My roots come from the farming community in South Western Ontario, where my family owned a 100 hundred acre farm that was on some of the best soil in the Great Lakes basin. We had what was called a mixed farm. Meaning the farm was suitable for raising a variety of livestock on pasture, as well as, producing a sufficient amount of hay, grain and corn to support those livestock year round. So we raised a few beef, mostly crossed Hereford or Charolais, along with some Hampshire pigs.
I grew up knowing all the successes and failures that are an integral part of a farming lifestyle. I knew there were barn chores to do morning and night, and that the animals in our care depended on us to be there every day of the year, no matter what. That not all the animals born on the farm thrived or survived for a multitude of reasons, many of which were beyond our control and some were destined to feed us or the neighbours. That some years the crops gave an abundance and other years not all the crops made it to harvest.
There were always more things to repair and jobs to do than a month of Sundays could hope to make a dent in. And you had to figure out how to fix most of it yourself, cause if it was important, you couldn’t wait around for some repair person to show up, go away to order parts and then charge you for taking a week or two getting around to the job. No Siree, it was faster and easier to just do it yourself. In the end, as a kid, you couldn’t help but learn a lot of every day practical and useful basic life skills.
Everyone worked the half acre garden plot behind the old stone farm house, from the beginning of April through to the end of October, producing as much fruit and vegetables as possible for the family table and to store and preserve for use over the winter months. We didn’t have a greenhouse and just started seeds in a couple of flats on a window sill or sowed them directly in the garden rows. I think a good third of the garden was potatoes, seeded from left overs kept in the basement from the season before.
The fruit trees were in the next field over. It was always the first field the moms with their new borns got to graze in the spring. We didn’t have a lot of fruit trees but what we had looked like real trees, not all stumpy with chopped up limbs and they produced tons of apples, pears, cherries, and peaches. Of course there was always a question of who got more of the fruit… us or the birds and other wildlife.
My father and his brothers were hunters and fishermen, too. So if demands on the farm weren’t too immediate, I could count on spending most spring and summer weekends on the boat with my Dad, on one of the Great Lakes, fishing for small mouthed bass, trout or perch. And in the late fall when it was deer season, the men would make the journey north to bring home some venison, which I would help to skin and prep before the carcass went to the local butcher to be cut & wrapped.
It was hard work but it was good work, rewarding on so many levels, even if you would never make a lot of money. No one ever went away hungry that came to our door. I’ve tried to continue that lifestyle with my family, instilling the same sense of reward for hard work, along with a connection to the natural world around us and respect for where the food on our table comes from. Given the chaos I’m seeing the children of today experiencing, many of them are going hungry for real food to nourish their bodies and minds. Sadly, most of them think their food comes from the grocery store.