Christmas On The Farm, December 21, 2020

     This was a busy time of the year for our Family farm of the 1930's and 40's.. Fresh turkeys were our Holiday seasonal "crop". It was a team effort of cleaning and delivering them right up to the the last minute. Dad loaded them into the pick up truck and Mom took them right to the front door in the nearby town.

     In the evening of December 24th after all barn chores were done and now nearly dark, either brother Bill or I hiked to the neighboring farm where evergreen trees were growing and with an axe in hand found a tree for us. Unlike today's tree farming, these were often crooked and anything but perfect. At last I would cut one and drag it over the fields to set up in our living room.

     It was always placed in the same corner in a container filled with water to keep it fresh. Now the boxes of light bulbs and ornaments brought down from the third floor attic by Mom and sister Peggy were unpacked and excitedly placed upon the tree. It took some time to check all the electric bulbs and replace those burned out. The decorative ornaments were quite old looking, very fragile, but to us had a beauty all their own. 

     On Christmas morning, the warm glow of thankfulness, a fresh orange and English walnuts in the stocking reminded us that we were all safe and happy.

Onion Snow

I recall Mom and Dad talking about the "onion snow". It came at a time when Spring was just around the corner, but it was really too cold to plant much of anything. The snow was usually light and often melted very quickly. It became the basis for much conversation as to whether Spring had almost arrived. The term "Onion Snow" is particular to the state of Pennsylvania originated by the Pennsylvania Dutch culture and language, and refers to a snowfall that occurs after the spring onions have been planted, and comes right as they are sprouting. For me, it meant that the cold days of winter were almost gone and thankfully no more snow to shovel and trudge through while doing my farm chores.

Farm Life in the Great Depression

     Farm life back in the 1930's and 1940's was challenge for the entire family. We worked hard and even though we were poor, there was always enough food on the table. I often think about how good a "manager" my dad was as he had to make certain all areas of expense were covered. Also, getting planting done in time, not to mention the harvest. Busy is the word that best describes the day to day operation of the Deimler family.
     If you would like to get a close up feel for how we lived, reading "Straight Rows" will describe it for you. With the thought that perhaps this informative memoir could be used in a classroom setting. I would be happy to give a quantity price for a bulk order. Or give you first hand information by phone. My cell phone # is 678-nine-seven-seven-1781 and my email is:

Baby Turkeys

It was the first of April and they arrived in boxes with pin holes on top to let air in for the baby turkeys.Their were 1200 of them and they had just hatched out of the egg the day before now having completed a days' trip by truck from the Hatchery in Zanesville, Ohio. Mom had the pens prepared and ready for the little ones. The floor was covered with a straw like material called Stays Dry. In the middle was a small coal fed stove to keep the area warm. Small dishes with ground grain feed were carefully positioned in the pen area as well as water dishes. Interestingly, colorful marbles were placed in the dishes so the turkeys would pick at them, get food or water on their mouth and learn to eat. Thus began an annual process of raising turkeys which would provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the residents of Middletown, Pennsylvania and surrounding communities.

Frozen Water Pipes

The water pipes to the chicken houses were buried under the ground about 14" deep. Normal winter weather left the pipes undisturbed. However, there were some winters where the low temperatures prevailed and the ground froze deep and yes, below the 14' depth. I recall one time when not only did the pipes freeze, but some lines broke and it was many weeks before they could be repaired. What this meant is that we had to carry water in buckets to the chickens. Sometimes the full bucket would slop over the bucket edge and the result was wet pant legs. How cold and uncomfortable it was as now even the pants froze. Water was carried twice a day and even though I was just a little guy, the entire family worked together to get it done.

The Snow is Deep

In Pennsylvania the snow is on the ground and it is very deep. Trudging through the hand shoveled paths one wonders if the ground will ever reappear. The barn and chicken houses seem so far away, yet they are less than one hundred yards. My memory tells me that the crisp winter air states that winter is still very much alive in this northern state. Our family was accustomed to the snow and cold, so it all seemed pretty natural, yet we longed for the sunshine of warmer weather.

The Air is Crisp

It is almost November in Pennsylvania and there has already been a chilling frost. The summer vegetables are all harvested and now there is not much growing. One veggie treat is found in the turnip patch. Dad always sewed the seed in early September and by now their purple tops are peeping out of the ground accented  with bright green leaves. Mom was adding their special flavor to the daily cooked farm meals. But the real fun for me was a walk either going hunting or just a fall hike with a side trip through the turnips. Before leaving the house, I would pour a small amount of salt into a wax paper folded very carefully and placed in my pocket. Even in mid morning the air was quit cool and one could easily tell that winter was coming soon. Ready for a treat, I stopped to pull up just one or two turnips and using my trusty pocket knife I cut off the top and the root. Now pulling out my salt packet, I devoured the fresh raw turnip. What a tasty delight on a crisp fall hike.