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)

Adapt Food to Climate

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

Wednesday, June 17, 1914:  Don’t have anything for today.

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1914)

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1914)

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

Grandma was probably still picking strawberries for a neighbor—and was probably too exhausted to write anything in the diary.

Since Grandma didn’t write much, I thought you might enjoy some quotes from an article in the June, 1914 issue of Good Housekeeping about how people living in cold climates should eat fattier foods in the winter than in the summer.

The sugars and starches may be regarded as partly burned, while the extent of the burning in the fats and oils is extremely slight. For this reason the fats and oils are distinctively heat formers, furnishing the maximum degree of heat and energy during the processes of combustion in the various tissues of the body. A kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of sugars or starches will furnish four thousand calories (units) of energy, while a kilogram of fats or oils will furnish nine thousand, three hundred units of energy.

As a consequence fats and oils are consumed in increasingly large quantities as the temperature of the environment falls. Near the equator, where the average temperature is but little below that of the blood itself, there is little loss of heat by radiation from the human body, and hence those elements which particularly produce heat are required in minimum quantity. But as we approach the northern limit of human habitation, there the average temperatures of the year are below the freezing-point of water, the radiation of heat from the body is greatly increased and the requirement of fat in the food is correspondingly greater.

There is reason to believe that, especially during the cold months, it would be a wise dietetic practice if the people of our country would consume a larger quantify of oil and less sugar and starch. In the warm months, when succulent vegetables are fruits are abundant, the fat content of the ration might well be diminished.

Hmm. . . I wonder if the Muffly’s used this philosophy when planning meals. I can remember when I was a child that we ate more meat in the winter; and had lots of strawberry shortcake. . . and black raspberry shortcake. . . and cherry pudding for the main course during the summer months.

Stiff from Picking Strawberries

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

Tuesday, June 16, 1914:  Am as stiff as a poker, and feel worse than I don’t know what.


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

I’d feel stiff, too. I think that Grandma was getting paid by a neighbor to pick strawberries. The previous day she wrote that she was “working for wages.” It’s hard work to stoop and pick strawberries for hours on end.

I wonder if Grandma ate any of the berries. In 1912, she wrote:

This morning I picked berries and helped myself to some. I wonder if anyone saw me. . .

June 10, 1912

Photo Supplies Arrived

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

Monday, June 15, 1914:  My photo supplies came this morning. Hope to make some presentable pictures now. Am very tired for I was working for wages today.

DSC08259.crop aPhoto source: An advertisement for the Kodak Film Tank that appeared in the August 1913 issue of Farm Journal. You can see the entire advertisement in this previous post:

1913 Kodak Film Tank Advertisement

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


It’s awesome that your photo supplies arrived. You’ve mentioned taking and developing pictures several times over the past year or so. What a fun and rewarding hobby!


Apparently strawberries were in season. Throughout the diary she got paid for picking a neighbor’s strawberries each June. For example, in 1911 she wrote:

Started to pick strawberries this morning. Of course it will mean some early rising and loss of sleep, but just look at what I can earn.

June 12, 1911

Wedding Decorations a Hundred Years Ago

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

Sunday, June 14, 1914:  Heard the details of a rather unusual wedding, which took place this morning. Lots of people went that weren’t invited. Ruth was one.

Attended church this afternoon. A supply preacher was there for the afternoon. He could make his eyes flash.

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)

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

Hmm. . . Sunday morning seems like an odd time for a wedding. Why would people crash it?. . . Were the bride and groom very popular and friends of many of the young people? . . . Was there an awesome reception? . . . What were the wedding decorations like?

I wonder if Grandma’s sister Ruth kept a diary. If would be fun to read what she wrote about this unusual wedding.

1914-10-37 c

1914-10-37 a

1914-10-37 f

Bride’s bouquet with Bible or prayer book

1914-10-37 d

Bride’s maid’s bouquet

1914-10-37 e


What did Grandma mean when she said that the substitute pastor made his eyes flash? Was he preaching about hell, fire and brimstone?

Old-fashioned Strawberry Tapioca Recipe

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

Saturday, June 13, 1914:  This is Saturday. Not much doing.

Strawberry Tapioca

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share an old seasonal recipe that I really like. Strawberry Tapioca combines the classic taste of tapioca pudding with the wonderful taste and texture of fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Tapioca

1/2 cup small pearl tapioca

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups thinly sliced strawberries

Soak tapioca in room temperature water overnight. Drain.

Heat milk (preferably in double boiler) until warm, add drained tapioca and milk. Cover, turn heat to very low and cook for one hour. Stir occasionally. Watch to make sure that the mixture doesn’t boil. (It will boil over very easily—and also has a tendency to burn on the pan bottom if care is not used).

Beat egg yolks and sugar together. Add a little of the hot mixture to the egg mixture and blend thoroughly. Then add the egg mixture to the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Reheat over medium heat and cook while stirring until tapioca mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into hot tapioca mixture. Stir in vanilla, and then gently stir the sliced strawberries into the hot tapioca. Chill and then serve.

Makes 7 – 8 servings

In Pain Over Piano Lesson

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

Friday, June 12, 1914: My music teacher had a pain this morning. Must have sympathized deeply for her, since by the time she was ready to go I had one too.

Besse went home this afternoon. Miss her some.


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

Hmm. . . Has Grandma been practicing her piano lessons? Maybe her music teacher (and eventually Grandma) were in pain because of how poorly the lesson went.

Grandma might not be spending much time practicing. I don’t think that she mentioned her piano lessons since January.


Grandma’s married sister Besse came to visit June 9. It sounds like a fun and relaxing time for both sisters. It probably was just what Besse needed after the recent death of her infant daughter. . . and Grandma sounds like she enjoyed having her oldest sister around for a few days.


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