My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm — IV

A Snowy Nostalgia

by tkbrown

20 February 2021 — Growing up in the Ozarks, I was so blessed to experience four distinctive seasons each year. The snows blanketing our country during the past two weeks brought back memories. Just prior to the onset of winter storms Uri and Viola, one of my siblings and I were talking about the winters of our youth bringing much more snow than we have seen in recent decades. We were a bit nostalgic about the memories associated with those snows–at times they were two feet deep or more with drifts three to four feet deep. One Christmas Eve, an older sibling drove in from another state and parked their Volkswagen in front of the house. The next morning, there was just a big hump in the front yard–no visible evidence of the car buried beneath all that snow.

Winter brought with it the excitement of holidays, snows and ice coated trees which I thought were absolutely beautiful with the sun shining through them early in the morning. Riding the bus to school, I often commented on how much I loved seeing that aspect of winter. Other bus riders could not see what I saw. I suppose, in their minds it was too early in the morning and they were still snug in bed and fast asleep. They wanted no part of my icy reveries which threatened to eject them from their warm ones.

On days when conditions were too dangerous for the busses to risk the drive to school, and on weekends, etc., I could enjoy the evidence of Jack Frost’s visit during the night. The etchings on our windows boasted designs far more intricate than most paintings. The beauty of winter escaped many, but I never missed a beat of its cold heart. I loved looking out the windows to see God’s handiwork. Even having to carry in wood and coping with one side of me getting too toasty as it faced the old wood heater while the other side froze could not diminish its value in my heart. To me, even during the season others viewed as representing death in life’s cycle, nature’s beauty surpassed any ugliness that came with it.

My heart goes out to those who suffered hardship and loss during the past couple of weeks. I understand the blessings of modern technologies have allowed many of us to advance beyond the primitive realities associated with the wood heating of my childhood. However, news of the suffering many endured due to the overwhelming frigidness of the temperatures and accompanying snows brought back memories of always being able to stoke a fire in that old wood heater or turn-on the gas heater and kitchen range even as the electricity failed us. Living on the coast and enduring a number of hurricanes, I loved being able to cook a pot of beans and rice or cornbread on that gas range for us to eat until. We never missed a hot meal during a power outage. That is one part of having less than others I have never regretted.

As the days of my childhood grew warmer and steadily longer, springtime dropped in for a visit. When the dogwoods and redbuds began to bloom, I knew spring would soon be in the air. Our springs were long enough to truly enjoy the rebirth of life associated with the cool days of fragrant, variegated greens and yellow greens. The fresh bursts of color in both nature and homestead, and the planting of seeds–as the days grew warmer–from which we would enjoy the produce over the coming year. These were fertile reminders of life budding anew. Springtime in the Ozarks is a rebirth of every aspect of living.

As school let out, days were becoming hotter and longer. Soon, summertime was in full swing. The heat–sometimes blazing heat–in luscious green surroundings seemed to embrace me with appreciation for the growing and reaping to be done. The mouth-waterin’ vegetables, fruits, and berries we harvested each year were my favorite part of livin’ off the soil. I looked forward to the watermelons, the peaches, and other produce peddled to locals by other locals because these were never locally grown in sufficient quantity. The annual hog-killin’ in late July or early August with the fresh tenderloin to follow at breakfast the next morning was usually assisted by cousins from other states. Afterward, we would all gather ’round to enjoy a feast of fresh pork and fresh vegetables from the garden. If we were lucky, the activities of this day coincided with the peach purchase mentioned above, thus prompting a bowl of peaches ‘n cream for dessert. Summertime food was always so delicious. To this day, I love the abundance of produce available during spring, summer, and fall. UUMmMmmmmm!

Fall in the Ozarks blanketed the area with bursts of color on every hillside–red, yellow, orange, and crimson mingled with green and brown–with the cedars etching a bit of evergreen and each frost increasing the browns. Vegetables that had not been harvested from the garden were brought in, preserved, and stored for winter. The Halloween Carnivals (now Fall Festivals) and Thanksgiving only added to the excitement and anticipation of Christmas ahead.

Now, we cannot forget the annual harvest celebration in a neighboring county. As we grew a little older, we could most always see a slew of people we knew at the Hootin’ ‘n Hollerin’ celebration. The Hog Callin’ contest was the most sought after prize of the day. Usually, this prize was taken by a woman ’cause she had looootts o’ practice from callin’ her husband in for supper every night.

When I was young (early childhood–preschool age), the fall also boasted an Annual Pie Supper to benefit the school. I was too young to participate, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching older sisters baking pies to be auctioned off and eaten with the highest bidder. Some of those pies were well-known and sought after–bringin’ a right-good price to compliment and redden the face of some young lass.

Then there was the Annual Talent Show. Local talent turned out in droves to assist in raisin’ funds for our school. As I mentioned above, I was too young for the Pie Supper, but Mama and Daddy were sure to sign me up for the Talent Show. I began singing at the tender age of three. The Pie Suppers and Talent Shows fell by the wayside by the time I reached school age, but I remember the fun they provided all who participated. All of the excitement added to the bliss of those fall days, which were cooler and reminded me of the holidays and winter wonderlands yet to come.

I look back on my growing-up years, and although there were bad times, I do not remember too many of them. I always felt blessed somehow to be a part of all my surroundings–family, neighbors, friends, and nature. I learned so very much from all that I experienced. You just had to be there and see it through my eyes to understand the level of nostalgia felt at times when engrossed in reminiscing those days of yore.

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Photo at the Top: by MikeGoad @pixabay.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm — II

~~ by tkbrown —

27 November 2020 — One of my Daddy’s favorite stories to tell of my childhood was a day we were all outside, gathered round bunches of corn that had been allowed to harden on the cob. This corn was used for grain to be fed the chickens and other animals. I remember, Daddy kept a huge wooden barrel outside the fence of the pig sty. When we were fattening a hog for butchering, he kept sour-mesh in this barrel. The sour-mesh stunk–oooooohhh, did it stink–due to the fermenting process taking place. At the time, I did not understand the reason behind that odor. I just knew it stunk. Some of the corn we had in the midst of our circle on this particular day would later make its way into one of those barrels of sour mesh.

I was about four years old, so all but a couple of the older siblings were still at home. We, along with Mama and Daddy, were outside, circled around a pile of corn with the shucks still on. We were shucking corn. One of the neighbors drove by enroute to see someone further down the road. As he was driving back toward his home, he noticed we were still engaged in the shucking process, so he pulled into the drive, got out and ambled over to where we were gathered. As he talked, we continued with our work. After a while, I looked up at him for a bit, then back to the cob of corn I was shucking. After repeating this observation process several times, Daddy said I reached into the pile of corn, pulled out two cobs, one for myself, and the other I handed to our neighbor. I told him, “Everybody works at our house,” then continued with my work. Daddy said our neighbor continued talking, looked at me briefly, then shucked the ear of corn, made his excuses and left.

One of my chores during these early years was to feed the chickens. During evening chore time, I would meet Daddy at the feed house, and he would give me a bucket of mixed grains and pellets. I would take the bucket to the general area where we fed the chickens and commence calling to them. “Heeeeeerrrreee chiiiiiccccckkkeeeeee. Heeeeeerrrreee chiiiiicckkkkeeeee.” I would begin slowly taking handfuls of feed and dribble it over the ground as I walked in odd-shaped circles. The chickens came running. By the time I dropped the last of the feed from the bucket, most of it had already been consumed. Those chickens obviously relished this treat at the end of the day.

Then, Daddy–or one of my older siblings–would go round the farm with me looking for eggs. There were some places where the hens laid their eggs regularly. Occasionally, one of the hens would strike out on her own in an attempt to find a place to lay a bunch of eggs and set on them. These settin’ hens wanted to raise a brood of baby chicks. Most of the time we would find them, shew them off the nest, and get the egg(s). The hen would continue to lay and try to set on the eggs. Sometimes, she would move her nest and finally succeed.

During calving season–when the cows were birthing babies–as the calves reached weaning age they would be fed with bottles. At this time, the cow would return to being milked with the other milk-cows. They ate their grain while being milked. Milk was taken from the bulk for the calves until they were placed on a special feeding formula which was mixed with water to replace the milk in the bottles. This continued until time to either take them to the sale barn or to mingle their feedings with the haying of the general non-milking herd.

When the weaning process began, the calves were separated from the general herd so they would not feed on the mother’s milk. They would pasture in a different area during this time. As the calves grew older, we would oft have to go find them at end of day as feeding time neared. Usually, they roamed the pasture together, so it was not typically difficult to find them. A few years later, after I had started school, it became one of my chores to find the calves and bring them in for feeding.

During these early years, we cooked on a wood cookstove. So, it was also my responsibility to help carry in kindling and wood to fuel the fire while we cooked. In winter, when we also heated with wood, I was to help carry in heating wood too. At the time, I did not realize it, but this method of cooking is truly an art–especially as it pertains to baking. The oven on a wood cookstove has a temperature gage on the door. The fire in the fire box has to be kept at a steady burn to keep the oven temperature constant. This burn in the fire box is managed by feeding wood into the fire and by manipulating the damper on the pipe which exits the house via the flue.

When one grows into the cooking process in the presence of someone who manages the fire for cooking, it becomes second nature and is not viewed as requiring particular skill–but skill it does indeed require. Looking back on those years, I can see what a talent this would take. As I learned to cook on that wood cookstove, I thought nothing of it. By the time I was nine, I was quite adept at baking in that oven and tending the fire to keep the temperature constant.

So, by the age of seven or eight, growing up on a farm during the mid-twentieth century, I had learned to help with the gardening and with preserving the produce in whatever form it would be needed at a later date. That corn we were shucking earlier was also shelled from the cob so it could be bused as grain for the animals without having to stop and shell it then. I had learned to feed some of the animals, to gather eggs from the chickens and to bring in kindling and firewood for the cookstove and for the heating stove during colder months. Thus, my comment to the neighbor was never meant to be rude. It was the blatant honesty of a four-year-old who had been taught everyone works together when living on a farm.