SPRING OPTIMISM

SPRING OPTIMISM
Respectfully submitted by
Laura W. Berglund
Copyright, March 2016
I will never understand how my parents were able to keep up the pace. Farming days began at 5:30 a.m. and did not usually end until all the cows were milked about 8:00 p.m. They did take time to sit down to three ample meals between chores and listen a while to the battery operated radio.

Preparations for spring planting began in March and April when they readied the plow, cultivator, disc, seed drill and corn planter. All harness equipment was checked to see if replacements were needed. Any hay that was left in the loft was forked to one side to make room for the new crop. This was a fun part for my sisters and me because the expanded space gave lots of room for roller skating! When the horses were finally put in the pasture after the long winter, they cavorted and played like little colts, very clearly showing their joy at, once again, being outdoors.

My mom was busy preparing the brooder house for the new baby chicks which would arrive in May. The brooder house was a small dome shaped structure with a low ceiling (an adult could not walk upright inside). In the center stood a kerosene stove with a chimney through the roof. The inside of this little structure was thoroughly cleaned, as well as the little stove. Troughs for food were readied and water receptacles prepared (these were made of fruit jars turned upside down and screwed into a base which allowed water to seep to a constant level).

March usually brought more snow which melted all over the place in April, making a muddy mess of the driveway and barn yard. When possible during the winter months, my dad would spread manure on top of the snow in the planting fields using the horses pulling the manure spreader. When the snow melted, the fertilizer was already doing its job of enriching the soil. The trick to getting the fields ready was to take advantage of the first drying days of April to plow and disc the fields with higher elevation; lower elevations would follow later.

May, what a glorious and busy month on the farm in those post-depression days! In spite of the concern for drought, hail and storm, each year farmers remained optimistic and planted their crops praying for a bountiful harvest. Day after day seeds of wheat and oats were planted in the carefully prepared fields; my dad took pride in planting the corn in meticulously straight rows. The smell of freshly turned earth refreshed the air and renewed our special love of spring.

Mom and Dad would take a day to go to the hatchery in town for the purpose of buying baby chicks. The chicks came in cardboard boxes about 3 feet square and 5 inches high; the covers were dotted with ample breathing holes for those baby birds. Mom would take the boxes to the brooder houses, open them and allow us to hold one for a little while. What a joy; I get tears in my eyes thinking about holding those little, warm, yellow, fluffy birds! You could feel their little hearts beating and you just wanted to squeeze them BUT we knew that would be disaster. The experience was, indeed, unforgettable.

So the little Leghorn chickies were all removed from their boxes into their new warm and cozy home. It was interesting to learn that those birds' yellow fluff changed within weeks to white feathers as they grew quite quickly into chickens. There would come a day soon when they would be transferred to the chicken house for adult chickens. The chicks were mostly hens and their eggs represented "egg money" for my mom. The chickens were her "job" and she took that responsibility seriously. There were always some roosters in the flock and mom kept those for Sunday dinners throughout the summer months. Her fried chicken was the world's very best.

When the soil was warm and my dad said it was time, we headed to the vegetable garden which was the responsibility of my sisters and me under the direction of our mother. We did get much pleasure from watching those seeds sprout and grow. Of course, we were also recruited to hoe that garden and keep it free of weeds.

It was not all work, however. We had very good neighbors who became friends of my parents. Some evenings, when the chores were done, they would all gather to play a game of "500". This was good for us, for we would sit on the stair steps to listen and eat some of the goodies my mom had prepared.

Somehow, my parents made it all work and we found joy in life without the aid of television, cell phones or even movies.