Backyard Homesteading Memories: Buttermilk Biscuits and Fig Preserves

Reader Contribution by The Mother Earth News Editors
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This story is from Anna Vick, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear.

I remember when I was younger sitting on the floor near momma’s feet and hearing of her childhood.   My mom grew up poor in the 60’s U.S. South – Northwest Florida, close to the Alabama line, with her mom and dad and four siblings.  When they were elementary school age my grandmother made some of their clothes out of feed sacks. They had some chickens, a milk cow, calf, and a vegetable garden. And all of this in the town limits!  She fondly remembers gathering eggs and helping milk the cow everyday. My grandfather named the cow Baby Suck! Breakfast was cornbread or buttermilk biscuits and milk most of the time, and supper usually peas and biscuits. Even though indoor plumbing, electricity, and a phone helped out a lot, it was a small 2 bedroom house, with the front porch converted into a third bedroom to hold 7 people! Her dad had the truck and the kids got by on bicycles. They’d go to the 5 and Dime store and get some treats, if they were so fortunate as to have some spare change, after school. 

My granny would can vegetables of various kinds, but what I remember the most are the fig preserves!  They are something tasty on warm, freshly baked, fluffy buttermilk biscuits! And could she make biscuits! Just one of those could fill you right up!  In the 80’s they were finally able to move out to the country and build a house on a few acres.  There they had chickens, pigs, cows, a large plot of corn, beans, and peas with some okra and squash too.  I remember my hands turning purple after long evenings of shelling those peas.  But it was something of a social, family thing.  We’d all get together and pick, and shell, and pick and shell some more until we were sick of picking.  But oh, that fresh taste!  And the many blueberries, pears, and peaches!  My granny made the best cobblers.  Warm, thick, and sweet… great with ice cream!  And the meat in their freezer came from their own cows and pigs, and deer hunted by the men.  They did go to the grocery store when they came to town once a week, on Sundays for church, but it was usually only to get a loaf of bread, coffee, bananas, or things like that.  They had everything else they needed at home.  The T.V. usually only came on for the evening news or weather report, or when the grandkids came to visit.  Looking back I know it was a lot of hard work, but it was peaceful and healthy and oh, the many memories!

Many people don’t think about it, but the standard of living has really risen in only the last couple of decades. Even up to the late 70’s and early 80’s this kind of thing we call homesteading was still a part of a large population’s regular life!

Photo Credit: Fotolia/JJAVA

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