A Family business
Growing up in Central Wisconsin, I was exposed to a variety of crops that were grown by local farmers. Multiple family members were in the farming business. I had several uncles that would “drive truck” for local farmers, hauling potatoes or peas during long summer days. A few family members owned their own farms; vegetable and fruit fields handed down through the generations. My grandpa and grandpa harvested corn and strawberries in the summer and pumpkins and squash in the fall. As a child under the age of 12 with no real job prospects at my age, I would be looped into the summer “family” business. A simpler time that, as an adult, I look back on with endearment.
Long were the days, which were probably only long in my 10 year-old mind, when I would sit on a bucket and pick beans, or sit on the back of a pick-up truck watching my dad pick corn by hand. I learned some pretty important life skills during this time of my young life, which I can only fondly reflect on now that I am in my 30’s. I learned how to count a bushel and change, read a food scale, and… pee in the woods (a skill that came in handy in my college years).
As I got older, these tasks were not enjoyable during the summer months while I was off from school. I did not want to get up early, sit on a bucket, pee in the woods, or get bit by mosquitos. However, I did enjoy spending time with my family. Especially during strawberry season, I LOVED strawberry season. Not only could I eat fresh, homegrown strawberries until I burst, but I could also make money. Now I long for those days that seemed to flow so easily on the summer breeze. When I didn’t have a care in the world, other than what to make with the strawberries. Strawberry shortcakes and strawberry jam. Strawberry slush made with brandy for the grown-ups. The possibilities were endless! Especially when my grandma’s homemade baking powder biscuits were involved.
Many mornings I would work (I use this term loosely) in the strawberry field until my grandpa would bring chocolate milk and doughnuts to the farm. Most days I watched my grandma at the cash register in the old barn, versus working in the fields. I would watch her sell cartons of strawberries to people that would come from all over Wisconsin to pick their own fruit. Or pay a little extra to have it picked for them! I can still picture all the people in the fields, bent over the rows of strawberry bushes, picking each piece of fruit wearing their large brimmed hats, filling their cartons to the brim.
I now long for the time on my grandparents’ farm, picking strawberries. Running around with bare feet, jumping off hay bales, climbing around on old tractors. As an adult, my life is constantly busy, working full time, going to school, raising a child. I often dream of simpler ways to live, but these moments are fleeting as I drive to the next meeting or activity. I still have a fondness for strawberries that runs deep. Not because the fruit is so delicious, even though it obviously is, but for what strawberries represent. Nature. Family. Simplicity.
My grandpa passed away in 2004 and the strawberry farm was closed and sold shortly before that. But my grandma, to this day, at the age of 89, still tries to maintain her ties to this fruit. I can now fully appreciate the type of slower living that my parents and grandma still try to achieve. Incorporating simplicity and slowness into my life is a goal for the coming year.
I’m also trying to give my daughter these same experiences of life lived simply, before iPads and other electronics. Even though she can’t see the landscape of the strawberry farm, she loves dirt, climbing on 4-wheelers, and watering the garden. She loves all animals (even goats) and I’m pretty sure she has eaten dirt on multiple occasions, just to see what it tastes like. She is not afraid to try new things and is always eager to help others. I bet she would have been great at picking strawberries and I know my grandpa would have loved the help.
How do you help your children stay connected to a simpler life?