Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why I Farm Now

I was one of those lucky kids that got to grow up next door to my maternal grandparents, my parents moved from "town" back to the farm when I was nine and built a house between my grandparents and an uncle. Some days it was awesome and some days I complained loudly about being dragged away from civilization and my friends. My days before had been filled with riding my bike in the neighborhood, taking the quick walk to the library or to Dairy Queen for a dipped cone with my group of friends. All of a sudden I was out in the country, no local anything. But I was lucky enough to live on a loop road, so I was able to ride my bike as much as I wanted with little to no worries about traffic.

While I won't say it was all rosy and wonderful, I can say that I had a different, happier, independent childhood than the friends that lived in town. My parents both worked in town, not on the farm but I did learn about farming. My uncle had cows, my grandmother had  a wonderful garden full of flowers and vegetables, and my grandfather had the all important tractor. We had ponds, woodlands, a small creek and dirt, lots and lots of dirt. I never did catch the elusive "Ground Itch" I was constantly warned about and I am happy to say I still avoid shoes whenever possible.

 My early memories of summer are working right along side my grandmother, in the garden with a old large kitchen spoon. I was allowed to dig and make mud pies to my heart's content, my cousins called me the dirt dobber (which is also a name for a wasp so I never understood that and they claimed to find spoons in the garden space many years after I had moved out and away. 

Later I would be consigned to a chair in the yard shelling beans, shucking corn and scraping potatoes for hours. I didn't realize how much of an impression sitting in the shade with my Grandmother, Aunt and other assorted relatives had really made on me. I was given a job, which taught me responsibility,  I learned about growing food and "putting it up", which gave me confidence that I was a valuable helper and best of all I got to listen in on the gossip which made me feel included, as well as gave a bit of leverage over my older Along with that I learned self sufficiency, we weren't poor nor did we do without but we made sure everything was used to it's fullest. I learned where food comes from and when it's available. I learned how hours in the sun snapping or shelling beans pays off at Christmas when everyone is enjoying the family dinner. The best part was being let loose after the work was done, to go play hide and seek in the cornfields or to splash around in the creek with the crayfish and turtles, and more than often it was just to find a sunny spot to read a book

Late Summer and Early Fall brought harvesting, I still miss the smell of the tobacco curing and the smokehouse in full swing with hams and homemade sausage. Growing and Carving our own pumpkins and not to mention the 100 year old grape vine that was first picked and then pruned back. That meant jelly had to be made and then grapevine wreaths and baskets were made for family and friends for the holidays. Sweet Potatoes and other crops to be harvested by hand and have no doubt my cousins and I were easy and cheap labor. 

In the winter there were always barns to play in and trees to climb. My Mom got ambitious one year and we trekked through the woods until we found the perfect cedar tree, we dug it up and transplanted it in the yard, only because I couldn't stand the idea of it being cut down and then thrown away. Then there is the fact that my grandmother was a professional seamstress and I learned so many crafts from her. We pieced and hand-quilted a quilt for each of her grandchildren for when they got married. She valiantly worked with me on learning to sew, Showed me time and time again how to crochet and  I in turn taught her how to cross stitch. We both decided embroidery was a waste of time.

Then spring finally rolled around and it planting season again. I loved being able to go to the FCX and help pick out the seeds for the year. They sent them home in small brown paper bags and I spent hours counting and sorting seeds when I was small and then being allowed to gently place the seeds in the rows, (that was my personal take on it, I'm sure they were strewn all over and some happened to land in the right spot, but no one complained)

Yes, time makes the memories seem better than they were, at 18 I swore I would never ever shell another bean and I couldn't get out fast enough. Were there time it was awful, yes but those fade with time. Now I'm glad to have had the experience to learn about where my food comes from, understanding that local really is better and that a cool stream on a hot day makes it all worth while.
That's why many years later we continue to garden, make preserves and "Put up" veggies, and sell it to others so that maybe they can catch a glimpse of how great it is to have a connection to a farm including the dirt, the sunshine and the past.

Find a local farm, take a tour, get some veggies and most of all play a bit in the dirt, it will make everything just a bit better.