Saturday Single No. 195

As readers probably could guess, we’ve been preoccupied and our time has been preempted by the garden. As I write, the Texas Gal is in the kitchen, trimming and blanching for freezing several more quarts of wax beans and green beans; when she’s finished with that, our first cucumbers of the season will surrender to their fates as refrigerator pickles.

A couple of Saturdays ago, the two of us spent the morning reclaiming portions of the garden where we’d let weeds feel welcome. By the time we were sitting on the patio with cold beverages, our task completed for the morning, we were exhausted. I wondered then and I still wonder this morning how on earth my grandparents – my mom’s folks – thrived on a farm until they were far past what most of us would consider retirement age. One quarter of their days’ tasks would leave me on my back, too exhausted to even heft a beer glass.

So I know I’m not cut out for farm life, but that’s a judgment I could have made without the weeding exhaustion of the other week. I used to spend at least a couple weeks a summer on Grandpa’s farm, entertaining myself during the early years as Mom, Grandma and my aunt canned fruit, cooked and froze vegetables, made jams and jellies and then plucked, cleaned, cooked and preserved – either by canning or freezing – up to twenty chickens. In the later years that my grandparents were on the farm, of course, I ended up plucking chickens and serving as errand boy, hauling fresh vegetables from the garden to the house and bringing into the kitchen supplies bought in town.

Just from those brief experiences at the farm just outside the small town of Lamberton, I’ve known for years that the agricultural life is not for me. Oh, I’m enjoying our garden, even though some of the effort can be taxing. But it’s a hobby, not our livelihood. And for that, I am glad.

Still, I think that the glimpses I got of farm life when I was young were valuable. I’ve always known where milk came from – I think most of my peers in elementary school did, but I’m not entirely sure – and as long as I can remember, I’ve been aware of the effort it takes to raise food from the earth. And I admire those whose temperaments fit the demands of that life.

My grandparents – and my aunt with them – had those temperaments. For more than fifty years, first on a farm near another small town, Wabasso, and then on the farm I knew outside Lamberton, they thrived. As you might guess, my mom and I have been sorting through more pictures this week, and some of those in the box we’re working on show the last Christmas on the farm and our first visit to the house they moved to in Lamberton.

I recall that first visit to the house in town. It felt utterly wrong. The furniture was the same, as were the furnishings: the dishes and all the other tools of daily life. But seeing those things, and seeing my grandparents and my aunt in a different setting was unsettling. And I managed to realize that if it was unsettling and felt utterly wrong for me, who’d only visited for portions of my eighteen years, then it had to feel so much more wrong and unsettling for my grandparents and my aunt. It might have been my first real exposure to the fact that life has cycles and seasons and we have to make our ways through them, changing and learning as we go.

I won’t say I knew exactly what my grandparents and aunt were feeling, but a few years later, on his 1979 album Sojourner, the recently deceased Larry Jon Wilson nailed it pretty well in his song “The Farm,” and that’s today’s Saturday Single.

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2 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 195”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Both of my folks grew up on Iowa farms, and the return visits were enough to convince me that an air-conditioned radio studio was far more appealing than the oppressive heat and humidity of an August cornfield. Mom and Dad had likewise flown the coop at their earliest opportunities.

    Looking back through the family photo albums always gives me pause to see how hard farm work was. I’m content enough to scratch that genetic horticultural itch with a small garden plot and potted veggies on the back deck. My grandparents would have found it ludicrous that I light up an Off Power Pad insect repellent lantern to ward off the mosquitoes prior to tending to the crops, but such is the advantage of farming in the middle of the city circa 2010.

  2. Fusion 45 says:

    Reminds me of 1979. Funny thing about that.

    After taking the better part of 6 months off due to server issues (and a crazy over-commitment to Little League baseball), Fusion 45 is slowly creeping back onto my personal radar with some new content, new categories, a new design.

    Not that I would normally sue comments to hype my own space but, as we are brethren in arms, I figured I’d give it a mention.

    Stay well and keep up the excellent work…

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