{Page 28}

THE DRY FARM::::

{PICTURE: Isolene and Ernest Birch}
The spring of 1924 we moved to a farm with Millie's brother Ernest. He had a 160 acre farm out of St. Anthony. We lived with him and his wife, Isolene, for the summer. They had a baby boy named Gerald who was born in January and I thought he was the cutest baby I had ever seen.

Then we moved into a house just north of Ernest's. It had very high ceilings. It was so cold that winter. My sister, Ruth, taught school at Franklin, Idaho and stayed with us. Because of the intense cold she slept with us. Though I kept a fire in the stove all night there would be ice on the quilts where we had breathed during the night.

Our crop this year was poor because we were short of water.

{PICTURE: Lois Birch and Seth Bean}
We moved to the dryfarm onto 160 acres the next spring. (1925) I later leased, more land from the state. These properties were located about 30 miles east of Chester, Idaho and about the same distance from Ashton. About one half of this was farmable, the rest was used for pasture. Mr. Birch owned it but was about to lose it so he let Seth Bean and me contract to buy the deeded land from him. We were allowed to raise a crop before making our first payment. Seth and his wife, Lois, lived in a home about a mile east on their piece of ground. We farmed separately. The first spring I plowed and planted 80 acres but it was a poor year and we only raised ten bushels to the acre. We had a hard time for several years. The next year the grain froze in the middle of August so again the crop was not very good. We cut the grain with a binder and put it into shocks. I cut all day and shocked at night until midnight. We were too poor to hire help. Mr. Peterson, our neighbor, threshed for us the first years. Then Seth and I bought a thresher together but this didn't work out so I bought a used one for my own. The thresher was run by a tractor on a belt. We threshed right into wooden graneries. When one was full we moved to another.


{Page 29}

{PICTURE: 29 Threshing}
{PICTURE: 29 Cutting Grain with Binder}

We had to hand shovel the wheat out into the bobsleigh in the winter when we sold it. It was hauled over to the railroad track at Franc Siding about 3 miles from our farm. We got about $1.60 a a bushel for good grain. (One year during the depression we sold it for 16 cents a bushel.) We hand shoveled again the grain from the bobsleigh into the boxcar and then shoveled it to the back of the boxcar. I believe this contributed to the much back trouble I've had through the years.

At harvest time I needed extra help, generally 4 men, for 2 weeks until I purchased a small combine which bagged the grain. This is where Ralph learned to drive the truck. We'd dump the sacks in winrows Ralph, though small, could hardly reach the peddles but managed to drive along the rows and I'd buck the sacks of wheat up onto the truck.

{PICTURE: 29 Old tractor & threshing maching}
{PICTURE: 29 Dry farm home & landscape}

{Page 30}

Each of the four men hired to help with threshing drove a team and loaded his own hayrack. He was responsible to care for his team also. He'd drive the loaded hayrack up along side the threshing machine feeder and put shocks of wheat onto the feeder. I generally got this help from men called "floaters" who came into Ashton in the fall of the year. One year we got four men from Iowa. They were young fellows but real workers - one was a butcher and he helped mother clean the chickens. He was really good at this. We would give these men room and board and about $3.50 a day. They would work ten hours a day - but never on Sunday. We would get some men who were very poor workers and who didn't know how to even harness their team. We didn't have to fire many of them, though. One fellow I got would stop working every time I disappeared over the hill when I was cutting grain. He was supposed to be shocking it. Then when he saw the horses ears begin to show on the brink of the hill he would get up and do a few more shocks. He thought I could not tell but I could. I worked him until noon then said to him: "Come and we'll give you your dinner, then you can find your own way back to Ashton. You haven't worked hard enough to pay for the gas to take you back."

"Floaters" were men going through the country working a few days in one place, then moving on to another. They came from all over the United States. Each year we always got different men.

Larger tractors and combines cut down on the amount of people we had to hire. Wanda rode one of the combines and had to raise and lower the cutting bar according to the height of the wheat. This was a monotomous job and as I looked back I would often see her head bobbing back and forth as she began to doze.

{PICTURE: 30 DRY Farm Home as it appears in 1981}

The dry farm house was a one story rectangular structure with an unfinished cellar under the northern half of it, a back porch on the east and a front porch on the west which was never used as every one came through the back door. It had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a pantry. The living room was heated by a wood burning stove, the kitchen by the cooking range. The entry to the cellar was

{Page 31}

{PICTURE: 31 HOME SKETCH}
on the north and in the winter when the wind blew from that direction the kitchen linoleum on the floor would rise and fall with the wind gusts. The windows on the north were single pane and were solid with ice formations all winter. Outside was the pump house, the outhouse, the log barn with hay loft and corrals, a large granary and later we built a chicken coop and a machine shed. There were hills on the approach to the house from the west and south which made great sledding and skiing in the winter months. This approach also had many quaken asp groves. The north and east approaches were open rolling hill country either farmed or grazed.

The very first trip I made to the dry farm I made with a team and bob sleigh. When I got to Conant Creek I got stuck. The horses were tired and my brother and 1 could not get them to pull us out. Mr. Peterson saw us and came to our aid with his team. He invited us in. We were tired and cold. The warmth of his home fire seemed so good. Then we went on to our house and built a fire.

The first trips back to St. Anthony were made by team and buggy. This would take about 4 hours. When we drove cattle it would take all day.

Another time I'd been down to Teton to trade wheat for flour at the old grist mill. I stayed the night with my folks. It was a very cold night. I started for home early the next day and by the time I reached our property line I thought I'd freeze. My hands were so cold I couldn't hold onto the reins any longer so I just let the horses go and soon they got me home. Millie had a fire going and some warm food. How glad I was to get home that day.

These first years on the dry farm we lived on the milk from three cows and eggs from our few chickens. The bare necessities which we did no grow or produce we got from Johnson's Store at Squirrel, Idaho. We had our own meat which was a big help, too. In the winter time I'd slaughter a beef and it was so cold it stayed frozen all winter. For summer I cured our pork by making a barrel of brine and putting the hams and bacon into it. When it was ready I'd take it out and soak it in clear water overnight. This would remove some of the outside salt. I also had a smoke house to smoke the pork. The cured meat was then wrapped and put into wheat in the granary. When we needed it, it was brought out. It would be covered with heavy mold but when this was trimmed off the meat under was tender and delicious. My sausage was some of the best around.