Last night my dad came over with his usual deliveries of our mail (we share a mailbox) and the update on his garden. He has three baby zucchinis, one bell pepper, and japanese beetles in his sunflowers. After we commiserated over garden pests and exchanged rumored home-remedies, talk turned to my great-grandparents' farm. I have heard my dad's stories about his grandpa's farm too many times to count, but this is one of the stories that I don't ever get tired of. He told about how Grandpa had two sows and raised piglets every year - two to keep and the rest for market. How Grandma milked their one diary cow every day and ended up with several gallons of milk, which she would let separate in a huge glass milk jug. After skimming the cream off the top and using the milk for baking, she would churn the cream into butter every Friday. They had one acre devoted to their vegetable garden, which provided all the fresh food they needed. The surplus Grandma took to the local market, along with any extra eggs, and she traded these for dry goods such as flour, sugar, coffee, and yeast. Every day Grandma would watch two hours of soap operas while she either cleaned fruit from the orchard for canning, or (depending on the season) shelled peas. Thanks to her devotion to General Hospital, they always had canned fruits and pickled vegetables to eat through the winter when the fresh varieties weren't available.
My dad explained that his grandparents were referred to as "General Farmers," folks farming the land without any one particular crop. Folks living off the land, dabbling in a little bit of everything they might need or want to raise on their own.
This time as I listened to my dad tell the same old story and my mind filled with happy images of my ancestors using their creativity and determination to survive, something clicked in my mind: This is in my blood! Maybe this is why I have always preferred to make something rather than buy it. Perhaps this explains that thrilling feeling I have when picking green beans from the garden, and my need to grow MORE next time. It is possible that my Great-Grandparents are, in part, responsible for the fact that I, a city-raised girl who wouldn't miss a haircut or eyebrow appointment for the world, am living with my husband and two kids in an 800 square foot house on 3 acres of land, doing my best to raise chickens, turn compost, and grow as much of our produce as I possibly can. This has not been a graceful transition, this morphing from a clean-finger-nailed, well-groomed lady to a slightly grubby farmish mom. But I am enjoying the adventure of it all, and hoping to share some of that adventure with you.