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on the farm

Growing up, our grandfather (Big Papa) had a farm. Quite a large farm. It nearly encompassed the entire world for me as a kid…that and the woods behind our own house back in town. Most of the time Big Papa had a caretaker who looked after the farm property which was acres and acres of horse pasture, huge barns with hay lofts, tall silos filled with the sweet smell of fermenting hay, leather-scented tack rooms where saddles and horse blankets were hung, a milking barn that smelled like cottage cheese and cream, all kinds of old farm equipment, an old-time fire engine, a gas pump. You get the picture. There were woods there too, and sand banks where we’d play for hours on end. There were Shetland ponies and two big beautiful Pintos. A milking herd of sweet-faced Jerseys. A Brahma bull, just because he was fiercely fantastic. There were pea-brained guinea hens forever running from us, though they had no reason to. There were attics filled with beds and bunks, chenille bedspreads, old dressers and vanities with dusty mirrors. Old women’s clothes, men’s work boots. Old baby buggies. Indian blankets. The farm was a child’s paradise.

I was blessed to grow up free to roam. I explored for endless hours the woods out back, built forts with the guys. I believed there was a gang who roamed those woods. “The Dick and John Gang.” Mean as all get-out we were told, but we never met up with them. (I’m not sure anyone ever did.) I climbed water towers. I’d frequently ride my bike down to an old abandoned saw mill and investigate. I rode my horse, alone, and  fast  along sandy trails! (I was taught that I’d gone a step too far when I woke in the middle of the night with the express purpose of  driving my dad’s car down onto the beach nearby. The lights were on in the farm house when I returned. There was to be no sneaking back to bed. I think I was 12.)

~ ~ ~

Seems to me that we’re each formed in good part by the experiences we had as children, the games we played,  the woods or yards or streets we roamed. There’s no question, the farm runs in my veins.

About three miles down the road from we live now is an old family farm. The city next to ours bought it from the Luscher family and it’s been turned into acres and acres of gardens for the community to share. This time of year the gardens are populated by brooms wearing clothes. You’ll see. I went there yesterday to breathe and wander. I thought I’d share a few photos of my time there.

Click on any one of the photos below to enlarge it, or by using the arrows you can flip through them all if you like.(Click on the little x in the left-hand corner to return to the post.) I hope you’ll enjoy a few minutes of peace in the gardens where the bees buzz and people quietly turn over the dirt and tend their tomatoes.

I’d thought I’d include a recipe for the cornbread from yesterdays post here, but will instead put out a separate, very brief post later today for the bread. It’s a simple skillet corn bread, but really quite good.

Thanks for walking the farm with me!


A special note for those living in or around the Portland area:

While roaming about the farm yesterday, I learned something I hadn’t known before. I met a couple nice women from an organization called Oregon Tilth. (They asked if I’d say a few words about the work they do. I was happy to.) For those living nearby, you may be interested to know that what you see in the photo above is part of an organic urban teaching and demonstration garden. Thousands of local residents have been trained there in the practices of organic farming, conservation of natural resources, and a good deal more. Volunteers were busy at work there yesterday and I’d hear them calling to each other, “So, does this go? Or stay?” “You think we ought to cut this back?” “This is looking good!”  It was lovely seeing these people working hand and glove together. I learned too that Oregon Tilth provides engagement opportunities and donates fresh produce to organizations that serve those in need. If you’d like to learn more of what they do, or explore ways to become involved yoruself, you can check out their website:

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. Melissa VW #

    I love this post. The farm is in me, too! I grew up similarly, though not necessarily on a working farm…my family lived on mill-owned tree farm acreage, and I had free run of the nearly 600 acres of forest, trails, and a big dilapidated barn that we probably had no business at all playing in. We had fruit trees and chickens and rabbits and deer hunted on the property, and it was such a wonderful way to grow up. Damian and I are trying to recreate that as much as we can on our little half-acre outside the city…even if it’s just a plot of “yard-rooms” (as we like to call them), we’re trying to fill them with food and flower gardens, ponds, chicken coops, and secret hidey-holes…as much natural diversity as we can for our little one to play in someday. Thanks for this post, and the beautiful pictures.

    September 6, 2012
    • Melissa, I was so happy to get your comment! Loved it! And I love too that you’re intentionally creating little yard-rooms and hidey holes!! Thank YOU so much for your comment!!

      September 6, 2012
  2. That was a nice farm! You’re lucky to have had your childhood in it. How I wish my children experiences that kind of expanse too! But modern times limit this kind of space unfortunately.

    September 6, 2012
    • I hope you know, I feel so very lucky to have grown up with the ability to explore freely, to move without fear! That’s a priceless gift far too few of us receive. I so wish that were different!

      September 6, 2012
  3. I lived in the country, but was never quite so free to roam – you are very lucky. That’s a beautiful farm you have near to you!

    September 6, 2012
    • Believe me, I know how lucky I was – and still am – for the chance to roam free. It gave me so much that I can barely begin to speak it! Thanks Nick for the comment.

      September 6, 2012
  4. Each photo I was wondering which would be my favourite.. by why would I need to select favourites.. when I love them all, spree! This is the sort of home I’d love to live in next.. but I might get out-voted on a country home. I can just picture the people living here and their lives.. it must have been wonderful wandering and pottering in that garden. I must say I was sooo disappointed to read what a naughty 12 year old you were spree, I though you knew better than that;) Just kidding.. I was delighted to imagine and younger, wilder and daring spree… we would have been best friends I believe! I can’t wait to read more of these sorts of stories, they bring back wonderful memories of my childhood days.. although I roamed city streets instead of the countryside. xx Smidge

    September 6, 2012
    • I always love your comments! They’re like air to me! 🙂 Thank you! We would have been SUCH good friends…until your parents quit allowing you to play with me once I took my dad’s car for a joy ride on the beach! (I grew considerably tamer after that though, which I have some regrets about! 🙂 ) I loved reading your stories too Smidge, you and your house full of brothers. (I only had 2, but still they managed, as brothers do, to be a house full!) Too bad we can’t just buy a wee farm, parked half way between us, and share it with our big families! xx

      September 6, 2012
  5. carolyn #

    That photo of the white barn has such a beautiful ache to it. All these photos hold a promise of sustenance…There’s so much here in your “simple” farm post. You’ve gone back to your own roots, sharing intimate details of your free-range childhood. And in doing, you’ve linked us all to our roots, for farms run in all our veins, whether we grew up exploring them or not. Just in time for the fall harvest, just as I could be getting full of myself and my plumping tomatoes, there’s this simple reminder. To never forget where it all begins, and what constitutes the soul of eating.

    September 6, 2012
    • I am so very happy you said this Lina because I couldn’t have said it nearly so beautifully. Thank you so much! Yes, the farm is running through all our veins…love, spree

      September 6, 2012
  6. Such a glorious story. Thank you so much for sharing this glimpse into childhood you. Your descriptions of the farm left me wanting more…you painted such an amazing picture. My heart longs for more of this for our children, but those who know it — like you, Mama — get to pass it on. Thank you for these photos today, too. They recall and affirm something so very important. I love the one with the gorgeous white barn in the background, the cabbages in their beautiful dark soil and those squash blossoms beginning to unfurl.

    September 6, 2012
    • Ashley, I could DRAW Papa’s farm for you, so clearly is it etched in me. I’n so happy you liked hearing (at least parts of it) again! I’ll try not to repeat myself TOO much as I enter my “silver” years! Thanks for your sweet words love!

      September 6, 2012
  7. #

    Great post Sis! It really took me back (to a place I’ve never been to before) 🙂

    September 6, 2012
    • Perfectly said my brother Jeem! But I’m sure wishing you had!

      September 6, 2012
  8. Yes, beautiful pictures and reminiscent to a small degree of my grandmother’s farm where I spent some summers in the 1940’s before I had yet reached double digits in age–although her place was far less grand and more primitive. There was a hand crank telephone on the wall into which one shouted “Hello Central” to reach an operator to make a connection for you. The incoming telephone rings were of different duration so people in different households on a party line would know whether a call was for them or for another household on the line. And there was nothing to keep snoops from surreptitiously picking up a receiver and listening in on other people’s calls, which they did. I also remember the DuVal cream separator. After the two cows–Bessie and one whose name I have forgotten–were milked the collected result was poured into the separator and the cream somehow went one way and the milk went the other, I think using the concept of centrifugal force to separate the heavier cream from the lighter milk. In any event we collected the cream and used it to make our own butter. I well remember being given the task of turning the handle that moved the wooden paddles inside the green glass jar into which the cream was poured and in which the butter eventually formed. [It was so much like turning the crank on the old ice cream makers that used ice and rock salt–it seemed the product would never be done but eventually one was rewarded with something quite special.] More than the mechanics of it and the energy expended though, I remember the hot biscuits with fresh homemade butter and home canned spreads–such as yellow tomato preserves–a combined taste with delicate nuances that I think is probably impossible to recapture in today’s world.

    September 6, 2012
  9. What a great post, Spree! Yours was a wonderful childhood, to be sure. We had family friends on farms and occasionally we spent the day there. For us, that was like a trip to Disney World. I can only imagine spending Summers on one. I cannot believe you had the gumption to take Dad’s car for a ride on the beach! Had I attempted that, I would have been doing an awful lot of standing for next few days. Sitting just would not have been an option.
    Thanks, Spree, for giving us this glimpse into your childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you’ll take us there again some time.

    September 6, 2012
    • You’re so kind John, thank you!
      I KNOW! What gumption! Well it was kind of combination of factors – gumption to be sure, but also complete disregard for learning things the “easy” way. If I could learn the painful way, that was frequently the path I’d take. Somehow it was a bit more “interesting”. (And do not think for another second that I was sitting any time soon afterwards!)

      September 6, 2012
  10. Mari Anna #


    September 6, 2012
  11. Lovely post. Great childhood memories free from the paranoias and fears of today. The clothes on the broomsticks bear witness to end of that era – what a shame.

    September 7, 2012
  12. Great post Spree. Beautiful photos and beautiful story. I am so jealous of the ability to run and roam free. I guess living in HK I crave any place where the population density is kept to a minimum. Less people = Less stress. I guess I can always come back to this post and daydream….Take care, BAM

    September 7, 2012
  13. jeanette #

    ‘this is looking good!, definitely something i voice and do each time i volunteer @ the demo garden. the same quote goes for your blog entry and photos. a tasty read indeed.

    September 8, 2012
    • Thank you so much Jeanette! So happy “meeting” one of the volunteers! 🙂

      September 8, 2012
  14. deb schneider #

    So very grateful for this post. I loved everything about it.

    September 15, 2012
  15. Kelly Loggan #

    What a lovely post! From your “Farm Girl” Sister! Takes me back! Beautiful photos!

    September 24, 2012

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