With the holiday season upon us as this blog entry is posted, I reflected on memories from that season and what we used to do on our farm.
Regardless of the day, chores still had to be completed morning and night: animals had to be fed, manure had to be hauled, and other routines of life continued, although we made a few adjustments on the holidays themselves.
On Christmas Day, for example, it wasn’t uncommon to give the cows the treat of a little extra hay or feed and to make sure we had finished such chores as grinding feed as early as possible, so the work didn’t take time away from our celebrations.
One memory that sticks out for me today comes from the time I was 3 or 4 years old. It was Christmas morning, and under our tree there was an oddly shaped package wrapped in green paper with teddy bear stickers. Santa had apparently delivered it in the night, and I couldn’t wait to open it, but Mom told me I had to wait until Dad was in from chores. I’ll bet I raced back and forth from one window to another at least a hundred times watching him plow snow, haul manure, and finish all his other chores, while I asked, “Is he done yet?” over and over. (Just don’t ask what was in the package; I don’t recall.)
A mystery that was never resolved is how Mom could get her dog, Puppy, to bark as if someone were in our house, as we walked back to the house after Christmas Eve chores. She did it more than once and told me each time that Santa must be inside. When we’d get changed and go upstairs, presents were under the tree. The funny thing was that Puppy only barked at strangers and wouldn’t have put up such a ruckus unless someone really had been in the house. For that matter, why wasn’t she out at the barn with us? Hmmmm.
Until 1979, when they moved to town, my paternal grandparents lived in the original farmhouse and played host to our Christmas celebrations. Grandma and Mom and a couple of the great-aunts would cook a tremendous meal, and we’d all gather around a large dining room table to enjoy the feast. Afterward, it was torture for me to have to wait while the adults cleaned up and put away all the leftovers before we could open presents. I would study every package under the big tree, trying to figure out what John Deere toys would soon be mine. My maternal grandfather and great-uncle were almost as excited to see what emerged from the wrapping paper and often helped with “some assembly required.”
Before long, the afternoon would be over and it would be time to head to the barn for evening chores. Dad, Mom, and I would go to our house—just across the yard from the original farmhouse—change our clothes, do chores, and then go back to Grandpa and Grandma’s for leftovers. We’d repeat the process the next day, since there were still leftovers to be had. Our barn cats enjoyed plenty of extra table scraps, as well.
As the years went on and my responsibilities grew, I would surprise Dad by getting up extra early on Christmas morning and slipping out to feed the cows and have the milking equipment ready to go before he got there.
While I don’t miss doing chores overall, I do miss those days. I’ve often wondered if the animals knew when Christmas came around. They always seemed calmer and chores just seemed to go easier that day for some reason. Maybe it was just the spirit of that time of year that eased things along.
Here’s hoping that your holiday season is a joyous one and that you get all the farm-related goodies on your wish list.