Karen Gay’s venture brought back great memories. First of all the food was good and no one worried about their health or where the food came from. I was a city kid and a Yankee. We spent time up in Hawley, Pa with people who were poor. The man worked for the Highway Department and the wife baked bread and cakes. She put her earnings in a jar to pay their property taxes. They had a garden with an electric fence powered by a 6 volt car battery to keep the deer out and they had a milk cow. No electricity and we sat at night with oil lamps. FDR put through the Rural Electrification Act (REA) and finally they had 220 volt direct current. They were a long way from town and had many relatives in the area. One elderly man down the road came from Italy and worked for the railroad for 50 cents a day. He bought a timbered over piece of land for 50 cents an acre, dug and blasted the stumps, cleared most of the rocks, built a house and a barn and one by one brought his four sons and his wife to his farm. Life was a struggle and winters were very cold. The boys had chores before and after school and walked the five or more miles each way. the rocks were put to use building a dry wall to create a pasture.
My Dad’s parent had a tiny farm near Freehold, NJ and we used to visit another poor farmer. They had four daughters while the people in Hawley only had a boy and a girl. The man had been a First Sergeant in the German Army in WW I and the wife was a Polish Countess. Her brother was a Monsignor at the Polish Catholic Church in Freehold. Now life was hard. They only had about 8 acres and he grew field corn to feed to the turkeys he grew for sale at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They had a strawberry patch and I help picking and they sold crates of delicious berries. The lady had a large hen house and sold eggs and Rhode Island Red chickens.She bought feed in big bags and the bags had a pattern so she made dresses for the kids.
She made the best preserves in mason jars with wax lids. No electric and evenings we all sang while someone pushed the pedals on the player piano. No indoor plumbing although she did have a sink with a pitcher pump. A bed pan at night and an out house; a two-seater!
Delicious smoked hams and Pumpernickel bread and she did the carving in the manner of the Europeans which is to hold the item by your chest and carve towards yourself. Just as WW II was starting Dad went in partners to raise hogs in Freehold. Dad fenced in an area hog tight and built houses for the mothers as well as feeders for the corn and supplements.Beef make their own protein but hogs must be fed protein. Dad bought 4 beautiful bred gilts and I got to riding one. I had a photo which I cherished but it got destroyed.After Dad snapped the pic the gilt threw me! With the war Dad joined the Navy and the farmer was in charge and made a mess but we had about 40 pigs for the butcher store. A man came to the farm and for 50 cents a piece killed, scalded and scraped the hair, bled and cleaned them out. Nasty work but I got there after it was all done.
The Freehold area, Monmouth County, was great for potatoes and tomatoes. Now most farms are beautiful homes. Thew was a family who took in foster kids from the state at so much per month per kid.They had a large potato farm and the story I got was that the worked the kids on the farm and basically fed them potatoes. I heard they were housed in a large dorm in their attic. I always thought farm kids learned a lot and had a good work ethic and I had hoped to get a farm and give each of my 4 boys a chore. Just couldn’t afford to do it until later in life and then too late. We had United and Strout catalogs and there were good deals but we become prisoners of families, friends and our safe and secure jobs.