From farm to further afield

Post 26/2021 Saturday 19 June . . . I grew up on a farm, then ventured further afield. In retirement I live on land that once grew crops of corn, wheat, and alfalfa, maybe even soybeans–a farm whose fields in the early 1960s sprouted a continuing care retirement community, Greencroft Goshen, part of the City of Goshen, Indiana. So, ha, ha, hee, hee, ho, ho, em, that’s the story of my life. Well, part of it anyway. Then and now. Now and then. Past and present.

A slice of summers on the farm

Rural life in summers when I was growing up pretty much centered around working and playing out-of-doors, though my siblings and I did our share of drying dishes, filling the wood box and shining the kitchen floor (waxed by Mom on her knees) by skating around in socks. Nevertheless, the outdoors was our dawn to dusk domain.

Imagine a straw hat. I can almost get the scent of what mine smelled like after a day’s work.

Imagine helping with chores such as feeding the pigs, cleaning the pigpen, milking one of our two or three cows, chopping turnips and mangles for the beef cattle, gathering eggs, harnessing the horses before we had a tractor, driving the horses and wagons during threshing time.

Imagine planting potatoes and a host or other seeds, weeding, cutting lettuce, pulling radishes, picking strawberries and raspberries. Harvesting onions and carrots, and oh those taste-tingling tomatoes. Cutting more lettuce. Picking cucumbers, cutting dill. Gathering wild crab apples and chokecherries for Mom to make jelly. Homemade root beer. Evenings with homemade ice cream. Fresh peaches from the farmer’s market.

Yoder’s strawberry patch, across the street from Greencroft, attracted many pickers this week, including some Amish families. Without a horse rail, this horse took up his place behind the buggy.
Yoder’s acreage includes a field of wheat, to the right of the strawberry patch.

Imagine threshing in partnership with uncle and aunt Clarence and Ida, and two other neighbors, a cooperative enterprise that created an almost festival-like round of work and fun and food, with non-mealtime pauses only for mending a threshing machine belt or, one time, speeding to St Clements with uncle Clarence in his Plymouth to get a replacement part for the threshing machine.

Imagine getting ready for the whopping noon thresher meals by washing in two washtubs of water set up out-of-doors, one tub to wash off the dust and grime and the other to rinse hands, face, and arms before toweling..

Imagine, in late summer, feeding Grandpa’s circle saw to cut up wood for our furnace and for Grandpop and Granny’s wood stove. Circling wood was nobody’s favorite job, the noise intense, the sawdust ubiquitous, but many hands got it done. Each evening, Grandpop sharpened the saw blade.

Imagine our immediate family of eight, plus a hired man and sometimes domestic help, sitting around the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Often, after dinner we were joined by Grandpop Solomon and Grandma Rachel for conversation and for Pop to have a cup of hot water with milk, Grandma a cup of tea. Our paternal grandparents lived just a quarter mile away, at the northeast edge of the farm. They and we wore a path through the field from their house to ours.

For a number of summers I worked for neighbors, Harry and Elva Weil. I started working there on weekends during grade school, cleaning out hog pens and doing other sundry jobs. During high school I helped them with baling hay and the wheat harvest.

Imagine, after a bountiful noon meal, even during those busy haying and harvesting days, sitting at the table for half an hour to watch the TV show, The Three Stooges.

Harry did custom baling, too. As the saying goes, I went along for the ride (to load and unload the wagons}. It was a moveable feast of work, food, drink and talk at various farms. One farmer complemented me on stacking the bales so tightly in the haymow that they could serve as a dance floor.

The grain harvest included stooking the sheaves to dry in the sunshine and some days later loading them on wagons to take them to the threshing machine at the barn. Harry and Elva hired extra hands to help with the grain harvest, again, complete with threshers’ meals.

These were hot, sweaty, muscle-building summers, and I was earning more money than I had ever seen. A swim at Willow Lake Park, near Woodstock (think concession stand), the Shakespeare Pond, or in nearby rivers and creeks was reward enough for some of those evenings. Ah, the bliss, and blisters, of memory.

A slice of summer now

Summer 2021 in Goshen, Indiana revolves around detours. Drivers are focused on my turn, your turn, nobody’s turn, No Turn, U-turn. Traffic planners must be glued to chess-like displays on their computer screens, conscious that all roads will lead to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair from July 23-31. The county fair, with the theme, Honor the Past. Celebrate the Present. Embrace the Future, is back after being canceled last year. Precautions are in place for the safety of exhibiters and guests. Some 200,000 guests have attended in previous years.

Imagine tons of animals, people, food, displays, midway, horse racing, entertainment and who knows what else.

Thankfully, we can get to many places in the city on foot, even to the 4-H Fair. A T-shirt gift from a niece and her friend, who some years ago visited us in Cornwall, UK, sports this message: “EVERYWHERE IS WALKING DISTANCE IF YOU HAVE THE TIME.” Righto! And if you can work around summer’s simmering heat, I might add. Carry water, is our best advice. As is getting the vaccine to ward off Covid-19.

Let’s take a gander at sights around Goshen.

Along alleys and less traveled streets

These homeowners got permission to close a block-long section of alley to build a garage and an extension to the house. They have since planted grass. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to navigate the two-mile walk from home to library.
View from an alley.
Resourcefulness reigns.
Gardeners, serious as any, tend their prize-worthy garden across the street from Goshen Hospital.

Walk to and from Fidler’s Pond

The Goshen Parks and Recreation Department sponsors an annual sailing camp for children and adults. The wind this morning sent the sailors on their sunfish boats expertly sailing about, an eagle winging above.
Maverick, whose owner sat nearby, enjoys splashing in Fidler’s Pond.
The walkway leading from Fidler’s Pond to US 33, once crossed, leads to a nice meander home.

Lunch with Gwen and Dean, breakfast out

A super-pleasant lunch and an equally super-pleasant visit out-of-doors with Gwen and Dean Preheim-Bartel was our good fortune this week, with a place decoration to take home. So grateful for friends.
On one of our walks we stopped at Cabin Coffee for breakfast, happily out of doors. We had a chance to catch up a bit with a retired Greencroft employee. The sign says, “Just Be Happy.” So be it.

A recipe I have yet to try

While I still have to try this recipe for Glazed strawberry pie or tarts, its description already tempts me to do it. I like the suggestion of putting cream cheese on the bottom of the pie crust.

4 cups hulled strawberries (1 quart box)

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

Dash salt

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 baked 9-inch pie shell or 12 baked medium tart shells

Crush 1 cup berries in small saucepan, bring to boil and puree through fine sieve. Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and water and add to sieved juice. Reheat, stirring constantly until glaze thickens and becomes clear. Cool slightly before stirring in lemon juice. While glaze is cooling, arrange remaining berries (with tips pointing up) in pie shell or tart shells. Spoon glaze over berries. Chill.

Sometimes vanilla pudding or softened cream cheese is spread over bottom of pie shell and strawberries are arranged on top.

From: food-a la canadienne, (Food Advisory Services, Ottawa, Canada Department of Agriculture, 1970).

May our summer 2021 grow lasting memories of beauty, tastes and interactions with family, friends, and the wider world.

Cheers!

-John

3 thoughts on “From farm to further afield

  1. Hot summer days. I remember them well. And the busyness of summer. I can still taste the mint tea sitting and steeping in gallon jars by the well heated by the sun. Gallons were drunk to keep hydrated and ah yes the homemade root beer was the best!
    Kaye

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    1. So good to hear from you, Marilyn. Yes, that’s a big part of the picture of me. The Earl of Sandwich would likely say the middle part is the most interesting, but I beg to differ with the Earl. The top and bottom layers are so full of discovery and blessing. It’s where the yeast is at work. Happy days to you and Steve as you near the relaxation of pandemic rules. We watched the G7 events with keen interest, able to spot many places we know at first hand. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit again in 2022. Best!

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