Not all of my ancestors were farmers, but many of them were. You have to go back several generations, to the great-grandparents on Dad's side of the family and the great-great-grandparents on Mom's side, to get to them - to those who tilled the soil and lived off of the bounty of their land. Wherever they lived they owned the land. It must have been a matter of great importance to them.
Thanks to the Kansas State Agricultural Schedules and their "General Statistics Relating to Farms, Productions of Agriculture, etc." we get a glimpse of the crops produced and animals raised on the farms owned by Lysander and Lydia Joslin, my 3rd great grandparents, in 1885 and 1895.
Living in Odin Township, Barton County, in central Kansas in 1885, they were the owners of 320 acres of land, 40 acres under fence and 280 acres not fenced. The value of the farm was given as $3,000 and the farming implements and machinery were worth $50. They had paid $400 in wages during the year ending March 1, 1885. There were 450 rods of wire fence. They had sown 40 acres of wheat in the fall of 1884. They either plan to or already planted plant 50 acres of corn, 1 acre or Irish Potatoes and 5 acres millet & hungrains in the spring of 1885.
They had 50 bushels of corn and 100 Bushels of wheat on hand. There had been 20 tons of cane hay cut in 1884 and 4 acres of prairie hay. They sold $100 worth of poultry and eggs during the year and had made 200 pounds of butter.
Livestock included 3 Horses, 2 Milch cows, 1 other cattle, and 1 swine. They had fattened or sold for slaughter animals valued at $60. The orchard consisted of 80 peach trees and 10 cherry trees bearing fruit. There were 40 apple trees that are not bearing. They owned 2 dogs.
General remarks by assessor [not for any particular farm]: Winter wheat is in a bad condition. At least three fourths is killed by frost. What remains is backward. Two or three weeks later than it should be. All that was sowed is given in these statistics but not more than one fourth of value. Other crops promise well.
Lysander and Lydia had moved to Melvern Township, Osage County on the east side of the state about 1890. On March 1, 1895 they were both nearing 70 years of age and the farm was a little smaller, consisting of 40 acres that were fenced, of which 38 were under cultivation. The fences were a combination of hedges and wire of 130 and 100 rods, respectively. The cash value of the farm was $1,000 and the farming implements and machinery were valued at $30.
They planned to plant 30 acres of corn in the spring of 1895 as well as 3 acres of sorghum for forage or seed. Two acres of prairie grass were under fence or used for meadow. They had sold $35 worth of poultry and eggs and had made 200 pounds of butter during the year ending March 1, 1895. They had 3 horses, 3 milch cows, 26 swine, and 2 dogs. The value of all animals fattened and slaughtered during the year was $180.
Their orchard contained 274 fruit bearing trees: 140 apple, 2 pear, 50 peach, 7 plum, and 75 cherry. They had 6 stands of Bees that produced 60 pounds of honey.
In my grandmother's files, there were three letters that Lysander and Lydia wrote to their daughter Malissa Brubaker who was living in Whitley County, Indiana. These letters provide us with a first-hand account of the fruits of their labors.