Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here's another story from Grandma Fern....

I had alot of compliments about my last article written by Grandma Fern. Thanks to every one who responded. I love to look back at what life was like when it was "easier". So here is another article....it is very long and I will put it into two parts, but I feel is worth the read....Enjoy!

They Made it - Could We?

by Fern Christian Miller

Part One

My mother's parents had twelve children. They owned an eighty-acre farm near a small town in central Missouri. I am sure they lived modestly, but they reared ten of these children and sent them to high school. In fact, two daughters got their Masters' degrees from college. The youngest, near my age, is now teaching small Indians in Arizona. All married. None were divorced. The years I remember are from 1912 to about 1926, at which time they moved to town to retire.
How well I remember when, as a very small child, I stayed a week with Grandma during the summer. This was the first of regular summer visits. Grandpa ran a small dairy and truck patch. His customers came out from town for milk, cream, home-churned butter, cottage cheese, buttermilk, eggs, honey, fruit in season, and fresh vegetables.
In autumn, the woodlot and trees along the creek furnished walnuts and giant hickory nuts. Cull trees furnished wood for the big black "oak" range in the kitchen and the huge round wood stove in the living room. The doors were arranged so the two downstairs bedrooms were warmed (somewhat) by heat circulating through. The two slant-ceiling upstairs bedrooms were warmed by registers in the floor over the stoves below.
Grandma and Grandpa were organic gardeners and farmers, although they wouldn't have called themselves that. They just called it taking care of the farm. The manure spreader and horses that pulled it were an important part of that small farm. The soil was rather sandy. Humus was added regularly in the form of horse, cow, hog, and chicken manure, and also straw and haystack "bottoms". Crops were rotated regularly in the cultivated fields. Two long, fenced hog lots, each with it small pond at the end, were rotated also: hogs one year, truck patch the next. The truck patches were planted to Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and crowder peas. As the sweet corn came up, pumpkins were planted between the stalks. First cultivating was done with horses, but as the vines grew, the older children worked with hoes to keep down the weeds.
The chickenyards were managed in the same way. I don't know whose idea that was, as it is the only farm I remember seeing managed this way. A tall, regularly mended, woven-wire fence surrounded two plots, with the chicken house and brooder house set in the fence between. A small pen was put up annually for the young chicks. Grandma raised only enough chickens for fryers, and pullets enough to supply her family and customers with eggs. (She also raised geese in one end of the big cow pasture, but that's another story.)
Naturally all the children were taught to help as soon as possible. All hen house manure, leaves raked in the yard, and other materials available were spread over the chickenyard and plowed under in the fall. After the last vegetable was harvested, the door at that side of the chicken house was opened and the chickens moved. After they picked over everything, all plants were pulled and tossed over the fence and plowed under. Turnips and carrots and parsnips were left to cure, for chickens didn't dig them out. Later they were stored in a pit.
The pasture was along the creek and included the woodlot and small bit of timber. The big spring-fed "swimming hole and fishing hole" in the creek never went dry. This was called permanent pasture, never was plowed, and reached by a lane between the meadow and the hog lots. The meadow was pastured after the mowing and sacking of hay, thus allowing the regular pasture to "rest" until it got a start in the spring. Seldom was any crop sold. It was used to feed the livestock on the farm.
The yard itself was large and well fenced, with a white gate at the front next to the drive. (What fun it was to jump out of the "surrey" and dash up the brick walk to hug my grandparents and young aunts and uncles.) As I remember, the fruit trees were mostly in the yard: pear trees in the back corner, apples trees at the side front, cherries at the other back corner, peaches and red and damson plums at the end of a field next to the yard, and grapes over the well house and along one fence. Wild blackberries and gooseberries and persimmons grew along the creek and were harvested in season. Wild cherries, wild grapes, and elderberries were used for jams and jellies mixed with other fruit juices (usually apple) to make them more tasty. Grandma never bought "store pectin". She seemed to know which fruits naturally had an abundance, and saved juice (often canned) to use with the mild ones. The dwarf wild plums ripened along the roadsides in September. They wee sharp and bitter, but mixed with mild peach juice made delightful pink jelly and jam.
Along under the fruit trees and flowering shrubs and old-fashioned bush roses, Grandma had her beehives. She tended them herself with a veil over her sunbonnet and half-mitts on her hands. She was never stung, but Grandpa couldn't go near them. A small well tended strawberry patch was in one part of the yard. As the children married, they were given "runners" to start their own beds.
A three-cornered patch near the creek was planted to cane. Each fall the stripped cane was hauled to a neighboring sorghum mill. The neighbor made sweet, thick sorghum molasses on the shares. He sold his share, but Grandfather took his home for his family. A few gallons were sold to customers who had asked ahead. A "square" of popcorn was sown at one side of the vegetable garden with big winter squash between.
The cane, popcorn, and sweet corn were separated to keep the seed from "mixing" because they saved own seed. The same was true of the big winter squash, the pumpkins, cucumbers, muskmelons, and watermelons. These were rotated between garden spots to prevent ruining next year's seed.
Part two coming soon......

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What is God doing?

We recently headed out on a much needed vacation..we were looking so forward to it. Last Friday my husband came home and said "I have had a bad day!" I asked what happened and he told me that there would be layoffs come Monday (the first day of our vacation). Two people from our office would be affected. What do you do? Cancel your vacation? Under most circumstances,we would have done that, but we had already paid a lot of money to cancel. We would loose it all. So, after talking to his boss, Brian was encouraged to go ahead and go. Monday came as we waited by our hotel room phone to get the news. Around 7pm that night, the call came in. Over 100 people had lost their jobs. One was in our office, with the other job hainging in the balance. The rumors have already started flying about this and that and it is so hard to know what to say. It seems like life is squeezing us all. What is God doing? What is He preparing us for? I ask these questions, not expecting answers, but just throwing it out there. Please be in prayer for all those people with State Parks who have lost their jobs. Keep in mind also that there are many rumors flying around, so you may not get an entire story.

~Sad, but pressing on

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Keep them young just a little longer Lord

My youngest came up to me and asked if we could go on a walk yesterday. Of course I would go with him. I spend a lot of time with my daughter, but not much time with my sons.... so off we went. WOW... what a wonderful treasure. I had the best time just walking with the boys, listening to them chatter back and forth about this and that. I noticed my oldest one has grown considerably tall and handsome. He has muscles that I never noticed before. This, I'm sure, will bring around those pesty females... so I'd better get me a big stick. My youngest one is so full of life. He loves to look around and see the good in EVERYTHING. We were walking down the main gravel road just looking at stuff. Boys do that... they look at stuff. Well, there were tracks galore..... opposum, racoon, bison, dog and boy tracks. The boys were down, with their faces looking at these tracks. Was is a opposum track? Was is a racoon track? Some of the tracks had been washed some by the rain earlier in the day. Then they took me to the cattleguard crossing to see if the Black snake was still there. Thankfully, no snake. Then we headed back observing the paths that had been left by all the wild animals who had traveled across the road and down into the woods. "How can you tell that," I asked. They showed me how the grass had been broken over and the ground had been disturbed. I just stood in awe at everything these guys knew... the 9 year old was very well versed in outdoor skills, as well as the older one. Theire dad has done a terrific job with them. It makes me wonder at times... if they need me at all. heheheh It was a great afternoon of reconnecting with my boys.

Until net time...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nothing like home made applebutter!

Last weekend was a wonderful day. It was cool and crisp, with a hint of fall arriving in full swing. Early Saturday morning, my mother-in-law and myself went into Lamar to take my oldest son to soccer, for he was a referee in the morning games for the local league. While we waited, we headed over to the famous Lamar square, where the Apple Days Festival was just getting started. What a great morning of just walking along the sidewalk, around the large courthouse, stopping to talk to many friends and acquaintances, as well as making new friends along the way. I will post more on that later. I just loved looking at all the wonderful wares that people had put their hearts and souls into. I met a wonderful local couple who makes their own soaps and balms. It is wonderful. You can check out their information by looking at my list of blogs I follow... it is under Peaceacre farms... I bought my MOPS discount card. Now I can head to the local Dairy Queen and buy a small blizzard and get one free. It pays for itself in only two visits. I love ice cream and have a friend who loves it just as much as I do... in fact, we usually try to get our husbands to buy the ice cream before the meal when we are on a double date. Anyway, back to my post. After feeding my 15 y.o. son after the games, we headed home. Earlier in the week the kids and I had ventured over to the east side of Barton county and bought three bushels of apples from a local Amish farmer. They were great apples. We pulled out the table we use every year, attached my NEW Pampered Chef apple peeler/corer/slicer ( I have already gone thru one of them), and started in. Everyone knew their places. My son loves love loves to peel the apples, while the two others cut the slices into fours. My mother in law carts the apple slices into the kitchen and I pummel them in the food processor. After getting the apples to the perfect consistency (they say I am picky), I put them in a pot on the stove with sugar, spices and water to cook down. After a while, we then ladle the mixture into hot jars and wha lah.... hot apple butter. The kids love to eat the peels as they come off the peeler.
I started this tradition purely out of intrigue one year when the kids were really little. I had been watching Martha Stewart Living one day and she was making applesauce. I thought if she could do it, then why couldn't I. Little did I know I was starting a well loved family tradition. We look forward to this special time every year. I never dreamed that my kids would be in their preteens and teens and still love to help me with it. Don't get me wrong... they love to eat it. It goes very fast.... this year, however, I made 40 quarts. I sent quite a bit home with my mother in law, as she had gone in with us to purchase the apples. I think I can make it for a while with what I have. There have been times when I have had to put a lock on the apple butter door. hahahahaha....
Until next time...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall is here!!

I love autumn. It is such a wonderful time of cool weather, beautiful color outside and just a repreive from the hot summer sun. Autumn brings about a busy time around our house. The tea pots come out and scones are baked for a hot cup of tea in the crisp morning. Yum! One of our favorite traditions that I started when the kids were little, is to make applebutter. Each year we shop around for the best priced apples and buy usually two to three bushels. This year we bought three. I am planning on dehydrating some apple slices for a winter treat. I used to take the kids to a pumpkin patch before we moved here. I realized last night that we had not visited one in a long time. I looked up a place on the internet and found that it was close by, so we will be visiting one hopefully next weekend. Another tradition (that my dd and I have not been able to attend in a couple of years) is a large extended family Harvest Party. All the aunts and uncles as well as the cousins and their children get together near Springfield, Mo. and enjoy a day out. There usually is a theme. This year it is Superheros. I am thinking about going as Van Mom... since I am in the van driving down the hiway so much. Not sure how to pull that one off. Not sure I want to, but anyway the day is quite a blast. Our kids can spend the time with thier cousins. The day also has an archery contest and a weiner roast. So.... the windows are open, there are chocolate chunk cookies in the oven, apples drying in the dehydrater and after school is finished, I will clean for dinner company. That always brings about a wonderful smell of a clean house. Oh, did I mention that the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice is always on when I clean. My boys just love it.....NOT!

Until next time....