Electricity In The Farm Yard and Barn

Electricity in the Farm Yard and Barn

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Before there was electricity the farmer had to water his livestock by hauling buckets of water from the well.  Cows were milked by hand.  Hay was moved by a farmer with a pitchfork, corn shellers were cranked by hand, wood was sawed by hand.  Plowing required a team of horses.  Light in the barn was from kerosene lanterns. 

Electricity made possible brighter lighting, an electric milking machine and milk cooler, running water, electric drills and other tools.  Usually the lights came first and other items were added gradually as the farmer could afford them.  Often the electric milker or milk cooler came before electric appliances in the house, as the barn was the source of the farm income.

"We never ran the lights very much in the barn, just when they milked. The rest of the work they did when it was daylight. They milked by hand. It had to be ’56 or ’58 before we ever had an electric milker. We were pretty poor."

Mary Hamann Schultz

"The electricity went to the barn but the only thing that was electrified in the barn were the lights. We never had a milker. We had what was called a “biscuit” that plugged into the wall that heated water in a pail. It was a little, tiny electric heater. You could use it to warm up the water in the winter if the stock tank got too cold. And there would be the electric drills and stuff like that that you would just plug into an outlet."

Brian Bushnell

"I don’t remember seeing lights before and I wanted to know what it was and how that was going to work. It was going to give us light at night, we could just turn it on and we didn’t have to mess with anything else. But I do remember that the lights went out fairly often and I remember the crews coming along with spot lights and looking at the wires and stuff. Then my bothers had to milk by hand in the barn, which they weren’t very happy about. I know by the time I was helping in the barn, which was at a fairly young age, we had a milking machine."

Ralph Zagrzebski