Country Wisdom from Mom That Holds Up Today

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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A frequent sight looking out our window
Photo by Bruce McElmurray

The sayings that my mother used to use that I once thought were ridiculous and meaningless have, as I’ve gotten older, lingered in my brain. Now, I they seem to actually have some validity and merit. Some apply while others like the following do not: “I’ll wipe that smile off your face.” “Come home when the street lights come on.” “Close the door; were you raised in a barn?” “Because I said so.”  “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

The ones that apply today that come back to sometimes haunt me over my current circumstances on our homestead contain wisdom like: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Back then, that usually applied to my chores or homework. Today, that applies to much more relevant things.

Fire Starter from a Downed Tree

We have a tree on the edge of our property that blew over and looks like it was hit by lightning at one time. It is a bonanza of excellent lighter for starting fires in our woodstove. A sliver of it will get a fire going fast.

These are overlooked by most people as all they see are tree roots sticking up out of the ground. Some of those roots are so rich in pitch that we use long fireplace matches to light them. I once found an old wood fence post that was the best lighter I have ever had the pleasure to use. Many times when a tree is struck by lightning, the sap/pitch flows down to the roots as the tree dies. When that tree falls over and the roots are exposed, they are full of pitch that has dried and is highly flammable. We discovered this particular source a few years ago, and it is now our secret stash that we use to start fires in our woodstove.

Today is the Time; Not Later

Today, between rain showers, I cut enough lighter material to last us through the next winter. We have had several days of rain and wet weather and I knew if “I put off until tomorrow what I could do today”, I would get involved in other projects and possibly would have to hike up the mountain on snowshoes in the winter. Going straight up the mountain in the winter is not an enjoyable task, especially with a bow saw to get frozen lighter.

The Time Has to Fit the Circumstances

Sometimes we can’t avoid putting off until tomorrow what can be done today. Last winter was rather brutal for us and getting anything done, like an appointment to get the oil in our vehicles changed, was next to impossible. We were still within the Covid-19 restrictions and hence, our mechanic with his small waiting room posed a problem as his waiting room was closed and we had to wait outside for service to be completed.

Waiting outside would not normally be a problem except when you make an appointment two weeks ahead and when the day finally comes, you find there is a blizzard or the temperatures are in the negative. We had to reschedule three times to finally get in and still it was cold outside and the wind was blowing. We changed mechanics to one that had a more sizable waiting room. Even that did not work well — when it was time to drive into town, our roads were drifted in. Sometimes we are forced to wait until tomorrow.

Preventing a Worse Scenario

Another of my Mom’s sayings was “A stitch in time saves nine”. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and “shelter at home”, we had to put off some needed medical treatment. I had a strange growth on my skin that I was highly suspect of. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was small but by the time I was able to feel safe going to the medical facility it had gotten much bigger. I refused to go to the clinic because that is where those who had contracted Covid went.

Regardless of the precautions they claimed to take I simply did not view it safe, so I put off until tomorrow what should have been done today. As I lay there on the table and the surgeon was removing the growth, I remembered Mom’s saying that “A stitch in time saved nine”. What would have been three or four stitches ended up being 15 or16 stitches. You were right, Mom; “A stitch in time saves nine”.

Plan Carefully to Avoid Wasting Time

Mom had another saying and that was, “What your head doesn’t do your feet will have to”. That old saying applies to me nearly every day. When I go to cut down a tree for firewood and find that I did not bring the right items, like wedges or rope, that saying smacks me right between the eyes. Or when I change the oil in the tractor and have taken the wrong wrench. I do that myself although the sophistication of modern vehicles is a challenge for me. When I finally found the oil filter on the Jeep I couldn’t figure out how to get to it. I decided it was cheaper to have it done by those who had the right tools than to do that myself.

I don’t know if others on occasion remember these old “Mom sayings”, but I sure do as I have outlined above. Some I can now laugh at like, “I brought you into this world, I can sure take you out”. When I was in my mid teens and very fit, I recall standing there looking down at my mother who was 5 foot 1 inch tall and her reminding me she may be smaller than me but she could still put me over her knee and spank me. I believed her then and I believe her now even though she passed away over twenty five years ago.

Mom Was Much Wiser Than I Knew

Those old sayings of hers worked then and I find many of them work now. One that I remember well was – “You are known by the friends you keep”. That is especially true in the small community where we presently reside. Our nearest neighbor on our road is a mile away. We choose our friends carefully as we have found some who appear friendly are actually anything but friendly. I don’t want to be identified with them.


Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site atBruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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