Thursday, October 18, 2012

Family Farm

Stearns' Farm
looking southwest
circa 1956
The Bureau of Reclamation took aerial photographs of area farmsteads at various times, and farmers were given the option of purchasing prints. The black and white photo above shows the family farm in its early days - about twelve years after my parents purchased it.

In the late 30s and early 40s, the Wind River valley was the site of proposed irrigation projects, and my dad and his brother, who grew up on a dryland farm near Provo, South Dakota were eager to become a part of that venture. (One of the irrigation canals can be seen in the lower right corner of the photo.)

My parents had been married about 10 years when they moved from South Dakota in the early 40s. The irrigation project was the driving force behind their coming to Wyoming with four small children. My uncle Ted had moved to Wyoming earlier, and he encouraged his younger brother to make the move. My parents lived with my uncle until they could purchased a farm of their own - 150 acres of irrigated ground.

They built a small house on their new farm (photo of the house is on this post) and planted a windbreak of poplar, Chinese elm, Russian olive, apple, plum, currant, and caragana. By 1956, as shown in the photo, the trees and the farm were doing well.

By 1956, our family included six children: three boys and three girls. My mother always planted a large garden to feed the family during the year. The field with the vertical lines near the center of the photo is the garden. It was a large plot, and it produced an abundance of produce. 

source
In order to feed the family through the winter, my mother canned a lot in the 50s and 60s. She grew corn, pumpkins, winter and summer squash, beets, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, kohlrabi, green beans, lettuce, radishes, zucchini, and potatoes. Hoes and a hand-powered cultivator like the one shown above were used to keep the weeds under control.

Mom frequently purchased bushel baskets (the real, wooden ones with slat lids) of peaches and pears, which she also canned. The pressurized canner and Mason jars got a good workout every fall.

The canned goods, winter squash, potatoes, apples, etc. were stored in an under ground root cellar. 
Stearns' Farm
looking southwest
circa 1980s
Thirty years later, the farmstead photo shows many improvements. The blue garage was a machine shed, built in the late 70s. The large white building surrounded by corrals is the six-stanchion dairy barn that my father, brother, and brother-in-law built in the early 1960s.

The trees surrounding the house are mature in this photo. In the Fall, it was my job to get the leaves off of the lawn. Many of the leaves were as large as dinner plates. Some years, the leaves were loaded into a manure spreader and spread in the fields; other years, they were raked into the ditch by the house and burned. When I left home, my mother picked the leaves up with the riding lawn mower.

Dairy barn and corrals
looking west
My nephew, Dwight took this photo of the farm one summer while flying over the farm. This angle shows the dairy barn and the Wind River mountains in the distance. When I was growing up, the mountains had snow on them year round; now, the peaks are bare in the summer.

The farm was sold after my brother died in 1996: it had been farmed by my family for over fifty years.

20 comments:

  1. So interesting to learn about your family farm. A lot of work went into making it successful.

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  2. My family were farmers in South Dakota. One branch in the NE corner of the state, and another down in the SE. Both farms were homesteaded by my ancestors, but now both are gone as no one in my parent's generation wanted to take it over. Losing that legacy is a bit sad. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go inside my grandparent's farmhouse. It looked so tiny! (I hadn't been inside since probably 7th grade, and I'm 45 now.) Thanks for sharing and for the memories! We had aerial photos, too.

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  3. What a great look at your family's farm through the 20th century! My uncle by marriage still maintains his family's farm. It has been in his family since the very late 18th century. I love hearing about the farm - and family - history!

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  4. This was so interesting. So many of the folks around us are on family land; most of the roads around here are the family names. My family didn't have any history like that, so I find it really amazing. Thanks for sharing it!

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  5. An amazing history!! Thanks for sharing it Nancy! I remember the Bureau of Reclamation's irrigation projects in the Yuma, Arizona valley. We played along the canals as kids and never thought about how the water gave life to the lettuce, grapefruit and melons growing in the fields beyond. Your post has made me nostalgic about the days when neighbors and families worked hard together.

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  6. I very much enjoyed reading the history of your families farm. What a cherished piece of history.
    Thanks.
    wyogg

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  7. What a wonderful piece about the family farm! Love it! I think that those folks who moved here from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.during that era were tough, resilient, resourceful people. I admire them so much. The photos are really a treasure.

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  8. Wow that had to be a very hard day when the farm sold.... it is BEAUTIFUL What a place to grow up Nancy! I m sure I romanticize it, but it seems idyllic.

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  9. I love reading the history of farms. Love your photos. The hard work of a farm family never ends. I remember my Great Granny using the digger and it was so fun when we got to help her by standing in front of her and pushing on the bar. Great memory you brought back.

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  10. I've been thinking about family connectiveness lately, and by the number of responses your post has gathered, it appears that others also are drawn to the that same idea. We long for a connection to our past, and even find joy in hearing about the legacies of others. Thanks for sharing a bit of your family's history.

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  11. I love the pictures and the history of your family farm. I know we 'chatted' the other day and the property is still a farm, but I'm kinda sad to know it's no longer in your family. It's hard grulling work and I guess none of the grandkids wanted to carry on. g

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  12. What a great farm history! Look at those trees grow..my goodness..it must have been good land! It looks like a great place to grow up..and to see the Wind Rivers in the background too! I think the winters are warmer now than they used to be in the 1950's..or maybe I just remember them as being cold:)

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  13. It must have been a hard treasure to let go, all those years in the family. But a beautifully developed farm...

    I remember those arial photos, we had them of my Mom's family farm.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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  14. Seeing how the farm changed over time is just amazing! It says a lot about how farming has developed over time. My grandfather told me about the aerial photographs, I think that is very neat! I like to take periodic aerial photos of my childhood home (~20 acres), but not a lot changes!

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  15. Once again you've given all of us a great read and view. I don't know how many generations I would have to go back to find farmers in my family. I can't imagine it. We've been city dwellers for several generations.

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  16. What great pictures....all the work your family put into that farm...

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  17. Great pictures and Great memories. That is cool to know how your family moved into the area. Thanks for sharing!!

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  18. Nancy, this was sooooo interesting to read!!! Thank you for sharing!!

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  19. I loved reading about your history Nancy and so graphically illustrated with dated photos. I was particularly struck by your comment about the snow on the mountains. Very interesting.

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