Hundred-year-old Advice for Raising Ducks

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

Thursday, June 18, 1914:  Jimmie and I were in the carpenter business this morning. I could pound my fingers, drive nails crooked, and make the boards stick together. The result is to be a home for the duck hatcher (as Jimmie calls her) and her ducks.

Source: Farm Journal (May, 1914)
Source: Farm Journal (May, 1914)

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

I wish that I could see what the pen or small building that Grandma and her eight-year-old brother Jimmie built for the duck and her ducklings looked like. What a fun activity for the two siblings to do together!

I couldn’t find any pictures or information about duck houses, but I did find to two short articles about ducks in 1914 issues of Farm Journal:

A lover of fowls will find duck raising interesting and profitable. The Pekin is the duck most generally reared for market purposes. It is ready for market in a short time. A Pekin duck grows faster than any other fowl, except the goose.

Farm Journal (August, 1914)

The illustration on this page shows a flock of Pekin ducks and a swimming pool. Undoubtedly they are in the height of their glory, for a duck naturally takes to water. While it is possible to keep ducks profitably without bathing water, if the breeders can have access to a pond or creek for several hours a day it will be the means of keeping them in better condition. Unlike a hen, the duck can not scratch, and consequently, does not get the exercise the hen does. But when allowed bathing water it will obtain the needed exercise and thus keep down fat.

Ducklings, however, intended for market, must be deprived of this luxury, or they will not be able to secure the required weight. Baby ducklings, before they grow their feathers, should not be allowed near water, except for drinking purposes, as they are easy prey to cramps (which often means death) when their down becomes water-soaked.

On Long Island, where the business is conducted on the largest scale, those in the breeding pens are allowed in the creek at any time they choose during the day, but at night they are driven into a house where they are kept until late in the morning. This is done so that none of the eggs will be lost, for ducks, as a rule, lay at night.

Farm Journal (May, 1914)

Did Both Men and Women Garden a Hundred Years Ago?

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

Saturday, May 2, 1914: Ditto

Source: Vegetable Gardening (1914)
Source: Vegetable Gardening (1914)

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

Grandma probably was still doing the spring housecleaning. May is also a busy time for gardening. Did the Muffly women take any breaks from the cleaning to plant a few seeds?

Here’s some advice from a book published in 1914 by Samuel B. Green called Vegetable Gardening:

If one were to figure the actual value of vegetables that may be raised on a half-acre plot of garden, it would amount to at least $100—ten or fifteen times what any common field crop on the farm will produce in the same area.

Besides, there is the satisfaction of having vegetables fresh, and of much better quality than can be bought in town or from a neighbor, unless it be a very near neighbor. Vegetables lose their freshness and character when much time elapses between their harvesting and use.

Caring for the garden is a bugbear of many farmers. If properly laid out and managed, the labor required will not be much more than for corn.

The garden should be near the house. It may be that much of the labor of planting and care will fall upon the housewife and children; although this ought not be unless they desire it.

The garden pays well enough to be given proper attend from the men of the house. However, the women will probably prefer to harvest the crop, and perhaps plan the apportionment of the garden space.

Backyard Fences a Hundred Years Ago

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

Wednesday, April 15, 1914: Nothing much doing today.

1914-03-44-aThe picture above shows the simplest variation of an old fence. The boxed in posts are finished with a square board with a ball placed on top of each one for decoration.

Ladies Home Journal (March, 1914)

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

Now that spring is here, I’m taking stock of my yard. It needs work. . . a fence might be nice.

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share some backyard fencing suggestions from the March, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

1914-03-44-bThis is a good fence if the view beyond is particularly pleasing. and does not, therefore, need to be shut off.

1914-03-44-dIn the fence above the monotony is broken by connecting two fence posts with a trellis on which a pretty hardy shrub can be trained.

1914-03-44-cSome of us possess yards in which plants will not grow. The fence above is a happy solution. Gay boxes of flowers are placed between the posts and ivy or other vines on top.

March Chores in Hundred-Year-Old Gardening Calendar

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

Tuesday, March 3, 1914:  Same as ever.

Source: Vegetable Gardening (1914)
Source: Vegetable Gardening (1914)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today—and since I’m still thinking about spring and gardening—I checked a hundred-year-old book called Vegetable Gardening by Samuel B. Green to see what you’re supposed to do in March.


Make up hotbed and sow in them tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, cress, onions for transplanting, carrots, beets, celery, etc. In the latter part of the month cold frames may be used for the hardy vegetables.

If the ground is fit to work, onion sets may be planted and spinach, hardy peas, and other plants which are generally not sown until April may be sown at this time. Harden off the early cabbage and cauliflower plants.

White Oak Tree Identification During the Winter

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

Tuesday, January 27, 1914:  Read and practiced and vice versa this afternoon, and so the hours sped on.

Source of Pictures: Trees in Winter

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

Reading and practicing the piano—sounds like a nice way to pass a cold winter day. As Grandma transitioned between activities, did she ever glance out the window and see the haunting beauty of trees swaying in the winter wind?

I found an interesting old book called Trees in Winter about how to identify trees during the winter months. (I can’t identity most trees even during the summer—and was amazed that some people can identify them even without their leaves).

Here’s some of the information that the book had about identifying White Oaks during the winter:

White Oak

Habit—A large tree with average height of 50-75 ft. and a trunk diameter of 1-6 ft. somewhat various in habit, tending in the open to show a broad outline, sometimes 2-3 times as broad as high, with short trunk and lower limbs horizontal or declined, characteristically gnarled and twisted.

Bark—Light gray or nearly white, whence its name; broken by shallow fissures into long, irregular, thick scales which readily flake off. On some trees ridges broken into short oblongs give a rougher appearance to bark. Bark up to 2 inches thick in older trees, inner bark light. The bark is rich in tannin, is of medicinal value and is used in tanning.


 Twigs—Of medium thickness, greenish-reddish to gray, smooth sometimes covered with a bloom. Lenticels forming conspicuous, light-colored, minute, rounded, raised dots.  Leaves frequently remaining on tree throughout winter.

Buds-Broadly ovate, blunt, about 3 mm. long, reddish-brown, sometimes slightly hairy.

Fruit-Maturing in autumn singly or in pairs. Nut-ovoid to oblong rounded at apex, shiny, light chestnut brown, 1.5-2.5 cm. long, enclosed 1/3-1/4 of its length by deep saucer-shaped cup. Meat sweet, edible, sometimes roasted and used as a substitute for coffee, or when boiled said to be a good substitute for chestnuts.


Distribution-On moist or dry ground and in various soils sometimes forming nearly pure forests. Quebec and Ontario, south to the Gulf of Mexico; west to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas.

Wood-Strong, very heavy, hard, tough close-grained, durable, light brown, with thin lighter colored sapwood; the most valuable of the Oaks for timber, used in shipbuilding, for construction and in cooperage, the manufacture of carriages, agricultural implements, baskets, the interior finish of houses, cabinet making, for railroad ties and fences, and as fuel.

Trees in Winter (1916) by Albert Francis Blakeslee and Chester Deacon Jarvis

Sold Calf

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

Thursday, November 20, 1913: My Mollie’s calf over which I have been rejoicing for the past week or two on account of his bigness was sold this afternoon. He weighed 164 pounds. I had figured out a week or so ago that he would just have to weigh at least 145 pounds. Haven’t I something to be thankful for?

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1913)
Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1913)

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

Mollie was Grandma’s cow. I think that her parents gave each child a cow. When the cow had a male calf, the child got the money from the sale; when it was a female, their personal herd grew.  (See previous post on teaching farm kids the value of money.)

This was the third year in a row that Mollie had a male calf. On December 27, 1912, Grandma wrote:

Sold Mollie’s calf today. It wasn’t a very big one and I rather feared my fortune would be pretty small, but after all it weighed one hundred and forty-four lbs. Received a neat sum of $11.56. I am real proud over what my purse that Ruth gave me contains. Over fourteen dollars.

And, on September 25, 1911 she wrote:

 . . .Sold Mollie’s calf today. Weighed 145 lbs. Came to $10.87. Quite a vast sum to get all at once. Guess I’ll save it and get a watch or something as useful.


I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Mollie has a female calf in 1914. Grandma sounds pleased with the money—but it it’s about time for a girl!

Corn Stored in Corn Cribs

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

Tuesday, October 7, 1913:

10/6 – 10/8: I’ve husked about ten loads of corn by this time. My hands are sore and roughened, but I didn’t care very much. I’m thinking of what I’m earning.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Photo source: Wikipedia

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

(This is the second of three days that Grandma combined into one diary entry.)

After the corn was harvested and husked, the corn ears would have been stored in a corn crib. Corn cribs had wooden slats that let the air circulate to dry the corn.

Did Grandma also have to shovel the husked corn from the wagon into the crib? Corn was shoveled in through small doors near the top of the crib.  Whew, I get tired just thinking about shoveling corn into the crib.

Corn Crib Doors (Source: Wikipedia)
Corn Crib Doors (Source: Wikipedia)
Double corn crib on the farm where Grandma lived on when she wrote the diary.
The building on the right is a double corn crib on the farm where Grandma lived when she wrote the diary. I wonder if the corn Grandma husked was stored in this exact building.  (My gut feeling is that this building was built less than a hundred years ago. I think that high double cribs became popular after farmers began using elevators to move the corn into the crib.)