Life on the Kalis farm at Libnerowka


We asked our cousins what it was like to grow up on the farm at Libnerowka during the early part of the twentieth century.


This farm was not one of the colonist's farms we described in the selection "Where our Kalis family lived in Kujawy". 


This was not inherited.


It was purchased by choice, improved with enterprise, expanded with love and kept up to date with an appreciation of modern techniques.


An unrelated Polish family currently lives in the large two hundred year-old cement farmhouse.


But no one is currently using it as a farm.


Only half of the largest of the three barns still stand.        


With news of it crumbling from age and neglect, the urgency of getting to know our ancestral Heimat is now stronger than ever.   


At one time, two families occupied the two-story house.


A couple with children had the west side, while the grandparents occupies the east side.


They heated the house with chunks of peat moss taken from their own land.


They had a machine to dig it out in 5 - 6 ft pieces and they would dry it for fuel.


When the peat was dry, it was a hard as wood and gave a lot of heat.


Coal oil was used for lighting.


They cooked inside the house and baked in a big oven. 


The chimney was square to the wall and went all the way upstairs.


Storks nested in warmth of the chimney.


Brightly colored tiles covered the interior kitchen walls.


It is important to be handy when you live on a farm.


Every year a steer was butchered and a couple of pigs were slaughtered to made sausage.


The meat was cured in a big barrel with salt.


It was hung in the smoke house chimney all summer available for a snack or a meal.


There were two barns for livestock and one for grain and hay.


A typical summer day for the children consisted of doing chores and helping in the barn.


The youngsters picked potatoes, beets and red cabbage and pulled weeds.


The pre-teens were trained by the adults to handle the plow-horses.


The farm was roughly 90 acres, growing from the original purchase of 32 acres.


They had a low pasture on the south side where wild geese nested.


They raised oats, barley and rye and a lot of potatoes. 


When harvesting grain, they hitched three horses to farm machinery that cut the grain and tied it into bunches. This did the work of 15 to 20 people. 


There was a large grinding stone for grain with a wheel suspended above to which a horse was harnessed.


The gain was crushed when the horse walked in circles, turning the wheel.


They had a machine pulled by a team of horses to dig out the potatoes and they hired people to follow the machine and pick up the potatoes.


They had chickens and about 100 geese.


They kept 15 to 20 geese for themselves, selling the others.


People from other villages would come to the farm to buy the geese once a year.


It was customary for the local farmers to go into town once a week to buy and sell to other farmers and merchants. 


However, the quantity of goods available at the Kalis farm made it practical for buyers to come directly to the farm and so they did not have to transport products into the village.


They had sheep, pigs, cattle and horses.


There was a fish/goose pond.


The women did the milking; probably Holstein cows.


The well had a long arm holding the bucket .


Water was draw by raising the arm and lowering the bucket down into the well. (typical for Poland and Eastern Europe).


There was a flower garden in the front of the house by the front door.


Because it faced the inside courtyard, it was a private garden, protected for their own enjoyment.


They ate fried eggs for breakfast and something lsimilar to oatmeal.


They raised a special breed of horses named Hanover Runners and then sold them to the English army. 


The horses sold for 500 to 600 marks when a regular working horse went for 100 marks.


This was at a time when a typical day's wages was a couple of marks.


Some members of our family preferred their life on the family farm to the option of emigrating to the United States.


Perhaps the scent of the lilac bushes, the shade of the Linden trees and the lace curtains on the windows moving in the summer breeze were part of the beauty they could not bear to leave behind.


We were very surprised to learn that the buildings and walls were constructed to form an interior courtyard.


This is not the usual configuration one finds for farm buildings in the United States, Germany, or Poland.


The in-facing house was cement and the in-facing barns, outbuilding and walls were configured in a square forming an enclosed, protected inside courtyard.


There is the advantage of privacy when one walks outside to the well in the morning to brush teeth.


We're sure that's not the only reason for the inside courtyard.


We've seen replicas of farmhouses that were put into use as forts during the Napoleonic Wars.


They look just like the Kalis farm.


It's interesting to note that our family told us the farm buildings were one hundred years old when the farm was purchased in the early part of the twentieth century.


That would make the date of construction during the Napoleonic Era.


It's an interesting possibility.



No 2 Kalis Property







(south to



Not drawn to scale


Neighbor's land



No. 1 Kalis Land

Aprox. 40 acres

and buildings



No. 3 Kalis Property

            Placement of House,                                                            (Purchases No. 2 and 3

            Aprox. 40 - 45 acres)