It could be me

this evening I was goofing off on Facebook and came across a post on our local rants and raves group that I want to share. I don’t usually do that, but this one spoke to me. 

Although I don’t usually mention it, I am a Christian and although I make no claims to being a good person and I’m sure no example to anyone, I think we all can do more than we do for our elderly. 

Our families are important. I feel family is the most important thing in our lives. But what of those who have no family, have outlived their freinds, who have no one?

Anyway, this post said it better than I could;

” Posted by Cristina Rabago, A Devoted Heart LLC on “Osceola Rants, Raves & Reviews List” on Facebook. ”

“”Today, as I drove to work this morning,  I was pondering on a thought. My uncle is ill, you see. He has been in ICU. Tomorrow will be a week. Doctors say there is no hope for improvement. I wondered what the nurses in the ICU were thinking every time visiting hours came about. The hospital in which he is in has a very strict visiting hour rule. They only allow visits for 1/2 hour every four hours. Not a rule that we like, I must add. Family members have come from all over. Every time one of those selected 1/2 hours comes around, three, four, five different family members, friends, loved ones enter that ICU. Every time we come to visit, coincidentally it is at a meal time, someone is there to assist with feeding him. We kiss him, hug him, make him laugh, stare at him with love and devotion in our hearts. So many have come. So many have stopped what they were doing. So many have taken the time to drive hours and hours to visit. To visit under such strict restrictions. What do the nursing staff think? Do they say, wow, this guy has a large family? How many others in that unit have not had any visitors at all? Then, my clients come to mind. How sad that they do not have this. How sad that when they get hospitalized, no one comes to visit. No one but Alexia, Debra, Alex or myself. Not always all of us to be honest. Sometimes, it may go a couple of days in between before one of us returns. Sometimes, we may not stay very long. But where is family? Where are friends? Where are they? Everyone has lived a life and in that life every one of us have known someone. Why are these people so alone? It just seems so sad to me. It breaks my heart. I am thankful to have such a large and united family. I hope that continues until I am old and in need of their love and attention. I would not want to be alone. So many seniors out there all alone. Only thing we can do is to reach out to them. Befriend them. Be there for them. Remember your neighbors, church members, not the ones you talk to every time you see them, the ones who don’t. The ones who seem secluded. The ones who never come out of their homes. The ones who sit alone on a pew at church. The ones who roam our streets and are homeless. Everyone needs someone! JUST MY THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY! “”

   

 I was lucky enough to be there for both of my grandparents in their final years. I even moved from my home at the time in Missouri back to Mississippi and lived next door to my grandfather and was with him every single day his last few years. 

But someday it will be me. Who will care for me? Love me, feed me, keep me company?

What could a visit, a phone call, a card or some flowers mean to someone with no one?

Just something to think on the next time you see someone alone. 

  
  

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Seeking inspiration 

Sometimes when I’m seeking inspiration on what to write about I go through old pictures. I see memories, lessons learned, projects finished and ideas I forgot. I tend to take pictures of the dangdest stuff. An interesting piece of wood, a new calf, flowers, the ripples on a pond.


Today I’m so tired I can hardly walk. Between working and taking care of Em and the kids I stay tired and when you add in all the grocery shopping, errands and such I get very little sleep or rest. Since Em has been sick I’ve gained a whole new respect for all the little things she used to be able to do like taking the kids to school, paying bills, going to the bank, cooking supper and doing laundry.


Then sometimes I get grumpy. I guess everyone gets that way, but once I get a little rest I always feel like a heel for being a mean old grouch. Luckily she loves me and overlooks my failings.


Yesterday I was just too beat to post anything on my blog, and today I know I’m rambling. I have so many things I want to write about, but today will not be a detailed story day. Today I just want to take a nap. I won’t get to, there’s too much to be done, but oh Lord I want to.


I’ve still got to go pick up Rhiannon, figure out something for supper, work out at the sawmill a bit, get some more laundry going, and I have gardening to do. I worked this morning on the school garden I sponsor, but my own needs attention today also.


It’s a beautiful day. I need to get my butt in gear and get something productive accomplished today. As Pa would say “I’m burning daylight!”

 

Being Poor

I found this post tonight and it’s my first share.

If you don’t get it?

You’ve never been poor.

Whatever

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching…

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Now You’re Cooking With Wood!

“Cooking with wood” was a phrase from my childhood meaning you are doing good or doing it right. I guess that’s because nothing in the world taste as good as food cooked on an old wood cook stove. Today I will touch on something every homesteader is knowledgeable on, and that is all the things involved in heating and cooking with wood.

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I grew up in a home that used wood as fuel for multiple purposes. We used wood in the fireplace and in later years in a wood heater to heat our home. We used wood to cook on in our wood cook stove. We used wood outdoors to heat the cast iron kettles when cooking down lard, boiling clothes or scalding a hog. Us kids used wood in our camp fires. Wood was used at times in the shop either to stoke the forge or to burn in an old metal barrel to stand around and warm our hands. All used different woods, curing and sizes of sticks. We usually cut our firewood in the late summer and early fall for the next winter. Wood needs to dry out and cure for about a year to make good fuel. Green wood does not burn well or at all depending on the type tree you were cutting. Green wood is smoky, and will cause lots of carbon, creosote and ash build up in your chimney or flue which can lead to chimney fires. However a big half cured log makes a good back stick due to it’s slow. smoldering burn rate. (A back stick or back log is a stick of wood as big as you can get in the fireplace that you put in the back of the fire at bedtime to hold coals until morning. It will burn slowly and after all the smaller wood in front of it burns out, the back log will fall forward and usually smolder through the rest of the night.) Dry, properly seasoned wood will burn even, clean and with very little smoke. It also will burn hot.

The best woods in our area were oak and hickory. It was a good curing wood that burned well and would last. Pine was too fast to burn and messy. It also gummed up the chimney.  Ash, elm, and pecan were ok, but not very common. Sweet-gum you can’t split with dynamite until it dries a few years and you can’t burn ironwood with a blowtorch. I guess we burned everything from oak to willow at some point, but we all preferred a good straight oak or hickory tree for fuel wood.

Heating wood was large sticks. If it wasn’t over eight inches or so we didn’t split it, just burned it whole. We only split the largest pieces. Heating wood needed to burn at a good heat and burn steady for long periods of time. Stove wood had to be shorter and needed to be about two fingers wide, so we split it pretty small. In cooking with wood you regulate your heat by how much fuel you are burning and how fast you let it burn. Nothing like just setting a dial on a modern stove. Cooking with wood is I think as much an art as a skill. The fuel wood for using under the kettle needed to be fast burning and packed tight, so we used very short and very long pieces there. It has to be bone dry and a fast burning wood like pine was ok outside. All the scrap pieces were used in the shop and for kindling.

We used several things as fire starter. The old stand-by was lighter knot or fat-wood as some called it. We kept a little stoneware crock full of it on the hearth. To start a fire you just shave a stick, lay the curled shavings in the grate and light it then add the piece you were shaving off of then add smaller pieces of firewood until it was burning good. We also used dry corn cobs, pine cones and twisted corn shucks at times. After I got older i had a tiny gypsy kettle with a lid about eight inches across that I would fill with sawdust and then add about a cup of kerosene or lamp oil to. After a couple of days it made the best fire starter. I’d just open the kettle, put a spoonful on the grates, strike a match to it and have a good roaring fire in minutes.

I remember getting up in the dawning hour and throwing my clothes on as fast as possible and running like a banshee to the living room to stand in front of the fireplace until the house warmed up. Pa always got up and built the fire up before they woke us up, but that old house didn’t hold heat well and it took quite a while on cold mornings for the fire to knock the chill out of the air. You would cook one side and freeze the other then turn half around and do the same to the other side, In the old house you had to watch where you stood too. The old nail heads in the floor would heat up much hotter than the wood around them and if you stepped on one of those hot nail heads you might burn a nice blister on your bare feet. I guess on cold winter mornings we must have looked like a comedy troupe. All us kids trying to avoid stepping on a hot nail head while twisting trying to warm both sides and trying to squeeze each other out of the way so we could get closer to the fire – all while trying not to catch Pa’s eye.

I can’t find a picture right now of my cook stove, but here is a video of the day Pa bought it at auction from his father’s estate. I am the fourth generation of my family to own this stove. It was bought used by my great grandfather, then bought by Pa who left it to my Mom who passed it on to me. Right now it’s still at my Mom’s house in Mississippi until I get ready for it. It is a cast iron and porcelain stove with both wood and coal grates and the top warming closet. It was made by Martin Stove and Range in Florence Alabama, which was only about 30 miles from our home. Today, after generations of use, it’s still perfectly functional and in near mint condition.

We used an old Sthil  chainsaw to cut our wood, but Pa made us cut a few trees with the old cross-cut saws just to show us how they had to do it back in his day. We cut any trees on the farm that were dead, dying, wind damaged or just needed to be removed. We also used any large limbs that we had to cut away from the house or off a fence for firewood. We also sometimes got a permit from the paper timber company to go in and cut up the tops they left after cutting saw logs and pulp wood. At home we burned about five cord of firewood every winter, but with the following winter’s wood out there curing, there was usually at least ten cord in the wood pile at any given time. A cord of wood is a stack of two foot sticks that are stacked four feet high and sixteen feet long. Needless to say, we had a large woodpile.

I’ll never forget the taste of Ma’s big ole cat head biscuits warm from the wood stove. The smell drifting through the house was heavenly. She would put beans on and let them simmer all day until they started to fall apart. She made the most wonderful cookies she called “tea cakes”. Cobblers out of peach, blackberry, apple and cherry. Everything taste so much better on wood. I don’t have many pictures for wood, but maybe someday I can see if my Mom has any and post them.

Pa and I

Here is the video I promised. As far as I am aware it is the only video ever recorded of him plowing. We grew up poor and never had a movie camera and until a few years ago I never knew it existed. I had some second cousins from up north that sent a dvd to my Mom which they had filmed while visiting over the years and there were several short sections of us. It’s not the highest quality, but it is precious to me.

In the video Pa is plowing with an old jenny we had with me trotting along beside him as happy as a pig in slop. This was new ground we had broke the year before in the creek bottom below our house. When you see him jerking the plow it is because he was hitting roots and you can see us going down into swells in the ground. In the years that followed the field was eventually leveled out and was a great place to raise crops. This year it was very rough and spotty. The corn you see him pulling was just thinning it out. We usually thinned it much smaller, but since this was such a poor stand we had procrastinated.

I walked many a mile looking that jenny in the behind as i grew older and I don’t regret a single moment. We still have every single piece of the mule drawn equipment too except for the breaking plow he gave to my cousin William.

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In the picture above you can see the old jenny and Pa’s old truck. In the background behind the corn you can see a bit of the barn too. Precious memories.

For years beyond count our family had raised cotton. I even have a few pictures of the old cotton fields. I was lucky I guess. The year I turned 13 the family stopped raising cotton, so I never had to pick except that one fall. You can’t imagine how long those rows were until you are facing them with a pick sack strap cutting into your shoulders while you dragged that huge sack down the middle behind you. Fingers bloody, back aching, sweat stinging your eyes and making your clothes cling to you and still I smile remembering hearing Ma singing those old hymns while she picked. You get to the end of the row and there was blessed shade and you could grab the old tin can off the stub beside the spring and take a long drink of the coolest, sweetest water you have ever tasted. A couple of drinks, a can poured over your head, then start another row.

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Terry Cotton Field Picture

Life was hard. Life was tough.

Life was good.

The Greatest man I ever knew

I’ve had a lot of people come and go in my life. Some few actually influenced me in some way. But none as much as the greatest man I ever knew. 

My Grandfather. 

  

If there is any good or decency in me, it is due to him. He was my hero right up until the day he passed away. I truly thought he walked on water. Actually he walked on red clay hills chopping cotton most of his life, and that chaw of twist tobacco wasn’t a saintly trait and his wings I never did see… But I reckon God might overlook the beat up old brogans and the holes in his overalls to get a good farmer to take care of the crops up yonder. 

He was a good man. Quiet, I never heard him raise his voice. He was strict but fair. From the earliest I can remember I followed him everywhere, stepping in his footsteps and trying so hard to be like my Pa. He worked most all of his life from daylight ’til dark as a poor sharecropper. It was only in his later years, around the time I was born, that he was finally able to buy a few acres of his own and become a dirt farmer. 

For those who don’t know, a dirt farmer is a man who farms with no hired help, no fancy equipment and no credit. Basically he is working with his hands in the dirt. As a dirt farmer you live and die by the seasons and God’s grace. No one will bail you out if you fail and there is no safety net. He did good. 

My Grandparents had a total of 11 kids and raised several of us grandkids and even helped with some of the great grandkids. Five of the eleven kids are still alive today. All on a hardscrabble red dirt farm in the hills of Mississippi. 

He was born Wilmer Clinton Gray on August 28th, 1913 and married my grandma when he was 20 years old and died on December 19th of 2003. Up until about two years before he passed he could outwork any two men half his age. I’m a hard worker, but Pa didn’t believe in breaks. He also believed you do your best at whatever you do and you give it all you got. 

I learned so much from him, but I know he forgot more than I will ever know. He grew up a blacksmith’s son and knew hard work from the time he could work. Picking cotton, cutting timber, raising crops and such were all he knew. He wasn’t an educated man, but had more common sense than anyone else I’ve known and was the kind of man that this country was built on. 

His word was his bond. He never lied, wouldn’t take charity and believed that a man’s worth was measured by the way he supported and provided for his family. He would often go out of his way to help someone in need but couldn’t abide laziness. He always said to give a man a hand up, not a hand out. 

He did have a temper and I’ve seen him be mean to some of the mules and jennys we had to plow with. And I saw him very quietly tell a few men to back off over the years, but he was always good to his family. 

He was my grandpa but he was also my hero, my role model and in his final years my mirror of myself. I’m told I take after him in speach, action and temperament. I have his love of farming, gardening and living simple. Ive often heard “you are the spittin’ image of your Pa”.

I can live with that. 

  
Later I will post more pictures and a lone video of him plowing with our mule with me tagging along. 

There is no way I could ever write down all the stories about him or remember all he taught me. 

A wonderful community 

Today I was the featured speaker at our local St Cloud, Florida farmer’s market “Osceola County Grown”. It was such a pleasure to see so much of our community coming together to learn about the things that are so important to me. 

  
There were so many things to see and do. Three different barbecue set ups, live music, home made artisan goats milk soaps, artisan breads, woodworking, knife making, custom crafted pet treats, fresh raw milk, honey, grass fed beef, canned goods and baked goods, a children’s area with sock horses, the most wonderful jellies and jams, healthy snacks, and of course the very best fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. 

I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of stuff. My daughter and I had so much fun looking at everything and visiting with everyone. I saw old friends and made new friends. We met several wonderful folks from our local Facebook groups like “Florida Urban Homesteading” and the “Osceola Homesteaders Unite!” 

 
Although I hate public speaking, it was still a fun day. We are so blessed to have such a place like this in our community. I wish my wife had felt better and could have brought her and our other kids along, but maybe next time. If you get a chance to come to the market please do so. 

I hear they are having a barn raising soon to give all us vendors a place to sell under in all weather. I’m thinking I might have to pitch in and help raise some money for that. It will be so nice and as the market is such a bonus to our community I feel it is something I can support and get behind. 

 It’s sorta funny in a way. I’ve dreamed for years of having a place like this market. I move to Florida and struggle to even find a place to farm. I get sorta down and disgusted and finally just have a little talk with the big guy upstairs and say “Lord, if it’s meant to be… Find me a way”. Then it seems doors start opening. I really do feel God is leading me somewhere. Emily and I have talked about it at length and both just want what we had in Mississippi except we want it here. Peace, quiet, our little farm and our critters and just to raise our kids right. 
Days like today?
I feel we are on the right track. 

  

A Simpler Time

This is one of the things I decided to write a blog to share. This is just a chapter from the life of a poor dirt farmer from Mississippi. As time goes on I would like to break things down into more detail and explain how we did things, but for now, here is an overview. If you want to know what country means to me? Read on…

Warning; there are a couple of not so nice words, but I make no apologies. I write like I talk.

To start with… we were poor. I don’t mean “I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas this year” poor, or “We had to eat off the dollar menu at McDonalds” poor, but honest to God, pinto beans for supper every damn night and if we were lucky “please pass the squirrel and dumplings” poor. As far as I can remember, until after I was 15 years old….

I had never ate out in a sit down restaurant, never ate a single cut of meat we didn‘t raise ourselves, hunt, fish or trap, never ate a pizza, never had a store bought hamburger, never had a pasta dish of any kind, never ate a donut, never seen a movie, rice and oatmeal were rare treats because it had to be bought at the store. I never had a new bicycle, never rode in a new car, never had hot running water, never used store bought toilet paper, never had shrimp, never ate store bought ice cream, and seldom ever heard a cuss word. We had a bare light bulb with a pull chain in each room and a receptacle in the kitchen and one in the living room. Once we got a TV it was black and white and we got three channels… sometimes…. If you were lucky and wiggled the antenna just right. One of us would turn the pole outside at the end of the house, holler to another youngun standing in the doorway relaying messages from Pa fiddling with the dial on whether it was working or not. Pa watched the news each night and the wrestling on Saturday and if us kids were good all week and finished all our chores we could watch the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers shows on Saturday afternoon. If the TV was turned on any other time, someone was going to be getting an butt whoopin’. The radio was turned on some Saturday evenings to listen to the Grand Old Opry on WSM.

We worked the garden with a mule, hand shelled corn we raised ourselves to feed the stock and if you wanted a drink you had three choices – water from the dipper at the well on the back porch, milk from our cow or damn well do without. No tea, coffee, juice, soft drinks, beer or whiskey. A few members of the family ran off some ‘shine, but Pa didn’t hold with drinking, so it wasn’t allowed in our house except for medicinal purposes. We heated and cooked with wood we cut ourselves, had our own meal ground from yellow dent corn we raised ourselves, played in the yard and got as dirty as only a farm kid can. We bathed either in the spring fed creek below the house or in a galvanized wash-tub in the kitchen floor depending on the weather. A quickie bath was a “whore’s bath” which was just washing off with a rag and soap from the wash pan on the back porch. Soap was usually homemade lye soap which we used on our skin, hair and to wash our clothes. I’d never even heard of shampoo or conditioner, clothes detergent, dish washing soap, deodorant or fabric softener. Clothes were washed on a rub-board, or later on in an old wringer washer out back and dried on the clothes line in the back yard. Once Ma started getting older and we started taking the clothes to the “washerteeria” we thought we were up town. Of course even then they were brought home to dry on the clothes line. Our towels were clean flour sacks and Pa pulled our teeth when needed with a pair of pliers and cut our hair with a pair of scissors sitting in a straight chair out on the front porch. We didn’t have air conditioning, a phone, a wrist watch, a car or fancy clothes. Our address was “Route 1 Glen, Mississippi” just like everyone else we knew. No house numbers or road names back then. We got a new pair of shoes every fall and if you wore them out before the next fall you just went barefoot and was more careful with them the next year. Everybody wore hand-me-downs and was proud to have them.

The out-house was built on a bank about 100 feet behind the house, around behind the smokehouse and there was always a bucket of corn cobs for wiping. Pa said “Use a red cob, then a white cob to see if you need another red cob”. The big Sears & Roebucks catalog was present in the two hole condo too. It came free in the mail, and although we didn’t have the cash money to order anything from it, it was nice to look at the pictures and it made good toilet paper (except for the glossy pages). We ate beans and cornbread every night along with whatever was in season and of course you could always find some poke salad growing wild in the woods or dig some ‘taters out of the sand box in the storm house if you hadn’t already ate them all that year. I think I saw a doctor twice the whole time I was growing up. Carbolic acid and lard was our salve and if you had a cold it was a small shot of a mixture of ‘shine, peppermint and honey. Camas root if you had the runs, slickem weed if you were stopped up, chew a little willow bark if your head was hurting or you had a fever and WD-40 or bitter melon soaked in alcohol to rub on your sore joints. If all else failed Ma would come at you with a spoon the size of a corn scoop full of either cod liver oil, Black Drought or Creomulsion. If you were too sick to work it was just assumed you were too sick to eat so your place at the old farm table would be empty come supper time. We weren’t sick much.

We never locked our doors or even had a key to fit them that I know of. The keys stayed in the old tractor and Pa’s old ‘49 GMC truck key was hung on a nail in a post beside the drivers door where he parked it in the shed. There were guns in every room of the house and all were loaded. Us boys were shooting by the time we were old enough to carry a rifle and keep both ends from dragging the ground. Hunting and trapping got us plenty of squirrels, ground hogs, rabbits, ‘coons, deer, doves, quail, wild turkey, and an occasional ‘possum or wild hog. Fishing and gigging brought in all kinds of fish, frogs, snakes and turtles. Wild fruits like turkey figs, peaches, pears, apples and crabapples, paw-paws, wild plums, may apples, wild grapes, Muscadines and sceptidines, berries like huckleberries, blackberries, dewberries, gooseberries, wild blueberries and fox grapes were all around in the bottoms and hollers along with the tame plants and orchards around the farm. Hickory nuts, black walnuts, pecans, chestnuts and the occasional wild almond could be found in the hills. Poke salad, comfrey, wild mint, dandelion greens and watercress were everywhere it seemed. If we needed a chew or a smoke we had tobacco, rabbit tobacco, cross vine and corn silk. We all drank from the numerous springs and streams and never got sick or died.

I got my first rifle on the Christmas I turned 11 years old and was spending nights out camping with my cousins and friends by the next summer. We would stay gone sometimes several nights just living off the land and enjoying being boys. No fancy tents, just the clothes on our backs, a rifle and a pocket knife and our kits which we all carried. My kit usually had some matches, salt, black pepper, a few fish hooks and a little fishing line, a little skillet, a tin cup, and some snare wire. We all had our own calls and signals out in the woods, even the girls. Mine was a whippoorwill, mainly because I can’t whistle for shit and never could. We would just sleep on a bed of pine boughs out in the open around a little campfire or if we had to because of the weather we’d throw a little shelter together out of pine boughs, wild grape vines and leaves or whatever else was handy. A few green leaves on the fire would keep the ‘skeeters away and we never failed to find something to eat. I have fond memories of falling asleep looking at the stars and thinking about the ghost stories we had told each other then waking up in the morning to the sound of birds calling and sipping pine needle tea while we watched the sun burn away the fog.

Us kids bickered and fought with each other constantly. Hardly a day passed without us playing pranks on each other. We hunted, fished, trapped, gathered wild plants and herbs, wrestled, chased cows and pigs, pushed each other in the creek, rode everything with fur we could catch, took our little cousins snipe hunting and just generally ran wild until we’d get a little too out of hand then Pa would put a stop to it with just a word or even a sharp look. We made pets out of everything from snakes to coons to foxes. Some of the family was closer than can be described, other members of the family would get something stuck in their craw and go to feuding. One thing was written in stone though – if any outsider started trouble with anyone in the family they had to face us all. It’s  sorta funny looking back on it. Someone at school would want to whoop me and get their butts handed to them by three of my cousins before they could get to me. I probably got in more fights looking after family than I would have on my own. Our family was just that way. We stuck together no matter what.

It was the best life I can imagine.

Poor?

Maybe not.

Ma canned hundreds of jars of food every year. Some of those old glass jars had been in our family for generations. Jars of clear, green, blue and amethyst were filled with homemade vegetable soup, purple hull field peas, butter beans, corn, okra, several kinds of pickles, sour kraut, lots of jellies, jams and preserves, berries for pies and even some meat at times. We kept potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, pumpkins, winter squash and carrots in a sand box in the storm house cellar along with apples and other fruits. Once we got a deep freezer we froze corn, squash and zucchini, butter and some other seasonal items. Melons and such we just had to eat fresh as long as they lasted. Peanuts, gourds, peppers and some of the beans we dried to preserve them for winter. We butchered a hog or two every winter and salted and smoked the meat in the smokehouse to preserve it. We had a milk cow for milk, butter, butter milk, cream and a calf to butcher or sell every year. Chickens for meat, eggs and to sell occasionally. Depending on the year we also had turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas and game birds. Goats, sometimes a beef calf to fatten, rabbits and other critters for food came and went. Hides were tanned for using to put bottoms in straight chairs or for rugs. Offal was composted and even the bones were used in soup and beans then enjoyed by the dogs. Pa always said to waste nothing but the grunt.

Pa was a master of reusing and repurposing. Old tires were wore until any sign of tread was just a distant memory then used for planters, split to use for feed troughs or cut into diamonds for stable hinges. Inner tubes made great sling shot rubbers, patches on mud boots or could be cut into strips for tie straps. If we cut a tree we used what was suitable for building lumber, then cut the limbs and slabs for firewood and any leaves and twigs left were raked and piled up to compost down for the garden or burned for the ash. There was almost no waste. Even the ashes left after burning the wood to heat and cook our meals were either saved to make lye or spread on the garden for the fertilizer value. Some of the old lumber and tin around the farm was over 100 years old and had been used in several buildings before we got it. We would save anything usable, even the dozens of old coffee cans full of nails we pulled out of the old lumber and hammered straight. Milk jugs, egg cartons, even aluminum foil and waxed paper was cleaned and reused. Toothpicks were broom straws or splinters of wood, old jeans were cut up for patches on other jeans, a shirt got wore until the sleeves had the elbows out then we just cut the sleeves off to make a summer shirt. The sleeves were then used for grease rags in the tractor shed. A pan somehow became warped and couldn’t be used for cooking was pressed into use to feed the dogs or chickens out of.

A refrigerator was an icebox, a car a fliver, food was vittles, milk was sweet milk or buttermilk, dinner was supper, eggs were hen apples, over yonder was a place, fer was a distance, ya’ll was a noun, all dogs were hounds, a man’s handshake was better than a legal contract and if the Bible said it – it was so. Saying “Bless your heart“ made anything you said afterwards ok. When Ma would call us to supper it was by sticking her head out the back door and hollering “It’s on the board”. If your nose was itching then company was coming and work was from “Can see ‘til can’t see”. I got my first job doing a man’s work and drawing a man’s wages when I was thirteen and I started later than most of my uncles and older cousins. Putting sugar in cornbread made it corn cake. Sweet ‘taters and roasting ears of corn were baked in the coals of the fireplace. Kindling sized sticks were called “crow’s nest” and pine fatwood was called lighter knot. Biscuits and meat left over from breakfast were left on the kitchen table and had always disappeared by suppertime from us younguns running in and grabbing something to snack on during the day. Too many green apples would give you a bellyache and just bite a green persimmon and you couldn’t whistle if your life depended on it. Stealing watermelons was a sin, but eating a little one out in the field was just overlooked. Skipping school would get you a switching, but they would pull us out of school sometimes in the spring and fall for planting and harvesting.

Farmer’s market tomorrow!

We will be at the farmer’s market tomorrow from 10:00am until 2:00pm across from the Serpentarium on 192 in St Cloud, Florida. 

I will be giving a short talk on “Homesteading, the lessons I’ve learned ” at 11:30, come on out and see us!

There will be lots of produce, barbecue, good music, and tons of stuff to see and do.