THE BAKE-OVENS–THE SMOKE-HOUSES—THE
OLD GRINDSTONE—THE CORN CRIB.
families, including the hired help, being
usually large, it was necessary to bake
large batches of bread. The earliest
contrivance for this purpose was the
"bake-kettle," an iron kettle, with long legs
The dough was placed in this kettle, after which the
kettle was set on a bed of coals; more live
then drawn over the cover and around the sides of the
kettle, a fresh supply being raked on when
put on had cooled, until the bread was baked
In the absence of a bake-kettle, the bread was
sometimes baked in the hot ashes. After the bake-kettle
came the "Reflector," called by some the
This appliance was mostly used for pastry-baking and
for roasting meat. It was made of tin, the
facing the hot fire, the top and back sloping so as
reflect the heat from the fire on whatever was being
baked in it. Later on, large ovens, built of
brick, similar to those
used by bakers, were built outside in the yard or in an outhouse.
Sometimes they were built in the house, beside the fireplace and connected
with the chimney, and opened out into one of the living rooms. Many of
them held two or or three dozen loaves of bread. A fire was built in the
oven, and, after it had been properly heated, the burning wood was
removed, the oven cleaned out with a scraper and broom, and the lumps of
dough placed on the brick floor. It was necessary to allow the oven to
cool to a certain temperature before putting in the dough. To ascertain
the right temperature some such rule as this was observed The housewife
would place her hand in the oven, and if she could hold it there while she
counted twenty, the oven was considered in fit condition for baking in. A
few of these old ovens are still to be found in connection with some of
the old houses, but the modern range, on account of its convenience, has
entirely supplanted the primitive oven. These brick ovens were sometimes
also used for roasting meat and for drying apples and berries.
Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the
bread, when being raised, was placed in conical-shaped straw baskets.
After it had risen sufficiently, it was turned over on a big wooden shovel
and put into the oven. This same shovel was also used for taking out the
bread after being baked.
The hams and pieces of beef, after the butchering,
were salted down in big casks or tubs kept for the purpose. In the spring
of the year, generally about the first of April, the hams were taken out
of the brine or pickle, washed off and hung up in the smoke-house. The
smoke-house usually stood in the yard close by the brick bake-oven. Its
walls were covered with grease, and had a string odor about them of beech
wood creosote. The smudge for making the smoke was got by burning beech or
maple wood—a certain amount of oil of smoke was distilled from this
confined smoke, which gave the peculiar smell to the place and flavor to
the hams, besides, by its antiseptic properties, acting as a preservative
to the meat.
When better classes of houses were built by the
settlers, these smoke-houses were then built of brick or stone, which made
them safer from being destroyed by fire.
The Old Workshop.
Our grandfathers were also practical men with their
other good qualities. They always kept a collection of tools on hand for
doing any repairing necessary, as well as other kinds of work, while
nowadays a skilled mechanic has to be employed to do the same class of
work. In the old workshop was to be found a carpenter's bench, with vise,
saws, planes, chisels, turning lathe, etc., as well as the old shaving
horse, used for shaping shingles and pieces of wood for other purposes,
which wooden horse, when children, we were fond of riding. Here in the
workshop in rainy weather, or during the long winter days, our industrious
grandfathers might be seen busily engaged in making a whiffle-tree,
fashioning a plough-handle, repairing their grain cradles, making ox yokes
and axe helves, shaping shingles and doing sundry other odd jobs, while
our grandmothers were toiling at the loom and spinning- wheel. In many
cases part of the workshop was set apart for the weaving and the spinning.
Here could be heard all day long the hum. of the spinning-wheel and the
rattle of the loom.
The Old Grindstone.
Somewhere on the premises, conveniently situated,
stood the old grindstone. It was a veritable instrument of torture to
smaller male members of the family, for when the axes, scythes, etc.,
required grinding, it generally devolved upon the "small boy" to do the
turning. If he saw one of the men appearing with a tool in one hand and a
basin of water in the other, he knew he was in for a half hour's hard
labor. How eagerly he watched, as the edge of the tool was being examined,
to see whether it was sharp enough for the word to be
given that would release him from the tiresome duty. How his arms did ache
as he turned, first with one hand and then with the other, putting forth
an extra effort when the tool was being pressed more firmly on the stone,
and what a sense of relief and freedom he felt when the job was finished
and he could run away and play.
The Corn Crib.
A pen picture of the farm
buildings and their surroundings would not be complete without mention
being made of the corn crib, which usually stood somewhere on the premises
in an exposed place. It was placed on posts, which raised it up from the
ground several feet, so that the air could circulate freely underneath.
These posts were usually covered with tin or sheet iron, or had an old tin
basin or pail turned upside down on the top, so as to prevent the rats and
mice from getting at the corn. The sides and ends were made of slats
placed several inches apart, so that the wind might have freedom to pass
through, and so prevent the corn from heating and getting mouldy, which it
is liable to do when kept in a pile. The ears of corn, after being husked,
were placed in this crib, and allowed to remain there until needed for
use, for feeding the pigs and fattening the poultry for market. The more
primitive crib was made by boring holes in the foundation logs several
inches apart, and placing stakes in them, on top of which was put a rail,
to which the stakes were withed, and sometimes withes were put across the
bin to prevent it from spreading. The top was thatched with straw, or
covered with boards or hollowed basswood logs.