By Sherry Harris
From the suburbs of Washington, DC
To celebrate the release of A Tine to Live a Tine to Die, Edith Maxwell‘s organic farm based series, I talk about my grandparent’s farm in Novinger, Missouri.
According to our family history in 1847 Isaac Novinger “saw that he would never be able to secure a home for himself and his family in the land of his fathers (Dauphin County, PA) and so he looked toward the setting sun and discovered in North Missouri a land like the garden of the Lord.”
Even though I’m from Iowa, I’m not a farm girl. But there were things I loved about visiting my grandparent’s farm. My grandfather had a large apple orchard and the trees were easy to climb. From early on my grandfather grafted branches from one tree to another to develop new varieties of apples.
Tractor rides were another favorite. Grandpa would attach a rickety platform to the back of the tractor for my sister and me to ride on. The rides were always a thrill, not only was Grandpa blind in one eye, but he looked back at us most of the time. A crash always seemed imminent and a last minute swerve always saved us.
My parents called the woods on the farm The Friendly Woods. It was full of wild flowers, arrowheads, fossils, a creek and even an abandon coal mine. We weren’t allowed to go in but could sit in the old coal wagon, still on rusty tracks.
I remember helping pick strawberries from their garden one very hot, humid summer day. Bending over, standing up, sticky and dizzy. To this day when I see You-Pick-It places I think, no thanks!
At night it was so quiet you could hear birds twitching in trees. I’d be wide awake sure an escaped prisoner was going to find and murder us in our beds. Mind you my grandparent’s farm was so remote it was only accessible by dirt roads and there wasn’t even a jail in a fifteen mile radius. A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die is set on another idyllic farm but on this farm, my childhood fears come alive.
“A land like the garden of the Lord.” – That is an amazingly beautiful phrase.
I though so too Ramona! I’m very lucky to have a family that recorded a lot of family history!
What wonderful childhood memories, Sherry! The closest I got to a farm was getting milk at the dairy a mile away from my house in southern California. It was a drive-through dairy but the cows were nearby. And my own grandparents’ house was in a former orange grove. They had left the back yard full of trees, so when I stayed overnight my grandmother and I would go out in the morning and pick oranges for our fresh juice.
Did that inspire your love of growing things and interest in local foods?
No, I don’t think that did, Sherry! Although, come to think of it, when I was growing up we had lots of fruit trees and bushes in the back yard: yellow and white peaches, apricot, plum, lemon, guava, and boysenberry. No vegetables that I can remember. Andit took until I was in college for me to want to have my own garden.
So interesting, Sherry.
My mother’s Aunt Elsie and Uncle Pierre (pronounced Peer) had a sheep farm in what is now a quite suburban part of New Jersey. It was country then and I spent every childhood Easter there. Man sheep are dumb! Exiled at the children’s table, all Easter dinner, my cousin Bobby would make bleating noises at me to emphasize that we were consuming the lambs.
At summer camp in seventh grade, it was my job to chase the chickens into their coop and put them to bed. Everyone talks about “herding cats” but I’ve got to tell you, cats have nothing on chickens.
All of which explains why I am resolutely a city girl today.
Oh, Barb you always make me laugh –bleating cousins and chasing chickens!
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