(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
Every farm had poultry, and this was also the responsibility of the farm wife. The “setting hen” would hatch her brood and care for them during the summer. The roosters were fried and it was a special treat when fried chicken graced the Sunday dinner table. The pullets grew and became the ”layers” the next season. In the winter the old non laying hens ended up in the soup pot or one of many chicken dishes. Any extra fat was rendered and used in baking.
The eggs from the layers were sold for cash. They were used very sparingly in the home most of the time. My mother told me a story about how my grandmother would save four eggs to bake her Christmas cookies. Because chickens did not lay much in the winter, eggs were in short supply. Grandmother would pack before eggs in oats and store them in the pantry until time to bake cookies.
Ducks and geese were a familiar part of the poultry scene. The ducklings and goslings were hatched in the spring and let run with the mother. There were slaughtered at Thanksgiving and Christmas and provided the meat for the holiday table. Nature provided the ducks and geese with an excess amount of feathers and the farm wife knew when it was time to “pick” the geese. This was a task required faith and fortitude. Experienced hands were needed, as the animals did not want to give up their extra coats and this was performed upon live animals. There was a market waiting for the down to make pillows and featherbeds.
Squabs also provided a source of meat. The pigeons roosted in the barns and other outside buildings. These squabs were “dressed” and baked.
Each farm would have a grove of trees or woods. Here the nut trees and wild berries grew. When it was time for blackberries to ripen the parents took the children and they would have an outing and pick berries. Some were eaten fresh; remainder made into jams, jellies, pies, canned and wine. The same was true for raspberries and elderberries which grew along the fence rows. The wild strawberries grew along the road size. The tame strawberries had a special “patch” and were tended carefully.
After the first frost it was time to pick walnuts and hickory nuts. The gathering of the nuts was a fun time. Children and parents would take large sacks and set out for the woods. The nuts were brought home and chilled. On the long winter evenings the children would sit around the kitchen table and pick out nut meats that were used in making cakes, cookies and candy.
(The continuation of this story in the next blog entry.)