A Cathedral of Leaves

Trees at Rich Park in Mocksville, North Carolina

Apparently none of the storybook scary tales of danger in the forest ever stuck with me.  In rural North Carolina in the fifties, no one worried about evil happening in the forests that surrounded us. We did not understand it at the time, but the cathedral of leaves where we played immensely enriched our lives. As a fifties explorer of the local woods, I could not make the connection because I had yet to experience any of the great cathedrals of the world.  Now it seems pretty obvious.

In the summertime, we got up in the morning and headed to the coolness of the deep woods. The towering trees and the brooks that ran through them were our playgrounds. We built dams, seined for minnows, made forts, and played elaborate games in the woods. Sometimes we hardly bothered to leave the woods for meals. We barely escaped the trees as dark descended on the forest.

(Read more) This is post number nine in a series of twenty-two designed to get my blog to 1700 posts before Thanksgiving 2021.

We Were Barn Builders Once

The first barn we built on our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick, Canada

While I had learned a lot about working with my hands since I graduated from college, building a barn was not one of those skills. Living on a farm teaches you quickly do what needs to be done even if means learning how to do something new. I ordered all the materials that we needed from Ontario. They were shipped by rail to New Brunswick and then delivered by truck to our farm. The trusses for the barns were 36 ft. long and the others for the other barn were 36 ft. Even getting those trusses unloaded was not easy but it is amazing what you can do with a couple of farm tractors with front-end loaders. (Read more)

Turkey Tussles

Our perfect 2012 Turkey

The first turkey that I remember being prepared in our house was cooked after we moved to the Mount Airy house with my dad. The first Thanksgiving at college, I did not come home but I got invited out by a college friend, Jack. We had a wonderful dinner and I got my one and only opportunity so far to sample stuffing with oysters.

The next memorable Thanksgiving happened after college. I had purchased an old farmhouse with a barn and 140 acres on the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Four of us had spent months remodeling the two-hundred year old house with hand-hewed beams. College friends came up to celebrate that first Thanksgiving on our own in the fall of 1971. We bought the biggest turkey we could find and the ladies in the group figured out how to cook it.

Little did I know I was already on the slippery slope to a smaller turkey and eventually just a turkey breast. I never take exception with the cook but I sure do miss those whole turkeys. (Read more)

Dirt On My Hands

Our first off-the-farm garden in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Spring 1986

I farmed for over ten years, but I did not grow up on a farm. I graduated from college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as those of us who went to Harvard in sixties and seventies are fond of saying. The closest I got to farming there was my focus on colonial American History. My family did have a rich history of being close to the land and my grandfather was a miller and then a dairy farmer. I never knew him.

I grew up with a mother who spent most of her free time digging in the dirt. She loved flowers and they responded to her love. Roses grew for her in places no one else could get them to grow. Tomatoes were the only vegetable that we had room for at my childhood home, but they did incredibly well.

Growing up, the only digging in the dirt that I did was to get worms so I could go fishing. I was completely uninterested in growing anything. That certainly continued through my college years. The change and how it came about are something of a mystery even to me. When it happened is easier. The change happened sometime between August 1971 and January 1972 when I started ordering seeds from a catalog. (Read More)

The Mill Pond

Mill Stone from Walter Styers Grist Mill

My mother spent her childhood up to her teenage years on a mill pond. In my mind’s eye I can see the mill pond, the mill and the house. I have certainly heard enough stories.  My mother grew up there.  As a very young child she got lost in the woods one night. She had tagged a long with her older brothers to play at the other end of the pond.  Like older brothers will do, they got frustrated with their sister hanging around and told her to go home.  She got lost on the way back. She was found by a black man who helped at the mill. She was found only after spending a long cold night in the woods with only one of the family’s dogs as company. Walter Styers, her father, was getting ready to drain the pond and start looking for her body just before she was found. (Read more)

If Silver Could Talk

Silver Ladle from Pine Street

Silver is not very popular these days. Some silver things can hardly be given away. My generation has one foot in the world where silver items were well used and certainly respected and today’s world where silver pieces cannot find a home where they even see the light of day and a little polish.

At least this straddling of worlds provides a little perspective. I know my mother who was definitely not born with a silver spoon in her mouth learned to love silver when she became the grand lady of the house at 347 West Pine St. My dad who I hardly knew loved to have dinner parties. In those days, the first half of the last century, a good party apparently required silver. I wasn’t around but the silver was and if only it could talk. (Read more)

Finally a Backyard

Our Backyard in the North Carolina Foothills

It seems since my childhood that I have spent much of my life searching for a backyard. I have had hayfields and marshes as backyard but until this last move none were close to the one where I played ball with friends when I was in elementary school. I could plow up part of it for a huge garden but I have been there and enjoyed that when I was a lot younger. Read more.

Not the Last Farmer’s Market

Mocksville, NC Farmer’s Market, November 3, 2021

We actually started going to farmer’s markets as a couple when we were living north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. We went to see people and to pick up a few things that we did not grow on our own farm. Even more so than most farmer’s markets, there were homemade items interspersed with farm produce. There were no food items that we really needed but I think we went home with baskets to use with our own garden produce. Still we enjoyed the market especially the people.

Maybe it was because we had dirt under our fingernails and a close connection to producing food but for whatever reason, visiting farmer’s market became a life-long passion. Read More

The First Snow

Our former Roanoke, Virginia home after a good snow in 2009

I have seen a lot of first snows. I have also gone through a lot of years when there was never a first snow. Snow is an unusual thing. How it impacts your life depends a lot on where you live. We have lived in lots of places so our snow memories span everything from flurries to blizzards just as you might imagine.

Back in 1960 when I was in elementary school in Lewisville, North Carolina, I had my first serious experience with snow. In March 1960, it started on my birthday and snowed three straight Wednesdays. We hardly went to school that month. Those storms must have created a powerful pull on me. It took me at least twenty-seven years before I had enough snow to move back from Canada and end my sixteen years north of the border. Read more

Infinite Parental Wisdom

Mother's Trout at Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Mother’s Trout at Meadows of Dan, Virginia

My mother pictured above with our good friend, Mr. Cruz, never knew a lot about fishing, but she was smart enough to trust the experts.

Apparently, today’s parents have grown so smart  that children no longer need schooling by teachers.  Perhaps that is an exaggeration and not completely correct.  The most vocal parents are okay with teachers as long as they teach their students to think exactly like their parents.  The teachers should also do this while not wearing masks and certainly without asking students to be vaccinated or wear masks.

Considering how much time most parents spend on their smartphones where I am pretty sure they are not reading books,  there must be another miraculous way of absorbing knowledge.  I am sure it is not Facebook or Fox News. Based on the precipitous fall in newspaper subscriptions, it is certainly not from reading the daily paper. Read More