Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Folded Wings has tagged me for the Seven Things Meme. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Things about Me

1. When I was born, the doctor told my mother that I should have had a twin. Apparently early in the pregnancy the twin had died. I often wonder what my twin would have been like? Would it have been a boy or a girl? Would we have been identical or fraternal twins?

2. I am a writer and write web content and have had my writings published in both online and print venues. I'm so glad that my childhood dream of being a published author has come true.

3. I have two grandsons that I am very close to. The oldest has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. The youngest is legally blind in one eye. Both boys are doing a great job of adapting. All of that said to let you know that I am a Grandma of two grandsons and each has an invisible disability. Still, I always tell them they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

4. I drove taxi for 14 years, but wouldn't do it today. I worked the 11:00 am to 2:00 am shift. Yes, that was our shift - 15 hours. I was a single mother at the time and have never been so exhausted in my entire life.

5. I first drove a vehicle when I was six, yes 6, years old. I grew up on a farm and they were a man short, so they put me to driving the pickup truck while the men loaded it with bales of hay. I was short enough that I had to slide my butt down over the edge of the seat to reach the petals. It was expected that I do a good job and not throw the men out of the back of the truck. Instructions were clear, "Don't pop the clutch." Yes, the pickup was a standard and since that time I've driven trucks, tractors, combines, cars, vans and almost any other kind of vehicle you can imagine.

6. When I was three I was accidentally hurt by my grandparent's German shepherd dog. Grandma said that dog cried real tears and she'd never seen anything like it in her life. I had 17 stitches on the right jaw of my face. When I came home from the hospital, I ran from our place to Grandma's because I wanted to show Prince (the dog) that I was alright. Today others see that scar and ask what happened. As for me, unless someone mentions it I forget it's there.

7. My biggest enjoyment in life comes from giving to and helping others. Some people can't understand that, but that is me through and through. I would give anyone the shirt off my back just because they needed it.

I hope you've enjoyed learning these things about me. I never tag people. If you would like to participate in the meme, do so and please let me know. I would enjoy reading seven things about you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thank You, Renie

Renie Burghardt at Renie Burghardt's World has presented me with this "Fabulous" Award. It is my first award for my "Treasures to Me" blog. Thank you, Renie. I will cherish it.
I would like to pass it on to these special friends,
I always limit myself to giving awards to five people. However, every one of my readers mean the world to me and I cherish each of you. Blessings!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wash Day at Grandma's

Wash day at Grandma's was a unique and exciting day for me when I was a child. Grandma's farmhouse had no modern conveniences, like running water or electricity. This meant we had to either get our water from the cistern, well or spring.

Sometimes in winter the cast iron pump would freeze solid. We'd pour warm water into it and pray it would thaw out. This was a time consuming process and often made matters worse. We couldn't pour hot water into the pump to melt the ice because the meeting of hot and cold would have cracked the cast and the pump would have then been worthless.

If we couldn't thaw the pump, and if the creek and spring were frozen solid, we had only one alternative. We ventured into the yard with buckets, pails and dishpans, filled them with snow and carried them into the house.

On top of the old cookstove, stood a copper boiler. We'd empty our vessels into it and traipse back outside for more snow. Our tired legs and bodies would make trip after trip into the kitchen, to add the snow to that already in the copper boiler. It was then, long before I ever entered a classroom, that I learned it takes a lot of snow to make a small amount of water.

After the copper boiler was full of snow, Grandma would make us cocoa. This was the best part of wash day. She did this by placing a saucepan of milk on the stove until it steamed. In the meantime, she put a teaspoon of cocoa into our cups and added a teaspoon of sugar and about an inch of pure cream. After testing the milk with the tip of her little finger, to make certain it was just the right temperature, she would scald the cream/cocoa mixture. The cocoa was delicious and warmed us after our many treks into the cold, frosty yard.

The copper boiler stayed on the stove all night. In the morning, Grandma would add a handful of homemade soap and a scoop of borax to the water. Then, she would put in the white clothes for about a half-hour, stirring them occasionally with a large wooden ladle made especially for this purpose. It reminded me of a miniature canoe paddle.

Grandma would lift the clothes out of the copper boiler with the wash ladle and place them in a large, blue granite pot. When they had cooled sufficiently, she would wring them out by hand, rinse them out, rinse them in the washtub, wring them again, then put on her coat, boots and gloves and venture out into the bitter, winter weather. She clipped the clothes to the clothesline with long, wooden pegs. Within minutes, the clothes were frozen stiff.

When Grandma came back into the house, she would put the next load of clothes into the copper boiler, boil them, wring them and take them to the line. This procedure would continue for most of the day.

Grandma had two long clotheslines and I remember well ducking beneath frozen sheets and towels, making it a game, as children tend to do.

After the clothes had been on the line for two or three hours, Grandma would bring them into the house and hang them on lines in the summer kitchen. Here, they would thaw and begin to dry a little. Since the summer kitchen had no heat, the clothes never completely dried. Grandma left them there overnight. Early the next morning, she would set three flat irons on the cookstove to heat. One by one she would bring items of clothing in from the summer kitchen. Using the flat irons, she would iron them until they were completely dry, then hang them in the closet or fold them and put them away in drawers.

I will never forget the fresh, outdoor fragrance that filled Grandma's kitchen when she set those flat irons to the damp frost-dried garments.

In summer, wash day was somewhat different. The wash water was pumped and carried in pails to fill the copper boiler. After the water boiled, the women would fold towels and slip them around the hot handles before carrying it outside to pour the steaming water into the old, wooden washing machine. This washing machine was fascinating. Mother had an electric, wringer washer; Grandma had a manual, pumped by hand.

First Grandma would set her glass scrub board inside the washer. Any stained or extremely soiled clothes would be lathered with a bar of Sunlight soap and scrubbed thoroughly. I've seen her scrub socks, as many as forty pair, on that scrub board. Her fingers would be red and raw, almost to the point of bleeding. Then, she would add detergent or a hand full of homemade soap and close the lid that had a large and small gear on the top.

Often, it was up to me to pull the handle on that old machine. Back and forth - back and forth until I felt my arm would fall off. Just when I felt I couldn't pump that handle once more, Grandma would appear, a smile on her face. She'd unfasten the clamps on the lid, take out the clothes and crank the handle of the wringer.

I'd watch as the rollers flattened the clothes, sometimes spraying water from the pockets. Grandma fed the wringer with one hand while cranking with the other. On the other side of the wringer, the clothes would fall into a galvanized tub of ice-cold water. After the clothes were rinsed, Grandma would crank them through the wringer one last time and hang them on the line. The procedure then followed the exact pattern of a winter wash day, except Grandma took the clothes in from the line while still damp and ironed them right away.
Today, in summer, I still hang my clothes on the clothesline to dry. Of course, I have an automatic washer and dryer, but much prefer the fresh smell of laundry that has been dried outdoors. As I fold and hang the clothes that nowadays require little or no ironing, I drink in the fresh, outdoor fragrance and travel back to my childhood - back to wash day at Grandma's.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Old Pump

When growing up on the farm, water was a precious commodity. We lived on a lot on the northwest corner of my grandparent's farm. They had a well where, on a hot, humid summer day you could coax clear, sparkling and delicious water from the old cast iron pump. You didn't need ice to get a cold, thirst quenching drink. It came directly from the well and was as cold as any that you would get today from a refrigerator.

On our acre of land there was no well. We did have a cistern, but that water was unfit for human consumption. It was only used for laundry, moping floors and other household chores. We got our drinking water from the well at my grandparent's house. We walked across the field with a pail and pumped the water from the well.

When the galvanized pail that set on the cupboard was getting empty, Mom would pour the remainder into a glass pitcher, hand the pail to either my brother or myself and off we'd go across the field to Grandma's. This job usually fell to me. My sister was too young to carry a full pail of water and my brother was usually in the barn or the fields. So, I was what you could call the water bearer most of the time.

I'd take the pail and run across the field, pail swinging through the air. Then I'd round the corner of Grandma's house and climb the verandah steps. I'd hang the pail from the hook on the pump and began the tedious task of working the handle. If the pump had lost its prime, I would have to go into the house to get a bit of water for priming. That old pump was cantankerous and there were a few times that Grandma would have to wipe her hands on her apron and come to give me a hand. Priming the pump in winter was a rigorous task, as warm water had to be used. It couldn't be too hot or the cast iron that the pump was made of would crack.

Whatever the season, the old pump would finally catch its prime and the clear, sparkling water would gush from its gaping mouth. I would continue to pump. The pail had to be full. There was no going home with a half pail of water. When the pail was filled almost to the brim, I would begin the journey home.

The pail of water was fairly heavy for a ten-year-old girl, but I was used to hard work and never thought anything of it. I did take my time going home. I kept a sharp eye on the pail, worried that some of the water may slop. Water was precious! Every drop was a treasure, especially in summers when we received little or no rain. Finally I would hand the pail of liquid gold to my mother and breathe a sigh of relief. The water had arrived safely.

I don't remember ever spilling any of that water. I just knew that it was priceless and so was very careful when transporting it. If it was spilled, I would have to account to Dad. He was very strict about the water we used. He knew that the well could go dry at any time. However, Grandma kept that spring running into the well by giving thanks to God each morning for its neverending supply.

Today my aunt lives in my grandparents old farmhouse. The farm is hers now and so is the well and that old pump. Yes, it is still there and amazingly enough, it still pumps water. However, there is one difference. When my grandparents lived on the farm, that old well never ran out of water. It was a spring and back then springs didn't usually run dry. Today, when summers are hot and little or no rain falls, that old well goes dry as a bone. Then water has to be trucked in. How times have changed.

We must all be good stewards when it comes to water. The Earth will only supply so much and one day we may find that water is very scarce indeed. The water levels around here are dismally short of what they once were. The Great Lakes are not at the levels they once were.

Water is precious. Be a good steward and protect our water supply. Water is a treasure to me, as are my memories of my grandparent's old cast iron pump.

Note: The photo at the top of this article is one that I shot of a picture painted by artist James Lorimer Keirstead. It hangs in my home. James is the cousin of my husband's mother. I absolutely love his art. To see more of his beautiful art, please click here.