A Farm Fresh Memory
Like a searchlight, the radiant beam of sun shone through the small open, rectangular window at the peak of the barn casting downward through the dancing haze of dust hanging in the air from the mounds of freshly cut hay piled high in the loft.
My cousins and I had disobeyed and snuck into the hay loft to jump and play in the mounds of freshly cut hay. It wasn’t long before we would hear my dad’s voice shouting from out in the barnyard, “You kids, get out of that barn”.
This is only one of the many fond memories stored to this day (some sixty years later) in that treasure trove in my brain. I was born and raised in the Ottawa Valley on our family farm that was established by my great grandfather and grandmother who came from England in 1877.
Peeping baby chicks no bigger that my hand, frolicking kid goats, cavorting lambs, wobbly legged colts and calves and mud wallowing baby piglets were always a source of laughter and joy on the farm. These small animals and the mothers who fed and protected them provided me with educational moments of learning another aspect of family love and nurturing.
Our huge farm kitchen was the hub of our large two storey farm house. The windows were decked with tie-back curtains and pull-down blinds. The walls were covered with flowered wallpaper affixed with homemade glue made from flour and water. Long, sticky-paper fly catchers hung from the ceiling. The red geraniums planted in little pots sitting on the window sills gave off a distinctive odor. The large black wood stove was used for cooking and heating the house as well as keeping the water in the reservoir heated for washing up.
The kitchen is where the family gathered around the large oilcloth covered table at meal time and in the evening to read the newspaper or a good book by the light from the coal oil lamp. Three or four generations of our family would be seated at the table at meal time and borders and neighbours were ever present as well. There was always enough food for all and of course tea (pots and pots of strong green or black). Breakfast time is when my mother would call out my spelling dictation for the week before I would head off to walk the two miles to school in the village. This is where my grandmother made her yearly Christmas pudding and fruitcake. And this is where many delicious fruit pies were made as well as loaves and loaves of bread and buns.
The family adults as well as visiting friends and neighbours had many discussions and debates on politics, religion and the world around this big table. These were teachable moments for the children present and even though we were ‘to be seen and not heard’, our malleable minds absorbed a lot of inspirational know how.
Our family’s drinking water was brought in from the well in buckets and placed on the washstand in this kitchen where a dipper was used to dunk from the pail. My brothers and sisters and I still talk of getting home after the long walk from the village in hot, humid summer weather and dashing to the pail of water, taking that dipper and gulping that fresh, cold water down mouthful after mouthful.
We didn’t need any perfumey candles or incense in our home because we had our own array of fragrances and aromas on the farm. But, aside from the natural barnyard fragrances, we had the many delicious smells inside the house. My mom’s freshly baked bread resting on the old free standing cupboard in the corner when we returned home from school filled the kitchen with a fragrance like no other and was welcoming indeed. Spreading the crusty end piece with churned butter made with our own cream and spread with homemade raspberry jam was food fit for a queen. The lemony scent of furniture polish on the china cabinet in the dining room, the smell of recently varnished wooden floors in the kitchen, the outdoor scent of clean bed sheets just brought in from the outdoor clothesline were instilled into our senses, never to be lost.
All of our senses were constantly stimulated on the farm and even today our family can reminisce and we can be taken back to that awesomely huge red barn with the sturdy stone stable on the lower level and that little window on the uppermost peak and those clear sounds, distinctive smells, mouthwatering tastes, and marvellous visuals will come to mind.