MONDAY MEMOIR: 4th GRADE LESSONS

FRESH APPLES BARLEY DARTS

All eyes turned to look, as I opened the classroom door.  I was ten years old and a little nervous.  As the principal introduced me to the 4th grade class, I saw only one vacant desk.  The principal asked the neighboring student, “Pat, how about we have her sit next to you?”  Pat responded by nodding and offering a warm smile.  The class snickered.  While I didn’t understand what they found funny, I still took my place at the desk.  Meanwhile, I managed to return a smile to Pat, who was seated behind me.

I had noticed that Pat had long hair like me and we both kept it in a single pony-tail.  Pat wore a plain shirt and jeans.  I had on jeans too, but I thought my shirt was more attractive with its calico flowers.  I also saw that Pat wore glasses with pointy corners.  They looked like a cat’s eyes.  But, I didn’t have time for more observations.  I had entered the class, during a history lesson.

The teacher quickly brought our attention to the overhead projector.  The transparencies displayed the poem, Paul Revere’s Ride by Longfellow.  The class had been working on it, all year-long.  I would have only four weeks.  All 13 stanzas and nearly 1000 words were to be memorized.  And the exam consisted of reciting it aloud, alone, and in front of the class.  It began,

            “Listen my children and you shall hear

            Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

            On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

            Hardly a man is now alive

            Who remembers that famous day and year.”

It ended,

                        “So through the night rode Paul Revere;

                        And so through the night went his cry of alarm

                        To every Middlesex village and farm,—

                        A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

                        A voice of in the darkness, a knock at the door,

                        And a word that shall echo for evermore!

                        For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

                        Through all our history, to the last,

                        In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

                        The people will waken and listen to hear

                        The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

 

Longfellow wrote the poem in 1860, to celebrate our battle for freedom from the British.  But, he also wrote it as a wake-up call, before the Civil War.  According to Wikipedia, Longfellow “used poetry to remind readers of cultural and moral values” and by sharing “common history he was attempting to dissolve social tensions.” His poem included intentional, historical mistakes for effect.  Unfortunately, many textbooks relied on this poem as historical fact.  It was not.  Those in power hadn’t done their homework.

Later that afternoon, Pat and I shared the same lunch table.  Most of the kids were eating a hot lunch from the cafeteria, like mine.  Although, there were a few who brought sack lunches from home.  Pat was one of them.  However, Pat’s sack lunch was different from anything I had ever seen before.  Pat’s sandwich was not in a plastic baggie.  Instead, it was wrapped in a cloth napkin.  It was made with bread that was brown and thick with flakes and seeds.  The filling was bizarre, too.  There were green plants in it.  Pat’s carrots were not pale orange, cut into wavy sticks, or wrapped in more plastic.  The carrots were whole, long, almost red, and the tops weren’t even cut off.  I even watched Pat eat some of the green tops.  And Pat’s apple was sad-looking.  It was small and not very red.  Green and yellow stripes dominated it.  And it had bug bites on it.

Honestly, I felt sorry for Pat.  So, I offered to share my hot-lunch.  My offer was graciously declined and then reciprocated.  Pat offered me a bite of a living sandwich.  I thanked Pat, but I could not accept.  Pat’s wasn’t normal.  It was different.  All the other kids had normal sack lunches.  Things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonderbread, Hostess snack cakes, and fancy bags of potato chips.  Some had apples, too.  Jumbo sized, ruby-red, and shiny apples exactly like the one offered to Snow White.  There were no bug bites, spots, or dents.  They were so perfect they didn’t look real!  However, I noticed that kids only took a bite or two and tossed ‘em in the giant garbage cans, on their way out to recess.  Whereas, Pat ate all the “pitiful” lunch and didn’t throw anything away.

At recess, I quickly found out that the girls’ cliques were all full.  And the boys’ games followed a top-secret playbook.  Unfortunately, it was the end of the year and there was no room for anyone new.  Then I spotted Pat, reading a book under the slide.  Apparently, Pat was either shunned or opted out of playing at recess.  I interrupted Pat’s reading and we spent recess together, talking.   I discovered that Pat was really smart.  I’m not talking about triple-digit, multiplication smart.  I mean genius smart.  So, I reasoned that’s why the other kids must have snickered.

However, I didn’t find Pat’s intelligence funny.  I found it fascinating.  Pat even knew that the poem we were studying wasn’t all true.  Wow! I wondered, did the teacher know, too?  After we returned from recess, one of the girls in my class taunted me, “Are you friends with Pat?” Then a group of girls surrounding her giggled.  I saw Pat’s head lower in what appeared to be shame.  I looked at the girl and defiantly said, “Yes.  I am friends with Pat.”  Pat looked up and smiled.  The class roared and the girl doubled over laughing.  When she could catch her breath again, she announced, “Pat’s not a girl, dummy!  Pat’s a boy.” So, that’s what had been so funny to them.

Yes, Pat’s long hair had given me a different impression.  It was a conservative time when most boys wore short hair.  And I’d soon learn that Pat’s hair was not the only thing that set him apart from the others.  Pat loved books and not contact sports (dumb!).  His father was a rocket scientist for NASA (yeah, right!).  His mother and father did not live together and were never married (scandalous!).  And there was a man who lived in their home, but had not fathered all his brothers (shameful!).

Even Pat’s brothers brought sack lunches to school.  They all ate strange-looking bread and nothing with white sugar (weird).  Pat’s family didn’t believe in store-bought deodorant and they made their own soap (eeewww).  They didn’t buy anything that was not a necessity, saying they had enough (no such thing!).  They didn’t purchase birthday or (gasp!)– Christmas gifts.  They had even done school at home, depending on where they lived (illegal?).  They told stories of staying at home all day, just reading books, gardening, and learning about nature (whoa!).  They grew all their own food (no way!).  And (shock of all shocks!) they had no T.V.!

Everyone rationalized their family’s oddity with poverty.  The local gossips wanted to know, just how did Pat’s mother pay cash for the acreage they were farming?!  The gossips were even busier when she later paid cash for the house that they built.   It fell on deaf ears when Pat and his brothers would patiently explain, they were not poor and it was a lifestyle choice.  “Who in their right mind would choose to live that way, if they had money?” was the response.  And they were damned when they didn’t even know how to farm the “right way”.  According to our Big Ag neighbors, they were doing something called, “Organic” and it was just plain stupid.

To make matters worse, many of the students’ parents were malicious.  Some went so far as to say that Pat and his siblings  should be taken away from his mother.  But, the kids were healthy and smart.  They weren’t neglected or abused.  So instead, their house “mysteriously” burned down.  Thank God, everyone got out, but they lost everything.

To add insult to injury, the gossips then accused Pat’s mother of doing it for the insurance money.  But, my family knew better.  She didn’t believe in supporting the insurance market.  And unlike everyone else, they had no coverage.  My parents offered what they could, but Pat’s mother refused.  Besides, she had had enough of the local ignorance.  And while Pat’s mother was a strong woman, her determination to stay was not worth the lives of her children.  So, they moved and I cried.

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear,…

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear…

the midnight message…”*

 

Attention class! This 4th grade poem is now for 8th graders.*

 

 

*(source: glencoe.com “Paul Revere’s Ride”)

MONDAY MEMOIR: DIRTY TRUTHS

ASPARAGUS TRENCHING 2016 BARLEY DARTS

 

It happened on one of my first weekends in Minnesota.  Ted, my eight-year old son, needed to be seen by a doctor.  Since the clinic was closed, we had to go to the hospital.  There, the registration clerk called for a nurse.  She in turn, lead us to the emergency room.  The nurse then asked questions, checked Ted’s vitals, and recorded the information.  Before she left, she told us the doctor would be with us shortly.

Ted sat on the hospital bed and I sat in the chair beside it.  The only other person in the area was a man wearing dirty boots, jeans, and a plaid shirt.  He smiled at us and continued his janitorial work.  When he finished sweeping, he walked over with his broom to say hello.  We were new to town and welcomed his friendly chit-chat.  However, when he asked Ted to lift his shirt, I turned on a dime.  My protective, motherly instincts took over.  This man was a stranger to us.  He was a janitor.  I snapped at him, “No.  Thank you.  We will wait for the doctor.”  I firmly told Ted to put his shirt back down.  Ted complied.  The man backed away and then burst out laughing.

When the man regained his composure, he introduced himself as the doctor.  He apologized for the confusion.  He offered a handshake and an explanation.  The doctor shared that he was on call for the emergency room.  Prior to our arrival, there had been a life-threatening emergency.  He had been working in the fields of his farm, when he got the call.  There had been no time for him to change his field clothes.  He rushed to stabilize the patient, who was then transported to another hospital.

Afterwards, the doctor saw the mess he had made with his muddy boots.  He teased that the nurses didn’t like it when he made such messes, so he got a broom.  As he was cleaning up the mud, we arrived.  And as the nurse did her assessments, the doctor had paid attention.  From my own account, he already knew Ted’s previous treatment plan.  All he needed to do was to listen to Ted’s lungs.  And to do that, he needed Ted to raise his shirt.  The doctor teased that he’d change into medical scrubs first, if needed.

I was flooded with a mess of emotions.  I had arrived concerned for my son’s health.  Now, I was worried I had offended the very doctor that would treat my son.  I was also embarrassed and frustrated.  Honestly, I try hard not to stereotype people based on clothes, homes, jobs, etc.  And yet, I also found myself desperately trying not to laugh.  Such things like this only happened in movies; think: Doc Hollywood.  Yet, this was not fiction.  It was the real deal.  I fought back the tears and then squealed with laughter.  There were some down to earth doctors here.  So down to earth, that one of them left behind a trail of mud…

MONDAY MEMOIR: TEMPTATION

PIGS JAN 2018 BARLEY DARTS

Temptation.  It’s wrong and evil, right?  Not necessarily.  “Why is it that any time we speak of temptation we always speak of temptation that inclines us to wrong?  We have more temptations to become good than we do to become bad.”[1]  Years ago, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen made this valid point.  And even though I’m not Catholic, I agree.

I know most folks say, they’re good people who want to do better.  Homesteaders are no different.  We are especially tempted to do more good, than bad.  We desire to be:

Good gardeners.

Good hunters.

Good gatherers.

Good caretakers of our families and animals.

Good stewards of the earth.

Good cooks.

Good neighbors.

 

Yes, temptation is temptation; good or bad.  And it stalks us 24/7, 365 days a year, for all our lives.  However, author Paula Hendricks says, “While you and I must expect temptation, we sure don’t have to feed it”.[2]  Alas, I tease she’s never been a homesteader.  Most of our temptations are hungry and must be fed.

 

 

[1] (Quotes About Temptation, n.d.)

[2] (Hendricks)

MONDAY MEMOIR: SMILE

SHAE 2 PLUS YRS OLD BARLEY DARTS

 

Today, I spent the afternoon at the dentist’s office.  I had another root canal.  Yes, I know many folks complain about such things.  But, I’m not.  Instead, I am grateful for good dentists and dental insurance.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that I want or look forward to root canals.  But, they’re better than the alternative… ongoing pain, infection, tooth loss, and digestive issues.  Besides, the technology was awesome!  There were computers, 3-d images, 360-degree scans, and infrared, light wands.  Dental science has sure come a long way, in the last fifty-years.

Interestingly, I still remember my first dental appointment.  I was toddler and it was an emergency.  It all began when I had stacked my toys in the corner of my crib.  I then stood on them to climb out.  Which is not surprising, considering I’ve always hated being boxed-in or confined.  Unfortunately, it’s also not surprising what happened next, considering I’ve always been clumsy, too.  I promptly fell flat on my face, onto the floor.

To make an expensive and long story short, silver caps were placed on all my front teeth.  They remained there, until my baby teeth fell out.  And while it hurt, my dentist and parents made me laugh.  And while I looked like the infamous villain from a James Bond movie, they insisted that I was pretty.  They handed me a mirror to see my teeth “that sparkled”.  Then they made me promise to always smile.

Those years came and went.  Then adolescence arrived, along with pimples and braces.  This time it was an orthodontist and my parents who reassured me.  They said I had pretty teeth, behind all that metal.  They made me laugh and said I had a beautiful smile.  And fifty-years later, there have been root canals.  Instead of silver, it’s now gold or porcelain that sparkles.  Of course, it hurts… in the pocket-book.  Yet, I’m determined to smile.  After all, I made a promise, a long time ago.

MONDAY MEMOIR: THE “PERFECT” JOB

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The “perfect” job.  Some folks say it pays six figures and has an office with a view.  Others swear by dependable co-workers and a great boss.  Many argue for ample resources and creative freedom.  Most settle for a consistent schedule and days off.  And the rest just want the same one, until retirement.

As I look back on the jobs I’ve worked, my wages have been quite modest; even when salaried.  If my office had a window, it usually overlooked a parking lot.  At one time, my office was even in a central supply closet.  Yet, I appreciated the privacy for patient phone calls.  And I kept a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.

Unfortunately, some jobs were always short-staffed.  Others lacked a cohesive board of directors.  There were arguments over finances, greed, or both.  Some were fraught with middle-aged bosses that threw temper tantrums.  And for too many years, I’ve watched talented and dedicated workers quit their jobs.  Those that weathered abuse, in turn, took their frustration out on fellow co-workers.  And those co-workers eventually, withered away.  All were stuck between a rock and hard place.  Some were fighting for what remained of their dignity.  And others, to keep a roof over their head.

At a minimum, it was unhealthy and discouraging.  You know, like when you must bring your own toilet paper and pens to work?  No, I’m not exaggerating and yes, it happens.  And in some cases, there was blatant abuse.  You know, like when an irate boss throws something at co-workers?  The fact is, dysfunctional people thrive on dysfunction.  Unfortunately, there’s only one thing that’ll ever be clear, obvious, and consistent in such environments.  That’s the dysfunction itself.

Long-term relationships, stability, growth, and success will be sacrificed.  It occurs moment by moment, day by day, and person by person.  While healthy people and marginal businesses may survive from one year to the next, few, if any, thrive.  And none will reach their full potential.  However, in a healthy environment, dysfunctional habits are culled immediately or “nipped in the bud”.  Why?  It ensures positive and continuous growth of people and profits.  They are both priorities.  And they are both an inseparable part of a healthy “bottom line”.

I’m fifty-years-old and I now have the “perfect” job.  I’m yoked alongside Keith, as a homesteader.  No, it doesn’t pay six figures.  And we still purchase our own toilet paper and pens.  But…

We are rich in creative opportunities.

We reap what we sow.

We’re paid in hugs, kisses, priceless memories, healthy food, fresh air, and exercise.

Tantrums are restricted to the two-year-old’s.  (The only exception is for when the baler breaks down… on the only dry week in the summer… and only when the parts are on back order… and only when you crush your own hand trying to fix it.)

Our office has a window with a million-dollar view.

 

RAINBOW AND HORSES BARLEY DARTS

Any bosses not only give a shit, they haul it, too.  They’re hardworking and reliable.  They are compassionate and trustworthy.  Their sole focus isn’t on money.  And they aren’t in it for a quick killing.  They’re in it for life.

All profits are shared, with plans for generations to come.

We never have to clock out early.  There’s ample overtime.  And we won’t be forced into early retirement.  Speaking of which, our I.R.A’s are growing by leaps and bounds.  They’re alive and well, on all four hooves.

MONDAY MEMOIR: A NEW YEAR

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A new year will begin, before I finish writing this post.  And as the ball drops in a noisy Times Square, things here on the homestead will be quiet.  In fact, all our critters went to bed early.  Speaking of which, Keith’s sleeping, too.  And while I’m exhausted tonight, I’m still awake and staring at this photo, wondering…

How did fifty-years, pass so quickly?

Why do I see my mother and father staring back at me?

How did a little girl from Dixie end up homesteading, on the Canadian border?

What will we look like in another ten, or twenty years?

When will our future home be built?

Will any of our kids embrace the hardships of this lifestyle?

And why am I still typing, when I could be in bed asleep?

 

Wishing you many blessings for 2018!

MONDAY MEMOIR: A MANGER

“And this shall be the sign unto you: you shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger.”  – Luke 2:12

HAY FEEDER MANGER 2017 BARLEY DARTS

From our homestead to yours, Merry Christmas.