Memories of Past Summers

No replies
Joined: 06/03/2010

Memories of Past Summers
            Sunlight filtered through the window along with the songs of birds while the nightly dew slowly steamed off to join the haze on the horizon that rapidly disappeared with the new day. Buzzing flies and other countless noises punctuated the early morning creating a surreal world of warmth and magic which was the start of my usual summer day at Grandma Lee’s “Farm”. For almost ten years from the age of six I spent the majority of my summer vacations at the “Farm”. One reason I was there was the fact that my single parent mother worked and at the Farm I was well looked after and kept out of trouble and another was the fact that Grandma Lee was getting on in years. Although she had grown up at the Farm she left when she married and was in her sixties when she started spending summers at the Farm again when her father passed away so it seemed prudent to have a pal there with her just in case!
            Life at the Farm was an exercise in living pretty much like people had lived in the last years of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. We got our water from a pump out in the yard that had been put there in the early 1900’s by ‘Great Granddad’ and the water was as cold and clear as it had been the first day it was pumped all those years back. We used an outhouse for our toilet duties and bedpans were strategically placed under beds for late night emergencies. The stove in the kitchen was wood fired as were the stoves in our bedrooms so we had a huge wood pile in the adjacent shed which was kept supplied by a local farmer who traded wood for the use of one of the large fields Grandma Lee owned. Kerosene lamps (and candles) were all over in case the “modern” electricity (from the REA back in the thirties) went out during a storm. We had no phone and the nearest phone was at the resort across the road about a half mile distant. As in the old days the local mail was our routine means of connecting with the outside world. Evidence of that was the old page worn  Sears mail order catalog, among others, that had been used quite often because of the furniture and other mail order goods from long ago that populated the farm house. On rainy days I used to read all the old catalogs and magazines that dated back to the early 1900’s.       
           There were always things around the Farm like tending the garden, filling the water buckets, hauling wood in for the stoves or any other odd task that needed to be done. Grandma entertained me by telling me stories about life at the Farm when she was growing up. She learned to shoot at an early age because one of her duties was shooting pests or hunting for small game for the table. Fishing was also a great topic since fish from the river had been a staple of the farm diet since day one. She used to help her dad in the fields with chores during the summer when planting and harvesting had to be done or helping her dad in the winter cut ice blocks off the frozen river to be stored in the old ice house, some of which he later sold, and some for the “ice box” in the kitchen before the electrical age got to the Farm. There were the animals like the two mules that pulled the equipment used in the fields and how she learned to take care of them even learning to mend harness and rigging for them. She had many dogs but one had been a large Bull Mastiff named Duke that had a neck so large the old collar he had worn fit around my waist like a belt. I marveled at all the tales she told and we often looked at pictures from her childhood days and they intrigued me to no end. As I grew older we would sometimes go for long walks in the surrounding fields and woods.
            When my chores were done (yes, I had chores since you carried your own weight at the farm) I fished or swam in the river or roamed the woods trying to act like Daniel Boone or Davy Crocket. When I was old enough I had my trusty BB gun and later my .22 rifle to use around the fields and woods that surrounded the Farm. Fishing was something of a passion once I got into it. I mostly caught pike and bass or panfish but every once in a while a nice walleye would come along and the thought of fried walleye fillets still makes my mouth water. I spent countless hours in the small rowboat drifting down the river and rowing back to the landing at the Farm. Water is like a magnet for a boy left to his own devices for a summer. I watched turtles and muskrats swim along the river and the ducks and geese nested along the marsh that bordered the river. Deer would come to the river to drink and I sometimes saw one swim across to get into the woods on the other side.
           When summer was drawing to a close it was blackberry time and we would head to the patch way up in the woods and fill buckets with the juicy berries and once picked it was off to the kitchen for blackberry jam canning time. We also canned a lot of the vegetables from her garden that she would take back to her winter house in town. One of my favorite things was helping Grandma Lee make pasties for our last few days at the Farm. Grandma taught me her pasty recipe and I still make them the same today, with fresh flank steak and lard along with rutabagas and potatoes. As our last few days passed to a close we would store all the tools and stuff in the storage sheds until next summer rolled around. We spent a good bit of time making the place tidy and secure for the winter and it was always a sad part of my summer to know I had to go home and go back to school.
My Farm with Outhouse