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Wintry Farm Chores

January 22, 2018

It’s a brand new year! Each year at Living History Farms, we choose a new subject to think about to make the year extra special. In 2018, our attention is on “simple pleasures.” What does that mean? A simple pleasure is a small everyday thing that makes you happy. It might be the tiniest thing. Does the smell of a cheese pizza make you smile? How about the sound of your favorite song on the radio? Do you like the touch of your dog or cat’s fur when you pet them? Will you laugh at the bright colors and lights of a video game? Would the taste of a fruity Popsicle make you happy?

cattle sitting in the farm yardSometimes we smile at these little things because they make us use our senses. Can you list all five senses? Think of things you touch, see, and smell, hear, and taste. Simple pleasures make us slow down and really enjoy what’s happening around us through our five senses. At the museum, we have a chance to do many things people had to do a long time ago to run their farm or take care of their house or to work in their business. Even though the chores can be hard work, our museum workers enjoy things like cooking over a fire, carrying water buckets, and feeding cows. We can use our five senses a lot and these chores are often simple pleasures to us!

horses pull a wagon

Right now, it’s winter here in Iowa! It has been very cold out and we have had some snow. At the 1900 era farm house, museum workers are still taking care of the farm animals you see during the summer. They feed animals, fill up water tanks, and shovel snow around the farm. With all this work, you might expect our farm hands complain about the cold and the snow. Sometimes, they do. More often, they tell us that being the first one at the farm on a winter morning is a true simple pleasure for them. They call it a thrill to the senses!

feeding the sheepWhat senses do farm hands use when they do winter farm chores? Before they go out, our museum workers put on heavy rough coats and gloves and soft fuzzy scarves. Stepping out of the farm house on a very cold morning fills their lungs with sharp, cold air. It smells crisp and clean. On the snowy mornings, farm hands feel the snow on their face and can stick their tongue out to taste the snowflakes. They never admit they do it, but we know it happens!

1900 farm windmill

Walking into the farm yard, they hear the click, click, click of the 1900 windmill as it turns and hear the noise of the animals. The cattle and hogs call for food every morning as soon as they see our farm hands walking around! What sounds do you think these animals make to get attention?

bucket of cornOur farmers wear heavy boots that crunch through the snow in the farm yard. The smells in the corn crib and barn are animal smells, but also dry, sweet smells of corn and oats in the grain bins. Ground corn makes a scratchy noise as it gets poured into buckets for the chickens and the pigs. The hay makes dry, scritchy noises as farm hands lift it into feed stalls for the horses with a pitch fork. In the cold weather, water tanks and buckets can freeze. Farm hands break up the ice with their hands and with hammers. The ice is cold and the water is wet and slushy. Carrying buckets can be heavy work making arm muscles stretch and pull. It’s a great morning workout!

coffee cup next to a lanternOn weekends, there are other museum guides working in the farmhouse getting ready for cooking classes and Historic Dinners. When outside chores are done, the farm hands can go the house to warm up. They feel the heat from the wood stove on their skin and the smell of coffee on the stove. If they are lucky, there might even still be cookies in the cookie jar to snack on!

Taking care of our animals is both a chore and a fun activity here at the museum. We think a lot about what it might have been like a hundred years ago to do the same chores. Do you think people in the year 1900 had fun doing winter chores? People in 1900 were like people in 2018—some people loved winter weather and some people didn’t. When we read diaries and letters written long ago, some farmers talk about the fun they had sleigh riding in the snow, but there are also letters complaining about how dreary snow and ice could be. How about you? Do you enjoy winter? Does it get very cold where you are? Does it snow? Think about the things in winter that are simple pleasures for you! Hot cocoa? Snowballs? Crunchy snow? Think of a chore you have to do today. It may be work, but are there ways it is fun too? What do you touch, hear, see, smell when doing it? Take a few minutes today to slow down and use your senses. It might become a simple pleasure for you too!

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