Winter’s Work – Local Richland Parish Editor Pens ‘Farm Advice’ for Richland Residents During the Christmas Holidays, ca. 1876

Here’s a column written in the Richland Beacon on the week of Christmas in 1876, titled “Winter’s Work.” Clearly the author here was not a fan of “sitting around” during the holidays if the sun was shining. Or, perhaps after an abundance of time spent with his spouse, his “honey-do” list grew just enough to write a column about it!

The Richland Beacon News, December 23, 1876, Sat  •  Page 1

Winter’s Work

As soon as his crop was “laid by,” last summer, the good, careful, prosperous farmer gathered all his tools up, cleaned the dirt off of them and put them under a shelter, where they be found when needed again, and fit for use too, instead of being eaten up by rust and rotten and warped out of shape from the weather; and where he can repair such as need it during the cold, wet, disagreeable winter days, in which outdoor labor is impracticable and dangerous to one’s health. 

But the plodding, careless, indifferent, improvident and unsuccessful farmer, who is always one year behind with his merchant, did not do this, but left his implements lying in the field, where they were last used, to be covered up by weeds and grass, some never to be found, and those that are found, unfit for use. 

Having thus finished his summer work, the things that demand the farmer’s attention are to see that fences are perfectly secure against the depredations of stock, and to prepare his gin house, cotton pens, and corn cribs for the reception of his crops as soon as they are ready to gather, so that he will not have to stop to do this work after he gets to picking cotton. 

This has been a remarkably favorable season for gathering crops, and it is presumable that every one who was not terribly “over-cropped” finished picking cotton at least by the 10th of this month, and have enjoyed the beautiful weather we have had since in clearing and cleaning off land, and making rails and resetting fences, or other necessary winter work.

It is customary to “take holiday” during “Christmas week,” and we presume little plantation work will be done between now and New Years; but it ought to be commenced then in earnest, and every day fit for out-door labor should be employed in doing all kinds of work necessary to be done before the plows commence running. 

If you have no logs to burn, no clearing to do, no rails to fix or fences to reset, then your houses need repairing, your yard and garden need a few pickets – “a stitch in time, saves nine” -or you need a good barn in which to house your stock such cold winter nights as these; or if you haven’t got a shop, you should build one right away. Your orchard needs some attention also, and if you don’t have one, you should start one this winter. No good farmer will try to get along without an orchard and garden. 

There is always plenty of winter work: we never saw a farm so complete that no improvement could be made on it, and there is not one in Richland, that even approaches such perfection, and winter is the time to improve and beautify the farm. Make your farm look like a home; make it attractive to your children, and they will not want to wander off to seek happiness elsewhere; cultivate in them a taste for the beautiful, and they will not be apt to stray from the path of virtue and morality, but will be not only a help but a comfort and source of happiness to you in your old age.’

Teach them to live within their means, and they will not be “always working for somebody else,” harassed by creditors and hard pressed to “make ends meet.”

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