This story is from Carmen Ortiz, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear.
As a little girl in the early 1950s, when my mother couldn't stand me any longer, we would pile into a public station wagon and she would take me to my paternal grandfather's house. The wagons went to areas beyond the bus routes. People would be crammed in beyond capacity and I usually rode on mom's lap. The wagons were referred to, by the passengers, as "run you downs", in other words they drove faster than the speed limit and people actually had to run out of their way when they heard the horns.
I loved visiting my grandfather for two reasons; his five younger children were between one and seven years older than me. Second, he had what I now have: a micro-farm in town. That was before rules and regulations took over. He had a cow, which my two younger uncles would walk to a pasture about a mile from town after morning milking and then back again in the evening for the second milking and to spend the night. My grandfather loved that cow. He would let me help with the second milking and in making butter and cheese. My main job was to stand on a stool and stir the milk to remove as much cream as possible. My uncles would harvest a very sharp grass that was fed to the cow after being cut to a smaller size. Granddad had attached a serrated blade to a pole to make the job easier.
He always had chickens, at least one Christmas pig and a goat. My aunt would sometimes kill a chicken for supper but was never able to convince me to join, although I didn't mind watching. I thought it was interesting, but I wasn't about to actually kill animals that had names.
I was lucky because my aunt was a young teen and had insisted that Granddad add plumbing to the house, still he preferred the outhouse because that's what he had grown up using. For some reason, it didn't smell. I didn't know how and I didn't care because I wasn't about to use it anyway. (I was too modern.)
He also grew crops in his lot and had large wooden rain barrels to collect water for the crops. At that time, all the houses in his neighborhood were right next to the sidewalk to free most of the yard for animals and crops. Aside from things like salt, sugar and rice, he grew most of what we ate. I remember eating just about every part of the pig. In fact, my favorite meal included all kinds of internal organs, some which people now will not even touch. He was kind to all his animals and all had names. After dinner, he would often sit in his back porch with a chicken on his lap, while we ran around catching lighting bugs and playing games. Those were great times.
Photo by Fotolia/Valentine
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