Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Changing of the Seasons




The leaves on the big oaks surrounding our yard are no longer bright green. They have already started to transition to various shades of yellow, brown, and red, and a few have dropped, littering the grass and driveway.  The acorns that fell last month no longer crunch beneath my feet as I carry out the trash. Between the deer munching on them and the squirrels gathering them, they are almost as forgotten as the lawn tractor-sprinkler that dutifully pulled the garden hose behind the last couple of months.
I know we’ll soon put away the patio furniture and complete the other needed chores to prepare for the winter months, but that is about it. There is no large fall harvest that we need to complete in order to know we’ll have a pantry full of food this winter. In thinking about that, I was reminded of one of the Little House on the Prairie books—The Long Winter

I read these stories as a child, and of course watched the series (and still do on cable), but it wasn’t until I was older and looked at those fictional books more as research that I realized  The Long Winter was about survival at its core. The story talks about how the family moved from their shanty a mile away into the small town in preparation of the bad winter that was being predicted. And later about how the snow was so deep they had to dig tunnels from building to building in town. The first snow had fallen in October and by Christmas the grocery store was out of food. The weather made it impossible for the train to deliver much needed supplies. Laura talks about how the family only ate two meals a day because Ma said the days were short and there wasn’t time for more than two meals, and how funny Pa looked. That is eyes sunken, he was thin, and not nearly as strong as usual. She talks about how tired they all were and how dull everything seemed. 

They were all starving. 

She talks about grinding wheat in the coffee grinder to make flour, and how Almanzo and another man braved the elements and travel 20 miles in order to get a few bushels of wheat.  Winter didn’t end until May that year. That’s when the supply train finally arrived and Ma cooked their belated Christmas dinner. 

Meteorologists have confirmed that the winter of 1880-81 was very close to what Laura Ingalls described in that book. This story really is documentation of life during a very severe winter back then.  

It’s also a book of perseverance and of being grateful for what you have, no matter how small.

So as fall arrives, I readily admit how grateful I am for the resources we have in place that assures we will never have to wait until May to have Christmas dinner.

4 comments:

  1. Odd, that never once in my entire life did I believe I must prepare for a long period without enough food. That's why we love history and yes, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books taught us some of that, even through a children's book. My mother was born in 1916 and surely had enough food much of her life, but even in the 1950s she was literally hoarding food by freezing, canning, etc. At any given time until she passed away at age 94, she could have fed 20 people, easy. Thanks for reminding us to be thankful, Laura. Lovely.

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  2. Those stories make us grateful, don't they? I used to can dozens of vegetables and fruit each summer in preparation for winter. The important thing is that we would have been able to eat with staples from the grocery store if I hadn't canned the food. We wanted freshly processed vegetables and fruit that we knew were not sprayed with harmful chemicals. Now, we just buy what we want. Much easier if not quite as tasty.

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  3. I never read the books, but I did watch the series of Little House on the Prairie back when it first appeared--and it still plays on the Hallmark Channel.
    From my memories of the north Midwest in my short time of living there in Nebraska was how very harsh the weather was. Although my family originated in north central Pennsylvania and dealt with harsh winters, I had been raised in North Carolina where everyone gets excited at the thought of snow. It's like magic dust. As cold as it was in Nebraska with its subzero temperatures and blizzards, I'm certain it's worse further north. I wouldn't want to live there.
    Having gone through the Great Depression, my parents were gardening and canning fanatics. Pop always had a huge garden with neat rows of vegetables he liked to show off. He also liked to try new vegetables and was super happy about his bumper crop of broccoli. He and Mom canned together. They experimented every year making a different recipe for catsup. I have no idea why. They were just driven. I could rat on them about some of their disasters, but I have to give them credit for their efforts. They loved it. My sister and I learned to love gardening and canning from them. I must agree with Caroline about chemicals and harmful ingredients in the market place. Now that I'm older, I just have a little raised bed garden or plant a few things in pots because I enjoy it. It's not enough to make a difference in the pantry and certainly not enough to can. My older sister still does it the old way. She goes to local growers for things like peaches and strawberries when they're in season and the whole family gets together to help her prepare and can them. It's fun.
    Well, I've kind of rattled on a bit here. Obviously I enjoyed your post, Laurie. I wish you wonderful things.

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  4. Thanks for visiting ladies! My mom used to can a lot, and though I did some when my boys were younger, all I do any more is jam and jelly for the grandkids mainly. However, my youngest son has canned everything from fish to salsa and loves it. He also smokes lots of different meats and makes his own sausages. :)

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