Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Today we celebrate our Earth! On this day people will recycle, reuse and do without all in the name of saving our planet! Don't get me wrong....I think it's a wonderful thing to just need to do it everyday not just Earth Day!

The practice of recycling, reusing and doing without is how I was raised by my parents and grandparents.

Dad and my Grandpas didn't run to town everytime they needed to repair something around the house. They improvised using the materials they had in their shops. Many a time I've seen my Dad take a corn flake box and cut out a gasket for a car engine. No running to the store for him. His homemade gaskets lasted just as long as the store bought ones.

My Grandpas were both very inventive when they needed to repair things around their homes. Grandpa S. kept his old John Deere tractor in tip top shape. He had to fabricate many parts because it was so old parts were hard to find for it.

My Grandpa McG. was disabled as a young man. That didn't keep him from raising 9 children and building his own homes. I remember him remodeling some old outbuildings into a beautiful home by recycling lumber, windows and doors.

My Mom and Grandmas all were very good at preserving foods and stocking the pantries for their families. They all loved to preserve the bounties they came across. We would go pick up onions in the field after they harvested the crops. We paid a penny per pound for what we picked up. Mom would go sort the onions as soon as we got home. The ones that had cuts from harvesting was used first. She also chopped some of them and placed them in the freezer for cooking. We would go and pick up apples, pears, peaches, apricots off the ground after the orchards were picked. These fruits were canned and made into jams and jellies. We would go out and cut wild asparagus for a spring treat. Before they started juicing all pears, peaches and apples you used to be able to go down where they would dump them by the truckloads and get the fruit free. Now all the fruit that can't be used for the cannery, gift baskets and boxes go to be juiced and dried into concentrate for foreign countries.

All the families had huge gardens and all the veggies were consumed fresh or preserved for later use. Grandpa S. always planted everything in 4's. One for the Lord, one for his children, one for the neighbors and one for Grandma and himself. Yes, even the zucchini was planted by 4's. Grandma had to be very creative using all the zucchini! You had best leave your car windows up and the doors locked if you didn't want a back seat full of zucchini. And don't think because the garden was finished that you wasn't going to get veggies and fruits. Grandma would send home frozen and canned veggies and fruits. We called them "Grandma's Care Bags". She would slip out of the house and fill up paper grocery bags that she kept out in the well shed. She would use fresh, frozen or canned goodies to fill up her bag. At times she would even include cash for gas, ect. She would either put the bag in your car or hand it to you as you were getting in the car to leave. When she went calling on her neighbors she never went empty handed. She would take baked goods, fresh fruits or veggies, canned veggies, fruits, jams or maybe a jar of Grandpa's Wild Thisle Honey!

My McG. grandparents always had their huge garden, chickens, hogs, beef and milk cows. I loved helping Grandpa milk the cow. After we finished we would take it into the kitchen for Grandma to take of it. She would strain the milk into gallon glass jars and set it in the refrigerator for the cream to separate. She would separate the cream off the ready jars in the frig. Then we got to make butter out of some of the cream. If strawberries were ready in the garden we got a treat of fresh cream and sliced strawberries. Sometimes Grandma would whip the cream and other times she just poured the fresh cream over the berries. Yummy! I loved helping Grandma churn the cream into butter. She had a gallon glass jar with a churn on top. You would just turn the handle until the butter separated from the whey. Oh, the taste of fresh butter right out of the churn. The whey was either used in bread baking or put in the hog slop. Either way it wasn't wasted.

Dad worked in the mills and during the winter they were often shut down. During the spring, summer and fall we would stock our pantry with enough foods to last during the times that Dad was out of work. We would grow as much veggies that we could. We ate fresh veggies out of the garden and the excess was canned. Dad usually worked swing shift so he would work in the garden in the morning watering and weeding. Mom and I would pick the veggies in the morning and then after Dad went to work we would can them. It was hot work but the rewards were very tasty.

Mom, Grandma, my sisters and I would go out and pick berries, etc. for canning, jams and jellies. Grandma was always afraid of snakes while picking I hated them big Garden Spiders and their webs. I'll take a snake any day over them spiders.

At times Dad would work 2 jobs in the summer. He would work at the mill on swing shift and work during the day driving the tractor pulling a trailer picking up boxes of peaches the workers picked. He was allowed to bring home boxes of the peaches that had splits or bruising. After Dad left for work Mom and I would can the best parts, make jams and jellies out of the pieces. All our hard work sure did taste good during the winter.

We also stockpiled flour, sugar, tea, coffee and other items that we had to buy during the summer. That was we didn't have to worry about where the money was coming from in the winter to buy them.

My Grandma S. and I would recycle clothing into school clothes for myself and play clothes for my little sisters. At that time the full gathered dresses and skirts were being exchanged for mini skirts....the mid 1960's. Grandma and I would go shopping at the Sally Shop (Salvation Army Thrift Store). We could purchase a large brown paper grocery bag of clothes for $1. You could stuff it as full as you could get it....the sack couldn't rip. Grandma and I each took a bag and would fill it with all kinds of clothes that we could recycle into other clothes. It was a game with Grandma and I to see who could get the most clothes in our bags. Grandma always won until I discovered her secret. She would actually roll the garments and place them in her bag. She could get at least 2 layers of rolled clothes in the bag and then she would fold the rest of the clothes and lay them on top of the 2 layers of clothes. After we got home we would wash and dry our treasures.

Then it was time to start recycling the clothes. We would remove all zippers, buttons and decorations. Putting them aside we would then take apart the clothes. It is amazing how much fabric can be gleaned from a dress with long sleeves and a full gathered skirt. After all the clothes were recycled into fabric we would decide what to make out of our new to us fabric. Grandma decided that we would first make blouses and skirts for me to wear to school. Then the rest of the fabric was used to make tops, long pants and shorts for my little sisters. We would mix and match the colors. I loved to applique little animals, etc on the tops. For example I might take a red solid fabric to make shorts or long pants...then I would use a print to match the solid color for the top. I would use a solid red piece of fabric to applique a cat, dog, ect on the print top. They were so cute!!! After we finished making as many clothes as possible out of our fabric Grandma would use the scraps for quilt blocks. Her favorite quilt block was the Nine-Patch.

I used to go with Grandma S. to church quilting bees! Talk about being funny! Imagine grown women bickering over scraps of fabric. They would get big cardboard barrels of fabric scraps. Usually 4 ladies would go through the barrels and choose colors for the quilt blocks. One day 2 of the ladies started squabbling over a piece of fabric. Both wanted it for their quilt blocks. Grandma was cutting blocks out and after a while she got tired of listening to the ladies of the ladies was her best friend. Grandma got up from the table, walked over and took the piece of fabric from the ladies. Yep, she used her scissors and cut that fabric in half. She handed both the ladies a piece and then announced it was time for lunch. I will never forget the look on those 2 ladies faces when Grandma handed them each a piece of the fabric.

Speaking of lunch....those ladies sure could cook. They went all out trying to outdo each other with their offerings. Grandma's specialty was Banana Pudding! She made it from instant pudding for Grandma. She made the honest to goodness vanilla pudding. She would layer vanilla wafers on the bottom of a large oblong cake pan and around the sides too. Then she would place a layer of pudding, layer of sliced bananas, layer of pudding, layer of bananas and end with a layer of pudding. Then she would make the meringue and place a thick layer on top. She always made cute little curliques with the meringe. Then into the oven to broil the meringe just until the little curliques were golden. Yummy!!!!!

Rich grew up with his Dad working mills and other jobs. They didn't have a garden but Mom canned fruits, jams and jellies. She was not able to do as much as she wanted because she had health issues. She did love to sew and made beautiful clothes for her family. His parents shopped for bargains as often as they could. Rich said he remembers helping his Dad load the station wagon with bread, rolls, cookies, etc. at the Bread Outlet store. He said there was hardly any room for all the kids to ride home. They put the bread in the freezer. They were fortunate enough to be able to buy fresh beef from Mom's sister and brother-in-law.

This is how we grew up and my hubby, Rich and I continue recycling, reusing and doing without....just as we was taught as children. It hasn't hurt us! We are happy that we don't have to worry about keeping up with the Jones!