Buckets and buckets and bushels of apples.
Apples were collected every fall by none other than all of us (and sometimes extended family would be employed, paid in the sheer joy of the experience and apple goods). My mom made her own applesauce and we all participated in creating fresh cider with an apple press, bees swarming everywhere. Some of the bees ended up in the cider, I’m sure. Good protein.
I was sent to college one year with a jug or two of cider which I attempted to turn into alcohol by letting it sit in my dorm room closet. I really should have read up on it beforehand. No worries, though—there were plenty of other booze options available.
Sitting on the backs of our black angus, who didn’t seem to mind. Had they known that we planned to eat them, they might not have allowed it.
Naming the animals we would eventually eat. Clever pun intended names like Sir Loin, Chuck and Patty. And Rhoda the Pig, named after Rhoda Morgenstern from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Future pigs that enjoyed expired Deans cottage cheese and yogurt, thanks to our neighbor who worked there, included Bacon, Hambone and Pork Chop.
Hiding when it was time for hard labor, like loading hay into the barn. That sh*t was heavy!
The time all the ducks disappeared. The suspect: a gang of coyotes. Eventually, one duck returned and was named “Lucky.”
The death of our first cat. He loved to climb into our parka hoods to stay warm, so we named him Papoose. One day, he was run over by a car—our car! He was apparently under it when my dad backed out of the garage as we were leaving for church. We watched our beloved cat breathe his last breath. Horrific!
Litters of kittens every year. Kittens kittens everywhere.
Freezing in the house. My dad kept the heat off upstairs unless it went below zero. We could see our breath! Want to see a kid get ready for bed fast? This is the trick. When we gathered to watch The Love Boat, all you could see were our heads and bundles of afghans and snuggie, wearable blankets, which were all the rage.
The garage fire. One night I was awakened by frantic yelling. The garage was on fire! It was a large building that held our cars and big antique of a tractor. As the flames licked the second level, my dad rushed to remove the vehicles. Please do not attempt this should your own garage catch on fire. It wasn’t until years later that my younger brother admitted that he had been playing with matches earlier that day. By the garage. Kids: Don’t play with matches!
Cropdusters: There were biplanes, helicopters… they sprayed the fields across the road then turned around above our front yard. So fun to watch! Exposure to pesticides? Priceless.
Making prank phone calls with friends because we were f*ckin’ bored out of our minds! That calls for another blog post, but I will tease you with this fact: I not only got caught, but ended up with a police record (don’t worry—it was a scare tactic dreamed up by my mom who knew the truant officer because she worked at the high school) that included a mug shot. This extreme scare tactic worked—I haven’t made a prank phone call since.
The field of corn that we grew. As a family, we were to harvest it all. By hand. The entire field, which had to have been a couple of acres at LEAST. And it turned out we planted the wrong kind of corn: feed corn. Not something to feed humans, but meant for cattle. Oops! Hilarious.
It was all a hobby. No herds of cattle, just a few dairy and beef animals at a time. A little of this, a little of that. Hence the term “hobby farm” for those of you who didn’t quite grasp the concept from my earlier description. Enough to sustain us.
When my parents were empty nesters, they raised a few more animals.
I specifically remember two turkeys, Thanksgiving and Christmas, that thought my mom was their mom (boy, were they mistaken! Hello, dinner plate.). Eventually, they were down to one dog and a few outside cats (or mousers, as my mom liked to call them).
The family farm sold this summer.
The day they moved, my son and I went to help. I wept upon arrival (WUA). “This from the one who enjoyed this place the least,” my mom said, shaking her head with a smile as she took me into her arms.
My brother, son, dad and I took a final walk around the perimeter, along the creek in search of the path my dad hadn’t mowed in a while and through the buildings, taking in every inch, every tree and every breath of fresh country air.