I have nothing but beautiful memories of my first seven years of life and those days, no doubt, influenced me to seek out the same type of life as an adult. My parents encouraged me to run free outdoors, absorb myself in nature, and surround myself with animals. The road I took to farming wasn't a straight path, but I hope to present a series of entries here on the blog to map out the twisting path that brought me to where I am today and help you to get to know this farmer a little better.
I remember the little house in which we lived during those formative years, but most of the memories I hold dear took place outside that little pink house on Mt. Olive Road in DeSoto, Missouri. I think I was born a free spirit. Fortunately, my parents nurtured that in me from an early age. I was such a free spirit, that I remember on more than one occasion getting into some trouble when my Granny from Georgia came to visit, because I would run around outside without wearing my clothes. That didn't set well with my Granny at all. She made sure that I had clothes on, although she didn't mind a bit if I left off my shoes. I spent many hours climbing trees or lying under them and looking into the branches. I loved watching the clouds, digging earth worms, catching bugs, playing in the sand box with my trucks, and following my parents around getting into everything they were trying to accomplish.
This was in the late 60's and early 70's and there was a recession making living difficult for most everyone except for the extremely wealthy. My Georgia born and raised father had moved my mother and I to the area when I was but six months old so that he could get a job in St. Louis to support us. His beloved, North Georgia mountains did not provide the means for him to live there and care for us adequately, so he did what he had to do. The man has taught me many important lessons over the years, and his selflessness in caring for his family has been an important part of the lessons I learned. The little house we lived in was very simple, and I guess by most people's standards, we were considered poor. However, I didn't realize it. My parents worked hard to provide food and a safe, comfortable place for me and later my little brother who is 3.5 years younger. My parents were "homesteaders" of sorts, at least according to today's implied definition. I am sure they didn't consider themselves such. They were simply living as they had been taught, to make the best of the few acres they owned by gardening, preserving food, and raising animals for the table.
One of my dad's favorite stories is telling how he took me to the garden with him when I was just a toddler. As he planted tomatoes down the row, I toddled along behind him "helping". When he got to the end of the row, I had pulled up every tomato that he had planted! Often, my parents would set me in the strawberry patch when the berries were ripe and let me entertain myself by picking the sweet berries and plopping them directly into my mouth. I can still feel my sticky, red fingers and taste the sweetness of those berries on my tongue. To this day, strawberries are my favorite, perhaps because they bring back the sweetest memories.
On our little "homestead" we had an interesting menagerie of animals. There was my sweet and lovely dog Lady, and later a Collie named "Peppy" for my brother. We had standard sized chickens and "banties". I loved to help my mother gather the eggs and was always fascinated with the butchering process when it was time to put some poultry on the table for dinner. On the other side of the chicken coop, separated by a wall, my dad made me a play house. I spent many hours in that play house "cooking", tending house, and taking care of my doll babies. I guess I was born maternal and had to make do with those dolls until my brother came along for me to smother. (I told my parents I needed a baby brother. Not a sister. Only a brother would do. I prayed diligently for him until he appeared!)
My dad often took me with him squirrel hunting and I would help him skin out the squirrels and get them ready for the frying pan. We also raised meat rabbits and I remember butchering day well. Because I was attached to the bunnies, Daddy would let me keep a few as pets. He would always send me off to another area of the property to play until the butchering was completed so that I didn't have to witness the rabbits being processed. I was never traumatized with the butchering process of the chickens or the skinning of the squirrels, but I guess because I had more of a heart toward the rabbits, he didn't want to risk upsetting me.
I don't remember us every raising any calves on that property, but I do remember us fattening up a hog and butchering her to put in the freezer. Any scraps from the dinner table were carefully saved and taken down to her every day.
Because my mother was such an animal lover, we also found ourselves temporary family to an orphaned raccoon that I named "Missy". We raised her up until she was big enough to open the door of her cage and let herself out. For a while she would come and go, until eventually, nature called and she went off to make a family of her own.
In addition to the dogs, chickens, rabbits, occasional hog, and a temporary pet raccoon, we also kept a horse for my mom who loved to ride. She also eventually insisted that we have a Shetland pony for us kids. I remember sitting up on that pony's bare back and holding onto her mane while my mom led her around the pasture. Our mother's love of horses was in her blood. Owning the horse and pony was an extravagant expense for my parents at that time of their life, but a testimony to my dad's love for my mom and his desire to make her happy. Unfortunately, the object of my mother's passionate hobby ended up being the that ended her life at a very young age. I was only seven and my brother three when she died as a result of injuries sustained in a freak accident with her horse. Her death occurred when I was seven and my brother three. Of course, our lives changed forever in a moment and for me, all those beautiful memories of that little homestead where I lived with my parents for the first seven years of my life are enshrined in my heart as a testimony of the good life that we had together. Those first seven years had a huge impact on who I am today, the choices I have made as an adult, the things I taught my children, and now the experiences and lessons I wish to share with my grandchildren.
Note: It's my intention to share more about our lives here in a series here on Mondays for a while entitled "Meet the Farmer". Eventually I may expand to include stories of other farmers as well. If you would be interested in sharing your story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.