Our Mini Farm In Morea


The houses in the patches were laid out in rows. The back yards were all open and spread out into the open common ground. All of the land and buildings were owned by the Morea Colliery Coal Company. Some of the houses had barns, like ours where our cows were housed during the winter.. These mini farms were a necessity if the family was to survive. Most of these were developed and worked by the miners wives, along with grandparents, if living, or by the disabled. There was no such luxury as idle time. There were many chores to be done. As kids we were constantly busy.

Ma had more animals than most. We had chickens, ducks, geese and pigs The chickens were vital for their dally eggs and meat. Any excess eggs were sold to our neighbors Mother always raised a lot of geese- a custom she had carried with her from Poland. Geese were a necessity if one was to have feather pillows and warm feather tics for ones bed. In Poland a young girl was expected to have these in her bridal chest at the time of her marriage.

The feather tics were called purzina (? spelling ) in Polish. Two sheets of good muslin were sewed on the sides and then stuffed with soft goose feathers and down. After the feather tic was completed, a coverlet was made to fit over the tic-something like a giant pillow case. This was necessary since the feather tic could never be washed and had to be kept clean. Only the coverlet was washed. We had a tic for each bed and on the coldest nights this was all that was needed.

Ma came from a very poor family in Poland and as a youngster learned survival skills from her parents and neighbors. Ma was most proud of her 2 cows. Our family had a constant supply of milk, butter and cheese. Ma didn't make much butter except for our own use. She felt that milk was most desirable when the cream was left on top.

Our neighbors agreed, and what milk we had to sell was always in demand.

Ma attributed the good cows milk to their special diet, and this is where we young ones played a major role. Most of the people in the patches had their own vegetable gardens, and old corn stalks were always a problem, except for Ma. After the corn was harvested, we would ask our neighbors and other residents if they wanted us to clear their old corn stalks. We would haul these home and then painstakingly cut them into one inch pieces.

When it was time to feed the cows, we would take a measured amount of corn stalks and cover this with middlins. Middlins. came in burlap sacks, and was the residue that was left after wheat or oats were thrashed. After the middling we added boiling water and then cold water.

In addition to the corn stalks Ma could send us into the open areas to harvest ragweed and other grasses that were plentiful in the spring and summer. The cows loved the mash and food that we prepared. As kids, we would take turns feeding the cows as Ma and Pa did the milking.

Gathering and cutting the corn stalks was hard works and there were many cut fingers-though no looses! There were three or four other families In Morea that had cows but none of their kids worked as hard as we did. They were smart. Their kids were the first to advise us when their corn stalks were ready for harvesting! In the winter the cows were kept in the barn. Come spring: the kids would take them to the open spaces where they were tethered. At times when we were in attendance we would allow them to roam freely and feed on the new grass.

Ma and Pa also kept a few pigs. Pork was always a favorite of mine, and the smell of pork and pork sausages hanging in our smokehouse will always bring back fond memories and stir my appetite.

I will never forget the time a neighbor gave Ma 6 duck eggs to hatch. When the ducklings emerged, Ma kept all the kids busy chewing dried peas which she had soaked overnight. When amply ground we spat these out onto paper to feed the young ducklings. This was not to our liking! They had a voracious appetites and our love affair with the fuzzy, long billed ducklings was short lived.