Grampa and Gramma were organic gardeners. They used nature to fertilize, control weeds and pests, and to "feed" the earth of their gardens. They also believed that wild animals had benefits on a farm as well.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The bathroom in our big, double-block farmhouse was long and paralleled one entire wall of the kitchen. Bathtub, sink and toilet were at one end, and a Maytag wringer washer and rinse tub dominated the other end.
On Monday mornings Gramma was up hours before us. She'd already have filled the rinse tub with warm water and Downey fabric Softener, and the washer tub with hot water and Tide. Sometimes the low drone of the washer motor brought us out of our sleep. Nevertheless, by the time we were to get up for school, she'd already be wringing out the second load of laundry. When we rolled out of bed about 7 A.M., we stripped our beds and threw our dirty clothes, sheets and pillowcases down the stairs. At the foot of the stairs, she gathered everything into an enormous, two-handled wicker basket and off it went through the house to be sorted. By the time we were boarding the bus, she was in the back yard hanging up the 3rd load of wash, and by 10 AM, 5 or 6 loads of laundry flapped merrily on three or four lines out back. These weren't short lines tied, umbrella-like, to a pole. These lines stretched the breadth of the back yard. She'd hang the wash then raise the lines with 6-8 foot tree limbs with a fork at the tip.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
At first, the quilt was only a few feet wide, wrapped securely around the wood lengths. But as Gramma quilted, the wood peices were adjusted further and further apart. Soon there was a wide expanse between the lengths and it formed a huge (to a little girl) cloth table. My sister and I, with our Barbies and their clothes and their dollhouses, would scurry under that enormous "roof" and set up house with all our playthings. A big braided rug covered the expanse of floor between our beds, and while Gramma sat quietly quilting and humming, my sister and I acted out chapter after chapter of our Barbie's lives. Ocassionally, when the sun shone into the bedroom, it fell on the quilt and the multicolored patches shone through the muslin lining as muted shades of candy colors.
By the time Winter hit us with the full force of it's fury, we were snuggling under even one more new quilt made with old memories. Gramma's quilts were finer than the most priceless tapestries in any great castle. After all, those quilts were made of pieces of us.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Posted by Mickeylayne at 7:04 PM
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Posted by Mickeylayne at 12:24 PM
Friday, February 6, 2009
Our farmhouse got it's water from a reservoir, a big hole excavated on the side of the mountain, not too far up behind our house. A spring fed into it from further up the mountain, filling it to within a few feet of the top, and the water fed through pipes down the hill to the house.
The hole was covered with a large sheet of tin and marked so that hunters wouldn't step onto the thin metal and go through, into the numbing, cold spring water.
Each Fall, Grampa would go up the side of the mountain, to check the reservoir. I dearly loved to go with him, as the reservoir was enchanting to me. The walk was fun, through the crunching brown leaves, holding my grampa's hand. We picked wintergreen berries from their little stems near the ground and popped them into our mouths. Grampa brought a basket, and occassionally we'd find a clump of new brown mushrooms. He'd cut them off leaving the roots in the ground then lower them gently into the basket. Later, Gramma would fix them for supper. But knowing what might be at the reservoir was what inspired my little legs to grapple with the climb through the woods.
Fall's abundance of leaves usually covered the metal over the reservoir. We'd sweep the leaves off with an old broom and Grampa would slide the cover off. I kept my eyes on the opening as the metal scraped across rocks and was thrown off to one side. Occasionally, some critter would be near the edge of the pool, lying just under the cover, unaware that his cool, dark hiding place would soon be revealed. Many times I would be priveleged to see animals, snakes and lizards that I ordinarily never saw. They would quickly scoot into the water or tunnel under a drift of leaves and rocks---gone for the time being.
I sat on the edge of the deep, dark reservoir as my grampa used a big net to pull a thin layer of leaves off the top of the water. Somehow, they'd managed to filter down and under the sheet cover.
The water in the reservoir was deep and still. The deeper it went down, the darker it became, but it was crystal clear to the bottom. I remember looking into the depths and being amazed that I saw no fish in such a perfect place for fish.
But there were other things I loved in this place. Moss---the greenest moss I ever saw---grew just inside the upper edge of the hole. Against that moss, bright as jewels on emerald velvet, lay one of my favorite creatures: a red spotted newt. Small and sleepy-eyed, it crouched in a swirled ball within the moss. As the metal moved off and the sun hit it's little orange body, it slowly uncurled and began moving off into the leaves. I'd seen dozens of these newts in my young life, but it was always a fresh delight to pick up the delicate little thing, examine it very, very close to my face, and then put it back into it's place.
Once all the living things had fled from the water, I lost interest and began exploring the stone row that ran down and away from the reservoir. Old stone rows threaded their way here and there all over the mountain. Natural field stone had been piled into rows and used for fences by long-ago farmers on this mountain. Broken down now by weathering and time, their wandering lines were still visible in many places. I loved to sit on the rocks, quietly and slowly lifting each one to see what crept beneath. Many times, another orange newt. Sometimes a large brown lizard. Most of the time simply roly-polys. But the anticipation of what could be under the next rock, always kept me busy until Grampa whistled and it was time to pick up the mushroom basket and head on down the mountain. By the time we'd reached the house, ruddy cheeked and out of breath from laughing and kicking through leaves, we had a basketful of goodies for Gramma. Brown mushrooms, a perfectly formed abandoned bird nest the wind had whipped out of a tree, a great handful of wintergreen leaves, some buckberries, and a few twigs of Sasafrass. We were always happy to trade it for big bowls of hot soup she always seemed to have ready when we appeared from the woods.
Posted by Mickeylayne at 5:46 PM
Thursday, February 5, 2009
For many Noxen folks, our hometown holds the buildings where not only we attended school, but our mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers. //http://www.noxenpa.com/library.html When I was a child, the Island Road where this historic building stands was dirt. Behind this building was the one-room school where both my gramma and my mother were educated.
But, by the time I began school, the little one-room had been boarded up. I attended the new, big school building that sat across the field. The playground was equipped with everything we needed to have a great time in the sun. Far out over the grass sat the big swingset with it's wooden seats. When the bell rang, it was always a race to see who got to the swings first. The winners of that race would grab a swing for a freind, and it was "halfway to the moon" for fifteen glorious minutes. Some even had the courage to stand on the wood slats and swing...daring for my time!
Near the swings was the long, steel slide---always so hot in the sun! And the merry-go-round. The girls would sit and the boys would grab a rung and push. It was fun going round and round, your hair and dress blowing wildly, until us girls discovered the boys were keeping that contraption going at top speed so we'd be late getting back to the classroom! Still, there was good-natured laughter as we all pounded for the door. We were usually in our seats before the last toll of the bell.
Under a big, spreading tree we had monkey bars---an apparatus of steel bars where we'd hang like possoms---or monkeys---and drop, willingly or otherwise, to the dirt below. It was fun unless rain had turned the dirt under the bars to mud.
There was a softball field and we played dodgeball against the side of the school. Teachers stood about, arms crossed, watching for anything that warranted an order to "Have a seat on the step and wait to go in. Your recess is over." Oh, the shame of that!
There were things I remember about this old building that still bring a smile to my face. Coming to school on Monday morning...the smell of fresh floor wax because Mr. Schenk has spent time polishing all the hardwood floors. It always smelled new to me. Hot summer days when our teachers would open the tops of the big windows and a warm, sweet-smelling breeze would waft through the classroom, drying the hair at the back of our necks. The scratch of real chalk over the blackboard and the feeling of pride when you were chosen to "dust the erasers" for the teacher. The wintergreen smell of snow-white paste from little tubs. Lead pencils and pencil tablets. The scent of wet wool and fresh mud as out mittens and coats dried near the coatroom. The mixture of heavenly scents that escaped our lunch pails and brown paper bags...apple and peanut butter and yellow cupcakes. Cheese sandwiches wrapped in crisp waxed paper.
And we ate sitting out on the grass under a tree in the dappled shade. Laughing and talking, we traded goodies from our lunches and whispered secrets about boys and dolls and dreaded spelling tests. Funny how I didn't want to go to school back then. Today, I'd give anything to relive that time of innocence and relative purity. A time when you weren't just a student to your teacher, you and your entire family were friends of hers. A time when not only sportsmanship was taught, but the golden rule as well. When recieving an "F" wasn't glorified, it was a shame. When children shared candy and lunches, not drugs and guns. When discipline was the only method used to call forth the full potential of a child, and "positive reinforcement" and "redirection" weren't part of a teacher's agenda.
As a society, we don't need to return to the days of Mayberry, RFD but a return to the standards of that day would be nice. For big cities, it's too much to ask. But for the small towns across America, it's not too late. How about installing the computers in the classrooms, then teaching kids how to respect them. How about building cafeterias, then teaching kids how to eat properly. We could teach Yoga, but teach sportsmanship and fairplay too. Instead of using timeout and studyhalls for misbehavior, let kids run off that disobedience on the football field. After a few laps, they might be more willing to sit still and study instead of contriving ways to be mischievious.
Schoolmasters of old were rigid taskmaster. That's why some of the greatest inventions, ideas, and changes in the world were born in the minds of our ancestors. We need a few good, old schoolmasters today.
Posted by Mickeylayne at 8:47 PM
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Posted by Mickeylayne at 9:17 AM
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Posted by Mickeylayne at 10:20 PM
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Posted by Mickeylayne at 8:28 AM