The Farmhouse, Circa 1842

No queen ruled over her domain like Mama reigned over our farmhouse, located near Baptistown in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  It was built circa 1842 and had a pitched slate roof. 

The ceilings were nine feet high, and for a few years there was no inside running water, toilet, or central heat, but it did have some electricity.  Mama’s “castle” had five bedrooms upstairs, an enclosed porch and a summer kitchen downstairs that must have been added at a later date.

Mama’s rule was total and complete.  Papa may have made suggestions, but the division of control was never violated.  On the very rare occasions that Papa or Mama made suggestions about the other’s “property,” there was a gentle reminder, “I don’t tell you what to do, don’t tell me!” That always instantly settled the issue.

The only parts of the house that were not under Mama’s complete control were the cellar (it was never called the basement) and the large attached woodshed. 

The cellar had a dirt floor and all the beams were hand-hewn and attached with pegs, not nails.  The ceiling was six feet high, but eight-inch beams lowered it and caused a problem for us boys—as we grew taller. 

I still remember numerous head bumps and the cool dampness of the cellar.  It was where all of the egg-production was brought, cleaned, candled, sorted by size, packed in 30-dozen wooden egg crates, and stored.  Twice a week, the egg crates were taken to Flemington to the Flemington Cooperative Egg Market to be auctioned.  We boys referred to it as the “Auction Market.” I recall our lot number, 2448, which we placed on every crate.
The woodshed was another matter.  Here the logs, which had been cut into 18-inch lengths, were chopped for firewood and used in the large Kalamazoo stove nested in the kitchen.  For a while, it was the only source of heat for the entire house.  

Mama never went into the woodshed, for it was overrun with rats.  It was Katie’s domain. 

Katie was the matriarch of our feline “herd,” that often reached well over a dozen cats.  No rat was safe if it ventured out of the woodpile.  Only when Katie gave birth to her frequent litters, was there a short reprieve for those varmints.

Our outhouse was the talk of the area, for it was a three-seater—yes, small, medium and large.  It was 50 feet behind the house and never had an odor. 

Lime was thrown down regularly and the only recurring problem was the constant battle with spiders and their webs.  I still remember the large, thick, glossy Sears and Roebuck catalogs that served both purposes.