A Potato Slice memory

I tasted a piece of potato from the soup pot to test its state of “cookedness” and was immediately transported back to childhood. That taste was so reminiscent of the times when there was a fire on the wood heap at home. Someone would have swept up the chips from the firewood cutting and made a tidy heap of them, lighting them to make the tidy up complete. This resulted in a glowing, safely slow burning fire.

We children would fossick out a used jam tin lid and beg a potato –or sometimes an apple. If the jam tin lid was available we would carefully place our slices of potato on it, or if this smart cooking utensil was not to be found we would opt for a suitable stick and attach a piece of potato to it. The fire was then used to “cook” our anticipated outdoor meal. The problem seemed to be that we were very anxious for the tasting and did not allow enough time for the actual cooking process. Our long-suffering and loving Grandfather who was visiting, would be plied with slices of half cooked potato or apple and pronounce them scrumptious. Of course we believed him because to us they were indeed scrumptious!

What a beautiful freedom we enjoyed in our country childhood. And what great parents and grandparents we had to people it, and to allow us our times of play, supervised or not, but always within the limits of behaviour we knew were there.

So my slice of not quite cooked potato, from the soup pot today, reminded me sweetly of the taste of those long-ago times of “outdoor” cooking.

More Mind Pictures

{Continued from yesterday’s entry}

Men of course also worked extremely hard, my own father as a sawmiller and later as a small-fruit grower. The modern sawmillers of today have their work streamlined by machinery, whereas in the yesterdays of my childhood it was hard “hands on” labour. My father was the “header in” at the sawmill he owned, this meant that he pushed huge billets -logs cut from a tree and shortened into various lengths- along the bench and into the big circular saw. Someone on the opposite end of the bench grabbed hold of the billet as it came through, he was known as the “tailer out” and as they grew old enough, they would usually be one of my brothers. The billets having been split in this way were passed through continually until the whole were cut into whatever length boards were required for the orders. Very large logs were pushed through a “breaking down” bench first and then in more handable size transferred to the other bench. Someone used a smaller bench and saw, where the boards were cut into shorter lengths, especially those required for making cases for apples to be packed in. The person who operated this bench was called the docker. Trees were felled by axe and crosscut saw, where two men each held an end of the saw and pushed and pulled as required to saw down the tree. Before the sawing began the axe was used to cut a “front” in the tree so that it would fall in a certain direction. Horses were hitched to the fallen tree and pulled it into the mill. One of my brothers was usually the horse driver.
Thus our parents taught us the necessity of work, and of work on a regular and thorough basis.

When I was in my teens our father had cultivated a small-fruit farm, growing strawberries, raspberries, black currants and loganberries.
Each of we children still living at home were expected to work in picking the fruit in the ripening season. There seemed to be an endless succession of golden sun and blue skies days-sometimes too hot!-that we enjoyed during this time. Our dad was a fair taskmaster and paid his children the equal amount that other pickers from outside the family received. Each day after we had finished-and some of those days may have started at 5 a.m. and ended at around 7 p.m. or after- the fruit was weighed, and each person’s tally entered into a book which was the season book for that year. At the end of the season when our dad had received his cheque from the fruit processors we were duly paid. I can well remember the wonderful shopping trips that were planned mentally over the six to eight week season and the culmination in a trip to town, over forty miles away.

{to be continued}

Mind Pictures

{Some few years ago I began to write memories from my childhood of the people who peopled it, so this is the first part of those mind pictures imprinted on my childhood memory}

This began as just a few of the things that stay in my memory of the woman who gave birth to me and raised me but may progress to other aspects of my growing years and the people that inhabited them.
Maybe the foremost thing about Mum was her always being there. She was a constant all the days of my childhood; the only times I remember her being absent were when she birthed younger siblings, or when she was ill.
The first time I remember her being ill I saw from the comfort of my bed, that my father and elder brothers were carrying her through the living room on a mattress. I didn’t see but I knew, that they placed her on the back of my father’s truck, which was our transport then. I waited for them to return, whether I slept or not during the interval I do not know, but I saw my father carry in the mattress without my mother on it and I waited for her to walk in behind him, but she did not appear. The next morning we younger ones were taken to our neighbour’s home where we found our mother being cared for in bed. I don’t know the nature of her illness because I never thought to ask her, nor do I know how long she was away from home but I well recall the bereft feeling that swept over me the evening she did not return with my father and brothers.
When my four younger siblings were born we older ones who could not be left at home, were taken into the homes of relatives or friends of my parents, until she came home with the new baby.
When I was twelve years old, Mum went to hospital for a serious operation and was hospitalised for a month. I was exempt from school, which ended my formal education, as I was needed at home to care for the family during Mum’s absence.
This was a big ask of a girl of my age and I remember my aunt from next-door coming sometimes on washday to give me a hand. I look at the girls of today of that age and am thankful for the training my mother had given me previous to that time as to how a house was managed. All the tasks were harder then because there were no things such as electric washing machines in our home, or in homes generally, we did not even have a hot water system. Hot water for doing the washing was heated at first in a wood-fired copper, later an electric copper was purchased. All clothes were washed by hand and if they were of boiling material, then boiled in the copper, lifted out with a “pot stick”, and rinsed twice and wrung by hand, before being hung on the line to dry. When dry, they were ironed with a “flat iron”. This was an iron made from cast iron and with a flat plate on the bottom; it was stood in front of the fire to heat-or placed on top of the wood-heated stove. Two or three irons were used at the one time so that there was always another one heated when one was replaced because it had cooled. Thus washing day and ironing day was a large chore and I have clear memories of my mother doing these things.