Feeding chickens and gathering eggs. Bringing the cows in from the pasture for the evening milking, or helping carry 5-gallon pails of milk to the milk house. Cleaning barn gutters full of manure with scoop shovels. Making our beds. Hanging clothes on the line and helping fold them when they were dry. Setting the table for the next meal. Washing, rinsing, and drying dishes, all by hand, after each meal. Helping pick strawberries and beans or digging up rows of potatoes. Unloading hay or pulling rope when the fork and pulley were being used. Mowing lawn. Shoveling snow.
These are just a sampling of the various chores my siblings and I were responsible for as we grew up.
Not only did many human mouths need to be fed, clothes washed and put away, and various rooms in the house kept clean and free of clutter, the non-humans needed regular attention. That ranged from dairy cows, calves, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats as well as hay, oats, and corn crops along with a substantial garden.
When you grow up on a diversified small farm and share space with up to 14 other people, there is no lack of chores to go around. Many were chores that needed tending once or twice each day. Others may have been a few times a week or more seasonal.
We all learned to do our part. The chores got more complicated as we got older and could handle the responsibility. There were some house chores reserved more for the sisters, while the brothers did more of the outside chores. I was a tomboy so I liked to help with outside work, but also liked things like sweeping floors and baking cakes.
I am very grateful today that we were taught and expected to do our part from an early age. It empowered us to be self-sufficient and also to understand how each of our contributions mattered to a smooth-running house and farm–at least as smooth as you could hope for with that many people and other variables.
I have tremendous respect for the hard work my parents did in those years, and their entire lives. Mom kept a clean house and we ate very well. Dad made sure the land and outbuildings were in good shape and cared for. They raised the next generation of hard workers. There are drawbacks in all of that, but I wouldn’t trade the valuable life lessons chore time taught me.