Imagine a farm in 1890. It’s not as romantic as some of the popular family television shows would have you believe. As a man, or even a boy, you would wake up at 5AM in the brisk 30 degree temperatures to milk your cows before watering them and letting them out to pasture. The woman of the house was up 30 minutes earlier to fire up the stove. Littler ones would start to wake up around 5:30 as the men, young and old (from 12 to 50), arrived back into the house for breakfast. If you lived on a successful farm, it was likely some sausage, oatmeal with butter, fried potatoes or something else similar to our modern day “complete breakfast” package. If you didn’t live so successfully, it would be gruel, grits, or unflavored oatmeal.sports74.ru
The wife would pack a dinner pail for the men and see them off at 6AM as they went out to their land to till and sow the ground as the frost was just starting to melt. She would then prepare a tub of boiling water, soap and a washboard to do the laundry.
After hours of breaking apart hard clay, in the mid morning, the men would return to slop the pigs, feed and water the horses, and let out the smaller animals to pasture.
At home the wife would be busy working at a churn, curing lye soap or distilling vinegar from the cider of last Autumn’s apple harvest. These would be sold at a market to produce some needed income for the family.
After the men herd animals back to their corrals, they would return to the soil. Noon would just be setting in while they continue their work. Many years before, the unit of an acre was aptly defined as the amount of land the average man could till in one day. Without motorized vehicles or technology, the tilling in 1890 was through oxen or horse and with a plough. A forty acre plot of land would require approximately 40 days to till behind an ox.
Farm life was strife with malnutrition if the family only lived by the crops in their rotation. Family gardens containing a variety of vegetables would be necessary to provide nourishment, and tending to this would typically fall into the hands of the mother. Though nowhere near the acreage that men handled, the complexity of keeping the garden growing and free from rabbits, deer and other pests posed challenges of their own.
For women who participated in the westward expansion, and those who lived in the south, education was a luxury. A woman may teach until she was married, at which point it was culturally expected that she would stay home to help building a family and helping with the land. Most of the education occurred during the winter months when there was less work, though the work that was present was more difficult.
For men who participated in the westward expansion, it was grueling and dangerous. Injury was common and infections took lives. Education was also available, though the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic) were often geared towards its usefulness in agriculture, and it was expected that older boys would be working the farm if the weather was good, so education was also more prevalent in the winter months. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when federal funding pushed a better educational system to these often impoverished areas.
Women would often get dinner started as early as 5PM for a dinner that might happen two hours later, at 7PM when the men arrived back home. Dinner would often continue until 8PM, at which time the men would start to settle in bed and women would often finish cleaning the house by candlelight until 9 before retiring.
It wasn’t like the romantic family settings we see on TV. It was dirty, rough, painful and dangerous. Ethics were centered around difficult life by which greater difficulty implied a better moral value. Today’s technology and farming techniques bring much more ease and productivity to the table, but today less than 3% of Americans make a living on agriculture while in 1890, over 50% depended on land and stock for their livelihood.