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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Fairfield 375: Memories of the family farm in Greenfield Hill

Published 12:47 pm, Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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  • Farms in Fairfield were in decline by 1930 when 165 farms still existed, down from 215 just ten years before. This photo of two men driving double horses at Dr. Dewitt's farm was taken by Mabel Osgood Wright, who chronicled much of Fairfield life with her camera. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    Farms in Fairfield were in decline by 1930 when 165 farms still existed, down from 215 just ten years before. This photo of two men driving double horses at Dr. Dewitt's farm was taken by Mabel Osgood Wright, who chronicled much of Fairfield life with her camera. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

Following is a reminiscence from his early years growing up in Fairfield by H. Noyes Spelman, who died Oct. 7, 2013:

These are some of the things I remember about the family farm on Greenfield Hill from the early 1920s until I left for the Marine Corps in 1942. The make-up of the farm was mostly planned and executed by my mother, with my father caring for the horses, as he was a superior horseback rider and a not so superior polo player.

The farm was developed on 26 acres and consisted of a large drive-through hay barn, stalls for three horses and four cows, a dairy room, a tack room and grain/storage. We maximized our chicken population to 500 in early spring every year when we would buy 250 three-day-old chicks. Occasionally we had a few ducks, sometimes a turkey and we would buy six or eight piglets in the spring for fattening until butchering in the fall. Subsequently I remember shanks of ham and bacon hanging in our barn.

During World War II my mother bought two or three Angus beef calves for fattening to provide those great steaks and other beef products which we all loved and were not always available in the market. I never saw these animals as I was in the Marines in the South Pacific living on K-rations and powdered eggs and milk and occasionally canned Vienna sausage. Spam when we had it was a treat. My family enjoyed the beef except when my sisters were told that they were eating "Baby Face" which brought tears to their eyes.

My mother planted a 60-tree orchard with apples, of course, peaches, pears and plums. We had a strawberry bed, grapes and there were wild blueberries in our woods. We planted a very large produce garden which provided all kinds of vegetables including asparagus and melons and enough potatoes and other vegetables to feed our large family all winter. They stored well in our root cellar as well as the apples and other root crops. When egg production was high we would fill a five-gallon potter crock with fresh eggs and covered them with water glass, which I believe was chemically known as sodium silicate. Some of the benefits of this operation were having our own eggs every day, our own milk, cream and butter, and once a week we made our own ice cream -- sometimes with our own peaches. My mother canned some produce like tomatoes in Mason jars. She made jelly and excess string beans were placed in a potter crock in layers with a lot of salt for great eating months later.

We killed four or five chickens every week and by the time I was going to college I didn't want to see another chicken. Our cows and horses required lots of time for their care and when we needed a veterinarian we would call Dr. Southy who had been the vet for the P.T. Barnum Circus. He was a very personable character, and when he came to care for one of our animals, he would tell me circus stories about the lions and tigers and other animals he cared for and doctored and I was wide eyed and excited by his stories.

Also we had a greenhouse where lots of seedlings were started and of course many annuals and other plants were grown for my mother's extensive gardens. It was a wonderful lifestyle as we ate so well with all this wonderful produce. My mother said it could not have been better, but it probably would have been cheaper if we had bought all our food from Mercurio's grocery store.

To submit a personal story for "Fairfield Celebrates 375," visit the town's anniversary website: www.Fairfield375.com and click on the "Interact" link. Personal stories can be submitted electronically.