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The Country Home

( Originally Published 1915 )



The Home Necessary in the Country.—Of all the institutions in the country, the home is the most necessary. No other occupation has the home and the business so closely related.

Farming is necessarily a co-partnership between a man and a woman. Town people may board and carry on their business, but not so with farmers. In the farm home must be manufactured much of the raw material into the finished product of food, clothing, or packed articles for the market. In town there are many lines of business which an unmarried man or woman may carry on quite as conveniently as a married man or woman, but it is not so with farming. If a man or woman has no helpmate willing and capable of doing his or her share, that person should not enter farming as a life work.

Children Welcome to the Country Home.—This is a time of decreasing birth-rate, especially among enlightened peoples. Some view the decreasing birth-rate as a sign of the decay of our civilization. If the college graduates continue to multiply no faster than they do at present and if the lower classes continue at their present rate, in ten generations the lower class will out-number the educated class 65 to one. Cities and towns are places with childless homes. The country is the place for the real home and it is to the country home that we expect to find children welcomed. This is so for a number of reasons. Country people have different ideals; food and clothing cost relatively less, children are able to do more, and what they do is worth more than it is in town. Hence we do not expect to find the country infested with the childless homes, the middle-aged unmarried men and women—all three of which are pathological for any society. As explained above, our rural life problem is the problem of making the country satisfying to people of brain and strength of character who will make the building of a home their life work. If we fail here we believe that our whole civilization is to fail just as did the civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Spain. In addition to the country being the place where children are more frequently welcomed, where their food and clothing cost relatively less and their work brings relatively more, there is the additional fact that in the country what children do is educational. There are stronger arguments against child idleness than against child labor providing what the child does, he does with father or mother, out-of-doors and at things varied enough and simple enough for him to comprehend. The country, then, is the place where we may hope to find happy homes for happy children.

The Country Home and the Country Woman.—As stated in Chapter I, the drift to the cities has been largely because woman has failed to find the country satisfying. " No other single issue," says Mabel Carney, " has more bearing upon rural depletion and the general farm problem." Just as the strength of a chain is determined by its weakest link so will the progress in solving our rural life question be determined by our ability to make farm life satisfying to vigorous, capable, enterprising women. But we have had no adequate discussion, to say nothing of education, to enable us to make the country satisfying to women. Few people, for example, know the relation of woman to the different sized farms. The woman who is overburdened is most apt to be found on the medium-sized farm—farms from 100 to 160 acres. If the farm is larger, there may be a tenant house and one of the hired men may be a married man with a wife willing and able to board the other hired help. If the farm is a small fruit or market garden place, it is apt to be near some town where labor may be hired by the day. Then, too, the equipment is apt to be most helpful in the home near town or in the home on the larger farms. This means that men and women should become conscious of the fact that if the woman is not strong, her husband should avoid renting or buying the middle-sized farm, especially if it is some distance from town. Certainly the woman on the middle-sized farm has a right to all of the modern conveniences such as gas or oil with which to cook, telephone, running water and some form of power, all of which will be discussed. Added to these she needs rural delivery, the parcels post and some form of mounted police or State constabulary protection.

A Score Card for the Country Home.—When we have a friendly contest to see who has the best home in the neighbor-hood, or when we make surveys to see what can be done to improve the homes of a district, we use a score card. The following has been found a convenient one:

Country Home Score Card Points

1. Beauty 10
2. Wise expenditure of money 15
3. Sanitation 20
4. Modern conveniences 15
5. Labor-saving machines 10
6. Food 30
TOTAL 100

Beauty in the Country.—Country homes cannot be satisfying unless they are beautiful, but the beauty must be the beauty of the country and not a cheap imitation of town things. This is partly a matter of mental attitude and partly a matter of education. " It is a new thought of high art," says Powell, " that is growing among the people, that instead of buying pictures to hang on our walls, we may better create them on sod, with living plants and running brooks. We are going back to God, intending to cowork with him." There is a difference between what is beautiful in the town and in the country. The man in town who has little land and much labor may have the Italian garden and formal beds in his lawn, but these are not beautiful in the country because they are suggestive of much labor, and the farmer already has more labor than he can do with ease and pleasure. One horse equals five men, therefore the country man should have his lawns and gardens so arranged that they may be cared for with horses. It is much easier for the countryman to mow an acre or more with a team or horse mower than it is for the town man to mow a quarter of an acre. Of course the town man may need the exercise but the country-man does not.

Landscape Gardening.—Boys and girls in the country need good courses in landscape architecture. They need to be taught how to appreciate and make beautiful vistas, open lawns, fields and meadows. They must learn to enjoy well-fenced fields with healthy, contented animals in green pastures. The door yard should be simple and easily kept clean. Most people make the mistake of over-crowding. Trees must be neatly and well trimmed. If trees need " doctoring " the work should be neatly and skilfully done. Most of the flowers should be hardy perennials, some of which are in blossom throughout the season. Unsightly places should be screened with evergreens, ferns, and shrubs. The vegetable garden must be in the background and preferably screened by a hedge. The plantings should be massed, the centre spaces should be open, and straight rows should be avoided except along roads and fences.

The Country House.—We must develop an American rural architecture which appears to grow out of and to fit the country. The first principle for beauty for the house will be simplicity. The house does not need to be costly but it must be large enough to furnish ample room (Figs. 122, 123). The tired farmer goes to the house to rest. The country woman who has the simple house has the house most easily kept clean and attractive. The little fussy decorations and concoctions of the town houses were put on because some carpenter persuaded some man to furnish work for the carpenters; or, worse yet, because some man had money which he wished to spend for display. The jig-saw ornaments, the mill-brackets, mouldings, fancy cornices and railings and towers and breaks in the roofs that soon get out of repair and leak during heavy storms—all such vulgar displays are for people with " folly farms " who are in the game called the " conspicuous consumption of wealth." Beauty is fitness for function. If a part of a house is not necessary, it should be removed for it is not beautiful. Simplicity, utility and good workmanship make almost anything beautiful.

Country House Score Card.—For . the country house the following score card has been used by some of our most noted judges. Country Life in America used this score card to judge the relative merits of different country houses built during the summer of 1914.

Country House Score Card Points

Plan 35
Exterior appearance 25
Interior equipment and furnishings 25
Setting, arrangements of paths and gardens 15

Wise Expenditure of Money.—Farm buildings are not beautiful when they cost more than a fanner can afford to pay. This applies to barns and house—they must not appear to be burdens on which one must pay interest and depreciations. A wise expenditure of money calls for the buildings to appear to have been made out of native material. But the buildings, especially the house, should look as though it was built to last. It should make one feel that it is efficiently protected from wind and lightning. Cement, while it costs more than wood, lasts well and fits into almost any surroundings. A wise expenditure of money requires that the buildings be conveniently located for carrying on the farm operations. The real husbandman must resist the temptation to copy after town men who have " folly farms " in the country.

Sanitation.—The house should be so located that the drainage is toward the other farm buildings or at least away from the house in every direction. The terrible scourges of typhoid fever and diphtheria on the farms tell us that outhouses and wells are frequently in too close proximity. When the house is built or remodelled we want a modem sewer system and this calls for a chance to reach lower ground than that on which the house stands. The house can hardly be called sanitary if it lacks a modern bathroom and convenient wash rooms for the men as they come in from work. The cellar of the country house should be light, clean and well ventilated. The vegetables should be stored in a separate vegetable cellar. This same vegetable cellar, if well made of cement, costs but little and makes a splendid protection against the tornadoes which so frequently terrorize families in some sections of our country. The countryman is to have no rooms that are not well aired every day. The air in the country is not to continue to be " so fresh because the country people keep all of the bad air locked up in their barns and houses." The country house should be, easily ventilated and, since sun-shine is the best of disinfectants, bright sunshine should penetrate every corner of every room in the house, some part of each day.

Labor-saving Conveniences.— Over 95 per cent of the farm homes in one State where a survey was made have no bathrooms. Over 90 per cent have no running water. A farm woman doing the work for an ordinary family should use something over 100 tons of water each year. This she must lift two if not three times over. Think of making a woman lift something like 250 tons of water each year! A modern bathroom with running water, both hot and cold, can be placed in an ordinary house for less than $150. Certainly this is a woman's just racial inheritance. Of course a woman must have a telephone, for she is alone too much to do without one. She needs and should have a modern heating plant if nothing more than a good hard coal burner and radiators for the rooms above. She must have a first-class sewer system and she needs a separate room for the laundry. This may be in the basement or cellar if it is light and properly equipped with tubs, drier, etc.

The Kitchen.—But of all places in the country home the kitchen is the most important. In our clubs for girls we must have discussions of how to make woman's work more efficient. Since 14-year-old club girls are able to can 300 quarts of garden truck in a day, there is no good reason why a woman should make a burden of canning enough for a family's winter use. Then, too, the replanning of the kitchen so as to save steps makes a fascinating topic for discussion. The two kitchens given in Figs. 124 and 125 tell their own stories. The woman doing work in the kitchen of Fig. 125 must walk forty miles farther each year, if she does the ordinary work for a family of five, than she would have to walk if she were doing the same work in the other kitchen.



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