When I was a little girl I had the fortune of living on almost 50 acres we shared with my mother’s parents. The formidable years of my childhood were spent wandering up the dirt road to visit them whenever I wanted. I could sit and enjoy freshly baked cookies while listening to my grandmother and her sister reminisce about their childhood on their farm in Battle View, North Dakota. It sounded like a very bleak and terribly hard life growing up, even to my young ears.
I learned about doing laundry by hand with soap you made, ways to stretch a meal for 12, rendering lard and making tallow, how to use every part of every animal on the farm, and what it was like to be the youngest of 6 girls and never having so much as a new hair ribbon. Sacrifice, family, frugality, hardship, morals and faith were routine lessons at that table. All those life lessons taught over peanut butter thumbprints and espresso sized cups of watered down coffee were the best times of my youth.
I would leave the kitchen and go out to find my grandfather "Pappy" in the garden. From him I was given the greatest gift- my love of gardening. You can see in the picture above he is walking past 40 acres of corn he planted. My mother is holding me and my brother is walking in front. He always dreamed of being a farmer. Pappy carefully selected the area of the Willamette Valley because at the end of the last ice age a series of floods deposited a thick layer of sediment in the valley, creating a fertile and rich soil. In the 1820's it was publicized as the land of milk and honey. It has mild seasons and if you can tolerate the allergies you WILL develop, it is an amazing place to live. He chose well.
They left California and moved to this piece of property in 1970 with my Pappy's father in tow. In 1976 my parents would follow with us kids. My dad built his first house from foundation to finish work at the age of 26, by himself and on the back of the property. Of course recently he did a remodel on the house and was cursing at his younger self for some of the things "the builder" did, but not too shabby for a gunite guy with no home building experience.
Great Grand Pappy was a teacher, a renaissance man and a beekeeper from Meramec (Crawford Co.), Missouri. I would go into the old barn and look through the frames and extractors, smelling the beeswax and admiring the tall boxes through the dappled light in that dusty barn. In those old barns my brother would work on archery under the tutelage of Pappy and I would learn to shoot firearms aiming at the target by the cherry tree with my little Daisy. So many amazing memories. That cherry tree stands to mark where so many beloved pets have been placed. Before that it held the tire swing where I played for hours in the summer listening to the crickets and grasshoppers herald in the sunset. Now it shelters my beehives and gives shade to the hens when they free range.
For all of the careful selecting Pappy did of the location, the timing was bad- and timing is everything. The mid seventies were a tough time to pick up a profession such as farming. Pappy parked the tractor in the equipment barn (the one in the picture above with my dad and I on it) and he turned back to work. Pappy worked for Hughes Aircraft back in California so he would need to start a new adventure here in Oregon, so he bought a shoe shop. He learned to be a cobbler from his great-grandfather. He worked the shop with my great-aunt until his passing. I shined a LOT of shoes, replaced soles and heels, and performed small tasks for them. I learned the different grades of leather, how to tool it, stitch it, and appreciate hand crafted goods. His hands were always stained with shoe wax and he smelled like Lincoln polish. I cursed once and he took the bar of Lava soap off the bathroom sink he used to clean those hands to my mouth. I learned to curse softer. I am stubborn that way.
When Pappy passed away my grandmother sold the homestead to my parents with the condition it stay in the family. They sacrificed so much for a piece of the American Dream. She worked as a waitress until she couldn't anymore. As is the way of life, my great-aunt passed, and then eventually my grandmother. We sold our house, funded a small business and moved into the farmhouse here on the homestead.
Fast forward to today. My parents have decided they are retiring in Idaho, away from my brother and I, and are selling the homestead to Mr. and myself. It isn't my dream home or even close to what I would want for a prepper paradise, but I am fortunate to be here, surrounded by so many beautiful memories of my loved ones. I grew up with the neighbors on both sides of me. They now live at their family homesteads as well.
There isn't a tree, shrub or building I walk past that doesn't have some special memory attached to it. My roots here run as deep and firm as that old cherry tree. I am not just living here, but I am rebuilding it. Putting in a new orchard, nut trees, more berries and grapes, expanding the garden, adding barns and buildings, and creating the kind of home that will be filled with memories for my kids. Maybe they will stay, maybe they will go, and maybe if the do go- they will come home like I did. I know I am not planning to leave it at this point.
So as this homestead changes hands once again to the third generation, I am saddened that my children won't be walking down that dusty road to visit their grandparents like I did. Times change and we have to change with them. After all, adapting is a key trait in preparedness and survival. And that's what this homestead is becoming... A survival homestead. I hope you make the journey with us.