Daring to Make Our Own Groceries

She hangs in my kitchen, this nameless woman who holds a chicken in her lap.  She watches me as I move between stove and sink, and I return the favor. Over time, I’ve come to imagine I know a thing or two about her. The directness of her gaze tells me she isn’t afraid of being seen. She’s a busy lady – her apron tells me that, and her distinctly practical hair. She didn’t mean to be posing this morning, but someone came along and she cooperated, no doubt happy for a moment’s rest.  Surprised by her inactivity and suddenly wary, the dog presses protectively against her, but they’ve spent his lifetime together and her hand is enough to calm his fears.

Around her portrait, bits and scraps of ephemera hint at the realities of her life.  A letterhead from A.E. Want & Company, one of Ft. Worth’s premiere wholesale grocers at the turn of the last century, provides elegance to a simple invoice. The invoice is dated September 14, 1921, nine years after the company gained a certain noteriety by suing the Missouri,  Kansas & Texas railroad over a carload of frostbitten Minnesota potatoes.  The potatoes, valued at $155.87, were judged defective, and the railroad ordered to pay.

At her feet is a decorated business card announcing Mr. A.D. Perry, a “reliable seedsman” from Syracuse, New York. And in the background, covered with penciled notations suggesting the quick, calculating mind of a business-like woman, are the music and lyrics to nearly-forgotten Sweet Betsy from Pike, a song still able to convey all the humor, grit and tenacity of American pioneer women across the decades.

I call my kitchen companion Betsy, because of the song.  The artist who created the monotype collage titled it “She Made Her Own Groceries”.  Indeed, she did.  Flour, sugar and salt may have made their way to her through Mr. Want’s wholesale company, but vegetables and fruits came from the seeds she ordered from Mr. Perry, received in trade or saved from her own crop. Milk and meat would have come from animals both raised and hunted. As for eggs, her picture gives us a clue about that, too, and since I imagine her in the midwest, the abundance described by John Milton Hadley in 1855 still would have surrounded her.

The supply of wild fruits exceed that of any country I ever knew. Straw- rasp- goose- black berries grow plentifully. Plums — persimmons — crab apples — wild cherries and grapes also abound. There is an unlimited extent of hazel nut thickets — and hickory trees are found and walnut — besides most other mast-bearing timber — All which are apt as I’m told to be very productive. Hence, thee can have “nuts” to crack… Now, I have not been over the territory and can not tell from my own sight what the afect of it presents, but there is variety in everything I learn as everywhere else.

If Betsy’s life was hard, it was a life marked by freedom as well as hardship, a life constructed through choice as much as it was shaped by circumstance.  Looking at her, I think of Mrs. Crooks, whose beautifully penned letters to my great-great-grandmother Annie are among my treasures. One, dated May 19, 1881, was written in Poplar Hill, Kansas and sent to Annie’s new home in Chariton, Iowa.

Crops are usually good and  vegetables of all kinds in abundance. We have had lettuce, onions and radishes from the garden and soon will have peas. There will not be much fruit this year, the severity of the weather killed the peaches (and)…the apple orchards are not many in bearing yet.
Elmer is farming…300 acres in wheat, 75 in corn, about 5 in potatoes, early corn and vegetables…. How are you and Mr. Crowley? Does he sigh for Texas when the cold north winds blow and the snow and ice is plentiful? Is it  hard to wean him from the land of sunshine and flowers?…
Elmer sends his best wishes to you all and we both hold you in grateful remembrance for your kindness to us while on our way to Kansas.

Today, Poplar Hill has disappeared. The post office where Mrs. Crooks’ letter almost certainly was mailed closed in 1889.   As for Chariton, the Lucas County town where Annie’s husband helped organize the 34th Iowa Infantry at the beginning of the Civil War and in which they settled after their post-war years in Texas and Missouri, it remains home today for David and Annie, their children and grandchildren, their great-grandchildren and more, resting in the heart of the land that sustained them.

They weren’t perfect, these forebears of ours who made a country. They had their own share of strange ones and lazy ones, and for many families the liars, the cheats and the thieves became the stuff of legend.  But they knew how to break a prairie and plant a crop, how to build shanties of sod and lay rails of steel. They mined the coal and laid the roads, built the schools and educated their children, birthed their babies and buried their dead and against all odds made it work by virtue of their resiliance and stubborn determination.

Were mistakes made? Of course. Were they always successful? Of course not. But even in the face of failure they loved their country and cherished their independence. Remembering grandparents and great-grandparents who fought and died to ensure their freedom, they lived out their days counting the cost of self-evident truths and and inalienable rights. They preserved and planted the seed of liberty with as much deliberation as they planted their corn and peas, and brought in its harvest with equal delight.

As surely as my kitchen companion Betsy made her own groceries, they made their own country, tending to the responsibilities and hard work of citizenship with diligence and care.

As I reflect on the founding of this nation and the responsibility we bear for its continuation, I find myself uneasy, sensing a change of focus, a societal shift, a seeming determination among governmental and bureaucratic sorts to institutionalize dependence at every turn.

Increasingly, we are told we cannot be trusted with our own lives – with our health, our children or our economic decisions.  We are told we do not have the strength, the tenacity or the wisdom to weather the storms of life or deal with its catastrophes.

We are assumed to be too frail to accept the realities of life, too ignorant or uneducated to understand them. We are assured that only the self-appointed experts among us have the knowledge or skill to set the parameters of our lives, while those who never have met us increasingly demand that our youngest, our most frail and our aged have the conditions of their lives determined by governmental fiat rather than by the loving decisions of supportive families. When curiosity, conviction or the quest for a better life leads us to strike out in new directions, far too often our progress is impeded by barriers put in place by those convinced we have no right to chart our own course.

I suspect that, like those who preceded us, each of us has taken risks that ended in great reward and engaged in risky behavior that brought unhappy consequences. We have been wrong about individuals and supported bad policies, but we also have been right about people and causes and benefited greatly because of it. Some of us live financially comfortable lives while others constantly are scrounging for a few more dollars. Some of us have achieved our goals, while others continue to press on. But through it all and however imperfectly, we sense that growth and maturation is the point of life. The independence of adulthood is meant to replace the natural dependence of a child, and in the end, it is the willingness to accept both risk and responsibility that brings life’s greatest rewards, both to individuals and nations.

Today, questions abound.  Are we willing to exchange the rewards of risk for the poor substitute of comfort?  Will we choose passivity over active participation in our life and governance? Will we forego excellence in favor of mediocrity?  Will we fall victim to those who play on false or unreasonable fears, or will we be courageous? Will we allow ourselves to be made dependent, or will we look for strength to those who understood the power of self-determination, who had a vision of true independence and who preserved a nation for us through their effort and their will?

Time will tell. But glancing at Betsy, serene and implacable on her wall, I see her asking the question too, in her own, inimitable way. Will we yield to the temptations of a pre-packaged life, or will we dare to make our own groceries?

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Published in: on November 4, 2012 at 10:23 am  Comments (84)  
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  1. Love the post and the sentiment behind it. As our world becomes more automated and technology takes over more of our lives we seem to be as a Nation forgetting the hard work it took to build this Great Nation. Life takes hard work and many of us at times fall into the trap of easy… Thank you for sharing such a well written and well thought out post and your Beautiful Heart!

    • iamforchange,

      One of the great blessings of my life is that I learned early on the value and joys of work. Like most people, I had periods when I forgot or ignored those lessons (what teenager or young adult doesn’t?!) but I grew up surrounded by people who understood that reaping demands a little sowing.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks so much for your generous comment.

      Linda

  2. Hi Linda:

    This is a very thought-provoking blog post which I have read three times just to make sure I got your message. Independence or dependency?; that is the question. The answer will depend on who you ask.

    Republicans and Democrats will have a different answer and Independents will leave their judgement in suspense. Sooner or later they will have to decide.

    I hope the American people will exert their resiliency and reach out to their traditional family values to answer the critical question. Next Tuesday many will make a decision with their vote. I hope it will be a wise one for the benefit of the nation.

    Warm Regards,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I’m not certain answers can be so neatly divided down partisan lines. The people who raised me to value independence, excellence, knowledge and hard work often voted Democrat. A few Republicans I know would be perfectly happy to slide through life without making any commitments, and I’ve bumped into occasional “Independents” who mostly don’t want to make a decision about anything. So there we are.

      The point isn’t so much the label we choose for ourselves as the values we hold dear. Those values will shape our decisions and actions, so it’s best we know what they are and where they came from. Betsy’s a good reminder for me of the people who formed me, even though my time with them ended long ago.

      Linda

  3. Another absolutely brilliant post Linda! I really love that photo on your kitchen wall and your thoughts about Betsy’s life – a life marked by freedom as well as hardship I found it interesting to see how the dog is protecting her from the photographer, and that the chicken is tame enough to sit calmly on her lap.

    Loved Mrs. Crooks 1881 letter. Love this line – They preserved and planted the seed of liberty with as much deliberation as they planted their corn and peas
    and would end up quoting the whole darn piece back at you.. :-)

    especially the 2nd last paragraph.

    And oh your final line made my heart beat faster…
    “Will we yield to the temptations of a pre-packaged life, or will we choose to make our own groceries”

    • dearrosie,

      I’m not surprised you enjoyed that second-to-last paragraph. Re-reading it myself, it was obvious it could apply, with only a little revision, to your decision to walk the Camino de Santiago. Courage, fortitude and a willing acceptance of risk are what make new endeavors possible, whatever form they take.

      You’ll be reading more of Mrs. Crooks and Annie in the months to come. Little by little, bits and pieces are being put together – photos, correspondence, historical records. I’m absolutely in awe of true historians and writers of historical fiction or non-fiction, but I’m coming to understand them in a way I haven’t in the past. A clue here and a clue there, and it’s down the rabbit-hole we go! There’s always something more to discover, more to learn.

      As for that last line – it’s just another way of asking a question that’s increasingly nagged at me over the last decade. Why would anyone sit on a sofa and watch a television “reality show” when there’s so much reality waiting to be explored?

      Linda

      • I have often asked the same question, yet I did it before the rise of the television show and in the heyday of the soap opera.

        Linda, this was a terrific stroll through the past and a conviction of the heart of the weak. As a lifelong navigator, I cannot imagine succumbing to the will of the government in my own life…or any other self-proclaimed expert. I do not recall authorizing any study of my life to render anyone besides me an expert in me.

        xxx

        • Red,

          One of the things that’s caught my attention over the past year or two has been an increasing absence of “weasel words” in my writing – the “perhapses”, “mights” and “may bes” that indicate lack of confidence. Part of that is better editing on my part. Even more, the absence indicates a willingness to claim the experience that has made me who I am and to speak freely about some of my conclusions.

          The 20-and-30-somethings today really have no clue what it was like to grow to maturity in the 60s and 70s, caught between the coffee klatchers and the bra burners. Accepting that we could be the ones who were experts in our own lives was quite a trauma adventure, and could make a heck of a memoir for most of us. My age-mates and I share a conviction that goes pretty much like this: “I’ve got twenty years or so left, and I’m going to do the navigating. I’ll deal with the storms when they arrive.”

          Linda

          • I am encouraging more people to do just that. I firmly believe we are the last of a breed. We are so far removed from the Depression-era generation. I am publishing one next month of a lady who survived polio. These are the stories the neo-adults of today cannot grasp.

            I think you are well on your way to having yours written, my dear.
            xxx

  4. Linda, I’m not sure we will have a choice! This comes from spending some days in Manhattan during the storm. I am heartened by many young people in my children’s age group (20’s) who are working on reestablishing skills and independence to live with a lot less resources than we have had.

    As for me – I’m a bit timid and accustomed to comfort, but I do recognize that I can do with a lot less. Still, I would hate to have the whole thing collapse, pop culture and internet and educational system and all.

    • Mary Ellen,

      From time to time I wonder if pop culture, the internet and media generally aren’t at risk of collapsing from the weight of their own vitriol, crassness and vapidity. I wouldn’t want to lose the internet or any of the great advantages it brings, either. Still, I worry about the ways both celebrity and anonymity seem to bring out the worst in some people.

      I’m assuming you’re back home now. The storm and its aftermath are so distressing – I hope those you were visiting are well. I do get impatient with people who ask why folks on the East coast weren’t better prepared. Houston had its own experience of being radically unprepared when Allison rolled through, and everyone from ordinary citizens to elected officials said the same thing I’ve heard from NYC and Jersey: “We never expected this”. But we recovered, and learned some important lessons in the process. So will they.

      I do agree there’s new attention being paid to a whole variety of skills – and that’s all to the good.

      Lovely to see you!

      Linda

  5. I know about making your own groceries, and being self sufficient.
    See my reply here

    • Thanks for the link!

  6. Excellent post – and timely not only with the election but with the aftermath of Sandy.

    My dad used to say “No one will ever take care of you as good as yourself.” Along with “work hard so you will be able to afford a safe place to live, doctors when you need them, and insurance for situations out of your control.” Followed by “take care of your family’s needs, then help your neighbor – you never know when you might need him to return the favor.”

    Somehow society worked better when people were self reliant and listened to the little story about the ant and the grasshopper.
    As you say, political labels don’t mean a darn thing. (Like you our families were mixed politically – and the political parties have changed platforms as needed throughout the years.)

    What is important is values and outlook on life.

    • phil,

      Reading your dad’s comment that we should care for our families’ needs and then those of our neighbors, I’m reminded again of how often people seem to confuse self-sufficiency and selfishness. Being able to “do for myself” doesn’t mean ignoring others – quite the contrary.

      Beyond that, self-sufficiency doesn’t mean isolation. Think how many jobs in the past (and even now in some places) assume community involvement: harvesting, canning, quilting, barn-raising, fence building, cattle-herding and so on. There’s a reason “many hands make light work” gained popularity.

      And of course the flip side of the self-sufficiency coin is being willing to allow others “to do” for us, even when we could do it better ourselves. It took some time, but I learned the lesson with my mom – that supper she cooked might have taken forever to get on the table, and it may not have met her previous standards, but it was important for her to keep contributing. It was her way of remaining independent.

      Linda

      • Parents always find it hard not to “help” a kid with projects – but it’s the process that’s important – and the feeling of completion after a struggle – true self esteem…but it needs that “always do your best” background taught earlier.
        Even the airlines recognize sometimes you need to take care of yourself first before others…”put on your own oxygen mask, then assist…” right? Makes sense – logical.
        Great job on the post – and your comments

        • Ah, yes. I just told my aunt last week that if I had to pick one phrase to describe my childhood, it would be “Mom! I want to do it myself!” After 50 years, it was turn-about’s-fair-play time, and her turn to say, “Linda! I can do it myself!” Thanks for the good words on the post – I think a lot of us are pondering these issues.

  7. A fascinating, and thought-provoking post. Thank you. Being a neighbor from the North, I will prescind from commenting on your current political issues. But I simply cannot ignore commenting on your last sentence: beautiful prose with an invitation to view the world differently. As I read your post I thought of how our ancestors lived with the land, while we too often live on it, or perhaps gnaw on it.

    • agjorgenson,

      Thanks so much for your generous comments. It seems a few of my own ancestors may have done a bit of gnawing on your land. I have a small clutch of photos showing the ones who traveled to Saskatchewan – boys playing marbles in a dirt street, a cousin with his gun, his dog and a brace of birds, and a few men standing beside one of those huge, steam-powered Reeves “sod-busters” that were used to break the prairie. From what I’m told, they didn’t stay, but preferred the “warmer climes” of Iowa.

      It can be tempting to romanticize those who blazed the trails and settled the land. In truth, there were as many who were horse-thieves as high-minded, and as many running from their past as running toward the future. Still, there’s no question all of them had a more realistic sense of the land, a clear understanding that the land came first and would set the rules for any contest.

      Tristan Jones says about the sea, “The Sea knows nothing of money or power. She knows only loyalty and audacity and determination and courage and, by God, she knows an unthinking, unseeing fool when she encounters one…”

      The same can be said about the Land.

      Linda

  8. I think the humble apron signifies a great deal about a woman’s home caring, and I mourn the dearth of it. The situation you have described is somewhat similar in Australia and even 30 years ago, when moving to a rural area, I was horrified that so very few women on farms were raising chickens, or growing vegetables or any other farm activities. I had moved from a remote region, where I grew vegetables, and spun wool and milked goats and yes, ‘made my own groceries’.
    I look forward to reading more about Mrs. Crooks and Annie.

    • eremophila,

      I love that you picked up on the apron. Perhaps nothing on a farmstead or in a home had more uses: gathering windfall apples, carrying extra clothespins, wiping a child’s tears, binding up wounds, serving as an emergency dust cloth, giving a shy child a hiding place – on and on!

      I wonder if there was a tendency even in Australia to indulge in a bit of what was called here “faux-farming”. People loved the idea of being country people, but didn’t necessarily want to dirty their hands. Cute little farmsteads popped up, decorated within an inch of their life with gingham and chintz – but live chickens? real work? Not likely.

      Today, I think I see signs of a turning tide.Even people who can’t afford a real farm – or even an acreage – are becoming involved in cooperative gardens or exchanging labor for produce. That kind of involvement not only produces healthier food, it produces happier people.

      I’m glad you enjoyed Annie and Mrs. Crooks. There’s some work to be done on the next installment, but they’ll be back, even if it’s a post or three down the line. And thank you for stopping by – you’re always welcome.

      Linda

  9. What a wonderful portrait and post.

    • Thanks, Julie. Now, if I just can find a photo of Mrs. Crooks to go with the one I have of Annie, I’ll be all set!

  10. I loved this post, Linda. I’ll never be able to make most of my groceries because my thumb is nearly brown when it comes to vegetables, but I appreciate the spirit of independence. I learned it early when our family came to the States (just before I turned 7), and I quickly realized that my parents couldn’t help me with school.

    • nikkipolani,

      I knew your family had immigrated here, but I didn’t realize you were so young at the time. You and Arti have that in common, as well as your love of books. Despite the obstacles, you clearly adapted and thrived.

      In a sense, you’re one of the best I know at “making your own groceries”. You may not be growing the quinoa and such, but you’ve found ways to meet your needs by moving beyond the constrictions of the grocery store and learning how to find and use other food sources. Your recipes are wonderful adaptations, too – I see a direct connection between the adaptive child and the adaptive chef!

      Linda

  11. I followed your link and read that John Milton Hadley was a Quaker. That accounts for his quaint (to us) statement that “thee can have ‘nuts’ to crack…” The Quakers had gotten it wrong, of course, because thee was originally the object case of the pronoun whose subject case was thou. Leonard Cohen got it right in “Bird on the Wire” when he wrote “I will make it all up to thee.” There’s nothing wrong with a little archaizing from time to time, especially if it helps with a rhyme (“I have torn everyone who reached out for me.”).

    • Steve,

      Hadley was an interesting man. Before bumping into him, I had no idea there were plans for a vegetarian colony in Kansas, or that it was to be called “Octagon City”. When I hear “Octagon” today, I think of the Universal Fighting Championship folks – as nearly a polar opposite as there could be.

      In a piece called “Thee and Thou: the Great Pronoun Famine”, this tidbit shows up at the end.

      “In order to show that all people were equal before God, Quakers continued to use the informal pronouns thee and thou longer than anyone else. Actually, they stopped using thou and used thee as if it were a subject form, and they combined it with the third person singular of the verb, which is ungrammatical. So what would be “thou findest the truth” in historical usage became “thee finds the truth” in Quakerese.”

      Or, in “Quakerese”, “thee can have ‘nuts’ to crack…” Interesting.

      Speaking of Cohen, and going back to Susan’s subject of poetry set to music, I found an example in his work. I was looking for alternate translations of Cavafy’s “The God Abandons Antony” for a new post, and came across Cohen’s “Alexandra Leaving”.

      Linda

      • As mentioned farther down in the article you linked to, it was Orson Squire Fowler who promoted octagonal houses as an ideal shape. About a decade ago I read one of Fowler’s books. He was quite a character, thoroughly absorbed in phrenology, one of the main pseudosciences of the 19th century.

        Thanks for the link to “Alexandra Leaving,” a pretty song of Cohen’s that I knew nothing about.

        • I remember a few junior high slumber parties devoted to phrenological “readings”. Of course, we didn’t take it as seriously as Mr. Fowler, but our music wasn’t as good as Leonard Cohen, either.

  12. Such a wonderfully sensitive and thoughtful post… So much is said here, but I do see a tide turning in the way that many people are turning not only to more green methodologies, but to inward techniques — which I do believe is better not only for the individual, but for the whole. Grounding, and whatnot. :)

    • FeyGirl,

      I think you’re right, and I hope part of what is being recovered is a more realistic understanding of the relationship between the individual and the community. It’s hard to describe, but neither radical isolation nor loss of self within a community is healthy. I’ve had just a taste of both in my life, and tend now to be pretty sensitive to enticements in either direction.

      And the sooner we reclaim an understanding of “being grounded” that includes the “gound” – earth, trees, rocks and all that – the better off we’ll be!

      Linda

  13. You said, “The independence of adulthood is meant to replace the natural dependence of a child, and in the end, it is the willingness to accept both risk and responsibility that brings life’s greatest rewards, both to individuals and nations.”
    Not only are you channeling your forebears, but it’s quite possible you are channeling Thomas Jefferson. I wish I had written this. Brilliant.

    • Martha,

      Whether I’m channeling anyone I can’t say, but I am surprised occasionally to discover how closely my adult beliefs embody what I was taught as a child. That’s part of the reason I enjoy writing, I suppose. I can be as surprised as anyone at what appears.
      As Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know”.

      I will allow I sometimes re-read something I’ve written and am flat amazed I produced it. This is one of those times, and I’m glad you found it worthwhile, too. Thanks for recommending it on your blog.

      Linda

      • I stand corrected. Channeling someone else doesn’t give credit where credit is due … to you … for your gifts of expression.
        I, too, like O’Connor’s quote. In the last weeks I have forgotten that I write to discover what I know. I’ll begin again…soon. Otherwise I might forget what I know.

        • Shoot, Martha – I’d be tickled as could be if Thomas Jefferson decided to use me. ;)

          And trust me. You’ve not forgotten what you know. As a matter of fact, when you get back in the groove after all this, I suspect you’re going to know a whole lot more!

  14. Hopped over here from Martha Goudey’s blog. I’m passing it on and will be back. I have a picture of my mother from 1962, the first Thanksgiving in her new Florida house. She did not have to “make” her groceries but the pride that shows in her face must be the same that was there for her mom, her mom’s mom, and back through the generations. I see the same in your Betsy’s eyes.

    • merryme,

      My parents built a new, typically suburban home on the edge of our town and we moved into it in 1960. I remember that first Thanksgiving and my own mother’s pride – even though I can’t see your photo, I can “see” that expression, and appreciate it.

      In a larger sense, “making groceries” is a metaphor for making a new and better life, and that’s very much what our parents’ generation was about. Even more clearly than I see my parents’ pride in that new house, I remember my dad’s parents at our first gathering there. Immigrants from Sweden, a coal miner and a housewife, they were utterly astounded that one of their children had accomplished such a thing.

      I’m so glad to have you stop by, and I surely do thank you for sharing a comment. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  15. Linda, you always find the most interesting entries into your posts. What an active mind! And how grateful I am that you let us into it. These words have set my own mind wandering in many directions: what IS the story behind that familiar black and white photograph on that book cover? what IS our responsibility as American citizens, and human beings–truly–and how do we sift that out in the midst of such noise? Hmmm. You have me ruminating. One of the many reasons I enjoy your blog.

    • Emily,

      I’ve long said that the greatest and most unexpected side effect of my decision to begin a boat varnishing business is the solitude and silence that comes along with the work. It’s my version of that “room of one’s own” that Virginia talked about, and the ability to let my mind wander during the days certainly aids creativity.

      My best beloved professor – the one who posted the sign in his office that said “Creato, Ergo Sum” – liked to say that received wisdom is no wisdom at all. When someone started spouting political, religious or cultural platitudes, he’d wave his hands in the air in mock desperation and say, “Yes yes YES!!! But what do YOU believe?”

      He scared us to death, and we loved him. ;)

      Linda

  16. I love the way your old photograph was a beautiful springboard for examining the present, and a plea for us to approach our lives with open hearts and minds.

    I too have a ghostly companion, Mr William Creeper, who farmed this land before us. Every time I walk in the barn I see the prizes he won for his cattle at the local show – 1958, 1959 – nailed up on the joists. His cows used to come in the house and every time we come in the door I see his branding iron hung up on a hook. It really ties this place to the past and I can feel all the people who lived and worked here over the centuries – and probably making their own groceries.

    • thinkingcowgirl,

      Isn’t it wonderful, the way physical objects carry not just memories but a real sense of presence? Hanging just below Betsy in my kitchen is my great-grandmother’s butter paddle, a tracing wheel my quilting grandmother used, and an metal rest for an iron. Like Mr. Creeper’s prizes and branding iron, they’re tangible links to a past that still lives, though mostly unseen. I suspect Mr. Creeper’s happy as can be that you treasure his treasures!

      So much of life is like an old photograph, slowing fading away until the image is barely visible. These things we cherish help to make it stay and give comfort, even while we’re fading away. (Though not too quickly, I hope!)

      Linda

  17. Linda — what a treasure of a post … you wrote it with such style, grace, gift of observation and intrigue. Thank you for sharing. :-)

    • becca,

      There are some posts I do treasure, for a variety of reasons. This is one, and I’m glad you found it a treasure, too. I so much appreciate your comments – and I love that you found it intriguing. Just wait until the horse thief shows up!

      Linda

  18. Oh dear, the answer to your final question is self-evident to this cynic: make our own groceries? When, why and what for, when we can go to the supermarket and buy the cheapest rubbish offered to us?

    Is there still a spirit of independence? Or is this independence available to the haves only, and let the have-nots, those who possibly through no fault of their own are thrown on hard times, go without?

    Civilisation is meant to help and assist those who can’t help themselves. The poor, the weak, the disabled, the mentally ill, the old, have been with us since mankind first crawled out of the caves and will be with us when mankind’s greed finally destroys this planet.

    Oh dear, Linda, I wish I weren’t a cynic, cynicism helps no one and cynicism is a very destructive characteristic. My first wish is to be civilised, kind and understanding, and find it in myself not to judge a fellow human being. I wish this pioneering spirit you so rightly laud were still relevant today, but I can see little trace of it anywhere.

    • friko,

      Clearly, we need a nice fire, a bottle of fine wine and an unbounded evening to have this discussion properly. Lacking that, we’ll just have to make do. ;)

      Of course my “groceries” are metaphorical as well as real, and it seems to me the reason to “make our own” rather than heading off to purchase rubbish is that neither you nor I are fond of rubbish. A pint of fine gelato is better than a gallon of watery ice cream. A nice bit of Gouda is better than two pounds of processed pretend-cheese. An hour of good music (of any sort) beats most television. A civil conversation about public policy is better than nearly any comment section on a political internet site. And so on…

      As for the spirit of independence – I know it still exists, being tended as carefully as a hearth flame. Financial independence is wonderful, but even for those who are less well off there’s a freedom of spirit, an independent slant of mind and action that’s available.

      I began to learn this by listening to my own family’s stories. My paternal grandfather, a Swedish immigrant, was an Iowa coal miner. When he was incapacitated by a slate fall, everyone assumed my father, the eldest, would go into the mine. It was the practice. Instead, my grandfather refused. He said that none of his sons would work in the mine – that they would find a way to make do. And they set about maintaining their independence apart from the mine.

      My maternal grandmother died when my mother was sixteen. Mom raised her sisters in poverty, telling me stories in her last years I’ll not repeat here. But she kept the family together, graduated from high school and kept an eye on her youngest sister while she finished school.

      Of course both families received help – but they received it from relatives, from neighbors, from the mutual aid societies to which they belonged. Those were the pillars of civilization we recognized – family, friends, faith communities, work associations. There was a role for government, but only in the most extreme circumstances. They lived “civilized” lives, but they never confused civilization with government.

      Well, enough. In the end, I suppose I can’t be cynical because I’ve done some pioneering myself, and achieved a good bit of independence. Eventually, I’ll have to learn the lessons of dependence again, but with any luck I’ll be wise enough to accept them gracefully.

      Linda

  19. what you’ve written is well said and a lot to digest. i’m planning to reread it in the light of day. however, i wanted to make a note of something that kept going through my mind as i gave thought to those of the past.

    i’ve felt for years that our ancestors always hoped and expected more than they achieved. not to say they didn’t value and hold fast to the lives they had and counted their blessings, but i think as humans with dreams, they dreamed bigger than their achievements. i think of my own great grandparents who came to america and lived in poverty; working the coal mines of southeastern ohio. i don’t know what they left behind, but i know what they found and i never had the opportunity to ask them if it was what they expected. somehow i don’t think it was.

    sometimes it seems that a vast majority of people; myself included, plan for the future and suddenly the future is the past and we didn’t do this or accomplish that. i’m thinking aloud and stop muddling this worse than it is;-)

    • sherri,

      I don’t see any muddling from this vantage point. One thing that does occur to me is how many in my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations seem to have taken a longer view of things. Their own, personal accomplishments weren’t so important. Their goal was to give their children a better life.

      I mentioned to friko, above, the story of my grandpa refusing to let my dad or his brothers go back into the coal mines after his own accident. Dad told me long ago that his folks’ greatest joy was that, in the end and even after a few mistaken pathways, all of their children were successful – even my uncle Jack, who died in the war but served with valor. When I left my job in the “real world” to begin working as a varnisher, my mother’s horror was rooted in her sense that I was being “downwardly mobile”, going backward rather than forward, not continuing the long uphill climb that began when the family boarded the ship in Ireland.

      I’m not exactly one of those wild-eyed, raving sorts who says society has to be arranged in only one way, but I do believe our emphasis on the individual and the destruction of the family as traditionally constituted has some profound effects. Beyond that, the very concept of “extended family” seems quaint to many people, and the thought that a family’s progress should be considered over generations rather than years? Inconceivable.

      Of course, I’ve just come back from the Flint Hills of Kansas, and there’s something about those vast expanses of grassland, horizon and unbroken prairie that can set one pondering.

      Linda

      • I would sooo love to visit real prairie. Where is the best place to find it? I feel a trip coming on :) I also want to visit the High Line in NYC.

  20. A timely post indeed. Tomorrow is a big day for your country… in a way, I’m glad I’m spared from making the decision. But I know whatever the results it will affect us too.

    Your post evokes a sense of nostalgia. I doubt we can get back to making our groceries. Even farmlands are diminishing in proportion due to urbanization. Profits is taking over any pioneering spirit of old. Linda, honestly I just feel it’s so hard to get our young or future generations to appreciate the basics, the land, manual labor, yes, the time involved in making something… or even longer, growing something.

    • Arti,

      A big day, indeed, although most people I know are just ready to have it over with – get a decision and move on. My fear is that getting the decision and moving on will be delayed by the usual claims and counterclaims of fraud, lawsuits and recounts. I’m hoping whoever wins does it by such a significant margin that the fussing is beside the point.

      I think I’m more hopeful than you are. I see a growing willingness to put forth a little effort to live a different sort of life. I may not literally grow my own food, but I buy seasonally and locally, and so do many people. We support the ones who do farm so their businesses can prosper and we can share in the benefit.

      Even outside the realm of agriculture, anecdotal evidence suggests people are appreciating the value of “real” quality over box store imports. A furniture maker I know who barely was hanging on twenty years ago, supporting his family with a second job, now is building furniture full time. His work is gorgeous, expensive because of the time involved, and people want it because it will last for generations.

      Even my own occupation continues to flourish. About ten years ago, a flock of new fiberglass and steel boats hit the market and varnishers kept hearing, “They’re going to put you out of work.” It didn’t happen. People are combing the markets for “real boats”, boats with substance, beautiful lines and plenty of wood. I’ll be able to work as long as I want.

      Anyway – I’m hopeful. You’d be surprised how many blogs are being maintained by what I’ve heard called “new homesteaders” – they’re out there, leavening our society much as they leaven their home-baked bread.

      Linda

  21. The US we heard about (and, indeed, read about) in our childhood conjured up images of a people aware of the secrets of living well — working hard, being determined, playing well. And all of it in an awesome and dignified way. Betsy reminds me of all of that.

    • Priya,

      The word that catches me in your description is “dignified”. Heaven knows Americans aren’t always dignified – the term “ugly American” has its roots, after all, and especially today much of our public discourse is as undignified as can be – but still, it’s a word that captures so much of what we were taught to aspire to as children. Acceptance of others, a willingness to stand by our beliefs, pride in our achievements – it all was a part of the package.

      In fact, it’s a perfect word for Betsy. Perhaps another word for her expression is “self-possessed” – and she certainly is that.

      Linda

  22. Oh, Linda, I don’t know. Not long ago, I could have been seen standing in our little garden plot, looking forlorn and saying, “I just don’t enjoy this. All I am doing is pulling out thistle and other execrable weeds. It’s all chores, no pleasure in it at all.” I know this is heresy, and I do like the abstract idea of self-sufficiency, yet it comes at its own great price, and I don’t want to pay it. I would rather get my vegetables from the farm stand, rather buy bread than bake it. I’m grateful, of course, that we have people here who are willing to do these things and glad to pay for my goods from them, but I have no nostalgia for or wish to embrace the life Betsy had.

    • Susan,

      Ah, but you know that the carrots and broccoli neither of us is raising is only a metaphor, a way to raise larger issues than a crop of vegetables.

      You’re exactly right that self-sufficiency in any part of life comes at a cost. On the other hand, radical dependency has its own costs – allowing the course of one’s life to be determined by someone else is only the beginning.

      Independence looks different in different circumstances, of course. I remember quite clearly the delight my grandmother took in the arrival of the Omar man in her little town. She was the best baker in the world, but the ability to walk out to a truck and purchase loaves of bread made her smile. They meant that, for at least a few hours a week, she had the ability to rearrange her priorities and make some new decisions – even if it meant nothing more than a larger garden!

      And how can I fail to mention your new musicians? Not only are they “making their own groceries” in the sense of producing wonderful new compositions, they have very new ways of sharing their music – ways that free them from traditional constraints. We use the phrases “indie music” and “indie publishing” so freely we sometimes forget the radically different reality those phrases represent for a whole crop of composers, writers, poets and artists!

      Linda

      • WordPress seems to have let me down, here, and I didn’t see a notification of your wonderful response! Of course, we’ve recently had a rather large incident in the Northeast of the consequences of total dependence on electricity, for one. While our house escaped harm’s way this year, last year’s snowstorm left us without power for 5 days: no heat, no water, no light, no ability to cook, no refrigerator, no freezer, no phone, no radio, no music, the list goes on. (We had some stopgap provisions, but we outran them.) Finding a way to get off the grid becomes very, very appealing in such times. On the positive side, you’re so right that, in every creative act, every instance of “making it new,” the creator is making his or her own groceries, in a way. (And perhaps sometimes literally, given the materials used!)

        • It’s sounding even worse for the poor people suffering now from the nor’easter. I understand that things go slowly in such circumstances, but there’s much I don’t understand about decisions being reported, such as Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to allow the National Guard to help. Of course, there’s a good bit I don’t understand about Mayor Bloomberg generally, but that’s a different issue. ;)

  23. Hi Linda
    I very much affirm what you say here:
    “……But through it all and however imperfectly, we sense that growth and maturation is the point of life. The independence of adulthood is meant to replace the natural dependence of a child, and in the end, it is the willingness to accept both risk and responsibility that brings life’s greatest rewards, both to individuals and nations…..”.

    ….and consider that many of us have allowed too much comfort to sap our courage, resilience, and independence of spirit. I do not think that this has happened to me, and consider myself fortunate to belong to the generation we share in that our young lives were characterised, mostly, by post-war recovery and the deprivations and having-to-make-do that went with it.

    And yet – I have a joke ( yes, I own up to a very black sense of humour! ) with my husband that if civilisation came to an end we would last about 24 hours…..I have to confess that I would not know where to start in making my own groceries like our sturdy, tough ancestors….

    • Anne,

      I laughed at your 24 hours. I’m cool with hurricanes, now – I know how to prepare for them and survive them, even if none of my “stuff” does. On the other hand, if the infrastructure breaks down for any reason, all of us in urban areas have some problems. I might give myself a week, but after that, it’s problematic.

      I worry about tech-terrorism as much as anything. This is one reason. There are even simpler ways to shut down cities or create general havoc – I’m sure plenty of folks have thought of the same things I have.

      Independence of spirit is one thing, but you can’t grow tomatoes there, or graze a milk goat. And I’ve had just enough experience with living “off the grid” to know how complicated it can be. It’s a full-time occupation, that’s for sure. Who knows? If more of us were chopping wood, baking bread and toting water, maybe there’d be fewer Lady Gagas. That would be good. ;)

      Linda

  24. Heavy dependence on government, technology and infrastructure is a very scary thing indeed and our population is getting more dependent every single day. The flow that satisfies demand was recently briefly interrupted for part of the east coast by Sandy and look at the results. What if a much wider spread and more complete disturbance took place across the country: it’s a sobering thought, and for millions of our people, what choice is left?

    • montucky,

      Exactly so. The history of these interruptions and the lessons they have to teach go back many decades, yet rational preparation seems no more a priority than it was then.

      There’s a good bit of discussion going on down here on the Texas Gulf Coast that boils down to “What in the world were the authorities thinking?” From Texas to Florida to Hatteras, people have learned how to cope with and recover quickly from hurricanes, and yet it seems the New York/Jersey folks in charge of Coping hadn’t read the manual. I don’t mean the citizens at large – people who are supposed to be connected to FEMA, etc. There have been some puzzling decisions – or non-decisions.

      It looks like you’re in line for the next big storm. The word’s out that some Montana records may be broken. I think you’ll cope just fine.

      Linda

  25. “[T]he willingness to accept both risk and responsibility” is a timely theme indeed, what with the American election of the past year and more (that’s how long it took!) that has finally come to an end. An unwillingness to accept responsibility also eventually comes to an end, necessarily, when there are no longer enough responsible people left to enable the irresponsibility of the ever-growing demands made by more and more others. Such is the simple arithmetic of being the keeper, no longer of thy brother alone, but of thy increasingly many brothers and sisters and acquaintances and strangers.

    • Steve,

      Economies of scale don’t apply socially, do they?

      I’ve been trying to think through some of these issues. It occurs to me that, while both pioneer life and rural life generally allowed independence, they also fostered interdependence. People helped one another for an assortment of reasons, and surely an important one was knowing that help would be returned when it was needed in the future.

      The same was true in small towns. As towns grew larger and cities developed, various social structures – churches, lodges, benevolent organizations and so on – provided a stable community that could be turned to in time of need. In a sense, there weren’t many strangers seeking aid simply because there were very few strangers. People were incorporated into communities in a way they often aren’t today.

      That’s pretty cheap sociology, but it seems right. And there’s no question increasing demands that people should give increasing portions of their livelihood to support not just strangers who’ve come to town but strangers who will remain forever nameless and faceless is creating certain – tensions. When I was driving up to Kansas City, I happened upon a lovely, neat little farm with a cute house, a huge barn and a whole lot of cattle. On the side of the barn, a red, white and blue question had been painted: “Are you a producer or a parasite?” I can’t fault the farmer. It’s a valid question.

      Linda

  26. Well said! I sense our forebears might be a tad ashamed of us for trading the liberties they clawed so hard for, for handouts and gimmes. When did we become a nation of freeloaders? When did it become “evil” to make money and have nice things? I imagine more people would be willing to share and give, if they didn’t feel that laws and government were standing in wait, ready to take it from them and give to someone who didn’t know they wanted it! The hope always is that generations to come will turn things around, will return to more self-reliance while preserving compassion for those who truly need it.

    • Debbie,

      Well, I suspect there were some freeloaders around even in the earliest days of our country. I know my family had a freeloader or two! But there’s a bit of a difference between lazy individuals and a system meant to institutionalize scamming.

      And your point about the difference between giving from compassion, love or a sense of responsibility and being compelled to give is on target. While we need to nurture a sense of compassion for those in need, it doesn’t hurt to nurture a sense of responsibility in those who’ve never known the joy of independence.

      Linda

  27. make our own groceries, make our own groceries, make our own groceries!!!!

    what a treat of a post! and now i will have ‘have you ever heard of sweet betsy from pike…’ playing through my head for the rest of the day! i embrace it and will waltz through the day thanks to your post!

    z

    • Z,

      What surprised me most about Betsy’s song is that, once I’d called it to mind, I could sing the first couple of verses and the chorus from memory. Those grade-school teachers did their job well!

      I’m glad to have given you some words and a tune to waltz to – I hope the day was delightful.

      Linda

      • My friend Marie and I often would break into those old tunes when driving the Guanacaste/Costa Rica backroads. You are right, the tunes seem to flow as if we had learned them last week! How about ‘She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes’ or “Oh where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy..” ?!?!!

        Z

        • See? Those issues of dependence and independence are everywhere! Poor old Billy Boy falls in love with a gal who’s a young thing, and cannot leave her mother!

          • ha ha HA! this afternoon i worked in the yard – shoveling away the high spots for better drainage. the rainy season is about six weeks away. of all tunes to keep in my head was ‘can she bake a cherry pie, billy boy, billy boy?’

            by all means he should marry a woman who could cook as fast as a cat can wink an eye!

            thanks for the smiles!

            z

  28. The picture of Betsy as well as this entire writing invokes memories as well as “something” that I feel today according to what has happened in recent politics as to women. Strong women, in history, have been shunned, scorned, and anonymous. I feel a rant coming on in which has been brewing awhile. I may well write about this brewing rant when I settle some and can express with clarity in what I desire to say.

    Betsy, to me, is the strength of women whom have been the backbone of this country…. silently and diligently, and in many times, through hardship. Betsy, with her chicken, of that old time, reminds me of my grandmother. She was a strong woman, the backbone of the family, she had a chicken farm, and she produced her own groceries. My grandmother was and is my heroine.

    Thank you, Linda, for this evocative and expressive writing with storytelling images.

    • Anna,

      I have a sense of discomfort from time to time when I listen to women in their twenties and thirties talk about their lives. I see them accepting as a matter of course derogatory terms (“bitches” and “hoes”) that they don’t seem to understand are demeaning. They often appear to believe living in dependence on the government is more acceptable than being dependent on a man…

      Oh, don’t I just sound like a prissy old woman! But we fought so hard for independence, in so many ways – it just kills me to see young women giving it up, and apparently not even realizing what they’re doing.

      Thus it has always been – the strong, productive ones so often are the silent ones. Sometimes, they’re naturally reticent, and sometimes they’re just tired from the demands of life, even though they’re demands which they happily accept. I know this – I’d like your grandmother as much as I like you. ;)

      Linda

  29. From all the comments you’ve received,, this topic is on a lot of people’s minds. With natural disasters coming so frequently, the desire to be more self sufficient has had me brainstorming on how to do so.. I’m not sure what the answer is. Solar power? I’m already working on the garden and making more things myself. The issues of health care and surviving after retirement are worrisome as I’m not expecting social security or Medicare to be there by then. I don’t have any family or nice neighbors to bank on for help. Moving forward with the attitude that a way will be there when I need it.

    • Maery Rose,

      Dependence and independence is such an important topic. Whether it’s a mother with a two-year-old or an eighty year old facing sudden isolation, a family trying to survive sudden unemployment or someone trying to cope with disease, disability or divorce, the issue comes to us all.

      If I’d known “then” what I know now, I would have made it a priority to end up with a plot of land. As it is, I guess I’ll just have to stay prepared for the transient emergencies and not worry about any of the apocalyptic scenarios being bandied about.

      If I worry about anything, I’m right there with you, pondering retirement and aging. I have family, but they’re few and far removed. Not only that, the pension benefits for self-employed varnishers aren’t the best in the world. I suppose we’ll figure it out.

      Here is a nice note from real life that confirms your suggestion that a way will be there when you need it. One of my best friends was chasing after her dog yesterday. She fell in the street and broke her right elbow and left knee. A woman she’d never met, who happened to be two houses down where her new house was being built, heard my friend calling for help. She got her workmen down there, and they got her to the hospital. Not only that, the woman called the hospital twice to inquire about my friend’s condition. That’s the old-fashioned way.

      Linda

  30. My in-laws “made their own groceries” — K cultivated cabbage, lettuce, squash, corn, eggplant, strawberries, cantaloupe and tomatoes–she spoiled us so with the taste of fresh. Anything I buy at the grocery store just isn’t the same, but we do have to eat so I’m destined to go to the grocery store. Not only did she make her own groceries she sent bags of them home with us and I know she shared with others, too. Papa Charles slaughtered a cow so our freezer was full, too. How grateful I was as a young mother to have enough to last the week and longer so I wouldn’t have to spend valuable time shopping–she saved us time and we were so appreciative as we pursued our daily routines from 5 in the morning until 10 at night.

    They did all this after leading the corporate life — but were not ill-prepared to live out their retirement years freely as both had been raised to live off the land and those lessons were never forgotten. I still laugh at how this gentle but tough woman waged war with the insects and squirrels that could ravish her garden. She never had a kind word for squirrels.

    When I “retired” I asked my husband for a tiller as I had dreams of following her path–but alas, five years later I have found I am tilling other plots, acres and wasteland. I’m not sure our girls understand what they may have taken for granted. My husband and I will have to decide when we will give up our city life to pursue “growing our own groceries” in a real sense so the grandchildren may remember some day.

    I love your collage and all it invokes in your mind. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. And then you come to this thought “institutionalize dependence at every turn”. I see it everywhere. I better stop here.
    Thank you for your authenticity–you cultivate your own prose, weave your own sentences and paragraphs, milk your own thoughts and in doing so generously show us who we can be. You, your writing and this piece are a treasure in our blogosphere.

    • Georgette,

      What a blessing your in-laws were! And isn’t it true – those of us who developed an early taste for “real food” often aren’t satisfied with what passes for food today in the stores and restaurants.

      Beyond that, the simple abundance of those home gardens was remarkable. It wasn’t uncommon at all, in my growing up years, to come home and find a bushel of apples, or beans, or corn sitting on the back step or on the kitchen table. Sometimes, we never knew where it came from. It didn’t matter, because whoever had, gave – and eventually we would be toting cherries or crabapples or asparagus to someone else’s back door.

      And I still remember going with my dad down to the locker to pick out a quarter or half of beef. He’d ask for it to be hung for a time, and then it would be cut and packaged as he asked. When he brought it home and filled the freezer, he’d always stand back and admire it by saying, “That’s like money in the bank.” And it was, in a sense far deeper than the simple dollar cost of the meat.

      Even though I know that not all of us can get out there and farm, literally, there still is so much we can do. One of my most vivid memories of second grade is a trip to a farm to collect milk and cream, which we brought back to the classroom and “churned” into butter. We ate it on oyster crackers, and were happy.

      Authenticity’s a good word. It’s one of the things I want to be, and it makes me happy that you’d use it. I do try to cultivate my own prose. It’s one reason I love blogging more than twittering or tumblring or facebooking. I don’t want to pass on what someone else said. I want to express my own thoughts. Of course – that presupposes thinking. Oh, my. ;)

      Linda

  31. Amen Sister! America has made its bed and now we must all sleep in it. I don’t like being short sheeted.

    Over the past four years I have been bungling and learning how to “make my own food.” Tired of the uncertainty of GMOs in the marketplace I have returned to what some would consider “the simple life.” Though I must argue, that there is nothing simple about it. Yet, I persist, and keep trying to perfect my skills.

    I admire your lady in the photograph.
    ~ Lynda

    • Lynda,

      Oh, did you make me laugh! I haven’t thought of short-sheeting in years – no, decades! It was one of the great amusements of our camp years. But your larger point’s well-taken. It’s always said that decisions have consequences, and electoral decisions have consequences, too. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

      In the course of my recent travels, I saw one of those little hand-crafted signs-with-a-slogan. It said, “Simple Isn’t Easy”. That pretty much says it all. In fact, I would say that simple is much harder than complicated. If it weren’t, people wouldn’t be making gazillions of dollars publishing magazines like “Simple Living”. We all profess to want simplicity, but it’s difficult to create.

      If you like the lady, just wait until I get my new piece from the same artist. It’s called “Chicken Pot Pie”, and it’s a hoot. I can’t seem to get over my thing for chickens. ;)

      I just made a note to photograph Grandma’s quilt tomorrow! Let’s see if I can get that simple task done!

      Linda

  32. Well, I’m a few days late, and hopefully not a few dollars short, but I have to tell you I love this post. Sweet Betsy reminds me of my Great Grandmother, who was full swing into building her family in 1921. Did you know there’s a saying down here “making groceries”? I’m sure the Texan didn’t mean the same thing way back then that the Yats mean now.

    I’m intrigued by this piece of art. Is it a collage made around a real photo? Is it a painting? Who is the artist, if you don’t mind sharing?

    And one more thing that goes along with some of your thoughts. Just this week I was thinking how warning labels might be indicative of just how much like sheep we’ve become–“sheeple”. And how people who live just yards from one another in apartments or subdivisions don’t talk when there’s a problem—they just call the cops. And how kids can’t be trusted with textbooks, so my son has no idea what to study in biology because the teacher shares her anecdotes for 90 minutes a day in this 4×4 system designed to get kids out of high school faster.

    He’s not learning, Linda, he’s being prodded along, like cattle through a chute. And how his headphones aren’t safe in his locker, nor his dusty baseball shoes safe in the back of the classroom. Or how he can get recreational drugs right there at school. Heck in a hand basket, and oh how I wish we could go back to the day of making our own groceries, and a kid could skin his knee without the neighbor calling Child Protective Services. (feel free to take this to email : )

    • Wendy,

      My goodness. Talk about being late. I don’t know how your comment got past me! That’s all right – the good news is that the passage of time doesn’t make any difference with my posts. None of them is exactly breaking news!

      If you scroll over Betsy’s portrait, you’ll find the title and artist. It is what’s called a monotype collage, and yes, the print was originally a photo. The artist, Debbie Little-Wilson, has a studio in Dripping Springs, Texas, near Austin. This entry in her blog will give you a hint of the process she uses.

      Those last two paragraphs of yours – I couldn’t do anything but sigh. While I was driving home for lunch just now I heard the latest “warnings” on the radio. The government is concerned that thirty children got injured in those “bounce house” thingies last year, so here come more regulations. Good grief.

      Actually, rather than hand-wringing, I have something for you. You simply must check out Sippican Cottage’s Borderline Sociopathic Book for Boys . Then, once you’ve finished laughing, you can bookmark the regular blog, Sippican Cottage . The guy who writes this helps to keep me sane. He’s a wood worker, among other things. They work at living off the grid, he writes like a dream, and they homeschool their kids. Not every post hits me where I live, but enough do that I never, ever will stop reading him.

      And remember – the Borderline Sociopathic Book for Boys is good for girls, too!

      Linda

      • Oh goodness, I laughed out loud at the Borderline Sociopathic Book for Boys blog post and I will surely bookmark the blog. I will share it with husband when he gets home and he will declare you a kindred spirit. We are turning our kids into sissies.

        • Isn’t that just the best, Martha? And here’s the worst news – we’re not only doing it to our kids, we’re doing it to ourselves. Living in continual fear of everything from microwaves to plastic to traffic to the possibility of economic collapse isn’t healthy. Disaster may be roaming the streets, but I figure I’ll deal with it when it knocks on my door. ;)

  33. Oh, Linda, to write like you! This post is so rich, so full of depth and thought, it dazzles me. What treasures you have in those letters. What treasures we all have in our heritage, in those people who made their own groceries and made mistakes and had triumphs.

    Just this past week we finished eating the last of the garden — the last of the green tomatoes that had finally ripened and turned into a pasta sauce (the recipe on the blog, actually, though that batch was made this summer!). Homemade bread, sauce from the garden. We marveled that we were still eating from the land in November, yet we knew that was in pale comparison to my farmer grandparents who ate the food my grandmother canned for months.

    Here’s to her and to you and to all of yours before, who made their own groceries.

    • jeanie,

      As a matter of fact, I have your recipe tucked into my files now, ready to come to the table once the fall tomatoes are in. Though I’m longing for cool weather, the warmth means that much produce still is available, and I’m pleased to make use of it.

      We all have such treasures strewn around us. Why we choose to ignore them, cheapen them or toss them away I don’t know, but the tawdry little pleasures we’re offered as substitutes simply don’t appeal.

      One of the greatest gifts in life is the freedom to make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes can have unhappy consequences, but there are occasional triumphs to balance things out – and blessed are we, if we can learn from our mistakes and our triumphs. It puts us in a position to make our own lives.

      Linda


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