This story is from Patricia Schick, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. Read the first part of her memories, Stories of Life on a Chicken Farm.
My grandmother became a skillful homemaker when she and my grandfather moved to their chicken farm and homestead. She cooked and baked on a woodstove. She also canned and preserved, harvesting all she could of the vegetables they grew and the fruits and berries she and the children would pick. They grew potatoes and tomatoes, green beans and peas, carrots and onions, picked apples from their orchard, and scouted out all the wild berries they could find. They also bartered with other farmers for peaches and other things they did not grow themselves. All produce was canned or stored in burlap down in the dirt-floor cellar. During many winters, the family benefitted from her insistence that they “waste not; want not.”
They ate chicken in a thousand forms. My grandfather was known for the way he could kill a chicken using one hand — simply by snapping its neck in one quick move. He would say, “It’s the kindest way to do it.”
After a while, my grandparents built a luncheonette right on the edge of their big front yard at the side of the road. Customers would place their orders at one of the big windows at the front of the restaurant and eat at one of the picnic tables that my grandfather had made. Workers from around the area came for lunch, and it was quite popular for all the years my grandparents ran it. The menu was simple, and perhaps would not surprise anyone: chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, fried chicken, egg sandwiches and egg salad. With Grandma’s homemade bread and her cakes and pies for dessert, well, it was probably the best “home away from home” at lunch time for many a hungry traveler or worker!
I was born much too late to be on Earth at the same time as my grandfather, but because of the memories shared, I feel as if I knew him at least a little. My grandmother lived in their family home into her eighties, and in her seventies still baked the best bread and pies I have ever eaten. She still climbed the steep stairway to the bedroom and the fully modern bathroom that she appreciated in a way her descendants could never quite grasp.
Growing up in the 1950s, my many cousins and I were able to traipse through the fields across the creek, where apple trees grew wild — the chicken coops were long gone by then. We climbed the trees and ate green apples, fished in the creek with a string and a safety pin, rolled down the grassy hillsides. We reverently sat on the solid, wooden outdoor furniture that our grandfather had made so many years before, when dreams flowed freely and became his investment for his family’s future. One son and one daughter built their homes on either ends of the original property, raising their children and enjoying country life in new ways a generation later.
Whenever I visit the area, I drive out there and look at the house that still stands with yet another family in it. I think of my grandparents as that young couple enjoying country life on a chicken farm in the 1920s. I am grateful that I share some of their genes, and nearly a century later, along with my husband, continue to dream and plan on our homestead, hoping beyond hope that the country life never disappears.
Photo Credit: Fotolia/Igor Dutina
Please send email submissions to Letters@MotherEarthNews.com with the subject line “Elder Wisdom” or send mail to: attn: Heidi Hunt, Re: Elder Wisdom, Mother Earth News, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.