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Magic Meadow - A Tribute to Compassion, Natural Living, and Self-Sufficiency
My Grandparents: A Legacy of Love
As I worked today on my new web site about Natural Herbs and Organics, sustainable living, survival, and self-sufficiency, I could not help but think about my grandparents with each new idea, and with each word I wrote. They were on my mind so heavily today, that I am compelled to write about them.
I must finally share them in writing.
Over the centuries, herbal lore and native wisdom have been carefully and lovingly handed down by those who came before us. I was extremely blessed to have had grandparents who were rich in earthy knowledge, compassion, and resourcefulness, passed on to them by previous generations of resilient and self-sufficient ancestors.
It was this heritage of love and compassion which they left to me as a legacy in trust - a firm foundation for my own life, and an inspiration both for me, and for the rest of those whose lives they touched - those of us who remain after their passing.
It is this legacy of love that I share here now, with you.
I was very fortunate to have had this opportunity to learn a simpler and more natural way of living from them, and to have benefited from their vast treasure trove of knowledge about the world around us and about necessary living skills.
My grandmother, born in 1902, probably knew the name of every single wild plant, flower, and tree that existed, and she also knew what each was good for. I am not quite sure how she knew all this, but she did. I learned from her what sheep's sorrel, tansy, water cress, wild parsnips, huckleberries, Queen Anne's Lace, gooseberries, currants, and elderberries were; just a few of the hundreds of plants she taught me about. She knew the habits and idiosyncracies of all the animals, and taught me about them, too. She knew when the deer were rutting, when the squirrels would have their babies, and which birds flew south. From her, I was able to gain an understanding of what it means to appreciate all living things, and to live a life that is in harmony with nature.
She and my grandfather owned a farm during most of their lives together. During the 1930's through the late 1950's, they raised cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, and other assorted animals. They milked their own cows, churned their own butter, made their own cheese, and gathered eggs from the chickens. They planted a wealth of fruit and vegetable crops, all of which they tended, harvested, and preserved themselves. They made their own sausage and bacon, and cured hams in a smokehouse. My grandmother preserved their food by canning it, or by storing it in a spring house, or in a root cellar. They chopped wood for heat in the winter, and went to the bathroom in an outhouse. They did not have running water on the farm, and carried water from a well.
My grandmother raised numerous varieties of vegetables, berries, fruits, and herbs, and knew how to make every kind of jam, jelly, pickle or relish there was. She was an excellent seamstress and made all of their clothing, quilts, and window coverings. (She taught me how to do this, too!) She also knew how to care for the sick and how to deliver babies, which she did on several occasions.
She was an insatiable reader, and was a fount of unending knowledge and wisdom. She knew about planting by the moon, animal lore, wildcrafting, gardening, canning and preserving, baking, fruit tree grafting, geography, literature, world history, biology, and made the best cheesecake in the world. She also played the piano, told wonderful fairy tales, knew the correct etiquette for any social occasion, and knew how to set a proper formal table for royalty or other dignitaries.
She was very loving and kind, a sweet, wise and gentle soul. All children, and even the animals loved her - little squirrels and birds would come sit on her lap and eat out of her hands. She always saw the positive side of everything, but yet in all her gentleness, possessed a back bone of pure steel. She would not tolerate meanness nor violence whatsoever. And you better have washed those dirty feet and hands before you got into a bed at night at her house!
I am just like her. I even look just like her! From her I have received my love for plants and animals, my love of reading and learning, my kindness, my abhorrence for violence and abuse, and my steely resolve.
My grandfather, born in 1907, was a farmer and machinist, and knew how to build a barn, drive a well, dig a septic tank, install a hand pump, fell a tree and make it into lumber, deliver a calf, shear a sheep, fix a tractor, and plow a field either with a tractor, or with a harnessed team of mules. He was also a bee-keeper, violin-maker, gunsmith and ammunitions maker, tool and die-maker, tanner, harness-maker, wine-maker, and expert wood-chopper (he could win wood-chopping contests against 20 year olds when he was 80!) He made awesome maple syrup, knew how to call ducks, how to set a trap, and was an expert hunter and wildlife tracker.
He loved to be silly and had a very good sense of humor. "Cockamamie" is more like it! He could make the goofiest faces, and tell the most inappropriate jokes in the worst places! Sometimes he would embarrass you! But he made up for that, though, because he knew where the best places to go fishing were, and best of all, he knew where to find puffballs!
He loved unusual things, and collected antiques and oddities of all sorts. You never knew what kind of a strange object he would come up with next! He collected everything from Stradivarius violins, to centennial rifles, to electrical insulators, to Jim Beam bottles, to dancing monkeys! If my grandmother chided him about all those overflowing boxes of junk cluttering up her house, he told her he couldn't get rid of it. It might come in handy some day...
He also loved to go to auctions and sales, and stock up on things that he would later load up in his truck, along with his huge homegrown vegetables, and would take it around to give to people who "might need it". And if they didn't need it? "Take it anyway!" would be his answer
He was very musical, and was able to play the violin, banjo, harmonica, mandolin, cello, accordion, the Jew's harp and various other odd instruments. He loved to play his instruments for us, and was a "Turkey in the Straw" fiddle player extraordinaire!
He was always busy and working hard, but he was never too busy to share a joke and a giggle, nor to share a romp or an excursion with his grandchildren. He loved to be in parades, and would enter his ponies, donkeys, carts, or anything else he could ride, drive, or drag in the local parades. We kids were recruited many a time to lead ponies, or ride in carts and throw out candy in parades.
From him I received my good heartedness, my generosity, my love for the outdoors, my sense of humor, my impatience, my adventurous spirit, my propensity for dreaming big dreams, and my downright dogged perseverance. The first steps I ever took were to get to him. I adored him!
I adored both of them! If ever anyone needed help or advice, they were the ones to call. They were always available to lend an understanding ear, extend a helping hand, or to give a kind word of encouragement.
They lived a simple, close-to-the-earth lifestyle, loved and valued their family, and took pride in their resiliency and their skills. Their lifestyle was similar to the one lived by most Americans in the 1800's and into the first half of the 1900's. It was the same kind of lifestyle that was lived in this country since the early pioneer days - one that centered around love of family, hard work, honesty, and a sense of community responsibility. The sort of life that, sadly, has now almost been forgotten, and replaced with something far less satisfactory and unhealthier.
They were supportive and friendly with their country neighbors; they all helped each other out at planting and harvesting times, and were available whenever someone needed a house, a barn, or a corn crib built, when there was fencing to be done, a well to be dug, or an animal that needed catching. In those days, if there was ever an emergency, you could count on your neighbors to be there ready to help. They celebrated together with them on happy occasions like holidays, births or weddings, and grieved with them at funerals. When they finally left the farm and moved into town, in the late 1950's, they brought this spirit of neighborliness along with them.
My grandparents were always there, from my very first memories, through all the years of childhood, and into adulthood. They were pillars of stability and love throughout all the many changes and difficulties, triumphs and failures, joys and sadnesses. I could not imagine a world without them in it.
And then, the unthinkable happened. An unimagineable, an impossible tragedy...
My grandmother and grandfather were killed by a drunk driver in 1987, on their way home from work, at the ages of 85 and 80, respectively. (Yes, on their way home from work - they had decided they were bored and would take a summer job! At their ages!) They were thrown into the ditches on opposite sides of the road and suffered broken necks, both of them. My grandfather attempted to crawl across the highway to my grandmother with a broken neck, to help her. My grandmother died instantly, and my grandfather lived on for several more weeks in a coma and on life support, and then he left us to join her.
The young man responsible for this tragedy was never held accountable for their deaths. He was driving drunk, ran a stop sign at the highway, and hit them. He was only 17. He could not possibly ever realize in his lifetime, what an irreplaceable and priceless treasure he extinguished that day, nor what a great loss it was for their loving family, who adored them.
Me, especially. As an indication of how profoundly their loss affected me, it has taken me 22 years just to be able to write this about them. I loved them SO dearly.
It was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, to have had to say "good-bye" to them. But I know that I will see them again, and that they are not really gone. They are living on here in my heart, and on these pages...
If you listen carefully, you will hear the sweet tinkling of my grandmother's laugh, and the gruff, but loving "Hey there, Pussycat!" that my grandfather always greeted us with. You can smell the freshly mown hay and the pies baking, and see my grandmother's flocked white curtains floating softly in the breeze, and the bushels of apples and squash waiting on the porch...
(For a sneak peek at the new website, go here:)
Magic Meadow Natural Herbs and Organics
I have only uploaded the first practice page, and have much, much more to work on! But you may be able to get an idea what I am talking about, even though none of the links work yet...
(I am accepting contributing authors! If you see a title there you would like to write, I'm all ears!)
Here are some tidbits from the:
"Magic Meadow Treasure Trove of Knowledge"
These are giant puffballs - they were my favorite! And my grandfather knew where to find them!
They can get very large! They are hard to find, but if you are lucky, you can find them in the woods from late Summer through early Fall. They are best when still white and firm, before they turn brown and the insides turn into dried spores which go "poof" when you poke them. They are delicious sliced and sauteed in butter. There is no other kind of mushroom that looks like them to be confused with, so they are safe for beginners to gather.
This is Sheep's Sorrel:
Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) - is a medium-sized plant with tiny reddish flowers and arrow-shaped leaves that grows to a height of 3 or 4 inches to one foot. The female flowers are maroon in color.
My grandmother really knew her stuff about this plant! It is a very strong antioxidant plant which helps strengthen the immune system, and its leaves are high in vitamin C. Sheep sorrel is a popular ingredient of many folk remedies and the tea was used traditionally as a diuretic and to treat fevers, inflammation and scurvy. Sheep sorrel was considered the most active herb in Essiac (a tea used to treat cancer) for stimulating cellular regeneration, detoxification and cleansing. The juice, extracted from the fresh plant, is used in curing urinary and kidney diseases. It also contains a strong antibacterial component effective against Escherichia, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. It can be used to treat anemia, anthrax, diarrhea, eczema, fever, itch, leprosy, malaria, rheumatism, ringworm and tuberculosis. See more complete info here
My Grandfather had several of these - he was so proud of them, and could tell you the history of each one of them.
Learn more about Stradivarius Violins
These are gooseberries:
Gooseberries make wonderful jam, and are excellent in pies!
Here's a good gooseberry pie recipe: Gooseberry Pie I believe this is about the same one my Grandmother made, and will look like the pie on the right.
This is a Jew's Harp, and how you play it:
Formal Place Settings:
Check out the two place settings below:
Can you tell which one is right and which is wrong, and why?
Answer: The one on the right is WRONG because the blade of the knife should be facing toward the plate! See? You should have had my grandmother - then you would have known this!
You would be surprised at how many people don't know how to set a table properly. It seems it is a lost art. They are actually teaching people to set the table the wrong way at the site displaying the second photo. My grandmother would be exasperated! Two thunks on the head with a Jew's harp!