Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Their Footsteps

I posted this today at a blog that is written by a co-operative of writers. I discovered this Simple, Green, Frugal site while reading my friend Rhonda's blog. "We all have our own personal blogs but we have joined together with the hope of providing a helpful reference point for those living simply and sustainably."

My wife claims I was a farmer's wife in a previous life. I make artisan breads, I can or freeze everything I grow, I preserve four kinds of jams and jellies, I raise up baby chicks . . . and I love every minute of it.

It might be as mystical as a past life, or it may be as simple as following a trail.

My grandpa (Guy) was born in 1898 on a farm in Pennsylvania, USA. He was one of twelve boys. He decided early on that he wanted to build things, so he did. He worked on some pretty cool buildings in his day, from the tank plant in Warren, Michigan, during WW2 to Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. During the hardest days of the Great Depression, Guy never forgot his family, and never forgot his farming roots. He would take my 8-year-old father with him, drive out to a local pig farm, buy ten feeder pigs, load them into the trunk of his car, and drive all over Michigan dropping the pigs off at his brothers' farms. In exchange for Guy buying the piglets and grain, he would return later in the year and receive part of the harvest: corn for feeding his city flock of chickens, wheat for grinding into bread, and best of all, several hundred pounds of home grown pork. My father has lots of childhood memories of not only helping out with the butchering, but holding half a hog in the back seat of his dad's Buick all the way home.

My father (Lawrence) carried on the traditions of his father, except for the pigs. He also became a builder. He built department stores, shopping centers and factories all over the American Midwest. As he built stores, at home he built gardens. He was a master gardener and preserver. I have years of memories of my dad peeling and chopping, canning and freezing. Everything from tomatoes to green beans. If he picked it, he canned it. He even had a small flock of chickens, which he skillfully butchered himself. He would share his eggs, meat and vegetables with needy folks at church or in the neighborhood. At the age of 80, Lawrence is still tending a garden in northern Michigan, and among other good deeds, he gives ten bushels of apples each fall to a large family, who wouldn't get fruit otherwise.

The trail I follow is well-marked.

Even though I was mostly raised in cities, I have a strong and undeniable urge to grow my food and preserve it for winter months. Even though I am not a builder of structures, I am a builder of a different sort. (I help build kids in my third grade classroom.) My goals for this year on our small farm include: raising at least sixty meat birds (chickens and turkeys), maintaining a flock of thirty-five layers, and growing a large variety of fruits and vegetables on my five acres. But I hope to do more.

One of my nephews has four children and they have a standing order for ten meat birds whenever I get a batch of chicks. I hope to expand that to other family members. I also have over thirty customers for my farm-fresh eggs, (and I can't keep up with them presently). I am planning on raising twelve turkeys this year. I want to keep a cool-looking pair around to give the farm a "farmy" feeling, but will butcher out the rest to give to family members and friends for their Thanksgiving feast. I also want to give a few turkeys and chickens to some local families. We have a local food cupboard that allows folks in the area to come in and receive food and clothing at no charge, and I plan on furnishing it with as much as I can spare.

I am just getting started on the
farm and welcome any ideas you all may have on how to not just provide for my family, but also give to people who can use a little sharing in my local area.

What part do you play?


Sharon said...

Great post Don. I don't want to divert from the subject bur I did want to wish you a Happy Birthday (yesterday, wasn't it?).
So Happy Birthday and happy farming!

(my verification word is mugheep which seems apropos....very farm sounding)

TheMartianChick said...

How wonderful to have such a rich heritage steeped in agriculture and philanthropy. I can just imagine that you will be puttering in the garden when you are 80, as well! Happy Birthday!

julie king said...

i so enjoyed this post. reading about your building, farming and giving ancestry was very uplifting! i'm so looking forward to seeing photos of your garden and your turkeys.

Lunch Lady said...

Love to hear of your trail.
I am living in the house my grandparents built and that I was raised in. As a kid watched them grow, can and pickle everything in the garden. Now, 50yrs. later, I am trying to do the same. And like them, sharing my small bounty of peaches,jams,salsas and eggs from my 2 hens with friends and neighbors.

Lanny said...

What a nice tribute to your father and grandfather. Memories and heritage can be a comfort and motivation.

freefalling said...

I loved this story.

Have you seen wildernessgal's photostream on flickr?
If you haven't you must check it out, I'm pretty sure you'd love it.
She even shows how to ahem...do the deed on the chooks (oh that sounds rude - not the rude deed, the dead deed). And she has a fabulous 16 y.o. pet chicken called old man blackie.

Anonymous said...

I loved your post. I'd like to encourage you to just "set aside a specific #", to share with those that need. Rather than, "as I can spare". Be as generous as your spirit.

You seem to have been blessed with a great deal of resources, talent,and most of all health, and are a two income family

Anonymous said...




Manda said...

You are a blessing! We all need to explore this "sharing trail" with our children instead of the "gimme trail" that they so often would rather race down. Thank you!

jen's farmily said...

This is a great post. And if Sharon's right, Happy Belated Birthday!!

Now that I've been off of work for a while, I've been thinking about ways to make our future farm self-sufficient. I would also love to be able to give back... like one day raise beef and donate some to a local food pantry or something.

Don said...

Sharon: Thank you for the b'day greeting!

I find that getting older just keeps happening.

It's nice to hear from you. How is your blog business going?

Don said...

martian chick: we can't choose our ancestors, but I imagine most of us will hit the agricultural folks if we go back far enough. I also think that they all were in this life together with their extended family and community.

I would love to be able to be an 80 year old putterer. (I mean that I should live so long!!)

Don said...

julie: the turkeys arrived today! (thurs) They are so much more interactive than the chicks. My son Peter was out there with me and they all crowded around his hand and wanted to either eat his ring, or be picked up. I think they view him as "mama."

Don said...

lunch lady: I would love to live in my Great-grandparents farmhouse. THat must be quite a connection for you to be working the same soil, etc.

2 chickens??? I wish I could send you a couple of mine. I have 115 right now!!

(Most of those are headed for the freezer, they don't know it yet and I won't tell them)

Don said...

lanny: you are dishing out the tradition to your children as we write this!

Your blog is such an inspiration, I view you as my sister!!

Don said...

freefalling: i am trying to find the flickr account. I'll keep looking.

old man blackie sounds cool.

Bob Johnson said...

I would love to hold on to a half hog in the back of a truck someday but probably never will, lol.

I follow in my Dad's footsteps, all the talents and memories he has given me. You are also the builder of a great blog to which I thank you for.

freefalling said...

here tis.

Farm Chick Paula said...

Wow- that was wonderful, Don! You have a really neat ancestry there!

Don said...

anon: that's a good idea to just decide what I want to give and just do it.

Don said...

renee: thanks for stopping by!

Don said...

manda: that is so true, Kids these days!!

We are looking forward to a mini farm day with you all.

New chicks to play with

Don said...

jen: thanks for the b'day salutation!

I would love to raise some large animals, but I don't think I am quite ready for that yet.

i will start with some berkshire pigs one of these days

Don said...

bob: hey!

i might be able to arrange that little truck trip holding half a hog. I'm not sure how much fun it will be, but it will certainly be an experience to tell your grandchildren.

thanks for the compliments, smae to you and more of it!

Don said...

freefalling: thanks for the address!

Don said...

paula: i'll bet we all have interesting histories. I wish my g'parents were still around for me to talk to.

carl h. sr. said...

How noble and ambitious Don.
It makes me feel good to read of your plans.
Thanks for sharing about Guy and Lawrence too.
May God bless you,yours,and your honorable endeavours Don.

Stiggy said...

Hi Don, very interesting post, I too love building as you know - but at the moment, getting our other house for sale is a nightmare and swallows time like a blackhole devours light!

Anyway matey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Don said...

carl: glad to see you are feeling better!

do you have plans for a garden this year?

Don said...

stiggy: nice to hear from you!

how is the housing market over there? It is extremely slow here.

Do you have big projects you are doing to that house? Sounds like a post or two!!

Susan said...

Don, what a lovely and heartfelt tribute to your dad and granddad. I love that you are carrying on the tradition of growing, gleaning and preserving the food that you eat. What a rich heritage.

Do you ever think about getting additonal acreage to be able to raise your own beef and pork? That's one of my goals, but I can't achieve it without leaving this place.

I've been taking some of my extra eggs to the food pantry in town. They seem to really appreciate them. When my garden starts producing, I hope to donate some fresh produce as well.

re: my post
Are we talking a real, live chicken here? Should I bring a cage?

Anne Marie said...

Just wanted to come by and tell you thanks for following me at Na-Da Farm!
Have a Blessed Easter!!

And enjoy the weekend!!

Anne Marie

Ginnie said...

What you are doing, Don, actually brings tears to my eyes.....