Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Epilogue: The Wisconsin Farm

11/29/2011 4:29:25 PM

Tags: Wisconsin, farming in the 1960s, cows, combine

This is the eighth story from Ruth Zwald, written by her father, Robert Zwald, and submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. She compiled her father’s stories in his own words, and they are posted in eight parts. Read the other parts: 1900s Farming in Washington County Minnesota; Growing Up on a Farm; Catching Frogs for Money, One Room School House, Borrowing Against Life Insurance, Changes in Agriculture and Courtship and Marriage.1958 John Deere Combine 

In 1962, we moved to Hammond, Wisconsin on 240 acres. We had about 30 cows and 20 sows. Gradually the pigs disappeared, and the cows increased. Adding in a barn cleaner was an improvement - no more shovels and forks. Greg and Bob milked before they left for school. When Ruth was old enough to carry the pails, she fed calves before and after school. Soon after high school, the boys wanted purebred cattle and more cows (more work). Soon the bulk tank was too small. Then we put in a pipeline for the milk. Then we were up to 80 cows.

Well, it wasn’t long and they were talking 400 cows. That’s when I gave up, just like my dad did when I went to 26 cows. I wasn’t too happy when the boys built a new barn, but I guess my dad wasn’t too happy when I bought the farm at Lake Elmo, either. Times change, but older people like to keep things as they are.

Mary and I moved in 1977 to our present home. I have lived in eight different places in my life. I miss some things, but as of this writing, I still seed alfalfa, cultivate corn, plow, etc. I like to go fishing – ice and boat. I’m glad I can still drive a car. I let Mary beat me in some games. I’ve enjoyed ten grandkids and love ‘em all, even if they are all over the world.

It is now 2011. I am turning 94 this year, and I’m getting slower. I still drive, and I just went ice fishing in February. Besides my 3 kids, I have 2 daughter-in-laws, 10  grandchildren (this summer we will be up to 6 spouses added to the grandchildren), and 6 great-grandchildren. Sure, life had its sorrows and disappointments and I guess we all make some mistakes. Sometimes I am still in doubt whether I made a good choice on buying the farm in Wisconsin in 1962. But I’d live it all over again. If I keep writing, I’ll be 100 before I finish. Hope you get a laugh out of this story. It’s true - probably my best friends in life were and are my Dad and Mary.

Love you all,

Photo from Ruth Zwald: A new John Deere 620 and 6 foot Case combine, combining beans (1958) 

Please send email submissions to with the subject line "Elder Wisdom" or send mail to: attn: Heidi Hunt, Re: Elder Wisdom, Mother Earth News, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. 

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