McDonald Tales | MT15 | July 1882, Gower Farm Work Began
They put the cattle in the pasture
Work began for the McDonalds on the ‘Gower place’
Although the McDonald family now owned and operated the farm, and the Truesdales had owned it before them, in the community the farm in question would continue to be referred to as ‘the Gower place’ even by those directly involved. Similarly, some folks in the valley had continued to refer to the home farm of Karl King and family as ‘the Hamby place’ until fairly recently. Such was life in the small, rural community. As June became July, the initial concern of the McDonald family was the condition of the farmhouse and buildings and to take care of the big garden and orchard that the Gower family had left behind. These needed immediate attention, so that is where they began. After Daniel, Jane and William’s initial assessment of the garden and orchard, they decided it would be a good idea to have Charlotte and her mother, Grace Crane, involved in the review as well. Charlotte and Grace appreciated the consideration, and volunteered to continue to be involved in the upkeep and operation of the garden at ‘the Gower place.’ Jane and Grace agreed that it hadn’t been done exactly as either of them would have done it at their own places. But, by working it this year, they’d be better prepared to do the ‘right things’ for the next year, when William and Charlotte would be in charge. William and Charlotte, in turn, appreciated the interest in and work and thoughts provided by their mothers. They all enjoyed working together. Charlotte’s sister, Cora, aged 15, also pitched in to help as part of her learning process.
The McDonalds agreed that the Gower family had left the farmhouse and other building in fairly good condition. They identified some work on the building that they wanted to do before the winter set in, later, but it could all be done routinely, over that time. They began to incorporate the pastureland into the rotation of the McDonald cattle herd, to make optimal use of the new land as well as keep it productive. The row crops on the farm were in growth phase, and needed little current attention, but they would expand the fall harvest workload, of course.
Daniel and William were well aware of the work that Karl and Kent King had done with the orchard they had ‘inherited’ in the west valley. They invited Karl and Kent to visit one summer day, to add their assessment and suggestions on the orchard on ‘the Gower place.’ It was not a large orchard, but they appreciated the comments and suggestions that Karl and Kent offered, based on their experiences. Father and son also offered suggestions for expansion of the orchard, should William decide that would be useful and appropriate.
They chose not to have chickens
The McDonalds and pigs and chickens
Daniel and Jane McDonald had decided several years earlier, and William concurred, that it was not good use of their time to grow their own pigs or their own chickens. The two decisions had come separately, but they were happy with both decisions. Most other farmers disagreed with the decision, but that was their problem, Jane liked to say. Pigs were very labor intensive. Daniel had decided they were not worth his time when he was still involved with the freight business. They hadn’t really missed them, since. Concentrating on the field crops, and their cattle herd, were much more profitable and much more easy to manage. They felt the profits they made from those efforts could be used to buy any pork products they needed, which really weren’t a lot.
Chickens had been fine, just somewhat of a nuisance. They had continued to have chickens while William was young. However, one day (when a bunch of the chickens got out, and they were very difficult to retrieve), they decided they had had enough of that, as well. Their neighbors, the Cranes, always had eggs to sell, as well as frying chickens. They appreciated the cash, and the McDonalds appreciated not having to feed the chickens, collect the eggs, and keep the enclosures secure and cleaned. Once again, concentrate on what they did well, use their time wisely, in their view.
After William and Charlotte had talked about it on a couple of different occasions, they decided to follow the same policy as Jane and Daniel. Therefore, one of the summer tasks was to clean up, clean out, and dismantle as desired the buildings and grounds on ‘their place’ that had been used for pigs and chickens. Once that work was done, they were very pleased with the ‘clean’ look they got arriving on their new ‘homestead.’ The buildings related to hog production were now available for cattle operations. The smaller buildings used for chickens became a new shop and a storage facility.
They walked the farm in the summertime
Other consideration for the farm before fall harvest time arrived
The first cutting of hay was still in the haymow of the barn. That was a blessing and would be useful during the coming winter season. They had moved ahead with grazing cattle on all of the pasture and hay fields, so no further hay was being put up this summer on this farm.
The corn and bean fields had been walked to ascertain their condition and any problems that might be anticipated. The oats crop was also nearing maturity, so it would likely be the first crop to be harvested. Harvest work was usually done in cooperation with neighbors, so Daniel and William had made the rounds of each neighbor, to be sure they were all together in their plans for where and when they would work independently and when they would work cooperatively. This was the first time that William had been fully, directly, involved in these kinds of discussions, so it was a great learning experience for him. He and his parents went over the discussions each evening, to be sure that he had fully comprehended what the agreements had been and how they had been determined.
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Note from Author
With MT15 the McDonald family activity took over the ‘Gower Farm,’ with William leading the way. Some details of McDonald Tales episodes have been told in other short story collection such as, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane, Daniel, and William McDonald, along with new material and insights. The “Kings of Oak Springs” and Life in Oak Springs and more” series have made reference to some of the material here from a different point of view. Here we learn new behind-the-scene insights about this family. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.
The earlier episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into two eBooks, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs,” Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (20 episodes each). See the link, below, to get yours.
“The Homeplace Saga” family saga, historical fiction stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”
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