WEB -The Diary of a Farmer 1867

This picture was taken about ten years ago, it is of Ouma, Bhai Daya. our grandson and Grandad.  Bhai Daya and Grandad had just come back from a successful day of fishing in the ocean.

 

 This is the second book in the Web series.  I hope to have many more.  This book is was finished and published in 2008.  It is the story of Web’s second year on his farm in New Hampshire.  Each day has his diary entry and the story of what happened that day to make him write that entry.  It gives the reader a great understanding of what life was like in 1867.  It also gives the reader an idea of how he too can go back to the land and live.  I will include random days as the days go on so came back often for samples from the book.  You may purchase this book any time by going to Amazon.com and search for Carol Petts.

  I use the Old Farmer’s Almanac to help me when I am writing my books.  I have a whole set from 1850-1917 so I know what the farmers were doing each month every year.  I found that when I compared Web’s diaries with the Old Farmer’s Almanac they worked well together.  He must have used the almanac as other farmers did to know when to do different things around the farm.  

   Here is the entry from the Old Farmer’s Almanac for September 1867:  “Now comes another rather busy month.  The winter grains must go into the ground and the land must be carefully prepared for them.  Grass seed also may be sown by itself, on lands which you wish to lay down.  If the land is fit to sow down, the seed sown early this month will soon come up, and have time to get well rooted before the fall frosts are hard enough to injure it, and it stands the winter better than if sown later.  Fall seeding does better, in an average of years, than spring, though both seasons are liable to the accidents of weather.  An open and changeable winter many injure the crop, but a drought of any severity on a spring-sown grass-field is still more serious.  If you are going to lay down that lot, let it be done well.  Don’t neglect to roll it, and get it smooth and level.  You can easily make a cheap home-made roller that will work well, if you can’t afford to buy a costly and stylish one.  Take a few common drag or stone-boat plank, and give them about twice as much pitch or inclination as you would in making a common drag, and you have a very decent roller or short drag, which levels the surface of most kinds of land perfectly, and does not clog.  Any way to get the surface smooth and even.”

It was not all work for a farmer in 1867.  Everyone needs a vacation now and again and so it was for Web.  Here is the account of his vacation in 1867.  Being from New Hampshire there was no better place to vacation than in the White Mountains.  It was much different in 1867 than today, there were no motels, no dinners or fancy tourist traps but they had a fun we can not recreate today.  From the book “Web The Diary of a Farmer 1867   pages 304-307:

September 5, 1867: Everyone rose at 5 a.m. this morning.  Even John and Frank were up early, the excitement in the air made it impossible to sleep late.  Web began his day by checking on the items packed for the trip.   He eliminated some things that Lydia had packed as unnecessary and added other items he knew they would need.  Lydia went behind him putting back some items and finding new items that were a must for the comfort of the trip.

   Father and the boys started the morning chores, they started with the cleaning this morning.  It was important to do the milking at the usual time.  They did not want the cows to catch the excitement in the air, it would not do to disrupt their milk production because of a trip.

   By the time breakfast was finished, Web and Lydia were ready to leave.  Father and Frank said they would clean up the kitchen, so Web was free to head out to meet the group in North Haverhill.  By seven o’clock they were starting their big adventure.  There was much singing and shouting back and forth from wagon to wagon as the parade left town.  They waved to all the farmers who were just starting out to do the morning work.  There was a very festive air spread throughout the town as the wagon train started on its journey.

  The weather cooperated for the jolly party.  It was pleasant the whole way, not too hot as it can be in September and not too cold as it often is in September.  There had been only one day of rain in the last week, so the roads were in good shape which made the traveling much easier.  The lead wagon set an easy pace as the trip going was as much fun as the getting there.  There was much beautiful country to see on the way and no one was in a hurry to get there and back.  There were very few places to stop on the way, and the scenery was the only attraction on the trip but that was enough to excite everyone.  As the landscape changed from the flat farms fields around the Connecticut River Valley to the rolling hills of the foot hills of the White Mountains, all eyes were on the horizon.  The talk from wagon to wagon increased as new sights were pointed out as each was discovered by a different person.  Special points of interest along the way were pointed out to each wagon down the line to make sure everyone noticed a special feature. 

   At noon the wagon train stopped beside the road to eat lunch.  They gathered their wagon around a central fire and made coffee to have with the cold chicken and biscuits.  They would have a simple cold lunch now and have dinner tonight when they reached Franconia Notch.  Then they could cook a nice hot camp stew.

   The lunch may have been cold but the spirits were not.  The excitement was increasing with each mile they traveled.  Many had been to the Notch before and they were more than willing to tell the new comers all the exciting things to look for when they arrived.  Each experienced traveler was given a job to do as soon as they reached the Notch.  One was to find a good place to bed down and feed the horse, another was to go straight to Echo Lake and get the fire started and the stew on to cook, another was to pick out their spot at the Flume House to sleep that night.

   As the mountains come into view, the excitement grew to a fever pitch.  When they could see the Notch, the assigned parties each took a novice with them and went to their assigned jobs.  Web and Lydia took Moses and Mary and they went straight up the mountains to Echo Lake.  The scenery was breathtaking.  The air had become much colder because of the elevation and the forest.  Web and Moses found a spot where they could park the wagons and make a camp site for  dinner.  They collected firewood and lit the fire.  Lydia got the camp tripod and put the large iron stew pot over the fire.  The stew for twenty people was put into the large pot to cook.

   They had arrived at the camp site about four in the afternoon but it would be nearer seven before it was time to eat.  There would be time to explore Echo Lake and the area around the lake.  A few of the younger men would even try a swim, but for most it was too cold.  Echo Lake was a spring fed lake high in the Mountains.  There is no water any colder than Echo  Lake, so very few men dared to swim in the lake in September.  But a few foolhardy souls went in amidst squeels from the women and howls from the men.

   There would be stories to tell around the camp fire and songs to sing when dinner was finished but for now Lydia and Mary had to get the food on the fire to cook.  Web and Moses had collected a great pile of firewood and managed to keep the fire blazing until the other men began to arrive to join the campfire.  Then the fire size enlarged and everyone helped to maintain the blaze.

   Lydia and Mary set to making the dinner.  Lydia had brought fifteen pounds of salted beef.  she had carried it in a large pot with skimmed milk.  The milk would have had the whole day to soak out much of the salt so the beef would have a fresher taste.  She cut up the beef into two large camp pots, covered the beef with water and hung them over the fire.  This would take about three hours to cook.  She added some herbs to give it good flavor and left it to boil while she prepared the vegetables.

   By this time several other women had joined Lydia and Mary.  Mary prepared the corn.  She carefully pulled back the husk and removed the corn silk.  Then she put the husks back up over the corn and tied it securely with a piece of husk.  This she would put into the coals to cook.

   Everyone helped peel the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and onions that would be added to the stew pots, after the beef had been boiling for about an hour and a half.  The women took turns exploring the area as the dinner cooked.  The pots must be watched constantly to keep the liquid level even, water was added as needed and herbs or spices were added to suit each woman’s taste.  The dumplings were added the last hour, these added the final flavor to the stew.  The result was a stew that had a familiar taste for everyone, yet very new and different from anything they had tasted before.  All agreed it was the best stew they had ever had, but they also agreed it was probably the surroundings and the company that made it taste so good.

   When dinner was finished, all of the women joined in on the clean up.  The dishes all had to be packed away for the trip home and the area must be cleaned to leave for the next group that would use the area.  There was no charge for the use of the camping area but it was the responsibility of each person to leave the area as clean as they found it and if anyone failed to do so the next person to use the area had to clean it up before they could camp.  Very seldom did Web find a camp site he had to clean up first.  With very little paper available, and no disposable dishes to leave, the only garbage that would be left was food and no one had enough of that to waste.  Any left over food was eaten on the trip home.  Scraps that were left were consumed by the wild animals.  If much food was left it would attract bears to the area and make it difficult for campers when they wanted to use the area next.  This was a great incentive to leave an area clean after a campfire.

   The men gathered the fire into one modest size camp fire and gathered large logs to sit on around the fire.  One of the party brought his fiddle and another his accordion and they found songs they each knew.  As they played a song someone knew, the singing would begin.  The music and talk continued well after dark.  The horses were getting restless by dark.  They knew it was time for them to be back in the barn and allowed to rest.

   Some of the horses were already put away for the night and the others wanted to follow.  The group had combined efforts so that only four of the wagons had to be at the Lake side.  It had been a long day for both man and beast, so by nine the group headed down the trail to the flume House.

   Eat had taken Moses wagon on to the House earlier, so Moses and Mary joined Web and Lydia on the trip down the mountain side.  They were shown where Francis had found lodging for the horses, then Web and Mose brushed down the horses, fed and watered them and settled them in for the night.  Lydia and Mary had gone right to the Flume House and picked out a spot on the floor to spread out their blankets for the night.  Once everyone had collected and were settled into bed, one last song was sung to end the day, good nights were said all around.  the sun was long since set, so the only light was the light from the moon and from the big fire-place.  it didn’t take long at all for all sounds to cease, except for the cracking of the fire and an occasional snore from a very tired farmer.

   In his diary Web wrote  Thursday September 5, 1867  Pleasant   Went to Frankcony Mountains  20 in all and a jolly old crowd   Stayed at the Floom House  camped on the floor all together   Good place for our horses   Eat our Dinner side the road top Mountain side of Echo Lake.

3 Responses to WEB -The Diary of a Farmer 1867

  1. Thank you for your kind words. If you are interested in reading the whole book you can find it on Amazon.com or email me. the book contains Web’s whole diary.

  2. Magnolia says:

    What’s up, just wanted to say, I loved this blog post. It was inspiring.
    Keep on posting!

    • Thank you for your kind words. If you are interested in reading the whole book you can find it on amazon.com under my name Carol Petts or you can email be for a book. I have about 20 of his diaries from 1866 to 1917 when he died and my grandmother took him back to be buried beside his wife and three sons.

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