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Gard, Robert Edward / My land, my home, my Wisconsin : the epic story of the Wisconsin farm and farm family from settlement days to the present

Ahlgreen, Henry L.
Foreword PDF (834.9 KB)

    Those of us who grew up on farms in Wisconsin
during the early years of this century will relive an
exciting period in the development of our beloved
state as we turn the pages of this fascinating book.
    I was one of those-in a family whose mother
and father were Swedish immigrants-who grew up
on farms in northwestern Wisconsin, farms that had
to be carved out of rocks and cleared of trees, farms
that eventually became the dairy farms that created
what is now America's Dairyland.
    My two brothers, my sister, and I found out
early that we were truly needed to perform all kinds
of chores and that we were expected to be an impor-
tant part of the labor force in the difficult, strenuous,
and time-consuming task of transforming virgin for-
est land-with a generous coating of rocks--into pro-
ductive farmland. At that time we looked upon the
forests as enemies that had to be destroyed if we
ourselves were to survive and provide a satisfactory
future for ourselves on the land.
    In those days, the answer to any problem we
might have was not available in printed circulars,
bulletins, or textbooks, and there was no county ex-
tension agent we could consult on farm and home
problems. Nor were there educational radio or tele-
vision stations we could turn to for information. In
fact, as I recall it now, the answer, as practiced by
our parents, was to work harder and work longer,
bit always to work, work, work. Even after all these
years, I can still hear my father, who was a reason-
ably successful farmer in his time, extol the virtue
of " a strong back and a weak mind."
    As we grew up, we learned the virtues and re-
wards of hard work; of being self-reliant; of taking
care of ourselves as a family; of providing our own
entertainment; of getting along with whatever we
had; of being frugal; of persevering under conditions
of severe hardship and stress; of working and living
together as a family; of the Christian ethic and the
importance of the church in our lives; of helping
each other, not only ourselves but also friends and
neighbors in time of need and crisis; of the impor-
tance of education; of honesty, dependability, trust-
worthiness, and integrity; and of being a citizen of
the greatest country in the world, the United States
of America.
    In contrast to the situation today, we were large-
ly self-sufficient and quite independent in our daily
life and living. We did not need many outside serv-
ices to carry on our farm and home operations. We
raised most of our own fruits and vegetables. We
had flour made from our own wheat at our local mill.
My mother saw to it that we had an adequate supply
of canned vegetables and fruits each fall to carry us
through the winter. We made our own butter from
the milk of our dairy herd and, of course, had our
own supply of milk. We butchered our own meat.
We provided our own horsepower with matched teams
of horses, and we fueled the kitchen stove and fur-
nace with wood from our woodlot. Coffee, sugar, salt,
an occasional new shirt, a pair of overalls, and shoes
were about the only things on our shopping list when
we made our weekly trip to town in our horse-drawn
buggy. We often traded eggs from our flock of chick-
ens for these commodities when money was scarce.
If we had a good year, there might be a store-bought
orange in each stocking at Christmas.
     The hoe, the ax, the crosscut saw, and the plow
 were our most important tools, and they received the
 heaviest use on our farms as they were being devel-
 oped. Each of us boys and my father were experts in
 using them.

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