I remember the smudge pot on the farm?

I grew up in the sixties and  farming practices learned from Dad on the  farm of my youth,  still guide me today. 

I like to reminisce, don’t you? There is much to learn while doing so.  Just  the other day Mom and I were chatting about cold weather practices  on the farm of my youth.  Just like us, Dad managed taking care of the livestock in extreme cold  weather,  like we are experiencing here in Ohio this month

As the afternoon waned, Mom and I continued to sip some raspberry/pomegranate tea and reminiscing.   “I was going to buy a heated water bowl at the feed store for the chickens,  but I thought they were pricey, thirty-four dollars, so I didn’t. Maybe I need to rig up a smudge pot,” I laughed, suddenly remembering the term. “A what?” Mom inquired.  I must admit it sounded weird.  “You remember, Daddy using  the smudge pot don’t you? “

For the cows and horses we used an ax
but how did we water the pigs? 

 Keeping animals hydrated during the winter is top priority for a farmer. For the cows and horses, many times we took an ax and chopped a hole in the pond,  or their  galvanized water tank,  “a minimum of two times per day.”   For the pigs I told her,   “I remember following Daddy during chores and   making rounds filling  up  smudge pots.”   Mom sat there and thought for a minute, then agreed that she kinda remembered that. “But what did the water tank look like?”   Neither one of us  could remember what the actual water tank looked like, or how it was made or operated and so on. ” I clearly remember it having a door in the bottom and watching Daddy tend it,” I told her. “I would  sit next to him on the frozen ground,  bundled up in coveralls. His face red with cold,  his nose often  dripping and his hands cumbersome from the cold.  He  unscrewed  the burner with the charred wick, filled  the smudge pot with kerosene then screwed   the burner back on. From his coveralls he pulled  out his silver, flip-top Zippo lighter and lit it. The flame burned black until  he adjusted the burner.  Then he slid it through the opening at the bottom of the tank and  closed the door. “

“There’s enough fuel in the smudge pot that  it should burn until we feed again,” he instructed. Though I tagged along and watched, it was never my job on the farm to light the smudge pots.  I knew how, if need be, but Daddy didn’t like us messing with fire because  Robby had accidentally burned down a building once,  many years ago.   But that’s another story on  a different farm. Truth is, I never liked the smell of  kerosene, especially  on my gloves, (still don’t)  so I was glad I didn’t have that job.

Soon, our afternoon of reminiscing ended.  I left Mom’s house on the south-west corner of our farm smiling with joy from our “trip down memory lane,”  proud that we, along with Daddy’s leadership,   had overcome so many challenges that  farming, more often than not,  presents.

Still we had yet  to solve the  mystery of the  hog water tank.  My mind kept on churning trying to recall what those hog water tanks  actually looked like.  

Suddenly, when I least expected it, that evening it came to me all of a sudden which seems to be the way it is now.    I called Mom  to let her know.    “I got it. The water tanks were round,  galvanized, with  lids with a handle in the center. In the bottom was a cutout that a hog would put its nose in and push a paddle  for automation.” She agreed that was true, and added that she remembered that  we had to  move them from place to place as we moved the feeder pigs from field to field.  Mystery solved.

 I was trying to find a picture on the Internet  to share with you.    I only came up with a plastic version similar to the galvanized  one we used and it sells new for three-hundred and  twenty- five dollars. Galvanized is a  metal treated with a surface product to help keep it from rusting, still available in many products today, but  plastic is the new product of preference for that purpose, it doesn’t rust.

In the description for the plastic model, I read about a clean out for the water bowl on the water tank  and that sparked another ember and remembering a valuable lesson.   I was a little girl again, sitting next to Daddy as he unscrewed  the drain plug  to flush out the nasty bowl from  feed and slobber  that had  settled there from the hog’s  mouth as they drank. It  smelled soured as it drained on the ground. ” If you don’t clean this out, it gets a stench and the hogs won’t drink it. They need fresh, clean water.  Dehydration in any kind of weather can kill an animal.”   This was  a job a little girl could learn to do  using an adjustable wrench, so I did so whenever Daddy instructed me to. Another lesson learned: Fresh water and plenty of it are essential to animal husbandry.

This being the plastic model. Ours was galvanized.

 Would you believe this past week I  just happened to be watching Farm King’s when they visited Joel Salatin’s farm. He is an author of many books on sustainable farming techniques. I caught a quick glimpse of the galvanized model water tank I just wrote about! 

So Here’s the Thing: What we are learning today may be  fond memories tomorrow. Sadly, Dad is gone now, but one thing for sure, all the knowledge  I learned from him (and mom)  continues to bless me each and every day. So those little ones you think  might not be listening or watching, just might  be soaking up what you are teaching them unbeknownst to you.   I can recall many things that are  helpful in my daily life here on our  farm in the millennium,  learned from  the farm of my youth of the sixties. Some things never change.

Take Joy!

Family Friendly Farming: A Multi-Generational Home-Based Business Testament
You can buy this book and many of his other books through Sherry’s Farm Store. Just click on the book. 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Sherry, I just found your blog and I love it!! We have so much in common, horses, corgi's, Tasha Tudor and farming, although I don't live on a farm, but I come from farmers. It is so true about the little ones listening and learning. My grandchildren have told me things that I have said or done that I didn't think they were even listening or interested! Like my youngest granddaughter watching me sew or work my mare.I found the info about the smudge pot interesting, I had never heard of one before. We didn't have hogs, just cattle and horses.Well, I am so glad to have found you. I would like to invite you to visit my new blog, Loving Stitches, lovingstitches2.blogspot.com.Blessings, Jan


  2. Thanks Jan for Introducing yourself. I did pop over and take a look at your blog too. I love quilts, always have. Would you believe I just painted my bedroom and was looking on line for a quilt spread for my bed. Then it occurred to me that I had one of Grandma's quilt tops. I pulled it out and I think you've inspired me to do something more with it instead of buying something new. I will be posting about it soon, with a picture and perhaps you would help me identify the pattern.


  3. Teresa says:

    That picture of you and your dad is just precious. Sounds like you had a wonderful childhood, Sherry!xoxo,Teresa


  4. Thank you ,Teresa, for introducing yourself! I appreciate your nice comment and I enjoy your blog. The years growing up on the farm, as they say, for me, is priceless. Mom and I were just chatting yesterday about us trying to stay \”warm\” in the old farmhouse. Probably a post coming soon on that one!


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