Lessons from Our Farm


Farms were very busy places in the mid Nineteenth Century, and if you were growing up then, you would have been part of that busy-ness! Nine out of ten families were farm families and the children had a variety of responsibilities and played a big part in making sure the family had what they needed to take care of themselves.

Since every season brought a new set of tasks, children learned many different skills; some of them at a very young age. Many of the activities listed below are part of our working farm at the Farmers’ Museum. Many of them would have involved the help of children, and some of them would have been given completely as their responsibility.

Read through the following seasonal activities. How many of them are still common on farms today?


Sheep shearing

Plowing the fields

Making maple syrup

Harrowing the fields

Dyeing wool

Planting crops

Milking the cows

Gathering eggs



Berry picking

Weeding the garden


Trout fishing

Making ice cream

Milking the cows

Gathering eggs



Gathering beechnuts

Butchering livestock


Making lard


Mending fences


Winterizing house & barns

Milking the cows

Gathering eggs



Making shingles

Threshing grain

Hauling timber


Filling the ice-house

Weaving cloth on a loom


Attending church

Making meals

Grooming horses

Feeding & watering the stock


All of the animals raised on a farm in the 1800’s served a purpose. They may have provided food or had a job to do. An important animal for doing a job was the sheep. They provided wool for the family to use in making wool yarn. Because the sheep are eating , sleeping, walking around, and lying down while they grow out wool that the farmer will shear in the spring, they can become quite dirty. As a result, there are many steps between shearing the fleece and having clean, soft, beautiful wool yarn to knit a scarf! Follow along to learn more!

Merino Mix Sheep Waiting to be Sheared

The sheep are sheared in the spring and the fleeces are skirted (unusable edges trimmed away) and graded for quality. The quality of a fleece determines what tasks can be done with it.

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The wool would then be washed in cool soapy water and hung up to dry. After drying,the raw wool would need to have the remaining pieces of twigs and other debris teased out by hand. This would often be the job for the children in the family.

The wool would then be combed or carded to prepare for spinning. Carding, as seen below, pulls the clean soft fibers into straight even lines that can easily be twisted to make wool yarn. Here at the Farmers’ Museum, our visitors often get a chance to try their hand at carding wool.

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After carding the wool and rolling into a rolag (above), the yarn may be spun using a spinning wheel, drop spindle, or even your fingers!

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The wool yarn would then be dyed with a variety of natural ingredients and hand knitted into scarves, mitts, and other warm clothing.

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The time and effort that was put into producing a sweater, mittens, or scarf in the 1800’s gave a sense of satisfaction as families worked together to provide for themselves. Today, many varieties of sheep are raised for their beautiful wool fleeces that are made into amazing and useful items and give us the same sense of satisfaction as long ago!