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A farm wife's work at the separator

Fern Weiderich is a new friend with a story. I would like to have been one of her neighbors on the farm. Fern was born in 1916 in southern Minnesota. Her parents were Benjamin (Ben) and Estella Gunderson.

Fern was an only child, but don't get the idea she was babied, because she wasn't. She had to help both her mom and her dad with work around the farm.

Helping Dad meant milking cows both by hand and later by milking machine. Each one had its hazards, but either way you were almost certain to get a wet cow's tail across your face. It was always yuck, but if that cow had been out in the rain, it was double yuck!

Years that Ben fed skim milk to his pigs meant that Fern had to wash all the parts in a separator plus those in a milking machine. Not only wash them, mind you, but they had to be sterilized to get all the microbes out. Do you know a separator has 30-plus discs alone plus many other parts? The job took almost an hour each time every day.

Feeding a bunch of sloppy calves was a different program that we haven't got time to get into today.

Fern liked school, but had to quit to help out at home after the eighth grade. She rode a pony to school. She liked to read about other things and other places. She really wanted to go to high school, then to college, something that would make it possible for her to be a teacher.

This doesn't mean Fern wanted to travel to far-off places with strange sounding names, because she thinks there would be plenty of people right here. She would like to have taught children from poor homes because she sees education as being the first step of getting out of poverty.

Fern doesn't recall exactly where she met Peter Weiderich, it was so long ago. They lived on a farm near Bertha and had eight children, four boys and four girls. Peter died several years ago.

While time tends to make times and faces of long ago fuzzy, Fern recalls getting big meals for many relatives and friends at each holiday and often in between. The men usually played cards and visited while the women cooked and watched the kids.

When a house became too small to accommodate those who wanted to come, renting the community room in Bertha was a nice solution, a way of keeping in contact with friends.

Friends are important in Fern's world. She reasons that children have families to raise, jobs they have to do, while a friend, more than likely her own age, has time to visit and go places.

Former neighbor John Peterson from Bertha helps Fern spend a long afternoon now and then. She has been to the Black Hills, to Wyoming and Montana as well as many nearer places. One time when John treated Fern to a dinner he served baked duck.

Before coming to live under our big roof Fern lived in Humphrey Manor.

A nurse comes to take Fern to lunch. I promise to come back and take her picture.