Mail Call: May-June 2009

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Construction for the Baun dairy started in 1948. A severe storm in December left 10-ft. snowdrifts in the farmyard and delayed construction until spring.
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The Braun family dairy has been remodeled numerous times since 1948 but used every day nonetheless.
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Ron Braun looks in the door of the homestead ice house at his dairy north of Shoshone, Idaho. He and his wife, Ennis, purchased the farm in 1976.
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These shiny, clean blackberries have us thinking about warm cobbler and ice cream, the way Momma made it.
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Neighborhood newscarriers sold GRIT door to door for 10 cents a pop in the 1940s.

Never Missed a Day

Your recent issue prompted me to look around my neighborhood here in Idaho for old barns. I’m pleasantly surprised by the number still standing. Just a couple of miles down the road, the Braun family has continuously milked in theirs since 1949. I doubt that’s a world record, but Ron Braun, representing the second generation to use the barn, can’t recall a missed day.

His grandparents arrived from Nebraska in the 1930s, driven from their 60-year-old farm by the Dust Bowl. “Grandma came in a boxcar with all their cows and equipment,” Ron says. “They had just built a new house, and all she could bring of it was the claw-foot tub.” That tub is still in use.

Ron’s dad, Herman, filed for his homestead in 1937. Paperwork was simple by our standards – map of the canals (three) on the homestead, plat map, water license and preliminary deed. Ron cherishes the history, but the family is most proud of the final deed, issued in 1942 with President Roosevelt’s signature.

By 1948, Herman had saved $6,000 and built a two-story barn. “The rafters and joists were full-cut timber,” Ron says. “The 2-by-4s were really 2½-by-5s.”

Mangers and stalls on each side protected livestock in the harsh winters. “When it was cold,” he says, “we kept the cows in all night and threw the hay down from the mow.”

Ron and his wife, Ennis, purchased the farm in 1976. Through the years they added pipeline milkers, bulk tanks and raised walk-through milking stalls. Throughout reconstruction, they never missed a day in the barn. Currently they milk 300 cows.

However, back in the homesteading era, times weren’t as easy. Milking parlors often were made of straw and woven wire panels. These tiny sheds doubled as chicken houses as cash-strapped homesteaders saved to build something better. I remember playing in straw sheds as a youngster; jumping off the roofs onto pigs’ backs in a straw shed only slightly taller than we were.

Cooperation among the settlers was essential. “My folks lived in Grandpa’s basement until they could build their house on the homestead.” Ron says. “I think Aunt Bea and her husband lived there, too.”

My own dad and his two brothers came from Chicago in 1926. It took several years to save enough for their first homestead. Dad told the story of working all summer on their first farm – harvesting and delivering their crops, taking their cash to the bank, and having profit enough only to buy a quart of ice cream for their summer’s work.

Rusty Tews
Second Generation Rancher
Shoshone, Idaho

Country Women

Thanks a million for the article by Jerry Schleicher, “Country Women Rock.” Growing up on a dairy farm in New York and now working a small grass-fed beef ranch in Arizona have given me many experiences. They made me smile at the curious things expected of a farmer/rancher’s wife in this article. Pulling a calf by myself, spreading manure every spring, bush-hogging fields every summer – each has actually been a joy. I have also been known to lean over the dairy case at the grocery store and rain down little flecks of alfalfa all over the floor. My hat is off to my cohorts, who breathe clean air and wear a natural tan. One warning to all of you young ones; before you leave the house in the morning, stretch those muscles and tendons because for certain you’ll be chasing livestock somewhere. Your joints might not hurt so much at my age if you’re wise in this!

Shirley Millar
Cornville, Arizona

Glad you can relate, Shirley! Farm life wouldn’t be possible without women like you! – Editors

Familiar Places

I received my first issue (January/February) of Grit recently. Imagine my surprise when I turned to Recipe Box, and discovered recipes from my husband’s hometown of Liebenthal, Kansas, taken from my favorite cookbook, Das Essen Unsrer Leute.

In a speech to our Garden Club, I used that same publication as a recipe reference for the blackberry (Swartzbera) plants that my husband and I grew from seeds originally brought from my family farm in McCracken, Kansas. These berries were our heirloom seed project for The Willits Garden Club last year. No German hausfrau was without these plants in her garden.

Joe and I are looking forward to our next issue of Grit. It’s like a visit home.

Wilma J. Schaffer
Willits, California

We agree, Wilma, and we try our best to take you there every issue! Do you have any blackberry recipes you’d like to share? – Editors

New Format, Same Result

I used to deliver a newspaper by the same name, more than 40 years ago. When I saw your magazine on the newsstand this afternoon, I just had to buy it. Although it looks like your format has changed slightly, it looks to be the same great publication. Thank you!

Ernest Hickman
Kalispell, Montana

Thanks for the kind words, and you’re very welcome, Ernest! Join our advisory board so we can keep the good stuff coming. – Editors

Just Like Old Times

I want to thank you for such a delightful publication. We received our first issue and are delighted with it. We also subscribed for our son, and he and his wife are very pleased. The Grit has changed considerably since the 1940s when we received it from a neighbor deliveryboy. I believe the cost per issue was only 10 cents, and it was worth every penny. I believe Grit, as it is now, is also worth every penny. Keep up the good work.

Ronald Bartanen
Sullivan, Illinois 

Indiana Academy Farm

I was interested to see, on Page 38 of the March/April Grit, the photograph of a young woman from Indiana Academy. My brother-in-law was the farm manager of the Indiana Academy Farm for many years. He retired several years ago and still lives in that area. Indiana Academy is a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school for high-school-age young people in Cicero, Indiana. They have a work/study program in which all the students participate. I very much enjoy receiving Grit magazine, and after I am done with it, I share it with others who love to read it.

Rebecca Twomley
Berrien Springs, Michigan

We had wondered about the exact location of this academy, Rebecca. Glad to know farm academies are alive and well. – Editors

Pig Collector

I enjoyed your article on pigs in your latest issue. I grew up on a farm in western Oklahoma. One of my favorite pets was a red pig. I called him Piggie, and he followed me around the yard like a puppy and loved to be petted. He was finally relegated to the pig pen when he rooted up my mother’s flower beds. 

I still have a place in my heart for pigs, and I have a huge collection of pigs, more than 100. They’re in every shape and size from some as small as my little finger to a large hog, and are made in ceramic, glass, cloth, pewter, etc.

Bernadine Wells
Spokane Valley, Washington

We like them, too, even though they may get a bad rap at times. Oink, oink! – Editors

Grit Discovery

I am a 63-year-old man who used to sell your newspaper when I was 11. That was in 1956. I sold the paper (once a week) on street corners and to regulars for more than three years in Lafayette, Indiana. I made a total of 10 cents a copy and to me that was a lot of money, because I sold at least 75 to 100 copies of Grit per week. It helped my mother buy food for our family during hard times.

I just happened one day, not too long ago, to search Google for Grit and found your website. I will have to say Grit has changed over the years, but, it still covers all the same information that I remember. I am very happy that it has stayed the course and is still in print. It has brought back a lot of fun memories for me. Thank you for all the good times I’ve had with Grit.

Marvin Shaffer
Oro Grande, California

Glad you found us, Marvin. Our website offers fresh content daily, so now that you’ve found us, stay in the know! – Editors