The Backyard

The Backyard

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"I like when they dye their hair grey."

My new-found local bargain store is called Hoover's Discount Grocery on St. Johns Road, outside of Berrysburg, Pennsylvania.   They sell bulk quantities, expired or near-expired products, and seconds.  Yes, the prices are incredible on some of their products.  It's run by Amish and the majority of shoppers are Amish.  Today, it was pretty full of Amish shoppers.  Standing in the narrow aisle checking out the black beans with barely butt room between me and the elder Amish man pushing the cart that his wife was filling, I hear in a bold voice, "I like when they dye their hair grey."  I couldn't help my big grin when I turned to answer, "I like it too!"  And he says, "so does my wife."   It made my week, month, and year.  What a classic line!  I'll never forget the moment. (In case you don't know me, I'm very grey and never dyed my hair -- we joke I paid a lot of money to have my hair streaked grey!).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Dad and His Childhood Chicken Story

Somewhere around 1940, a little boy in the small town of Gratz, Pennsylvania, was sent to the backyard by his mom to "go get a chicken for supper."  Everyone in Gratz had backyards full of vegetables, chickens, and a pig to eventually slaughter as a neighborhood project.  This is how folks lived and thrived in smalltown USA before industrial agriculture.  They grew and raised all their food.  If the bill at the grocery store was more than $10 a week, Dad wasn't happy.  That bill was for a family of 8.  So little boy Donnie went to the chicken pen to catch a chicken for dinner.  They all gathered around him as though it was time for their feeding.  You see, little Donnie cared for the birds and they grew fond of his handsful of feed everyday.  Little Donnie caught one of his flock, and with ax in hand and mom's orders in his head, he hesitated.  He listened to his chicken cackle, hung his head, and let her go.  He couldn't do it.  He went back to the house and his mom said, "where's the chicken?" And little Donnie said, "I couldn't catch one."  His mother mumbled some Pennsylvania dutch, calling him dumb.  I'm glad little Donnie was dumb and never killed a chicken.  And I'm more glad his 81 year old brain remembered the story and told me about it last night, on my birthday.  I loved it.  Of course he mumbled the exact same words in Pennsylvania dutch that his mom mumbled, but I'm sorry to say I never learned the language and couldn't repeat.  Thanks for the story dad!  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gearing up for Full-time Food Production

In two weeks, my daily two-hour round trip commute to Harrisburg City in Pennsylvania, to my full-time job as a government manager, will come to an end.  I retire on October 28.   Years ago when I first started reading about going green, homesteading, living off the grid, and using less resources, I dreamt of the day I wouldn’t have to commute to work.   The day is here.   My daily commute will be by foot to the backyard to prep the gardens to grow our food.  This is the part of retirement that gets me the most excited.  I’m the type that likes many activities and I don’t always ‘stick” with one.  Being a triathlete is a good example.  From 2004 to 2008, I swam, biked, and ran my little heart out all the way to a world competition.   A bike accident put a quick halt to that short-term endeavor.  Through the years I’ve picked up and put down probably 15 or so hobbies and interests.  But through all of them, one thing stuck:  gardening of some sort.  For twenty-two years, I’ve tossed together horse manure, straw, kitchen scraps, and grass clippings to feed my food. As a kid I helped my mom harvest and preserve which instilled the canning notion in my brain.  I’m a farmer at heart.  It’s in my blood and I can’t put it aside like other hobbies.  To know I will now be able to garden every single day for the rest of my life is an awe-inspiring feeling.  To know not only can I grow it, but I’ll now have the time to preserve it  and eat it in the middle of the winter, is equally awesome.  I’m excited to grow, preserve and eat my own food on a full-time basis.  Warm up the stove... let's get cooking!