We had big vegetable gardens every year back then, with everyone working, weeding, picking, mulching, and helping with the canning. We also have six hives of bees and were packaging and selling honey at the farmer's market in Enid. We had chickens and some bottle calves sometimes. We had two little lambs one year and a couple of pygmy goats and a pig at other times. We sang songs and read a lot of books. We celebrated when we received a box of hand-me-down clothes from Aunt Ann. I'm sure there were some bad things that happened, and some sad ones as well, but I remember the good ones the most. The kids swam in the shade of the big Elm tree in a big cattle tank full of ice cold water all summer long.
One of the good stories was the year when we had a great corn crop (for some reason the raccoons hadn't robbed us blind that year). It was time for the big harvest and my mom and dad came over to help. Everyone had a job: Mom wanted to be the picker, the kids did all the shucking there on the kitchen floor, and Dad and I took turns blanching, cutting and bagging. We sent one of the kids out to the freezer with the finished bags piled high in that big stainless steel bowl. The process went on forever, but I remember there was a lot of laughing and sharing of stories.
Another time, in the spring, we had a big pea-shelling party in the living-room with the Blakley side of the family. Carl, Violette, and David came over and all of us sat around shelling peas until we all we had bowls and bowls of peas waiting to be frozen. We and they ate frozen peas all winter long and loved em! We even had friends come over and pick all they wanted: I remember especially Steve and Paula Sheik coming out and carrying home sacks full of Sugar-Snaps.
Eventually the raccoons started getting all of every crop of corn we planted, so we stopped.
One year I had a huge crop of everything and my mom came over to give me hand. I had fresh tomatoes piled on the counter, squash running all over the kitchen table, and sacks and bushels of green beans ready to be canned. She came in and the first thing she said was, "Which one of these do you really want to do today?" I said-the green beans, so she took a bushel of tomatoes in hand, walked out to the far edge of the garden and tossed
them out. Then she found a hoe and chopped the stem of all but two of the squash plants. Then she came in and we sat down and snapped beans in the cool of the living room and had a nice visit. We had fresh tomatoes and fried squash for supper, as the canned beans were cooling on the racks, the flats pinging now and then. She gave me that piercing, level look and said, "You are in charge of the garden, Debra, not the other way around. Don't kill yourself on it. You have little children who need you to be there for them." Wise words from my sweet mom. I listened to her and from then on we cut way back on the planting of everything. Now I plant only what I'm going to eat, for the most part. Sometimes I'll freeze some peaches, or can some pickled beets or a few jars of tomato sauce, but not very much. It's mostly done as a fond remembrance of those earlier, busier days.