Farm Horizons, May 2006
Old-time harvests from a woman's point of view
By Linda Scherer
Air conditioning would have been heaven on those hot July and August afternoons when the ovens were going all day long.
A dishwasher, or possibly paper plates, would have been a life saver, too. Ask any woman who walked in Mae Roufs Stifter’s shoes during those days of harvest threshing.
Stifter grew up in Winsted. She was prepared for her life on the farm when she married Norb Stifter, Howard Lake, because she spent some summers and vacations with her grandfather, Michael Fasching, who was also a farmer in the Winsted area.
Mae knew what threshing was all about having helped with the harvesting from the time she was considered old enough to carry water, lemonade, and sandwiches out to all of the people that helped in the field on her grandfather’s farm. She remembers the time as being “fun to be part of.”
It was a little different after she married Stifter, in 1959. During harvest time on her husband’s farm, she was responsible for cooking for a dozen people, three meals a day, for four or five days in row.
Menus were prepared in advance, always including meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. Large quantities of roast beef, meat loaf, pork chops, ham, and pork ribs were made. The first meal needed to be ready at noon.
The field helpers all ate in shifts. For one reason, there just was not enough room in the house to feed everyone at once. Also, it kept the threshing machine going all day as it left one group of people in the field at all times. It also provided enough dishes for everyone to eat on. As one shift finished, dishes were done and made ready for the next shift.
An afternoon snack was provided around 2:30 p.m. Sandwiches, lemonade and water were brought out to the field. Supper was served around 5:30 p.m. because most everyone needed to be home to milk cows.
Stifter’s days began at 5 a.m. and ended somewhere around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., by the time things were cleaned up from one day and then made ready for the next day.
Most of the threshing was done by Aug. 15. That date has stayed with Mae all of these years because she was told by Norb when they became engaged to marry that they could not marry until after the 15th because of harvesting. They married Aug. 22.
The Stifters continued to thresh crops on their farm until approximately 1965.
“When they went to combining, it was the best thing that ever happened,” Stifter said.
Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch