Monday, March 8, 2010

Passing It On

We had our oldest granddaughter here for four days and during that time we were doing livestock chores for some dear friends. Bundled in ski pants, coat, hat, mittens and her grandma's wool socks tucked inside chore boots our granddaughter trailed after me through muddy wet pens.

While I fed stallions, mares, foals, and yearlings along with nine heifers, she stood safe next to Sailor, a 16 hand stallion that's stretching for 30 years old, stroking his neck and carrying on a one-sided conversation. Our friend's Araucana chickens were another big hit with their green eggs. I realize I made a mistake not ordering a couple for our coop last year by the way her face lit up when she found them tucked in the corner of the coop. And how she insisted on having scrambled green eggs for breakfast each morn.
With a kitchen chair slid up to the counter top, she'd crack green eggs one at a time into a cup just in case their were pieces of shell that insisted on remaining with the contents. No biggy as I'd fished them out and she'd dump the eggs into the skillet.
When we discovered this whopper sitting in the middle of our coop Saturday, she claimed it for Sunday morning. She would have had just eggs for breakfast and Kirk's favorite cereal for lunch everyday if I hadn't insisted that stew and fruit be included.

It was a bit hard to distinguish that there had been two yolks in the shell as the egg was a little large in her hands and she mangled it a bit trying to crack it open. None the less, it tasted wonderful alongside the sour cream and almond flavored pancakes.
I only had to say let's get our chore clothes on and her eyes would light up and she'd be dressed before I'd had time to get my coat and boots on and grab the milk pails. With the additional chores, the time at the corrals stretched on for hours as I walked slowly waiting for her short legs to keep up. And put a few inches of water into a small bucket each time I filled my four gallon ones so she too could help fill the waterers. If I had an arm load of hay she had a five-year-old sized one. She even had to have a try with the pitchfork.

I use to often take just one of our children to the corrals when they were teenagers. It was a good time to talk, and teach each other. There is something about working together at a task that opens the lines of communication. Our three children have learned to love this lifestyle some parts of it far more than others according to each of their personalities. Our middle daughter never did like the pigs or chickens, she likes goats just not the goat milk. She always loved the beef and sheep but now that she is grown she says she'll have chickens just for the eggs. I think our son is partial to the beef himself and our oldest also wants some chickens someday and maybe a goat.

Now Kirk and I begin to teach the next generation about the treasures we've discovered within this more natural lifestyle. My prayer is that we will be able to instill a reverence and appreciation for things. It's pretty easy to throw food out when all you did was purchase it from the store. You think about composting and recycling scraps back to the chickens and pigs when you've labored for hours to produce that food.

I want our grandchildren to sense the comfort and nurturing feelings that comes from listening to the milk swish against the pail. To understand its blessings, the diversity of rich products that can come from it, and the self-assurance that comes from gaining it for yourself. I want them to experience the joy and laughter from watching the animal's antics, the knowledge that you gaine in the process of caring for them. To learn the humbleness that comes when your efforts aren't enough and you must rely on the Lord for help and guidance.

Most of all I wish for our grandchildren to gain a feeling of reverance and gratitude that directs their actions. For this lifestyle, if you'll let it, will develop that.

As I first stroke Penny, the Buff Orpington that invariably sit in the corner on the nest, and listen to her quiet cackle of discomfort as I reach underneath and grope for the eggs of the other hens that she's been warming, I gain a connection with them and their gifts I receive each day. That ice cream we savor after supper traveled first from the goat, to the strainer, the milk separator, the stove where the custard was made, and then into the ice cream maker. With this process comes confidence in myself, appreciation, and an adventure in the journey that can't be had in a purchased peppermint ice cream carton from the store.

It's hard work but I don't want my children or grandchildren to shy away from things because of it's difficulty. A good life is hard work. Maybe I don't want them to go so far as to not know the difference between work and play which my children accused me of when they were growing up. I'm working on that fault. But, I want them to enjoy the fruits of their labors and most of all enjoy the journey not just wish the end product of it.

So this weekend I polished off my teaching skills and talked with our grand daughter about saving the egg shells for the worms in the garden and putting it in the ground so our tomato plants didn't suffer blossom rot.
I asked her to help me with washing the eggs. She counted them, putting them in rows of six so we knew how many cartons to bring up from the basement to put them in. I want her to not just know but learn that numbers aren't just squiggly lines on a piece of paper and that math has application. Even when she is just counting to 18 today.
We discussed the way eggs should be stored to preserve their freshness - pointed side down. Something she may not learn just grabbing a dozen from the store. She insisted they be put in the egg carton pointed end up. I figured it was a five-year-old's creative choice. Not worth arguing over. We'll have this conversation again the next time she comes to help and maybe her choice will be different. Learning is repetitious. While we were washing eggs and cooking breakfast, Kirk was in the garage cutting up the hind quarters that he smoked into hams and ham steaks. Breakfast comes first when our grand daughters are here for they wake up with a smile and the first words from their mouth are, "I'm hungry!" When our oldest grand daughter's cute tummy was full, I cleared the dishes and began to wrap the meat. I taught her to make the letter H. First describing it auditorially and then showed her while saying the same words. Then we moved on to the number 10. She already knew how to make an A and a M.
Somehow teaching this grandchild to write was a whole lot more fun than teaching our three children to read and write. Yes, we home schooled for fifteen years doing the book learning and then trying to apply as much of it as possible to real life. Applesauce heated on the stove for breakfast with cinnamon and sugar became homemade mud pots like the ones we'd seen in Yellowstone Park. The heat from the stove's burner increased inside the dense mass until it burst forth parting the sauce with a plop. When we butchered, we dissected the organs. The children learned first hand that a chicken like a human has all the eggs she will ever have tucked inside her ovaries.

Now it was time to start over again. I watched out of the corner of my eye while I wrapped, for our grand daughter was concentrating hard doing her task in her little precise way. Her cute little rosy lips tightly ohed with the A...s
Pulled to the side with the M...s and once more I thought how this schooling had far more meaning than just practicing writing Ham on a piece of paper over and over again. Not only did she learn the word but the package had real ham inside. She further learned that you wrote what was inside the package and the year you placed it inside the freezer. I once cleaned out my mother-in-law's deep freeze to discover that she, a city girl transformed to the country, had written on the butcher paper what was inside and the month and day it was placed there. The ice encrusted sides of the freezer threatened to be categorized as icebergs and I had no idea how many years ago those packages were placed there. She was very ill and 70 some years old. Someone needed to have taught her.

So I begin the journey with this precious grand daughter to teach her far beyond emptying the trash or making her bed, which doesn't seem to have much meaning to kids. I'm helping to teach her what it is to help and aid her family. Her efforts meant their would be food in her's and her families mouth for half of one pig is theirs. Maybe she doesn't completely understand it all but I know she is beginning to grasp the concept for I remember the feelings from helping my grandparents in their garden and I remember watching our own children. A close knit family starts out with warmth and love, moves on to needs met. One of them is the need to belong and to be needed.

Some grandparents think it is their duty to spoil their grandchildren. I know it is my duty to teach them and help them to become the best that is in them for grandparent isn't just a word but a important role to carry things forward. Knowledge is a gift and with that gift we've tried to help our children learn wisdom that they in turn may be a blessing to their families, to our world, and most importantly to our God.

No comments:

Post a Comment