I often think about what it would be like if I lived closer to nature. My idea of living closer to nature includes a large piece of land containing both a sizeable arable area with wheat or corn growing in the summer, and a connection to a large forest. This connection to a large forest is important for my day dreaming in two ways. First, I grew up exploring small and big forests and I feel very much at home among the trees, the birds and the occasional fox or rabbit. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing in the woods, chasing imagined warriors or just exploring new areas. Second, I believe that being closer to nature has a very positive therapeutic effect on my mind and helps me relax. While I hike in a conservation area, I often let my mind wonder and it helps me refocus on my priorities. It is a place where I usually find solutions to long standing problems.
Having a sizeable arable area for growing crops also comes from having spent much of my childhood helping out on my grandparents' farm. Every spring weekend my parents would drive two hours to see my grandparents. It was the growing season and I was enlisted, often against my will, to help plant potatoes, corn, or wheat. Please understand that it wasn't hard work. I was a kid and my days were better spent, in my opinion then, playing and exploring the vast unknown territories around my grandparents' little town. But I helped every time.
The summers were spent tending to the crops. Potatoes needed to be cleared of these very nasty beetles. They were called Colorado Potato Beetles and they would devour a potato plant and prevent it's roots (potatoes) from growing. Our task as kids was to walk the rows of potatoes with a bucket and a handheld broom and gently shake the potato plants over the bucket to collect those beetles. You'd always have to collect them, because the beetles could fly and they would come back in force. After collecting the beetles, our task was to destroy them. It was the fun part of the experience where you got to burn them on mass. My grandfather would pour a bit of gasoline into the buckets and we would light them and watch the beetles melt. This would be repeated two or three times every week and usually on the hottest day.
August was the time to harvest the fields. We'd get up early in the morning, have breakfast and ride to one of the fields. There, we would spend the day picking corn, or digging up potatoes. Digging potatoes was back breaking work. The tool we used to dig was very simple. It consisted of a long wooden handle with a two prong attachment on the end about four inches apart. We would have to go through each potato plant and dig around it to expose the potatoes. Then we would pick them and put them in a big basket. This was usually a five or six person operations and one football size field would take about three days to harvest completely. After the basket was filled, us kids would drag it over to a potato sack and empty it there, bringing the basket back to the potato digging front line.
Lunch during the harvest season was always delicious. It usually was something simple, like a piece of bread with a some meats or a soup from a thermos. But, because of the hard work we were all involved in, the food tasted simply amazing. Sometimes I have cravings for those simpler foods, to my they will always be delicious.
As the harvest season drew to a close, the whole family got together to prepare the food for winter storage. Tomatoes and pickles would be collected and gotten ready for pickling, stored in jars and placed in a big cellar located under the main house. The kids would also be given the task of picking fruits. Apples, pears, raspberries, rhubarb, and strawberries were usually grown around the household so we would pick them during this time. Apples and pears would go directly into the cellar and they would stay there through the fall and winter months. Other fruits would be jammed. Yes, this was the time for making jams and I personally loved every minute of it.
Those were the good old days, as they say. And for me that definition rings true every time I daydream about living closer to nature. Simpler times, hard working of course, but much less stressful. Full of happiness, family and fun.