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Boyhood Home

Norm and his family moved into this house on October 20, 1922. This simple, six-room house had no indoor plumbing and no central heating. Each day, every member of the family was expected to contribute.

Humble Living - Hard Work

1922 - Norm’s dad Henry withdrew their life savings from the Cresco Bank and purchased 56 acres. He built a simple six-room farmhouse along with a few outbuildings. There was no indoor bathroom. They had a wood-fired stove to cook their food and to help heat the house. On October, 20 1922, Norm, his parents Henry and Clara, and his younger sisters Palma and Charlotte moved into the house.

Norm’s Chores as Boy: Cut and gather firewood, feed the hens and collect eggs, drive the cows to the milking shed, separate cream, haul skimmed milk to the pigs, light the stove, trim lamp wicks, gather potatoes, haul hay, weed out thistles, ans take care of the horses.

Mother and Daughter Chores: Work the washboard, hang clothes out to dry, pull weeds in the garden, wash dishes, and prepare meals. For the first few years Norm’s mother Clara walked back and forth to Nels' house to do laundry because there was no washer in the new house yet. She also did laundry for Nels and his wife Emma. She walked the path from the new house to the old house. (Vietmeyer p.69)  

Learn More about Sears Catalog Homes

(from Vietmeyer, Noel. Our Daily Bread: The Essential Norman Borlaug, Bracing Books., Lorton, VA, 2011.)


Other Activities & Chores

Hunting: Every fall, Nels, Henry , and Norm would go squirrel and rabbit hunting together. (Hesser p.8)

Berry Gathering: Norm, Palma, and Charlotte would gather wild blackberries, raspberries, and cherries for their mother. (Hesser p.9).

Canning: In the Fall, Clara would can corn, beets, peas, carrots, black currents, gooseberries, rhubarb, and even chicken. (Hesser p.9)

Eggs and Bartering: “I usually fed the hens and gathered the eggs, but it was understood that Mother was the real owner. Each week she took her eggs to the general store in Saude. She never got paid in cash. The storekeeper [her cousin, Greg Vaala] made out a Due Bill identifying how much credit she’d earned against future purchases. It was almost nothing because all the other women were bartering eggs, too. Yet it was almost everything. Over time, those eggs got us the necessities we couldn’t produce ourselves: sugar, flour, salt, oatmeal, coffee beans, thread, yarn and, very rarely, a little cloth. These luxuries were the highlights of our lives.” (Vietmeyer p.63);

Vietmeyer, Noel. Our Daily Bread: The Essential Norman Borlaug, Bracing Books., Lorton, VA, 2011.

Hesser, Leon. The Man Who Fed the World : Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug and his battle to end world hunger : an authorized biography, Durban House Pub. Co., 2006.


A Life of Seasons

"Everyone’s work went according to the seasons. In the spring crops were planted, and in the fall they were harvested. Gardening and canning were done in the summer and quilting, sewing and mending in the winter. Some work—such as milking, preparing meals, and taking care of children—had to be done in every season. As new machines that made farming easier were invented, families were able to produce larger quantities of crops and could sell most of what they harvested to others. " (from Iowa Pathways,

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