Do You Miss Home? Part 4 – Winter.

A true child’s story of winter.

When winter finally set in the snow would start.  I am sure we must have had snow-days due to the heavy snowfalls, but I don’t remember them.  I do remember spending almost every daytime second outside.  We didn’t care how cold it was; it didn’t matter.  You know how they dress the kid from A Christmas Story all bundled up – that was how all of us looked every time we went out to play.  My little sister and I would just flop down on the heavy blanket of snow and roll all the way down the hill.  It was a blast and a beautiful memory – even the struggle trying to climb back up to do it all again.

kid in full snowsuit (Yes – we looked EXACTLY like this every winter!)

Christmas was a wondrous time, but winter itself was (still is) my thrill.  Snow drifts would build over six feet high and get a frozen, crusty layer on the top of them.  That was always our snow forts.  We would start hollowing the drifts out and make tunnels, doorways, windows all along the drifts.  As long as the weather stayed freezing, the drifts would stay in that shape from playtime to playtime.

These pics give you the idea. However, we were never such woosies that we had to use portable fire pits. (Mainly because we did not have them back then.)  Oh, and NO DRINKS of any kind.  When we got cold enough, into the house, we would go, and mom always had hot cocoa on the stove waiting.  A bowl of marsh mellow’s on the side, please.

The kids on top of the snowbank are exactly what we looked like.  Not so many trees, more steep rolling hills.  When dad came through the driveway, around the barns and sheds with the tractor and front end blade;  the snow would really pile up on the banks, and then the fun would begin.

old tractor and plow

(Yep, this was like ours but no Quonset, we had a machine shed -bigger than a Quonset – that kept all of our farm equipment.)

We also did not have sleds we had saucers and one huge bad-ass toboggan.  The toboggan held the whole family if we squished together, it was huge!  The saucers were the most fun for us.  Not only did they go downhill the fastest, but they were lighter/easier to lug back up the hill, and could easily be hooked on ropes behind that little tractor and pull us all over the place.  Our large field off the yards and gardens was our favorite.  Plenty of room to swing way out when sledding.  Think of water skiing only sitting down on a big metal saucer (yes, our original ones were metal – never grab without gloves metal), hanging onto the heavy rope handle that was tied to the tractor.  Dad’s job: Take corners fast enough to swing us wide and try to dump us off our sleds – happened every time.  Dad 3, daughters 0.

Kids saucer-plastic      This is a new version of our old favorite, and yes, if I had the opportunity to try one today – I would!

kids saucer-metal   This one is almost exactly like ours – but no tow-rope or connectors for it, and the handles were a heavier rope type, not floppy like these nylon-cloth ones.  Man, could it fly down the fields and across the snow!  Think about your car sliding around on icy roads.  That would be us only laughing about it all the way.

When it gets right down to it, I still believe that winter is my favorite of the seasons.  The others have their merits, but winter is:

  • Family
    • Christmas
      • Fun
        • Warmth
          • Sharing
            • Playing
              • HOME

Tis the season to remind us that snow is here specifically for the kid in us all.

winter-time for home

(Oh, and a Merry Christmas to all!)

You can also check me out on:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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OH NO – NOT ANOTHER COOL DAD STORY?

To properly explain this one, I am going to have to write you a picture:

  • Two sisters, one about four the other about six.
  • It is early1960’s in Wisconsin.
  • Our farm is several miles from the nearest major highway, so a trip is required for everything.
  • The main road: County Trunk W.
  • The type of road: 2-lane, HUGE hills (cannot see the other side until you are on top of them type hills).
  • And so our story begins:

It is a beautiful fall day.  The leaves are either turning or falling, and this part of Wisconsin has such an amazing variety of trees that you are awestruck by colors.  The air is crisp, even in the mid-afternoon.  Dad decides we have to go to the grocery store in Adell (not the closest city, but a larger selection) to pick up some stuff.  We are taking the farm truck (I have no clue year, make or model – have to ask my older sister since she totaled it – but that’s another story).  No seatbelts (neither in it or required to have it- go figure?).

Dad grabs the girls and throws them into the front seat of the truck, then slides in on the driver’s side and starts her up.  Varoom, rumble, rumble, rumble (yes, this is how an old farm pickup truck sounds) and off we go.

From the end of our driveway, you turn onto County Trunk W and go east toward Adell.  We sit at the top of a hill, so the start is fun picking up speed on the way down.  Now remember, it is early 1960’s so cops really didn’t look for speeders on all the county roads (most of them were still gravel anyway – now ours.)

Down the hill, up a smaller one, and over – picking up some more speed.  Down again, up again, down again; this continues for about five or six miles, and THERE IT IS – SKUNK HILL.  The reason for the name is because of all the dead skunks on it.  You cannot see over to the other side, so there is no time to slow down.

  • Once over,
    • you see it,
      • it’s dead – and
        • your car/truck will stink for a month

It was the tallest hill around.  Dad was beatin feet to get up that puppy.  Hit the top and it happened, up we went off the seat into the air!  Squeals of joy and laughter rung out!  Dad was laughing even harder at us and our excitement just over a jump on a hill.  Great joy in the little things.  The laughter did not stop for another 3 or so miles until we got to the store.

NOW, some of you will be seeing the danger here.

Some of you will be seeing bad parenting here.

But some of you, just some of you will see this:

calvin-n-hobbes-laughing

  silly-minion-1

silly-minions-2

farm-dad-1

     great-dad2

Our parents were great!  Loving, funny, caring, sharing, encouraging, outstanding.  So please do not judge too harshly the decade we grew up in because it was all good. 

They were not rich, but our lives were.  If I could, I would wish that all children would have at least a couple of summers, and maybe a few falls, on a farm.

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How Cool is Your Dad?

Our dad was AWESOME (yes, you must sing the last word here!)!  Our parents were outstanding but in completely different ways.  It took the two of them to create we three monster sisters, but this story is about Dad.

Fall brings back more memories of Dad than Mom.  He kept the farm rolling.  He worked a full-time job in Milwaukee, at the same time carried a full-time job working our 80-acre farm.  That’s a lot of working and a lot of stress.  The amazing part is he always found time for us.  He included us in all parts of the farm.

In Wisconsin, we had to do a chore every spring called “picking rock” – yes, we hand picked up large rocks in the fields.  This had to be done before the plows could come through or they would cause major damage to the equipment.  My little sister was about 4-years old when she was initiated.

pushing-boulder-up-hill

We had this great little gray Massey Ferguson tractor.  It was the littlest one on our farm and a perfect fit for little girls.  Dad hooked up one of the flatbed trailers to the tractor, lifted us three girls up on the flatbed, and out to the fields we went.

Once in the field, Dad put the youngest (only four remember) into the driver’s seat, tied a wooden block to her gas pedal foot, put the tractor in the lowest gear and off she started.  My older sister, I, and my dad then would walk the field alongside the trailer finding, picking up, and loading all the rocks about softball size and up onto the wagon.  Easy right?  WRONG!

The best thing our parents gave us is our sense of humor; it is also the worst.  The baby sister and I were always at each other; it was our “thing.”  She now had a perfect advantage.  It all started out innocent enough, scooting along in the tractor.  Nice and smooth, slow and steady.  If we had a fairly big rock her job was to stop until we had it loaded (Yep – here it comes).

She did her job perfectly with Dad.  Just as well with our eldest sister.  Then there was me.  First, it started out as it should, moving along, picking up and loading rocks.  Then she saw me pick up a rock that was obviously very heavy and awkward for me.

She stopped the wagon.

Waited for me to get right up to it to set down the rock.

Then purposely bolted ahead so I could not set down the rock (little jerk)!

What made matters worse for me, was Dad laughing.  Our older sister joined in, and I was once again the brunt of the joke.  The more they laughed, the more she did it, the angrier I became – which made them all laugh harder.

dont-throw-rocks-sign  (or little sisters)

Dad would eventually compose himself and reprimand baby sister – sort of.  She would be good for a while, then start back up again.  This became the family ritual every rock picking season.  Funny how a person can get used to good-hearting ribbing, but others will call it a form of abuse.  To me, it was just normal family fun farm stuff.

3-sister-stones

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FARM KIDS AND FLYING HAY.

We had an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin that grew veggies for canning for winter food.  We also grew wheat, corn, and hay for the winter critters.  We raised beef cattle, had horses for fun, and a 4-H project with rabbits that got way out of control but filled the freezers with meat for a year (that’s another story).

One of my fondest memories growing up was of making hay.  Now before you panic, let me explain.  These were the old, small bales, the ones that usually weighed between 50-80 pounds and a normal adult could pick up and throw around.  This process became a family tradition.

We were the family with all the land and all the equipment, so when it came time to doing something like making hay, it was an extended family event.  Cousins, Aunts, Uncles and even some close family friends would be involved.  The parents and older kids worked the fields, while the kids got to work up in the haystack in the barn (I know, we were ripped off!).  The lower starting levels were not bad; but as the stack grew and the gap between the top of the hay and the top of the barn got smaller, the heat got more intense.  I don’t remember anyone passing out, but I also do not remember anyone coming out of there dry.

hay-baler-pic

(This is close to what ours was like, except back then there were no side racks, the hay came off the baler and we pulled it onto the wagon and stacked it.  The wheels were also up front and in back instead of in the middle)

The only major issue I remember is at the end of one season; the kids were allowed to go out and ride the last wagon of hay back (huge praise for our kid work).  My dad’s brother, Uncle Vern, was the tractor driver that day.  The wagon was full, we were all on top, and he was cruising back to the house.

The road from the hay field to the barn had only one stop.  The problem was it was at an intersection that sat at the bottom of a very steep hill (appropriately there also happened to be an old cemetery right across the street from where we had to stop – a very spooky cemetery!).  Well, Uncle Vern knew how bad this intersection was so he had been watching the top of the hill as we approached.  Instead of coming to a complete stop Uncle stood up, looked both ways one more time and then gunned the tractor.   (Everyone hated that turn because you couldn’t see anyone coming until they were already over the hill and just about on that intersection…this is why I said the cemetery was: appropriately placed there – eeek!).  He started the turn, was going a bit too fast, the hay on the wagon was not tied down (ya, no one even thought to do it back then), and we all tipped over!  The hay and the kids flew.  The tractor and, surprisingly, the wagon remained on their wheels.

UNCLE VERN STOPPED!

Parents from the house were watching from the top of the hay barn and saw us all fly.  Immediately they came rushing down the hill to help.  One group stopped traffic up by our driveway on the top of the hill.  Another group went to stop traffic in the other directions.  The rest ran to our aid.  You should have seen their faces.

NO ONE WAS HURT – NOT EVEN A SCRATCH, AND WE WERE LAUGHING!

 calvin-n-hobbes-laughing

Yep, crazy farm kids, had a blast flying off the top of the bales into the ditch.  It was grassy and semi-soft.  We were on the top of the stacked bales, so nothing landed on top of us, and besides; we all had jumped from greater heights inside the barn into the straw pile.  We thought it was fun – scary, but fun.  Later, eventually, so did our parents.

hay-wagon-pic

(This is very close to what it looked like before the dump.  The bales were stacked the same way, only add one more top row – 5 high – and we sat on top.) Ahhh,  childhood memories!

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SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH A YOUNG ADDICTION?

Don’t you just love a good addiction?  My first one started when I was only seven years old, and my parents put me into 4-H.  We had cattle, horses and lots of other farming things that I could have worked on and taken to the fair – but nooo – I chose to take a shot at knitting.  YES, with yarn – now how scary is that?

I have no clue what attracted me to it.  My mother would crochet once in a while (in a very long while), but it was not one of her passions.  I still remember the very first pair of needles I picked up.  I swear there was some type of chemical on them that the moment I touched them I became obsessed!  It was (and still very much is) an addiction.  The very first thing I ever created was called “The Pixie Slipper” – I won first prize – blue ribbon.  It was the ugliest thing anyone ever suggested for a pattern.  Real easy to do for a first-timer, but still ugly.  What brought all this up?  The pattern is back – EEEKKK!

You can find tons of all types of handmade slippers (and just about everything else) on eBay or Etsy.  I have searched and used both, but this one just made me giggle:

pixie-slippers

(you can click on the pic to take you to the site for more info)

Other than the major curling in the toes, it is pretty much the same old pattern.  Funny, the whole thing is just one big square?!?  If you go here: https://www.etsy.com/market/pixie_slippers  you can find a ton of variations to this project – who would have thought?

I remember putting such effort into that project.  There was just something about the feel of the needles that hooked me (yes, pun intended).  It then became the different feel of the yarns and fibers.  When I went to the fair after judging, I spotted so many other beautiful projects that kids just like me had done, and I was instantly drugged!  I would never be the same innocent me again – yarn – the culprit!

Now that I am older (notice I did not say wiser!?), I have come to realize it was not the yarn’s fault…it was the needles!  Well, it’s not really their fault either…it’s my tiny hands and fingers and MY PIANO TEACHER!!  Dun, dun, daaaa – the plot thickens!

hands-on-piano

Her method of teaching us (yep, little sis and I both had to take piano lessons – mom insisted!) was to wack the back of our hands if we didn’t reach an octave.  (Those that are lucky and have never had to, check out a piano some time – try to reach eight keys with your thumb on one and pinky on the other – that’s an octave.)  I couldn’t because of my short little fingers.  But, if I lowered my hand I could just reach the corners and make it – NOT ALLOWED – WACK! 

“You must pretend you have a golf ball stuck under your palm – this is how you must play!”  Wack – again…never did get that setup – BUT – I still tried.  Then on I was always sticking something in my hands, between my fingers (ok, sometimes up the nose – hee hee), working and trying to make them longer.  Didn’t work.  So, instead, I learned how to be more creative.  My favorite reading is “how-to’s” and love learning new things and techniques.  I love to write, draw, paint and all the other fun things you do with fingers…but the best, and most favorite, is still the original – KNITTING!

 

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THE FIRST TIME I TRIED TO DIE (no, not on purpose!).

To this day I cannot keep my hands off baby animals.  Don’t care what kind of animal it is, just as long as it is in baby form.  Adults, not so much.

On a farm, there is always some type of babies being born.  If it wasn’t my 4-H rabbits, it was the cousin’s pig.  Well, one fine year we had a Welsh Pony, her name was Dolly.  She was a booger!  The meanest pony I ever met.  Once you got the bridle and saddle on her, she was fun to ride.  Trying to get them on without her stepping on your foot or trying to nip you was another story.  I don’t know where or when it happened, but she got pregnant and had a colt.  A beautiful black and white spotted thing just like her.

dolley and baby

I can’t tell you how many times dad warned us NOT to go near Dolly.  She was very protective of her baby, as a mother should be.  Did I listen?  Nope!  I would go out there for hours and try to get close enough to touch the baby.

There was a small shed out in their pen with the door and window blown out.  Dolly would hide in there with her baby, and I knew it.  I would crawl up to the side of the building and try to reach in to get to touch the baby.  Never worked.

One day I decided I was just going to do it!  Just who did this pony think was the boss anyway?  So, I put on my little cowboy boots, grabbed my coat and off I went.  I marched right into that pen, right up to the pony and that was the last thing I remember of that encounter.

Apparently, she knew she was the boss and the moment I got too close, she decided to show me.  Swung her butt around and planted a hoof square on my head – knocked me out cold.  I was lucky for two reasons:

  1.  Dolly did not want to come after me for more damage once I was down.
  2. Dad saw the whole thing.

He managed to get me to the house (back then you didn’t just rush off to the hospital or doctor, you tried to handle it at home first.) where mom took over and eventually I came around.

Now, I’m not going to say I was okay.  As far as “ok” – that is still left to be determined (sure hope not)!  However, I was an idiot back then, and I will continue to prove this to you in my future family stories. (FYI – Dad’s nickname for me was “Dumb Shit” for a reason.)

headache dog

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ALL THIS IN JUST ONE MORNING?

Went to the greenhouse to water and check on things.  I’m pretty sure I have some Elves in there.  I go in one morning, and everything is still green and growing.  Then I go in the next morning and WOW!

I end up in there for about 2 hours, and this is only a part of what I got (ignore the onions – whole other story-darn chickens):

8-27 bounty 1 day

We are going to start (I say “start” because this will be an on-going process for the next several months) with our sauces.  With the variety of tomatoes that we have, it should be awesome!

The little green knobs in the plastic dish are our first real attempt at Mexican Gherkins (the fad now is calling them “Watermelon cucs” and putting them in their drinks?.).  They only get the size of your thumbnail and are really hard to spot on their massive tangled vines.  The variety of cherry tomatoes amazes me this year – especially since we didn’t plant any?!  They are all volunteers from the last year.

full size mexican gherkin    DSC_0011

(full-size Gherkin)                                                                       (mini tomato variety)

The flavors is what is getting me – SOO MANY!  Yellow, deep red, pink, orange, and my sister’s fav – the dark truffle (it’s the oval shaped one – they turn a deep reddish/black when they are at their peak!).  So, the bunch that you see in the top pic will be my breakfast and lunch (maybe I will pick some spinach to go with them – maybe not?!)  We share with family and friends as often as we can.  One friend came over and picked a ton (and amazingly we still have 50 tons left – yes 50?! Hee hee) and said she was going to eat them like popcorn while watching some movies – GREAT IDEA!

Farm fresh eggs pulled just this morning.  (3 chickens playing musical nesting box created this bunch)

Then I also cut some rosemary.  This is just a fraction of a fraction of what is growing in there.  I have two bushes that are about the size of a VW Bug vehicle – really!  They are HUGE.

I think the hardest part of gathering the fresh goodies is making it into the kitchen without eating them all.  Oh well, there will be more tomorrow – – – maayybee?!?

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