Growing up, we lived on part of what was once my grandparent's farm. Our home/land was actually given to my mom and dad, from dad's parents, as a wedding gift. The part we consider the farm, though, was where Grandpa and Grandma lived... in the "big house," with the animals, the barns and farm equipment, and other "farm stuff." That is where my dad and his siblings were raised.
As a child, I spent quite a lot of time at the farm. Afterall, it was just behind our house... a large field away. If I didn't think I'd get caught, I'd run as fast as I could through the field just to get there quicker! Most times, though, I had to walk down our driveway, in the ditch along the state highway where we lived and up grandpa and grandma's loooong driveway. It just took too much time, for a kid who was dying to be at the farm.
Once I got there, I'd open the screen door to the back porch (country people don't ever knock... especially relatives!) and walk into the kitchen, where Grandma was usually cooking or baking something good. She would always ask me, "Where's my hug?," so I'd go and give her a great big, squeezy hug... the kind I knew she really liked!
Many times, Grandma would let me help her do things in the kitchen and around the house. She usually had fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, that needed to be prepared. I think, green beans and strawberries were my favorites. With the beans, we'd sit down on the front porch- sun warming our bodies, the breeze floating through our hair- and, having the beans in one bucket, another bucket for "new" beans, and another bucket for waste, would proceed to snip off the ends of each bean. Then, the "new" bean would get thrown into one of the empty buckets, while the snipped ends were placed in another bucket.
Grandma would make sure I was snipping the beans properly, making sure not to snip too much off the ends. It was funny, too, because... sometimes, I would actually get so involved in the process, I would accidentally throw the snipped pieces into the "new" bean bucket, while the "new" bean was thrown into the snipped pieces bucket! Grandma was never cross about this small indiscretion. She just gently reminded me to "make it right." I still thought it was funny!
As for the strawberries, I truly enjoyed preparing them, because... all I could think about was Grandma's homemade strawberry shortcake! You haven't tasted strawberry shortcake unless you've had some of my Grandma's! Sometimes, I got to help pick the strawberries, from the strawberry patch. That was fun for me. Just being around Grandma- helping her and learning from her- was worth all the "work" in the world! You had to be real gentle in picking the strawberries off the vine. Sometimes, I had to twist them until the stem broke off of the vine. Any way you could do it, without compromising the berry!
Then, when we had enough strawberries (this, of course, was up to Grandma when we would stop), we would take them inside and place them in the kitchen sink. Grandma would then put all of the blood-red, juicy berries inside the big, stainless steel bowl. This (to me) was the "strawberry bowl." Then, she would fill the bowl with cold water... so the berries could soak. Later- if I was still at the farm- I could watch Grandma cut the green tops off the berries. Then, I watched as they were sliced into small rings. This part was all Grandma's work, because... we, kids, didn't use sharp knives.
After the berries were sliced, Grandma always knew what to do with the bounty. Sometimes, she'd prepare part of the berries for homemade jam. That strawberry shortcake she made... that was always such a treat, and was never left out of the planning! Grandma would make the cake homemade, of course (there's just no other way!), then put the strawberries on top. Then, she would add just a teaspoon of sugar over the top, as well as fresh, cold milk. I can't even explain how heavenly this treat was!
I wasn't often around to help with housework (I think, Grandma probably did that early in the morning... well before a little girl like me gets out of bed!). I would see her cleaning the dishes sometimes, but those were "grown-up chores." I didn't help with that. One thing I did get to help with- and I was not particularly thrilled about!- was going to the chicken coop and gettin the eggs from underneath the chickens.
I think those chickens knew I was scared, because... every time I went out there with Grandma, they'd start hollerin' and squakin' like nobody's business. That was enough to make me wanna' turn around and run the other way! Grandma would tell me, it was o.k... they were harmless, but it sure didn't sound that way. The way they looked at me, with those beady little eyes... I just knew they were out to get me! So... usually, the way it went was like this: Grandma would go inside the chicken coop and do the real work, while I stood far enough outside that I was sure there was no way to be "got." I would hold the egg basket and wait for Grandma to bring me the eggs.
I really enjoyed it when my cousins, from out of town, came to visit. I was one of the youngest cousins, so sometimes I was seen as the "tag-along," but not always. When they let me hang around them, we'd go to the barn with the hayloft inside. They would always climb up the big, wooden ladder to play in the loft. I think, I was too afraid... either, of falling out or of getting caught! Below the hayloft, though, there was an area where Grandpa kept the grain (kind of like a corn crib, but inside). This enclosure was pretty empty, so I'd climb up there and play while the big kids had "big kid fun" in the hayloft.
If we got really bored, we'd walk behind the barn... where there was a long, dirt road path. The path led all the way to a hugh wooded area, where there was a large refuse pit. Along the path, though, there were many indian arrowheads to be found, and that- to us- was very cool! We'd spend time back there, searching for the smooth, rock-like formations. We usually did not dare venture too far back that lane, because... we knew, we were not to be back where the junk was. Sometimes, we would go- for a peek or just to see what was back there- but, we weren't there long. We knew what would happen if we ever got caught back there!
We did various, other things around the farm. Grandma and Grandpa's big dog, Lassie, was a lot of fun to play with. She was a good, kind dog, who loved us, kids! We'd play with her, run with her (she always won, though!) and just hung out with her. She was very gentile, like that. Lassie often hung out in the side yard... a huge yard, with tons of beautiful, green grass. Out, behind the side yard was a small, wooded area. This is where the "secret" rhubarb patch was hidden! I used to love going inside the grove of trees, and hiding... pretending it was my own, private oasis. Years later- when Grandpa and Grandma sold the farm, because it was just too much work for them in their later years- a gentleman and his 4 children bought the farm. The oldest girl, Eden, and I became friends and would often go into the rhubarb patch to play. We'd pick a stalk of rhubarb and, closing our eyes, would quickly bite down on the tart fruit. We'd make the worst faces, then look at each other and laugh!
Of all of the animals, all of the "secret places," all of the fun... the thing I miss the most is my grandparents' smiling faces, and the love we felt while in their presence. Grandma and Grandpa made the farm such a wonderfully memorable place that, I know I will never forget.