Monday, August 16, 2010

Home grown

I was reading a blog this morning about how a girl that was raised on a farm purchased all her food in town with the exception of beef and pork. She explained this to someone from a city and they were surprised that her family didn't produce most of what they ate... and so was I.
Growing up my family had two milk cows, several hundred chickens and a couple gardens. My grandma and great grandma also picked chokecherries to make jelly with. I remember helping my grandma pick wild greens and other edible plants too.
We will start with the milk cows. The one I remember with the most clarity was a half Holstein, half Angus cow named Lady. She was quite sweet and I don't ever remember her kicking. She would decide not to come in to be milked once in a while, then would stand in the yard bawling all night because her bag was tight.
My dad has some hilarious stories about gathering the milk cows as a kid, but I can't do them justice.
My grandfather passed away 15 years ago, and my best memory of him is in his barn, milking his cow. It's what he did first thing in the morning when he was planning his day. If you would peak around the barn door he would hit you with a stream of milk. All the barn cats would sit expectantly on in the doorway and for their patience would receive a stream of milk at some point.
The milk cows were also used to feed bum calves. My grandpa would tie a sheet around the cow, covering part of her bag. The idea is that a calf sucking a cow makes her harder to milk, so half the cows bag was for the calves and the other half wasn't.
We rarely, if ever, bought a gallon of milk until after my grandpa died. At that time the milk cows were sold because no one else was as fond of them (by that I mean they were sick of them ) as my grandpa.
My grandma would buy 100 baby chicks every year and butcher the equivalent in old hens. Butchering chickens is not fun and we won't get into that. She had the biggest chicken house ever and I can remember my great grandma (Nana) cleaning all the eggs every day. Nana took care of the chickens until she was about 97. The eggs were eaten and sold and the butchered hens were also eaten.
There were also roosters...big, mean, white roosters that would chase us kids. Not that they were ever provoked...
My mom had gardens when I was little and my grandma also grew things like tomatoes most years. While we weren't huge gardeners we did produce some stuff almost every year.
As for the chokecherry jelly, my grandma is famous in several counties and parts of other states for her jelly. It is the best you'll ever have and some rather serious arguments have erupted over whose jar is whose. My grandma and Nana also canned enough fruits and vegetables to completely fill a 10x10 foot cellar every year. A "snack" at grandmas might be canned peaches with real cream on top.
When I was really little I would walk up and down the creak bottoms with my grandma and "help" her pick greens. I think this was a wild form of spinach. All I really know is there is a weed that looks a lot like a green, and I could never tell the two apart. Grandma had to re-sort my bucket all the time.
In addition to all this food production we also eat our own beef almost exclusively. If we run out of hamburger we might go buy some, but otherwise we eat what we raise. I guess I take for granted the opportunities my lifestyle presents me in the food I am able to eat.

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