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Pure Agrarian Diet and Life at the Turn of the 20th Century

Monticello, Missouri
January 26, 2007

From the diary of Vaden Thomas Wood penned between September 29 and October 6, 1976 at the age of 89

Note from grandson John Wood: As you read the text below, please note the lack of processed foods, mentions of lard, free range chicken, heirloom pork, beef, raw milk, fresh butter, brown eggs, fruits and vegetables. My grandfather missed 100 years of age by 2 days and was in remarkable shape up into his 90’s. He still had a large garden, milked his own cow and gathered his own eggs into his late 80’s!!

I, V. T. Wood, was born on a farm eight miles north of Hunnewell, Missouri on June 11, 1887. My parents were Richard Dallas Wood and Josephine Patterson Wood. There were three brothers older than I. Namely, John Patterson Wood born August 26, 1881, William Heighter Wood born on October 15, 1883 and Richard Alvin Wood, born on March 23, 1886. When I was just past one year old our home burned and destroyed all of our furniture. Later, my father bought a small farm of 48 acres where we boys grew up. That farm has been added to as follows: 40 acres in the spring of 1902, which cost $1000 and 60 acres about the same time that cost $1800 This farm is now owned by my brother, Delbert Lee Wood, who was born here on December 8, 1891.

This was frontier country then and life was simple, hard, tremendously limited and frustrating. Every body was poor. Money was scarce and there were very few conveniences! No telephones, electric lights nor rural mail delivery. The automobile, tractor, radio, television and airplane had not been more than dreamed about. Every home so far as it was possible was an independent social unit and it had to make its living by careful cultivation of its land. Every family supplied its food as follows:
• A small percentage of corn was white corn which was later ground into corn meal. The corn meal created corn bread, an important staple.
• Balance of the corn was feed for pigs and chickens
• An acre or more was planted to sugar cane which produced sorghum molasses
• Many farms raised there own navy beans, potatoes and turnips
• Pumpkins and water melons were raised on every farm
• Every home had its orchard producing apples, pears, plums, peaches, grapes and cherries
• Many of these fruits were shared gratuitously with neighbors as there was no market for them because of abundance

The farmers all had their farm animals as follows:
• Horses and mules to pull farm machinery
• Cows for milk, butter and their offspring for meat
• Hogs were the mortgage lifters
• Not only were hogs mortgage lifters, but furnished meat and lard for the home
• Some farmers kept a few sheep
• Every farmer had a flock of chickens
• The eggs sold from 3 to 8 cents per dozen and paid for sugar, coffee and kerosene for the coal oil lamps
• A flock of hens cared for many a family’s wants during the summer
• Some families had guinea fowls, ducks and geese
• All families had a faithful dog

The farm machinery was about as follows:
• 2 plows
• One plow was a 14 inch to be drawn by 2 horses or mules
• One plow was a 16 inch to be drawn by 3 horses
• A drag and a wooden harrow
• Horse drawn corn planter that dropped two rows of seed simultaneously
• Horse drawn corn cultivator
• Most farmers had a horse drawn mowing machine and revolving hay rake
• All farms had pitch forks, scoop shovels, axes, cross cut saws, hoes, post hole digger, wire stretcher, and hammers
• There was a horse drawn wagon with 4 wooden wheels
• Horse drawn sled was used through the Winter to haul feed on the snow and ice
• All farms had a sleigh for transportation
• All farms had a butter churn, sausage grinder and coffer grinder

I am now going to explain a day’s work in January, March, July and September 1904. These months will indicate the seasonal employment of the farmers. January or February was the time to fill the ice houses with ice for the summer. The ice house was about 14 feet square and lined with an inside wall made of heavy oak lumber. The tools for cutting the ice were some cross cut saws and a number of ice tongs for handling the ice. This was a community job, just like threshing of the grains, raising a farm building and sawing the winter’s wood. The ice was sawed in squares of such size as could be handled by some strong young men. An ice crew usually consisted of about seven men. Two men placed the ice in the ice house, 2 men hauled the ice to the ice house and 3 men did the sawing at the pond. There was always a hot delicious diner at noon for the men.

Now the last of March was oat sowing time when the ground was dry enough. Usually the ground was prepared the day before the sowing. Early on the sowing day, a wagon was used to get the bags of seed to the field. If the oats were sowed by hand, which my father often did since we had no machines to sow with, another team was hitched to the harrow which was pulled to cover the seed.

Soon it was July and the oats and wheat had to be cut, bound, shocked and thrashed. Threshing day was a real community day. The farmers went together and helped one another. The threshing machine crew consisted of three men . . . an engine man, a water hauler and his team and a separator man. There usually were about 5 wagon men hauling the bundles of grain from the field to the threshing machine. The threshing machine required two bundle pitchers, two men with grain wagons hauling the grain away and two men stacking the straw. The entire crew of workers averaged 13 men.

The highlight of threshing days was the noon meal. This was a cooperative effort among the farm wives. The meal was informal smorgasbord. There were always two kinds of meats consisting of chicken and ham. Followed with a bountiful bowl of gravy, mashed potatoes, plenty of home made apple sauce, a molasses stand full of sorghum, plate of hot biscuits, dish of raw hand churned butter, dish of fresh peas, bowl of onion and radishes and a dish of slaw. There was always plenty of cold raw milk, hot coffee and lemonade. For dessert, there was plenty of cake and pie from master chefs. Usually the pies were apple, peach, cherry or custard. And still after this feast, the men would go on threshing!

September rolled in with an immediate need to have fire wood out of the timber and sawed. When enough was hauled for the winter’s use, the steam engine crew came with the threshing engine. Within a couple of hours, the noisy circular saw had the winter’s wood sawed in stove wood lengths.

The winter’s school started the first week of September. However, we had to miss school until the wood was sawed, the sugar cane was stripped and hauled to the sorghum mill and the corn was cut and placed in large shocks. The corn was shocked so we could have the fodder for winter farm stock feed. It was poor feed; however, it would carry them through the cold nights of winter. We usually fed the pumpkins to the cows until a hard freeze ruined them. When the wood was sawed and the corn was in the shock we all started to school.

Best regards,

John, Lee Ann and Stephanie for the farm families of U.S. Wellness Meats

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About U.S. Wellness Meats

U.S. Wellness Meats was founded on September 1st, 2000. Pasture management and meat science research originated in 1997. The company office is domiciled in Monticello, Missouri in Lewis County which joins the Mississippi River 140 miles North of St. Louis. The company has branched from beef products into lamb, certified humane pork, free range chicken, salted and unsalted grass-fed butter, grass-fed raw cheese, raw honey, wild salmon, gourmet rabbit , artisan soaps, wholesale packs, free range bison, nutraceuticals ,organic shrimp, grass-fed goat and on sale products.


U.S. Wellness Meats
John Wood
Founding Member
phone: 877-383-0051

Lee Ann Murphy
Office Manager

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