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A Childs View of Farm Aromas
by Verna Mull
05/05/11
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I was born and raised on a farm, and thought it was a great life, and still do.

Until I was fully grown and married, I had never realized that many farm “smells” were quite offensive to our city cousins.

We lived on a very traditional farm, with horses, sows with piglets, chickens, and sheep. Oh yes, there was an occasional litter of kittens, and a few dogs.

To say the least, there were many traditional farm odors, and then there was the pungent odor of the hog “swill barrel.”

The “swill barrel” was a huge barrel into which we measured out ground grain, and poured separated milk over it. There was a long stick that we stirred it with, and that was often part of my brother Gaylord, and my chores. Then, we would carry the “swill” in buckets, and pour it into long wooden troughs. The pigs would nearly knock us down to get their fair share. The flies swarmed in it, on the pigs, and all over us.

As I recall it, that was one odor that was offensive even to me, and yet, it was there brewing every day. You might ask, “Then how could you possible love the farm so much?” My answer, “I learned very young that there are always a few things in life that one may not like, but you have to look at the whole big picture.”

We were real families back then. We spent the evenings as a family. Horses did not have lights, and so the farm work was from sun up to sun down. We had an Aladdin Lamp which we had on the kitchen table, or wherever else we decided to go in the house. When there was school, we ate by the light of that lamp, studied by it, played family games. We carried to the living room where we had a piano, and sometimes sang songs there. Often we would pop corn in the evenings. We raised our own popcorn, and loved pop corn and milk. We also picked up black walnuts in the woods and sat around and cracked walnuts and picked them out. Gaylord and I would haul the nutmeats around in his metal dump truck, and end up eating almost as many as we picked out. (At the price of Black Walnuts today, my parents couldn’t have afforded us if they had to buy them.)

Yes, there was a lot of consolation to live where things were not so harried in the evenings and to enjoy just being with one another. We worked together and we played together. There was no telephone, no radio’s, (we did have a battery radio when I was about 11.) no T.V., no computers, just a home where we all did our part, enjoyed one another, and slept like babies at night.

But, I must get back to aromas. Farm women were good cooks, and as a child, I remember the smell of home baked bread, baked in an old, wood burning cooking range. A slice of this warm bread, covered with home churned butter and mama’s homemade jelly, makes my mouth water to this day. * see footnote below.

As good as that was, my favorite aroma came wafting through the air to greet us on occasion, when we arrived home from school. I could hardly wait to get changed out of my school clothes, and eat 3 or 4 of those fresh fried donuts that my mother was frying. To this day, I have never eaten a doughnut as good as my mothers were, and I think that I know the secret. My parents did their own butchering, and therefore, they “rendered” the lard and also the tallow. (The lard was from hogs and the tallow from cows)

Mother used the tallow to deep fry the doughnuts, and they had to be eaten when they were warm, as tallow will stick to your mouth when it was cold, but there was nothing as delicious as those doughnuts. They were seasoned with nutmeg, and vanilla, not like the doughnuts one buys today.

Well, I think I’ve covered most of the aromas, other than the smoke from the cook stove or heating stoves when wood needed to be added to the fire. Perhaps it wasn’t great for our lungs, but it was a memorable aroma which stated “HOME.”


Footnote: Yes, I still bake homemade bread, still love the aroma, but there was something special about the old cook stove oven, or my memories of childhood, that made better bread.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Jacob Gibson 09 May 2011
Thanks for sharing your memories, Verna, and along with it American history that I haven't experienced. You should find a way to bottle all of these aromas and sell them to people your age. :)




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