  6. Oh, and that cow in the photo looks like she is not going to stick around to be milked, she is on her way off stage right.

  7. There was the washing and ironing but I don’t think they did that every day. I went to a museum once and they talked about washing on Monday and ironing on Tuesday.

  8. Cooking breakfast would involve routine chores each day. The stove had to be started with wood or coal. I don’t know if your Grandmother’s house had hot water but if not, water had to be heated for a bath. Or else it was waking up to cold water for a quick wash-up.

    Just thinking of all that before sitting down to breakfast would make anyone feel tired.

    • They didn’t have electricity, so I don’t think that they would have had hot water.

      Whew, just reading all of the things you listed that she would have needed to do before breakfast makes me feel tired. :)

  9. I enjoy your added thoughts about what the chores might have been. I need to do spring cleaning. Or at least wash the dirty windows.

    • My windows need washing, too–though I think that I’m doing to wait until after the seeds from the the cottonwood trees have blown from the trees. The cottony fibers always get stuck in my screens–and I end up cleaning the windows twice if I do it now.

  10. All those mundane every day chores was really a lot of hard work!

  11. I try to avoid spring cleaning. :) It certainly isn’t done as thoroughly as my mom used to do it.

  12. The photo on the cover of the magazine made me chuckle… There is the “milkmaid” all done up in her “Sunday Best” and with a look-alike “Easter Bonnett” as she attends to the milking… ;-) Am I being too cynical, I wonder…

  13. I guess it’s all they knew so probably didn’t feel like they were missing anything. The world was such a smaller place without all the things we have now like cars, airplanes, phones, internet.

    I used to spring clean my yard but the house was a bit of a constant with pets.

    • It seems like people might clean more regularly now–but they don’t scrub things and get them “squeaky clean” like they once did.

  14. I’d probably do spring-cleaning, y’know, if I had my own house. :-P
    I did clean my room recently. That count?

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