The farmer’s alphabet (continued)

Ann Swanson

Last week I began the Farmer’s Alphabet as published year’s ago in “Today’s Education” February/March 1982. I take up here right where I left off. It was written by Mary Azarian, a former teacher from Vermont.

Q – Quilt – I have always loved Amish quilts. I know they are expensive, but I also realize that they are a lot of work. The only quilting I have done is for a large wall hanging. My quilt has twelve blocks – one for each month of the year. There is a little house in each block. I used different materials to make the snow, the trees, and each of the houses. My granddaughter helped me decide on the material to use so she had a part in it.

R – Rocker – Did you know the rocking chair was invented by Benjamin Franklin? The summer we had a foreign exchange student, Kristof was enthralled with the rocking chair that I kept on my porch. It was an old one that came from my great=grandfather’s homestead. He wanted to find a rocking chair that was not assembled to send home to his parents. We could not find one. In the end, he took a Wendel August bread plate. He wanted something made in the U.S. A. and that is all we could find around here. I believe that I gave him a toy bat as a souvenir of the bat factory that is in our area.

S – Stove – The stove in the picture that accompanies this alphabet is like the old wood stove that I cooked on at Hickory Heights. It had the big water box and a warming oven on top. I had never cooked on wood before I moved up here. At that point, I did not have a choice. It was either make all casserole meals in my electric frying pan or learn to cook on the stove. I chose to learn. My son was in kindergarten so I had to stoke up the fire to fix lunch, then let it cool down so that I could drive him to school. I even made birthday cupcakes on that stove.

T – Toad – Frogs and toads were some of my mother-in-law’s favorite things. If she went for a walk, she often carried home a toad for the children. I remember a big toad who lived in the milk house for years. He was careful to be out of sight when the milkman came to collect the milk. One year my son asked me to bring down a box. It was grandma’s birthday. He and his dad wrapped up a frog for grandma. That box hopped around on the table before it was opened. We all figured it might spill a glass of water before she got to it.

U – Underwear – Long underwear was popular in the country since much work was outdoor work. Sometimes they were called long johns. I am not sure where that name came from. We wore long underwear when we cut wood for the stove and loaded it into the manure spreader to bring home. I was mighty happy to be warm while I worked although I must confess by the time we were finished, I was almost too warm.

V- Vegetables – Most of what we grew in the garden were vegetables. We had peas, green beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, peppers, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. My father-in-law loved to garden, but he did not really like all of the vegetables he grew. If grandma pickled them, he ate them.

W- Winter – Winter on the farm was not always peaceful as it looks on those Currier and Ives cards that you may have received for Christmas. Often winter was stressful. It was hard on the machinery. Often things broke – usually when you were trying to get ready to go somewhere. It was fun to ski and sled in the back forty. Shoveling to get the milk truck in was not fun. The car was almost always buried when it was time to go to the store. I had to uncover it, then warm it up before we were ready to go.

X – aX – An ax is a handy tool. We used one to cut our wood to the size that would fit into the stove. First, we had that cookstove that burned wood, then we went to a Franklin Fireplace (invented by Ben Franklin), then we purchased a Vermont Casting stove that really was airtight. I really liked the Vermont Casting stove. It kept the house so nice and warm. Often it was too warm and I had to open the kitchen door or window to cool things off. We used to eat a lot of hot dogs in the winter because we opened up the stove and cooked them there.

Y- Yawn – By the time the winter work was done, we sat by the woodstove. Coming in out of the cold made everyone sleepy. Dick usually sat by the stove for a while, then it was off to bed ready to start another day.

Z – Zinnia – One of my favorite flowers is the zinnia. They are annuals so they must be planted each year. They are such vivid colors. If I can find some plants started, I purchase them and grow them in one of the beds around Hickory Heights. Sometimes I have to start my own plants. They grow fine that way too. I notice that others plant zinnias, I suspect for color.

I have had a wonderful time reminiscing about the days on the farm. These prompts helped me with the memories. Of course, there are many other memories about the days on the farm. We farmed with my brother-in-law so the families were together a lot. My kids and I recently reminisced about how the cousins played and got along, most of the time. Since we worked together, we often ate together. There were many impromptu picnics where everyone just gathered up what they had and put it together.

Now we seldom see the cousins. Everyone is busy with their own family. That is what happens when the children grow up and the family expands, no one’s house is large enough to entertain.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at