LEARNING TO LIVE OFF THE LAND – PART 2
It was towards the end of summer that my parents drove down one weekend to visit my dad’s sister, Irene and her husband Earl. I was fraught with anticipation about the upcoming harvest of vegetables, picking blackberries (which are very difficult and scratchy by the way). Every time we visited and stepped onto their front “breezeway” the scent of fresh blackberry, blueberry, peach, pear, raisin, plum, apple or cherry pie greeted us. My mom would giggle with excitement if it were raisin or peach and if it were cherry pie my dad would almost jump for joy.
My folks left me again so that Aunt Irene could teach me more about “living off the land”. On that first Monday morning, I was up early and all ready to go out with my uncle to “help” him with his morning chores and to bring in the “girls” for milking; my aunt had other plans….
About 6:00 am, we went out to the chicken coop to gather eggs – she told me, “You have to be careful of snakes, they like to curl up under the chickens and eat the eggs and look out under the coop because sometimes the mice will run up your pant leg and ALWAYS lock up the coop when you leave so that the fox and coyotes don’t get in and kill the chickens”. WHAT, Fox and Coyote?? I was petrified of the chicken coop. Then she said with great enthusiasm – “you’ll be doing this all by yourself by the end of the first week!” What – what do you mean the first week – how long am I going to be here in this snake, fox and coyote infested place?
After the scary chickens, we headed for the garden. I’m not sure how I had never noticed the size of her garden before. I always thought of a garden as a cute little plot of land full of beautiful vegetables and flowers. Well, her “garden” was not a little plot of land – it was almost a half-acre and she tended it year after year by hand with no help or machinery. She bought me my own pair of gloves (which I was thrilled about) then we began to hoe between the rows to get out all the weeds that had grown over night.
The first day we harvested, what seemed like to this now 7 year old girl, about 40 billion green beans. We put the buckets of beans into a little wagon and pulled them (I pushed) up to the porch where we washed them with water from the pump and then rinsed them through a strainer that my uncle Earl had made. I thought – phew, we are done! Now it was time to fix breakfast……. I was too tired to eat, how could we have to make breakfast?
To be continued –