On the farm, having a list of ‘must do's’ completed is necessary before one can consider how to spend a leisure moment.

There are various chores: Maybe the cows need milking, eggs need gathered, hogs need fed, or perhaps the cattle want more earlage, Maybe the tractors need refueling, a belt needs tightened, a part needs ordered, bills need paid. Parents would like a visit, phone calls need returned, crop test plots researched–and isn’t that is a salesman at the door?

It doesn't take long for any farm to put together a list of ‘must do’s’.  And ‘must do’ lists are unique to each farm. We affectionately refer to our list as the “Daily Dozen”.

When my children were growing up, they often hear me say: "Nothing happens here until the Daily Dozen are done.” For me, many mornings started with making and baking pies for the farmer's market and special orders. I couldn’t even think about doing anything else until the pies were cooling and the kitchen was back in apple-pie order!

Whether it’s a conscious effort or not, most of us have daily ‘must do's’. These may or may not be written on our daily task lists, but they still exist. These are things that just have to be done for the day to ‘be right’. For some people, it may be foods they include (or exclude) from their daily diet, or it may be a radio program they tune in to, or perhaps a series of Facebook pages to read.


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Mr. Walter Chauncey Camp coined the phrase “Daily Dozen”. We all know Walter Chauncey Camp as the father of American football. His influence on the game fine-tuned it, shaping it into the sport we know today. And yes, way back in 1889 he started selecting the best football players for the All-American team.

But WWI came along and we suddenly realized our youth were in poor condition. (Don't ask me how that could be with all the hard physical work of that era, walking uphill to and from school with no leisure time to watch television or waste hours before a computer screen.) But compared to the German youth, who had been promoting physical fitness, we were 'softies'.

Walter Camp knew this because he served as Chairman of the Athletic Department of the United States commission on Training Camp Activities. In 1921, he developed his 'Daily Dozen'. These were calisthenics, done in a certain order, daily. He even published a book called The Daily Dozen.

You might have learned that 'Daily Dozen' exercise routine back in elementary school. First, learning how to spell ‘calisthenics’ without error. We also learned the words ‘daily’ and ‘dozen’ came from two Greek words meaning beauty and strength.

Once those lessons were taught, the PhysEd teacher taught us calisthenics that if done daily, would give us a running start to our day, with more energy and cheerfulness. These would only take about a dozen minutes to do, and could easily be repeated throughout the day. Those windmills, knee bends and stretching exercises we laughed at were actually used by our serviceman to stay in shape!

Calisthenics worked well with the smaller school budgets of those days. The 'Daily Dozen' were designed to teach us how to build body strength, endurance, and grace without special equipment. Dollars spent on exercise equipment would have been frowned by the school board, which usually was made up of parents, of which many were farmers. (Their thought was if we needed more exercise, there was always a barn that needed pitching out!)

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While I wish I had paid more attention in gym class to those calisthenics, here is one 'Daily Dozen' that shouldn't be forgotten.  It's often referred to as the ‘Quakers Daily Dozen’:

1. Begin each day with prayer.

2. Work hard.

3. Love your family.

4. Make light of your troubles.

5. Follow the Golden Rule.

6. Read from the Bible.

7. Show kindness.

8. Read worthwhile books.

9. Be clean and pure.

10. Have charity in your heart.

11. Be obedient and respectful.

12. End the day in prayer.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa. To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]



The Daily Dozen, Hardcover – 1925