Farm Life As It Used To Be


The Historic FoodieMost of us, “of a certain age” had grandparents or parents who were farm people and who believed in the “waste not, want not” approach to daily life. They taught us self-discipline and respect for others. We may have strayed from the farm in search of work or romance, but as baby-boomers approach retirement and perhaps, as in my case, find new romance, many of us are heading back to the farm, back to the good life we remember. 

By planting seeds we witnessed the miracle of life, by raising farm animals we grew to respect the farm-to-table approach to food that is thankfully beginning a resurgence in popularity today, and we were proud of our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.

My grandparents planted vegetables, raised chickens for eggs and meat, fattened pigs for butchering, and were adept at making something out of nothing. My grandfather devoutly believed in planting by the signs and witching for water. Call that hogwash if you must, but during the Depression, he fed a family of six on what he made from digging wells by hand and was never cursed with a dry hole.

That piney rock-laden ground sustained and nurtured us and kept us firmly rooted in reality, the same as it had for generations before us. From it, we took poke “sallet” and other edibles, and medicinal herbs such as ginseng, goldenseal, etc. The land provided for our needs and we knew how to use her bounty.

Muscadines grew wild just begging to be made into jelly to slather on a hot buttered biscuit. Knotty apples were dried for fried pies, more wormhole and core than real apple, but treasured just the same because come winter those delicately browned pies fit perfectly into our small hands. Christmas trees were cut from the back lot and the only question in choosing one was, “pine or cedar?” Bushels of peas were shelled by hand, some put away for winter, and the rest seasoned with a generous portion of fat back and eaten with sliced tomatoes, hot buttered cornbread, and fried or mashed potatoes. A watermelon, still warm from the garden, was a treat to be savored while expertly spitting the seeds just a tad farther into the yard than the cousins. We neither expected nor received hand-outs and prided ourselves on making do with what God gave us.

I am the last generation of our family to have hoed and picked cotton by hand. I know what it is to drag a ticking bag along and pick into it, feeling it grow heavier and heavier across my shoulder as the end of the row slowly draws nearer. I know how sharp the burs are as one quickly plucks the snowy cotton from them. I know what blisters on my hands felt like from hoeing weeds out of that cotton all day. In short, I know the value of a real day’s work and the satisfaction of providing for myself and my family. My grandfather saw to that.

8/13/2014 6:13:14 PM

Welcome to the GRIT blogging community from a fellow Alabamian. We had a dairy farm and it's so sad to see almost all of it gone. Only our old homeplace and the silo remain. I blog for GRIT as Rosedale Garden. Mary

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