Archive for March, 2014

FIERCE FARM ANIMALS

March 28, 2014

Perhaps it is time to discuss some of the unseen hazards of pioneer life. Despite the serene tableau pictured in numerous television and movie versions of pioneer life, some animals are not as friendly as depicted in the idyllic media.

My son, in a desperate attempt to keep eggs on the table for his two, small boys, better known as “eating machines,” acquired six chicken last week. He is now deep into building nesting boxes and a safe environment for the cluckers.

Perhaps the scenarios of the “ANGRY BIRDS” are not as imaginary as one might think. I tried to warn him; he didn’t listen or discounted my warnings as mere misconceived childhood memories. Chickens will peck at you!

Apparently he has one nasty tempered hen, who doesn’t like human caretakers, she decided to strike the hand that was feeding her. “Wow!” My son exclaimed. “That hurt. See the mark on my hand.”

I nodded affirmatively and proceeded to tell him about a particularly foul-tempered fowl from my childhood who used to watch for me to go out the back gate and raced after me pecking my bare legs all the way to the climbing tree. (Rule One: Do Not wear shorts.) Usually I lost the race and stood at the bottom notch of the tree screaming for my father’s help. The positive outcome was that this feathered terrorist was a rooster. Midway through the summer, he became Sunday dinner.

I’m suspecting that my son’s “mean hen” may suffer the same fate.

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MORE SPRING THOUGHTS

March 21, 2014

 

Last time we covered the first flowers of spring. I’d like to write a bit more before we move on to other subjects. Yesterday was the first day of spring. It brings to mind the springs of the turn of the century. Due to the rural nature of the area, children were released from school in mid-May so they might help with spring chores.

Since there weren’t any breaks for teacher in-service or fall, and spring breaks the required one hundred eighty school days were achieved by May. From the age of five or six boys and sometimes girls were needed to help plant beans, corn, or sorghum. Alfalfa hay ordinarily was ready for the first cutting in late May, so unlike today, children were frequently involved with cutting, raking, and stacking hay.

If there were animals on the homestead, children were involved with milking cows, tending to calves or colts, and later branding or de-horning. Chickens or rabbits were solely the responsibility of the children since the adults had other duties.

Girls were responsible for helping with gardens and looking after younger siblings. If the boys were busy with the farming or ranching, girls would help with feeding and watering the poultry or rabbits. Feeding the milk cows calf, and perhaps colts, could also fall to girls.

Everyone had chores to do during the year and summer was no exception. Difficult work was shared by every family member.

SNOW BRINGS SPRING FLOWERS

March 14, 2014

 

We had a brief snowstorm on Tuesday. It was a mix of rain, snow, sleet and something the weatherman calls grapple. It was not the kind of mean, cold snow that has been hitting the Mid-West and East Coast. It was a “spring snow.” The type of snow that smells like spring—clean and fresh.

Of course due to the cold overnight temperatures, commuters were facing icy roads on Wednesday morning, but the outside air still smelled like spring. Discounting the inch of ice my daughter shoveled off of the sidewalk, I know spring is on the way. My daffodils and tulips are pushing the season by about three inches.

Now is the time to take a walk and locate the first wildflowers of spring. Fuzzy pasque- flowers should be poking their heads up between the dry grass from last year. These elusive blue-lavender blossoms are such early bloomers that many times I miss their appearance altogether.

As a child, I used to beg to be allowed to walk the mile and three-quarters from the bus stop home in the afternoon. The walk took us (my two siblings and myself) past a rocky hillside where the pasque-flowers grew in abundance. By late March or early April, hiding among the chunks of petrified wood were hundreds of the fuzzy heads. They made a wonderful bouquet to pick for Mom. The first wild flowers of spring—earlier than tulips or daffodils in the yard—always welcome after a cold winter. .

THE SMELLS OF WINTER

March 7, 2014

 Memories of winter tend to bring to mind the crisp smell of the outside world after a snowstorm. The air so cold and icy that taking in a full breath, is nearly impossible, is a winter remembrance. What of other winter smells.

People unfamiliar with the farm or ranch have no concept of the smell of a wet cow or horse. Wet chickens are a smell no one forgets. Those smells are burned into a farm child’s memory.

What of the inside winter smells? Pioneers would recall the smell of coal and wood smoke. It was difficult to open the cookstove door without releasing smoke into the room. Without the benefit of open windows and doors, the smoke lingered in the room permeating curtains, rugs, furniture, and clothing. If the pioneer mother accidentally scorched or burned food the choking smell could remain in the house or cabin for months. Probably the worst smell was the smell of wet clothes, especially wet wool. If socks, mittens, or coats were soaked by snow, they would be hung over a chair to dry out before the owner had to return to the outside. No smell is as acrid as the smell of wet wool. The smell soaks into your being and remains a lifetime.

Of course there are pleasant smells too. The smell of gingerbread, or cinnamon cookies is winter smells most folks long to smell again. A hearty vegetable soup simmering on the stove or the lingering smell of fresh baked bread are smells preserved in the memory of any rural child.

Some winter smells are memory’s perfume, but some are only exceeded by the smell of a skunk.