Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Idea of Farm House No. 8

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: From my former classmate Tom Hubka, in his excellent book on the connected farms of New England, I learned the phrase the old-timers used to describe the farm. I've added a second phrase to make a two stanza rhyme:
Front house,
Little house
Back house

Front yard
Door yard
Barn yard
In the early 19th century the farm had no front yard, no pickets, but it always had a dooryard. The door yard is the place outside the kitchen in front of the ell or, "little house," but it was often also adjacent to the back house where the farm shops were located.

So it was the true center of farm life. It was not only a place to chop the firewood or harness the ox. There, vehicles were repaired and animals butchered. A chicken running headless one moment might soon be plucked there. Nearby corn was shucked and apples sorted; bushels for canning as sauce, crates to be pressed into cider, a few choice ones chosen for pie, and one red beauty polished and eaten. It was also the place to greet neighbors and spend some time catching up on the news of the day. Young ones played and old ones idled. Keeping a messy door yard was a sign of slovenliness and akin to moral turpitude.

Today the door yard may be grass or it may still have a vegetable or herb garden. Very possibly, however, it has been paved for parking. As a place, the dooryard, once the work center of the farm, has completely vanished.