Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lessons I learned from my dad......

I always look forward to Spring and I watch and wait patiently for all the signs....the first peepers calling as they make their way out of the cold and semi-frozen mud, the multitudes of Robins gathering in the yard looking for those first worms, the lilac bush beginning to bud, and the red bud tree turning pink. The dogwoods are just now beginning to open and the yard is finally turning green and ready to mow! We've got new baby chicks in the "warmer" on the back porch, the wild turkey's are making their way into the lower field, and the young deer have been spotted at the feeder...yep, I do believe Spring has finally arrived!

I could wait no longer last weekend to get out in the garden and start the annual planting; along with that first mowing, working the garden has to be about one of my favorite things to do around here! I always try to rush it and you'd think by now I'd know better, but as soon as that first warm day shows up I'm ready. I did get the peas and lettuce in early and they are up and growing even after the hard frost we had a week later, but it's those tomatoes I really look forward to getting into the ground and thoughts of fresh, sliced, garden tomatoes haunt my dreams on every warm day we manage to get!!

While Mom did garden and loved to work in the dirt, I really think her love of dirt tended more toward growing flowers and things to "pretty up" the yard. My dad, on the other hand, was a "survivalist" and he'd grow anything and everything he could get his hands on that pertained to food. Tomatoes, potatoes, and corn were the priorities on his list, everything else after that was just extras! He done a fair job at growing most all of it and from as far back as I can remember he'd pass along tips to me. Being the last one at home, I think I got more instruction from our Dad than the rest of my siblings, or maybe I was the only one who paid attention, because none of the others seemed to recall many of those lessons in life!! ;) Either way, there are many things I still recall today as I go to plant my own garden. In his latter years, his health kept him from doing too much, but he still wanted a garden, so it was up to the hubs and I to plow it, disc it, till it, and plant it...all the while my dad would set on an orange milk crate handing out the orders. Just like a drill sergeant, he'd tell me how to keep that tractor straight, mark those rows off just right, and plant those seeds exactly so far apart. In between all that "barking of orders" though, he'd also let slip a compliment now and then, which is what kept me planting and not walking off the job! ;) To give him credit, he didn't just always bark orders, although that was his mainstay of doing things, he did "explain" in between times WHY it should be done this way or that and it was those things I paid the closest attention to!

My dad was a hard man to please in many ways, although looking back, I don't think it was his intention to always find something wrong with what you did...he just wanted to make sure you did it right so as not to have to do it over. And I really do think he wanted to pass along what he had learned himself...he just wouldn't always be called the best of teachers! Although my mother claimed I inherited many of my dad's "characteristics" (most of which she wasn't too pleased with!), I must have also inherited my mother's patience and resilience when working with the man, because it's many of those same things I still use and apply today. I never really knew just why he worked so hard at having the first ripe tomato by the 4th of July, I just recall he always did and so, now I find myself watching my vines; waiting and hoping to accomplish that same feat. I have managed to accomplish this a time or two and I have to say I always feel like my dad is somewhere smiling when it happens! I recall him always saying to me, "Now pay attention Putt (yes, that was my nickname, right up to the day he passed away!), because I'm not always going to be around to show you how it's done...", and I think he'd be happy to know I did in fact, "pay attention"!!

I may be pushing it, but most of my garden is planted now and I'll be watching it carefully through the production. We no longer put out one that requires a tractor to plow it (thankfully!), but it's big enough for me to enjoy and reap the rewards from! Once again I'll be checking those tomatoes as they put on and start to turn and counting those days until the 4th of July and if I'm lucky....I'll not only be eating fresh ones on the 4th, but maybe a few beforehand!! Because another lesson I learned from my dad?! Always try to beat the other feller at his own game!! ;)


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Back to the Landers, Peace Freaks, and Hippies..oh my!!

I am of the generation who rode through the late 1960's and early 70's...that tumultuous time in history that always seems to be remembered as the "Hippie Era"! And while there was certainly no shortage of hippies in most parts of the country, it took awhile for all that to arrive here in the rural areas. Oh sure, I had some bell bottom jeans, wore my hair long (I was already blonde!), sported a choker or headband now and then, but for the most part that was my stint in the morphing of American youth!! ;) I will say though, that in some ways the Hippie "ideologies" were not so far off as ways of living, most of which my family was already doing and had been doing for years...we just called it "being poor!"

Today, if someone mentions homesteading or going back to the land you get this eye rolling look that says, "ohhhh...must be an old hippy!" I, myself, have been asked when mentioning something I've discovered or am trying: "Going back to your hippy days?" Sure, if that's what you want to call it...I call it going back to how I was raised! Chickens in the back yard, an herb garden out front, drinking raw cows milk, and making homemade everything...well, almost homemade everything!! It's like we've forgotten there was a whole generation before us that lived liked this everyday. As a matter of fact, it was the only choice they had or they starved!

I've always felt like I was born in the wrong era and maybe it's because my parents were a lot older when I came along so therefore I lived out a part of THEIR era....either way I've always been drawn to "naturals" kids always called it "doing things the hard way"!!! But I've always longed and wanted to learn the old ways of doing things...I just found it all...well, fun!! When I finally got my kids back to the country during the ages of 4-11 I wanted them to experience how life used to be...they never found it fun! ;) We spent a summer doing laundry in a wringer washer! I planted, harvested, dried, and used herbs, including medicinal ones.We raised goats, chickens, geese, and turkeys, along with rabbits we butchered. We went "halves" with my folks in gardening and home butchering for pork and rendering our own lard...I even tried my hand at tanning a goat hide!! I really miss those days, although I'm sure my children do not!! And of course I canned everything and sewed anything I could get my hands children will tell you a constant quote of mine was always, "I can make it cheaper than that!" and I most certainly tried!

The youngest of my brothers apparently felt the same way and I remember him buying his first subscription to Mother Earth News and then passing the magazines along to our mother. This brother could legitimately be called a hippie...he embraced the whole era, including parts that were better left alone, but he longed to live "resourcefully" as well and at the time, Mother Earth News was a fairly new magazine on the market that catered to those "back to the landers". What it really did was capture and print many of the ways of the bygone era and rose up against those in the medical and governmental industry who pushed a processed way of living on folks. Today Mother Earth News is still going strong and is read by millions who have now decided their concepts were right all along!!

A few months ago as I was finding my way back to a better way of living, I remembered my brother AND the magazine! The wonderful world of internet now brings me the magazine and all it's tips and tricks right to my home with the click of a button and I have really enjoyed reading the various articles and blogs that is included on their website and those links they include to people living just the way I'd love to be! As I'm scanning through all those articles I just feel myself wishing I could quit my job, stay home, and utilize ALL of my 40 acres to "living off the land"! I am slowly attempting to accomplish that, once again, with my backyard chickens and garden spot, my fruit trees and grape vines and hopefully this herb garden! I'm trying to slowly rid us of processed food, getting back into my home cooking, making butter and jellies, and even working on some natural body products. I never truly left my way of living, I just got off track of it for awhile and to be honest, I think my health has paid for that!

I know my "mental" health has really paid for it because for the last few years I've just felt myself dragging through life as I know it. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and what I do, but I'm just one of those people who has more of an infinity with the land than I do with the people on it! To an extent, I am a loner, an independent, and feel much more at home talking to my chickens than a room full of me crazy, but that's just how I am!! ;) I love digging in the dirt and getting something to grow, I also love the harvesting of those somethings and staring at the well earned jars that line my pantry at the end of the season. Accomplishment to me is not the size of a paycheck and what it puts in my home, but the ability to look out over the hills at the end of a hard worked day outside, listening to the sounds gathering around me. Or watching my granddaughter's eyes light up with a new dress I whipped out from my sewing machine...or chasing another one away from the batch of homemade cookies stored on the counter.

So, I guess in a way, I am an old hippie...the farther away from "the establishment" I can get, the better I like it! The less dependent I am on that same establishment is even better! Growing up, I remember my dad always saying "if you've got a piece of land you can survive" and apparently my young mind took that to heart. I also recall those times when he would show me how something was done and him telling me that one day I would need to know those things and I better learn it now because he wouldn't always be around to tell me...I also took that to heart!! My dad had a fear that "times would get hard" and I'm sure some of that was because he lived through the depression era and seen it for himself. He also lived through the prosperity after WWII and felt it wouldn't last. I now feel the same way and worry what my grandchildren's "world" will be like...I can tell you I don't like the looks of it right now or the path it is taking!

I don't know how "back to the land" I will get, but I've decided to start back on the road to getting there and maybe, along the way, I can pass some of it on to my children and grandchildren...because after all...I won't always be around for them to ask me!