I remember the cattle that lived in the old historic barn and pastured in the fresh green field beyond the lawn. And the chickens roosting in their ample-sized hen house. I recall sweeping out the coop when they were out grazing in the grass. Grandma taught new baby chicks to eat by dunking their little heads into the food. I thought it rather harsh, but it worked.
Our family moved to the West when I was seven years old. I was just beginning to learn about the farm. Today I read “School Work in the Barn”, a post by Sarah Kroger, and the farm came flooding back to me. I now realize the importance of those memories and what I learned from farm-life.
I remember the porch swing and making mud pies under the big oak tree. The tree swing and the lesson that kittens don’t particularly care for swinging. (I still have the scar on my right hand.) The sound of Grandma’s kitchen screen door, a screech and a bang, is imprinted in my head, or maybe my heart. So is Grandma’s “Well, I’ll be!” and “Sugar-tits!”
I remember the scents: clean, not unpleasant. Even the barn had its characteristic combination of manure and hay. I saw grandma milking her reliable cow, and I remember having to stand in a certain place to avoid being kicked. I even tried milking, although I had not yet learned the way before we left. The fresh warm milk had a wonderful scent too–sweet and creamy.
I remember the tastes: fresh and wonderful, strangely different than grocery store food. Grandma had white chickens who laid regular eggs, but the tiny “Banty” eggs that Grandma cooked especially for me are among my favorite memories. Two little yolks stood orangey and tall alongside a delicious slice of homemade white bread on the sunny-side-up plate. The fresh picked blackberries from the bramble near the woodpile were so sweet and juicy. Grandma made the best chicken soup and stored it frozen in cubes. I thought that was particularly clever. I remember the gamey taste of ground hog. My brother shot one and Grandma made us try it. Also the deer meat.
I remember the big vegetable patch in back of Grandma’s house. I collected seeds from the marigolds for her. She grew cabbages, tomatoes, corn, green beans, lettuce, and more. I didn’t appreciate the effort it took at the time. Life on the farm was simpler, I guess, but it was not an easy simple. Grandma kept the old farm house up as best she could. The big wrap-around porch always seemed freshly painted, along with the metal porch chairs. Wood was chopped for the stove and water drawn from the red pump that my cousin eventually moved to the kitchen sink. Grandma washed clothes in the old wringer washer on the screened in back porch. Freshly laundered clothes drying in the side yard’s sun.
I’m sure I could have learned much more had I been exposed to life on the farm at an older age. Grandma had moved to an apartment near my aunt by the time I went back to visit.
My most important and lasting memory was Grandma’s soap curing in the basement and how proud she was that it floated. I wish I was older and could have made soap with her. I wish I knew her recipe. But a seed was planted in my brain at the time that eventually led to my many enjoyable years of making soap. A gift Grandma had no way of knowing would be such a major part of my life.