Doris has described life many years
ago. You or your
parents/grand-parents may remember this life.
All the pieces in her quilt
are scraps from her aprons and
A collage of her life
in calicos and prints,
a thing of beauty from
Entwined in the threads
of the innumerable stitches
are fragments of her time
hours and minutes
invested and hidden in this
labor of love.
Today I possess Grandma's
and I realize I'm twice blessed
For I'm warmed not only by
but by these remnants from her days.
Stensland in On the Back Step
Stensland Reminisce Writings
Walking the Beans
Raising Baby Chicks
A Tire Swing
Favorite Christmas Memories
Picking Corn by Hand
Going to Town On Saturday Night
Time To Plant Corn
Grandpa's Lumber Wagon
Having A Farmer's Heart
I Remember Oilcloth
The Old-Fashioned Peony
How Times Have Changed!
Julestjerne (Christmas star)
Old-Fashioned Threshing Days
Grandma and Her Sewing Machine
A Cup of Coffee
Blow Wind Blow
Old Straw Hat
I Remember Yellow Roses
Our Front Porch Neighbors
Women Wore Hats
Oil and Spinach
Walking the Beans
WEEDS - the crop that never fails.
Weeds have always been the farmer's
foe. Back a number of years ago, it
was the weed's appearance in the soybean fields that gave the farmer
Members of our family still remember
bean-walking days. Summer after
summer, armed with
sharpened hoes and dangerous corn knives, the mother, farmer and all the
family members went on weed attacks in the soybean field. Day after day the crew began early, in
the coolest part of the day. You
would have seen them marching up and down the rows of soybeans, chopping
off sunflowers, cockleburs and other troublesome weeds.
It was a happy year when biologists
discovered a new hardier soybean that could withstand weed spray and the
farmer no longer needed to fight weeds manually. Now everyone was rejoicing because the
farmer when using these new soybean seeds could fight the weeds with his
tractor and sprayer. Today "walking
the soybeans" is only a memory.
by Doris Stensland - November 2017
Today only a few people can
remember sitting alongside a milk cow and "milking by hand". At milking time, twice a day the
Holsteins waited for the farmer to open the barn door and then they marched
each one to their own stall.
At every milking, a family of
cats and kittens were also a part of the scene. As the farmer milked, the
cat family stationed themselves behind the cow he was milking, begging the
farmer to send a stream of warm milk to them. And he usually did.
In those days, the only
equipment the farmer needed was a simple wooden stool, large shiny milk
pails and a few sets of hobbles. To
the farmer, there were several generous milk cows in his herd that filled
the milk pail every day. However,
there were some ornery ones that often kicked up a response at being
milked, so to protect himself the farmer had to use hobbles on them.
The milk was separated and the
cream went into the cream can, which the cream man picked up several times
a week. The skim milk went out to
Yes, this manner of "milking by
hand" was the way they did it a long time ago. As time has passed, this chore of
"milking by hand" was modernized by using milking machines. Today some dairy farmers have gone a step
further and have progressed to robots.
Things in the dairy business may have changed, but milk is still the
same healthy drink, needed by all - babies to Grandpas!
Written by Doris Stensland - August 2017
Raising Baby Chicks
I suppose every farmer's wife has tried
her hand at raising chicks. At this time of the year we reminisce over
those days of excitement, work and worry.
Bringing the baby chicks home from
the hatchery was a big event. The chicks came into their new home in big
cardboard boxes. It was an enjoyable task to take each little warm ball of
fluff out of the box and set it on its two wirey legs. Soon the
brooder-house was full of "cheeping chicks", busy using their little beaks
They needed very warm quarters. We
would have to shed our wraps as we came in the door.
They were delicate creatures in
those early days of their life. A drop in temperature would cause them to
pile up and smother. Lots of attention and care was required to get them
off to a good start, and there always were some losses.
From Country Style - Living the Farm Life
(March 23, 1967)
A T I R E
S W I N G
Hidden in the happy memories
of many of us is an old tire swing,
just an old worn-out tire that
hung from a tree in the back yard.
It was fastened to a strong, far-reaching branch and was just the
right height so that when you sat in it your feet were on the ground.
We were excited when someone
gave us a push. On a sunny lazy
would crawl into it, and were
just as happy slowly turning it to and fro or twisting it around. This was our private spot where we could
sit and daydream.
Everyone needed a comfortable
tire swing in their youth.
By Doris Stensland - February 2017
Some of my
sweetest memories go back to when I was a young girl and our Christmas Eves
were spent at Grandpa and Grandma's house.
What still stands out in my mind is the Christmas tree with real
candles burning on it. They didn't have electricity.
began about four o'clock when we heard the church bells ringing. Grandma put on a delicious supper that
included ribbe, lefse, flatbrod, and all her Christmas bakings. But no
lutefisk! We then went into the parlor and the candles on the tree were
Grandpa sat by
the tree with a pail of water as he guarded the lighted Christmas
tree. He read the Christmas story and
we all sang Christmas carols. Then Grandpa and Grandma sang some of their
favorite Christmas songs in Norwegian.
We all tried to join in on "Jeg er saa glad" (I am so glad each
Christmas Eve). After this the gifts
were distributed. Now I can't remember
any of the gifts I received those years.
I only remember the great joy in our hearts and the specialness of
those Christmas nights.
By Doris Stensland
CORN BY HAND
Today the combines harvest the ears of
corn, but some of us can remember other days. In the past, the investment of a dollar
husking hook was all that was needed to harvest his corn. The farmer would
get out his faithful team of horses and the lumber wagon with its high bang
boards and walk up and down the corn rows, un-situating the ears, one by
one, from their moorings.
The team learned to move at the
speed of the human picker. They would mosey along as he ripped off the husk
and tossed the ear into the bang-board.
The only casualties in those days
were a sprained wrist and a stiff back.
In comparing then and now, we
wonder if there isn't a price to pay for progress, both money-wise and
By Doris Stensland - October, 2016
G O I N G T O
T O W N O N S A T U R D A Y N I G H T
It now seems a
long time ago when we spent Saturday nights in town. During the summer months the stores
remained open on Saturday nights. This
was both a necessity and a social time for the farmer. He quit his work early, and the whole
family headed for town. Mother had
her grocery list and Dad was going to get a hair-cut and visit with his
neighbors. The children were given a
few coins for their pockets.
On a nice summer night the town's
sidewalks teemed with happy people. Farmers
got a chance to discuss crops with their neighbors. You would find many couples visiting over
a cup of coffee in one of the restaurants.
The children headed to the Noid Drugstore on Main Street where Polly
Noid dished up ice cream cones for a nickel. Some older women would sit in their
parked cars watching the people walking by.
There are still a group of us that have
good memories of those long ago summer Family Saturday Nights.
By Doris Stensland - September 2016
T I M E T O
P L A N T C O R N
the farmer is to have a harvest in the fall, he must get the seeds in the
ground each Spring. Deciding when to
do this planting is important. Some
farmers have a deadline or a certain date on the calendar. To some it depends on the weather
and the moisture in the fields. However, in Grandpa's day the swallows'
return from the south was his cue to plant.
the Spring when Grandpa saw the swallows appear on the telephone wire,
looking very formal with their black pointed tail-feathers all in a row,
Grandpa would get into gear! Usually
it was May 4th or 5th. He would have his team of horses and
one-row planter ready to go!
Grandpa's day planting corn wasn't so simple. He didn't have a seed corn company to
purchase seed corn from, so he had to prepare the seed corn himself. In the previous Fall he would keep some
of the nicest ears, let these hang in the corncrib to dry and have these
shelled and ready to go when the swallows returned the next Spring.
Grandpa's day the corn yield per acre was very low. In every generation the farmer has done
the best job he could with the equipment and facilities he had.
Grandpa knew what the corn yields were today, he wouldn't believe it!
By Doris Stensland - May 2016
GRANDPA'S LUMBER WAGON
The vehicles that the farmer uses today
are a pick-up, a truck or a semi, but Grandpa in his day did his hauling
with his faithful lumber-wagon.
Grandpa hitched his team of horses to this big open-topped wooden
box with wheels, and with live horsepower he transported oats, corn,
lumber, or whatever. Grandpa needed
this lumber wagon to get his farm work done.
When Fall came and it was time to get
the corn harvested, the farmer used his lumber wagon overtime as he worked
day after day, walking alongside the team and his lumber wagon as it slowly
moved up and down the rows of corn.
By hand he detached the ears of corn from the stalk, tossing the
corn against the bang-board and into the lumber wagon. It was a slow job in those days, and each
loaded wagon represented hard and tiring work.
Some winters when there was a lot of
snow, Grandpa transferred the wooden top of his lumber wagon to sleigh
runners and this furnished winter transportation for the whole family. When travelling on a cold winter day they
snuggled beneath Grandpa's heavy fur robe and over the fields they'd
By Doris Stensland - February, 2016
H A V I N G A
F A R M E R ' S H E A R T
When you have a farmer's-heart, it
lasts a lifetime.
From dawn to
dusk you plant and reap,
and fight the
The years roll
by. . . and then you retire!
BUT Farming is
still on your mind . . . . .
You listen to
the markets every day;
still awaken at
4:30 - 5:00 each morn,
through the countryside
to check on
other farmers' crops.
This makes you
recall your past feelings of accomplishment,
gladness you had each fall when your bins were filled.
To you a golden
ear of corn will always be a beautiful thing . . . .
. . . when you
have a farmer's heart!
By Doris Stensland - November, 2015
T H E G R O V E S
Perhaps the psalmist first sang
his psalms as he sat in the shade of a tree and played his harp. Many of his psalms were about
trees. Trees were important to him. In Psalm one, he described a believer as
a healthy tree growing beside the waters.
When the pioneers came to the Dakota
prairie, the land was bare of trees.
They felt trees were needed so these early settlers dug up
cottonwood seedlings growing along the rivers and transplanted them on
their land. They planted row after row of them. As these seedlings grew year after year
into big beautiful leafy trees, they now had groves. They were so proud of
The pioneers liked to get together to
celebrate the Fourth of July and have church picnics, but without a
community gathering place in those days, the people decided to come
together in the shade of someone's grove.
Usually they would set up a stand where ice cream and soda pop could
be purchased. These events became a
way the whole neighborhood could gather together, and it was enjoyed by old
and young, and also the children.
Later the three churches in the
community held Fall Festival events each autumn. A platform was built, and a piano moved
in, and they had music, a program, and speeches. The final Fall Festival was held in my
Grandfather's grove in 1934. I
remember how busy Grandpa was, cleaning up his grove beforehand, raking
twigs and picking up broken branches.
In past days the groves were the community meeting places. The pioneers were proud of their
groves. It gave them an opportunity
to get together and sit in the shade of the trees and visit and listen to
an uplifting program. Today there
are parks in the community where neighbors can gather. Some of these groves are still part of
the landscape, but after so many years, some have been cut down and the
land is now used for farming.
By Doris Stensland - August 2015
I R E M E M B E R O I L C L O T H
I remember meals eaten at oilcloth
colored tablecloths of flower or gingham design
added style to
when our family
If the coffee
spilled, or baby tipped his milk,
confidence this cloth
would keep the table dry.
Oilcloth was so
durable and easy to wipe clean.
yesteryear's housewives' dream.
By Doris Stensland - May, 2015
H E O L D - F A S H I O N E D P E O N Y
O, Pink Peony! There's not a flower that can compare
with your beauty and grace. Your
crowded petal arrangements develop into outrageous flowers, large and
beautiful. You have been
cultivated in gardens for over six hundred years and were popular way back in Victorian times. Peony
plants are among the longest-living perennials, often thriving for
decades, even when neglected.
My Grandmother grew
peonies. I still have memories of
being a little girl accompanying Grandma to the cemetery on Memorial Day,
carrying bouquets of Grandma's peonies.
And it was Grandma's peonies
that filled the tall white baskets at our wedding. It was these flowers that stood beside
us up by the altar when we made our vows on June 6, 1943.
Then it was my turn to grow
peonies. Every year these plants
gave me bouquets to fill my vases.
Your endless unfurling gave me flowers for many weeks as your buds
The friendship of the black
ants climbing in and out of the buds did no harm; they were sipping
sap. I clipped your peony blossom
stems, shook off the ants, and brought the blossoms inside to enjoy. Oh, Pink Peony, you are my
By Doris Stensland, May 2015
The thirties were known as the
Depression days, and money was scarce.
For that generation, thrift was the way of life when women patched
clothes and darned socks. The food they ate was mostly what they had on the
farm - eggs, milk and chicken.
This doesn't describe life today. Now you will never see any one walking
around with neatly patched jeans. It
is the style to wear wornout- looking
pants with holes on the knees, and today you won't see mothers
spending their time patiently darning the holes in their family's
socks! It is wiser to pick up new
ones at the store.
it is seldom you find food on the farm today! The majority of farms are barren of
animals - chickens, cows and pigs.
Now we have to get these food supplies from the grocery store! And thus time marches on.
It was his pride and joy,
This huge structure that
Added the finishing touch to his farm.
It was his ark,
Filled with animals and hay
Where he was Noah
Tending to his creatures.
Morning and night he opened the door
To the milk cows filing into their
At milking time the cat family gathered
And patiently waited for their pans to
a squirt of milk to be sent their way.
Then came the bucket brigade
With warm milk for the high-strung,
On the other side were the horses,
A row of muscular giants
That daily worked the fields.
called them all by name.
And often in the pens were long-legged
In those days the barn had a heart
That gave warmth and coziness to the
And welcomed and made each animal feel
But now this building is obsolete,
The home for pigeons and mice.
it is not empty
For it holds volumes of memories.
And somehow I cannot separate
My memories of Grandpa
From his barn.
Stensland in "Our Words Are
Julestjerne (Christmas star)
Taken from Music Man from Norway,
written by Doris Stensland: Doris
described a Christmas Eve with the Indseth family:
While Inger and the girls were busy in
the kitchen, preparing the usual Christmas Eve meal, with lutefisk and lefse, boiled potatoes, and all the trimmings, Andrew took over
the job of tending the babies - both ten-day-old Florence and
sixteen-month-old Josephine. Berger
and Malinda gathered around him also.
When the baby was asleep, Andrew put her in the cradle and held
Josephine on his lap.
This was one of the shortest days of
the year, and darkness settled early.
Andrew told Berger and Malinda to go over to the window and see if
they could see the star - the Julestjerne
Berger put his nose against the windowpane.
"I can see some stars," he said.
Andrew went over to look.
"Berger, do you see that bright one?"
Both Berger and Malinda studied the
Andrew told them, "Perhaps that is the
star that guided the three wise men so long ago."
Pappa," agreed Berger. "I think
that is the Julestjerne."
Overalls have stood the test of
time and served their wearers well.
A pair of bibs suggested ruralness and farming. This was illustrated by the famous
painting of Grant Wood's American Gothic, where the stern farmer and his
wife stand with a pitchfork and he is wearing a bib overall.
Bib overalls were introduced in
the late 1890's and became popular with the farmer. When my Grandfather took his family to
Norway to visit in 1909, he brought along denim bib overalls as gifts for
his brothers there, but these weren't accepted as well in Norway. He would ask his brothers, "Aren't you
going to wear your overall today?" they would hem and haw and say, " No, not
today." They felt Norwegian work clothes
should remain dark woolen trousers with long sleeve shirts, not overalls.
In the 1900's OshKosh B'Gosh of
Wisconsin began selling bib overalls in children's sizes so kids could
dress like their dads. The standard
school clothes for boys in the 30's and 40's was bib overalls, especially
in the rural schools.
An interesting quote from Thomas
Edison mentions overalls - "Opportunity
is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Stensland, October 2014
It was a
The high point of
the agricultural year
when the sun was
and its rays beat
on land and man
Then it was time
for the threshing
to chug into the
with teams of
horses and hayracks
The golden shocks
which had so
would soon be
one by one
into the waiting hayracks
and then tossed
into the big machine
to erupt as
and a shiny straw
It was a
when women helped
these hungry workers.
All day they
stood over hot stoves
fueled with corn
trickling down their cheeks
as they baked
pies and cakes
fried chicken and
and prepared the
nourishing farm food
for meals and
It was a
which now exists
only in our memories,
when work was a
made the event
from book On the Back Step by
HER SEWING MACHINE
I remember Grandma . . .
with a thimble on her finger and a
needle in her hand,
with her feet upon the treadle, she was
She could take a piece of fabric - be
it crepe or calico,
and produce a lovely garment,
trimmed with rick-rack, lace, jabot.
With a thimble on her finger, a needle
in her hand,
her feet upon the treadle, she made
garments on demand.
With her scissors, pins and patterns,
and her faithful Singer machine,
she would sew for everybody - baby,
We think of Grandma as old-fashioned,
but I tell you in her day, she kept up
"She had style", I'd say.
When her feet were on the treadle
her sewing skills were keen.
Yes, I'll remember Grandma
. . . and her Singer sewing machine.
Stensland - August 2014