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Pass it on: empower future generations by handing down homesteading.

Both my maternal grandmother and grandfather grew up on working farms as children. They grew most of their own fruits and vegetables in an "organic" garden. They both learned how to butcher livestock. They both had to chop wood to heat their homes. My grandma grew up sewing her own dresses, quilts, tablecloths, etc. by hand. The same goes for my husband's paternal and maternal grandparents.

So why, in our mid 20s, do my husband and I have no idea how to butcher a chicken, dig a root cellar, or can peas? That plethora of homesteading skills was lost after our grandparents' generation. They never taught their children any of these skills and as a result, two generations (so far!) have lost valuable knowledge of how to survive without all of today's modern conveniences.

Growing up in the 1990s I never had to go without electricity, running water, or heat. I never had to grow a garden, chop wood, pluck a chicken, or sew anything at all. I never made the association between the hamburgers I ate and the cows I saw while riding in the car. My knowledge of the basic proponents of life consisted of this: food came from a grocery store, electricity simply just existed, clothing and blankets came from a store, and heat came from the furnace in our basement, if I ever got cold all I had to do was turn the thermostat up. A pretty easy life I guess, but I certainly didn't learn the first thing about living self sufficiently.

When my husband and I first moved in together, we had a house in the country with almost four acres. Looking back, I am embarrassed to know that all we did with that land was mow it down. For some reason we did get some chickens and had eggs for a while, but we never enjoyed a chicken dinner we didn't buy from the grocery. We just wasted the money plumping those hens up for the weasels and foxes. We could have eaten them; we just didn't know the first thing about butchering or plucking them. We had all that land around us, but still we bought our tomatoes from the grocery. We didn't have a clue about putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow.

Now that my husband and I have decided we want to live the life of a homesteader, we read a lot. But to me, reading something in a book is far removed from actually getting out there and doing it. We have jumped on every opportunity we have found to help on farms, learning how to tap maple trees and milk goats. It has been hard finding people to teach two blundering fools the simplest of things. This year will be the first that we plan to can any surplus from our garden. I asked my mom to teach me how to do this but she couldn't, because my grandmother had never taught her. I am hoping to get it right with my Ball Blue Book and a few videos that our Cooperative Extension Office sent me by e-mail. It is sad to me that living in the city of Muncie, where one of our biggest claims to fame is the Ball jar, I have yet to preserve any of my own food.

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The few things my grandmother and grandfather did pass on to me, I will treasure forever. I remember helping my grandmother hang clothes to dry on the line. To this day I can remember the feel and smell of line dried sheets and blankets. I remember cool afternoons swinging on the porch helping my grandma snap beans (so she could freeze them.). My grandpa always instilled in me a "waste not want not" attitude. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with him squeezing ketchup packets into the bottle, even though I thought he was kind of silly for saving every ketchup, salt and pepper package from every fast food meal he had. The first time my husband saw me emptying ketchup packs he laughed his head off.

I know that for my grandparents living in the tail end of the Great Depression was a hard time. They wanted to give their children everything they could never have themselves. But to me it seems the greatest gift anyone could give their children or grandchildren is the knowledge to survive in hard times. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. So to all you homesteaders out there be sure to pass on every tidbit of knowledge you have. Your children or grandchild ren may or may not use it one day, but it would be a shame for all of your country wisdom to be lost.

BY LEA BOWDEN

INDIANA
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Title Annotation:Country neighbors
Author:Bowden, Lea
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Words:801
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