At an early age the children had their chores and “they knew they were needed.” Frances said, “I believe that was why we always were a close-knit family. Everyone wants to be needed and know that they are loved and useful.”
The children liked to gather the eggs. They helped to feed and milk the cows morning and night. Then, in the morning, the cows had to be put out to pasture and in the evening they had to be brought in, guided down the lane with the help of Buster and tied up in their stanchions. Frances kept lanterns shining in the barn and in the house. In the late summer, they all picked blueberries and gathered the vegetables from the gardens. Then they worked together to can vegetables for winter and to preserve the blueberries into jam.
Frances also dried the corn once they had all they needed to eat. “I kept my large Quaker Oatmeal boxes and during the corn season I placed my wire frame – like a small table — on top on the stove. Placing brown paper over the wire frame, I then cut off the uncooked corn from the cob – spread it out on the paper and kept turning it so it would dry evenly. When dry, I packed the kernels in the large oatmeal boxes and stored them on the top shelf. In the winter, you take as much as you need and soak it in cold water. The corn will swell and taste like fresh corn.” She liked to make creamed succotash. “It helped fill a hungry stomach – along with hot biscuits with maple syrup or honey.”
A particular treat was country fried potatoes. “Oh so tasty and easy to do. They are equally as good for a hearty breakfast, dinner, or supper. We had our own potatoes and our own salt pork. We kept the salt pork in a brine in a barrel or half-keg down cellar and it was more like bacon, it was so meaty. First I placed a big iron skillet on the stove, then I sliced the salt pork in thin strips and fried them until well done, turning the pieces with a couple of three-point forks that had black, wooden handles. The forks belonged to my grandmother Rowell (Minnie’s mother). I turned the salt pork often so it would brown evenly. Took it out of the skillet and drained it on brown paper. The potatoes were already washed, peeled, and sliced, ready to go into the hot fat. The same two three-point forks were used to turn the slices of potatoes until they were a golden brown. I would place them in a hot, earthen dish and serve. Fit for a king who has been out doing the many chores that have to be done on the farm.”
“Leon was a tease,” Frances recalled. One of his favorite teases came if you happened to spill something on a good suit or dress. Quietly, but dramatically, he would say, “It never, never will be the same again.” Or, he would sneak up in a busy workday. “He had his work to do and I had mine. Sometimes when I was washing the pots and pans or the milking tools and my hands were all sudsy, I would feel my apron sliding down to the floor. Leon had quietly come in and untied my big bow. But I always caught him before he got away and I would give him a big sudsy hug. Of course he did not go too fast; he really wanted to be caught – a fun break in the midst of drudgery.” Actually, she said, “ I never thought of my work as being drudgery – just routine, and we were not bored because there was so much to be done and some things have to be done over and over every day.
“When the children were creeping, I always scrubbed my floors first so they could have a good chance to play while I was doing other work.” As the children grew older Frances included their play with her work. “At Christmas Dolly received a cooking set. It was small but with a real aluminum pan that could be put in the oven and a small cookie cutter. Dolly would be beside me, watching me make the batter, and when it was ready, I gave her enough to roll out with her little rolling pin and she rolled it out like I did and cut the cookies around her pan, and they were ready for the oven when mine were ready.
“When someone came to our house unexpected, they were always asked to stay to dinner. We would add more potatoes to the soup and make an extra pan of biscuits – and we had plenty of butter and honey. Fry some sliced salt pork and make gravy to go with the Johnny Cake. Then, all we had to do was to set an extra plate or two. Add extra chairs around the table. Then it was fun swapping stories.”