The start of May on the farm means fixing fence for the animals to start grazing, cleaning up from sugaring, servicing all of the equipment, and building my lumber inventory before I start my custom sawing jobs. Right now the farm is soggy and muddy from loads of rain in April. But this weekend the sun and the warmth has started to green everything up, for the first time this year everything smells like fresh green grass and I can hope to start haying in June.
May 2nd was my grandmother’s birthday. I remember her telling me about how on her 20th birthday was her wedding day and the day she moved to the farm I grew up on in Londonderry. I wanted to share some of her stories from an interview I did with her when she was 88 years old. They gave a glimpse of how the month of May began for one Vermont farm back two generations ago.
Tell me about your wedding.
It was a rainy night. It was at my mother’s house in Manchester. Keith and Betty stood up with us. [Keith was my grandpa’s brother, Betty was grandma’s sister]
[I wore] a pretty cotton dress that I made. It had a green print. Dad (Grandpa) wore his suit. The only one he ever owned. He was buried in it. I think he got it for his brother’s funeral (Franklin) . . . Franklin must have been about two, he never stood up.
Rev. Phillips (from the Baptist church) married us. I was not a member of the church, but mother was. We got our marriage license from Maurice LaSalle in Londonderry during the last week of April. There were high snow banks and the wind was blowing. It was an awful night.
We came to the farm after the wedding (May 2) in Dad’s Model A coupe. There was still snow at the gray house(the house at the farm).
Did it feel like you were moving into the Arctic coming from Manchester?
Yes it did. Spring came two weeks later and winter two weeks sooner at the farm.
What were you producing on the farm?
Milk, eggs, hay, potatoes, and syrup. Maurice LaSalle bought most of the eggs. Most of the milk went to Barlets Creamery in Manchester on the Manchester Stage. Syrup, hay, and potatoes were sold locally. The syrup was in cans.
Horses were very important to us. Dad always went out to water them just before bed. My father used talk about going up on the mountain to the woods to log when it was 30 below. He said some of the men did not show up for work that day.
We also had an old Hespersous tractor. It had iron wheels. Floyd Riley was the first farmer in the area to have a new tractor.
I think we had about 12 head of Guernsey cattle. Win Hosley sold Dad several more. It was through Win that Dad met the Taylors and arranged to move to the farm. Win was one of the leading citizens of the town. He was a cattle dealer and town official. Win had no children and always made a fuss over Dad growing up. [This Taylor Farm is the same farm where Taylor Farm cheese is produced by John Wright today; my grandparents and parents worked as tenant farmers there until the mid-1980’s]
Tell me what you most remember about the time from 1930-1940?
4H was very important to me. I was also learning to sew all those years. Most everyone’s mother sewed then. The older 4H group, we would have a good time with music and folk dancing, but you would not call it a date. Those were spontaneous things….. I would go to Grange with Uncle Burr and Aunt Mary. Dad was there and asked to bring me home. [She claimed not to have had a date before her date with Grandpa]
My grandparents started me out helping them on the farm before I can even remember. By the time I was 5 or 6 I recall riding on the wheelbarrow full of sawdust while my grandfather was bedding the cows down. I would feed the calves, bring the cows in, carry sap buckets and clean them out. Today as I’m walking my farm I think of my grandparents guiding me. And as I work on new ideas and directions for Under Orion Farm, I think of the two of them starting with new ideas for their farm on their first day together 60 years ago.