Searching for the Old Paths and Keeping Memories Alive

If anyone knows me well, they know that I love to garden, to make food from scratch, to preserve food, and to try to live simply and within my means. This thought really struck me this evening as I was talking to my 16-year-old daughter.

It struck me that most of my great-grandparents, grandparents, and even parents lived on a farm growing up. Some still do in fact. Our goal is to one day  live out in the country on a few acres, raise some chickens, maybe a cow, and have a Hugh Jass garden that grows plenty of food for our family that I can dehydrate, freeze, or can.

I like cooking food from scratch. Let’s face it; homemade bread is pretty much amazing. Apple pie made with a homemade crust and apples you picked yourself? Not much can beat that. How about a pantry full of food that you canned yourself? Maybe I’m weird (yeah, most likely), but that gives me a real sense of satisfaction, knowing that all that food that could have gone to waste DIDN’T! And it’s sitting there in my pantry, patiently waiting for the day when I will use it.

So, in contemplating that  thought this evening, on a cool summer day, I found myself thinking about my family members who didn’t know anything but this way of life. They had to have a big garden because that was what fed them through the harsh winters. They had to fix all their food from scratch because the nearest grocery store was miles and miles away, and the only way to get to it was by a horse and wagon. They had to make their own cleaning supplies. In fact, it likely wouldn’t have occurred to them to buy that kind of thing from the store since good old baking soda and vinegar (which you can make yourself by the way!) do an amazing job in keeping a  house sparkling clean.

My great-grandpa likely in the late 1920s rounding up some cattle.

I found myself wondering then…why am I drawn to these things? Why do I care if I have a garden or not? Why am I drawn to this simpler way of living? Why do I want to be out in the country and work the soil and have the added burden of caring for animals and being away from the city?

I voiced these questions aloud to my daughter who pretty accurately stated, “Maybe it’s a way that you’re keeping family members alive in your mind.” And there you have it. Wise words from a 16-year-old girl. So yes, I do believe she is right. I never met my paternal  great-grandmother, but I know she toiled and worked alongside my great-grandfather who was a homesteader on the Colorado plains. I don’t remember my maternal great-grandfather, but he was a rancher and farmer, and he worked hard until he couldn’t work anymore, the same as his *son, and his son’s son.

My great-grandpa and great-grandma, mid-to-late 1920s with my great-uncles. Don’t they look so happy?

Thankfully, today, we are not reliant upon the food that I produce in my garden, and I don’t have to preserve all of our fruits and vegetables before the winter sets in. We would starve! But when I till my little garden, when I harvest my fresh vegetables, and when I sink my teeth into a homegrown tomato, I can think of those in my family who have gone before me. I can keep their memory alive as I strive to live simply and embrace the old paths and look up into the night sky, the same one they saw all those years ago, and I will think of them.

My maternal grandpa and grandma with my mom on the left and my uncle on the right. Quite a good-looking family if I do say so myself!

*My great-great grandfather was a prolific writer and a very good one at that. Check out some of his writings here!

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