January 2016

 

Happy New Year!

 

It’s mid-winter.  The ground is covered with a few feet of snow, bringing to my mind a winter we experienced in the early 1980’s.  Autumn that year was rainy, drenching the corn fields, causing the corn harvest to be late.  Before the muddy fields had time to dry the snow came.  We had cold, blowing snow every day for a week.  The outer edges of our fields of corn were blown in with over four feet of snow on all sides, which made mechanical harvest impossible, given the unfrozen, muddy ground beneath.

 

We had livestock to feed and we needed a wagon load of cob corn each week to do so.  The only thing to do was for us to go out into the cold, wet snow and pick the corn by hand.  Jim and I were in our twenties.  The children were three, five and seven years old.  We dressed warmly; hats, gloves, boots, with scarves over our faces.  We hitched the International Harvester 806 tractor (the biggest tractor we had at the time) to a flat wagon with low sides.  We gathered up quite a few five gallon buckets and then we made our way to the outside rows of the first of many corn fields.  The first few rows of corn around the field had functioned as a snow fence, catching the blowing snow while protecting the inner rows from snow accumulation.  Jim and I each carried two buckets and we climbed over the four foot deep snow at the outside of the field.  We found our way in to the first inside rows of corn not covered with snow and then we began to pick the cobs.  As we filled each pail half full the children brought us empty pails and carried the half-full ones (the children were little!) to the wagon, dumping them out and then repeating the process.  It took the five of us all afternoon to fill one wagon this way.  

 

Then, of course, after the corn was picked there were chores to do.  Jim ran the feed grinder while the rest of us fed the hand-picked cobs into the grinder chute.  He added oats and minerals to the mix.  We fed ground corn, baled hay and silage to the pigs, cattle and sheep.  We watered and bedded them for the night.  All in all, it was a very long day.

 

Our neighbors and friends heard (or saw us out there!) about the difficulty we had getting feed for the livestock, and when the weather was no better the following week, we had all sorts of volunteers to help.  Again it was a cold, windy Saturday.  I made a big pot of soup, home baked bread, hot chocolate and dessert for the crew.  In just two hours we had two wagons filled with hand-picked cob corn; enough feed for two weeks!  The volunteer crew then helped Jim with the rest of the day’s chores before coming in to a fresh, hot supper.

 

That winter dragged on in much the same way and twice more we had to pick cob corn in this manner.  Precious family and friends came again to help each time, staying for a festive supper afterwards.  After picking the corn they came into my kitchen and gathered around our wood-burning stove to get warm.  Wet hats, mittens and scarves hung to dry on a rack above the stove, boots were lined up to dry below.

We played cards and board games after supper, sharing beer, soda, snacks and stories.  I have fond memories of our family and friends coming to help us with that difficult chore.  Many hands make light of heavy work!

 

In late January of that year we had a bit of a thaw, which melted some of the snow, and then we had a good hard freeze afterward.  Harvest was late, but tractors and mechanical pickers could finally be used and the job was completed, load by load, by the end of Spring.       

 

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We have a new dog in the house! Sasha came to us in October after our 8 1/2 year old Beau died of bone cancer. Sasha was eight months old and in need of a new home as her owner was unable to keep her in a rental unit. She is well behaved and is incredibly playful. She plays well with our grandchildren and with other dogs.

 

Sasha gets a scrambled egg for breakfast every day while Jim and I enjoy our eggs and coffee. She has good manners and waits patiently for her egg to cool before I put her dish down on the floor. She sleeps on the floor next to our bed and wakes us each morning with gentle kisses that say “The sun is out! It’s time to rise!” She keeps me company all day while I work. Sasha has never chewed on anything she shouldn’t (amazing for a puppy!). We are so happy to have her join us!   

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From a small concrete block building in Downing, Dunn County, WI, The Hubbard Folding Box Company supplied the nation with its unique folding box that was used by industrial plants, fisheries, produce farms, grocery stores, libraries, etc.  Usually the name of the concern was stenciled on the sides of the boxes.  There were no glues or nails used to construct the box that, when emptied, could be easily folded and compactly stored.  Available in assorted sizes, the box was “sewn” together with heavy wire threaded through specially designed flat hinges and holes drilled laterally through the ends of each wooden slat that made up the sides and the bottom of each box.

 

In the typical box, shown here, there were six of these flat hinges; one at the top, another at the bottom, and one separating each slat at each corner.  All of these elements, the hinges and the slats, were held together by a heavy wire “staple” that was about an inch and a half wide and slightly longer than the depth of the box.  This staple was inserted in every hinge and slat and then clinched at the end.

It was the emergence of sturdy plastics that could be formed into less costly boxes that spelled the end of the Hubbard Box Co. in the 1970s.  Most of the plant’s machinery used to make the boxes was sold to Minneapolis investors who hoped to find a specialized market for the box.                     

 

- Wisconsin Lore and Legends 

The Wisconsin State Farmer 2003

 

Note- I have two of these boxes, once used to ship soap from B. J. Johnson Soap Co. in Milwaukee, WI.        

 

As always, I enjoy hearing from you!  Keep in touch!