LEARNING TO LIVE OFF THE LAND
I was a busy little child. I never stopped moving from the moment my feet hit the floor to the time I went to bed. And if you ask my sister, whom I shared a bed with until I was 10 years old; I didn’t even stop moving (or talking) after bedtime came.
When I was 6 and in the first grade my mother could hardly wait until school was over in the spring and she could stick me on a bus to go visit my Aunt Irene and Uncle Earl in Fort Scott, Kansas about 90 miles from home for two weeks – later I learned it was my mom’s summer vacation every year.
They taught me how to use some of my energy for useful things such as caring for other people, animals and the land. I would get up at 5:00 am, pull on my red rubber boots (which were at least 3 sizes too big) and head to the field with my uncle to check the crops, fences and to bring in the milk cows. We would have the cows in by 7:00 and my Aunt Irene would have a great breakfast waiting for us. As soon as we finished eating we’d go to the barn and bring in the “girls” for milking. I usually played up in the hay loft looking through the holes in the rafters at the cows, and my uncle, and throw down little pieces of hay to tease him and get him to look up and say, “Where’s that straw coming from? I’m gonna have to patch those holes up there”. Then he’d laugh and tell me to get down from there before a mouse or snake could get me. Yikes!
Around noon we’d go in for “dinner” which would consist of home grown and canned food that my aunt would pull from the cellar that was out by the pump house. I asked one day why her food came in jars and not tin cans like the food at my house and how she could just go outside and grab a jar and never went to the grocery store. She smiled and said it was because they lived off the land. I had to think about that for a while.
Thus began my lessons in tending the chickens, gardening, hoeing, weeding and canning – or “putting up” as she called it. This summer I would get to come back in the fall for “putting up” – mom would get 2 vacations!!
To be continued –