Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yankee Frugal and Homeschooling

I talked to a dear friend this afternoon. She and I haven't been able to connect lately certainly not out of wanting to. She has a new job, her kids are in public school and our lives are busy and are going in different directions. We are realistic about that and make time to speak on the phone at the very least. We talked for a while about the economy and what it means for our families and what we are doing to help get over this slump.
Most of my posts lately have been about pinching pennies by way of coupons, raising chickens, cutting corners, making bread and natural cleaners. While I'm worried about what the economy may bring our way, I'm also very excited and energized with what our family has accomplished in the past six months. You see, several months ago, we had to make some drastic changes. We were barely getting by on a monthly basis and although we had an idea where our money was going, we did not track carefully and perhaps made some poor financial choices.
In a way, I'm very glad that we have had to take a closer look at everything. Perhaps if the economy was still good we would still be wasting money on things we didn't really need. Hard times always cause us to take pause and reflect.
My kids have seen everything we are doing to help and nurture our family. They pitch in, help in the garden, help around the house, cook, bake and help sustain our family. Those lessons that they learn make me proud to homeschool them. Aside from the academics, they are learning to care for their family and have learned what is important.

A picture of our chicken coop this past summer after it was just built.

I found some old pictures of my Dad today and the house we used to live in. It made me sit back and think about how my parents made do with what they had and what they taught us. I grew up in a family of 8 kids and two parents. We had 10 people in our house that was about 1200 square feet. Our bedrooms housed bunk beds with no room to spare. There was one living room, one TV, no computers or video games and just 1 1/2 bathrooms for all of us. We played outside all day long, only returning home for meals. My Mother didn't call us on the cell phone, she stood outside on the front porch and bellowed down the street until we came running. Yes, times are different now and technology changes us, but when did we lose the free spirit of living simply and enjoying that simplicity?
We had a small 1/2 acre lot but my Dad's vegetable garden sustained us all Summer and my Mother's preserving and canning carried us through the Winter. The canning happened throughout the summer as the different crops ripened and it was a family affair to get everything ready. Dad would wash the vegetables and fruit, Mom would peel, we would chop, Mom and all my siblings would fill the jars and then into the steaming pot they would go. Dad would lift the jars out and place them upside down on a clean towel. When the canning was cooled, all the jars would go down into the canning closet-the coolest part of our basement.
Whatever we weren't able to grow, we would go together and pick as a family. Strawberry and Blueberry picking were our favorite and with all of those kids it's funny how I don't remember where the berries fit in the car. Our whole family would cover 2 whole rows at the farm and make short work of picking. We would eat so many strawberries that everyone seemed to wear lipstick home. We would make fun of the boys in the car and it always ended with someone getting a noogie or a wedgie.
I don't remember my parents ever buying produce at a store. When the garden was full of Zucchini, my Mother would grate it and make loaf after loaf of Zucchini bread and then freeze it for a breakfast treat with cream cheese on a cold winter morning.
Oats were bought in bulk and I had never even heard of instant oatmeal until I married. Cookies were always homemade (except Oreos which my Mother had a penchant for). Snacks were never bought in boxes and were usually crackers and cheese or an apple or some carrots.
Mom always washed her windows with Vinegar and old newspapers to wipe them clean. She never bought cleaners of any type except Bleach for laundry. Daily cleaning was done with Murphy's oil soap and the rag basket was always full.
When we needed to turn the heat down in the house to save money, Mom crocheted us all blankets for our beds using yarn from recycled projects. My blanket was red with white yarn fringe and I still have it and use it.
Somewhere as I grew, I lost the lessons that my Parents taught me. They lived in a time when the things they did to survive were just a part of life. Dad taught me how to garden but for some reason the plants always loved him better. My Mother used to say, "Your Father could take a take a matchstick and a fishhead and grow a tomato plant." It was true. I watched Dad many days in the garden as he plucked weeds but only certain ones. Always telling me to let the stinging nettle have it's way because the plants loved it and would reward us with a good crop. "Plant your tomatoes sideways and deep and be a little rough with them. It makes them strong," he would say. Dad knew how to support his family. He worked all day at the steel mill, came home, tended the garden, did house repairs, built us forts and raised chickens.
People didn't call him organized or a farmer or even call him green. It was all just a part of life, a part of knowing how to get by. I'm finding my roots again. I think they are somewhere in the garden still buried beneath the remaining snow. But they are beginning to show, ever so slightly and are finding their way by digging down deep and finding that rich earth and finding the important things to help them grow. Much like our family.
My Father's favorite flower. I grow sunflowers every year. In the morning, they turn their heavy, full heads toward my kitchen window as I sip my coffee. It's then I can talk to Dad.
A small pumpkin in last year's garden.

Some bottle neck gourds that became bird houses.

Some of last year's harvest.


Kate in NJ said...

What a lovely post.
I have too many things going
around and around in my head to write a thoughtful comment at the moment, but what a nice post.

Dana said...

Lovely post. That is the way my grandparents were but it was mostly lost by the time my parents were adults. My grandmother is in her 70s and still raises a huge garden and cans.

Her husband was raised in Appalachia and didn't see a car until he was 12. It sent him back up the mountain screaming while his dad fell over laughing. It was his first trip to town, walking the several miles with his dad.

homeschool mamma said...

hysterical-made my day.

Amber said...

In some ways, I wish I had the roots and know-how you have. I really want to have a garden, but I have no clue what I'm doing. Two summers ago I had a couple of tomato plants in pots and we had small handfuls of cherry tomatoes over the course of the summer. Last year I tried to grow a few things (in pots on my porch) but nothing ever took. Lettuce, onions, cucumbers. They didn't make it. Our ground here is very rocky and to start a garden, I think our best bet would be raised garden beds, but my hubby's not interested enough to help me get the timbers and soil and build them, so I'm going to have to figure something out for this year.

homeschool mamma said...

it has a wealth of information to help you get started. Once you have garden tomatoes you'll never go back to store bought.