I didn't realize it then, but I do now and I am so grateful. My grandfather and grandmother were Steele’s and their farm was located near Acton, Ontario, north of Toronto en route to Guelph where I was born at the end of WWII. They had a wonderful orchard with cherry trees (that made the best pies ever!), apple trees, crabapples, pears as well as currants for jam and jellies. The garden, which was about 8 to 10 rows of food behind the house, produced a mountain of potatoes which were stored in the basement. There were peas which we kids would munch down, crispy, sweet shelled right off the vine. Beets, onions, greens and much more, we just took it for granted, never realizing how lucky we were and all the work that went into it.
There was a long chicken coop where I would collect the eggs and sometimes Grandpa would kill one for dinner. He had fields of hay, oats, barley and wheat interspersed throughout the evergreen forests...a nice balance of nature and food production...no herbicides, no chemicals, fertilizer was manure from the barn and outhouse (which was a two-seater by the way). He was a member of the Canadian Order of Foresters trying to preserve forests.
There were two big workhorses that pulled the hay wagon. We would ride the wagon behind those horse's big behinds and get so hot and prickly from the hay being piled onto the wagon. Sometimes we would ride the tractor.
There were Jersey cows that were kind and gentle and produced the richest, creamiest. golden mile and cream ever. We would have it on our porridge in the morning. There was also a bull that remained fenced in as he would be dangerous but he helped to produce the calves that grew into milking cows.
My grandmother made the best pies and tea biscuits ever! I still don't know how to make them like she did. I think it had something to do with scalding the milk first. Grandpa would check each chicken egg through a little lighted hole in a big tin can in the basement for interior spots as he sold the eggs as well as the milk and cream. Any spotted eggs were used on the farm and not sold. We would ride with him to the creamery in Acton to sell his milk and cream in big tins. It smelled delicious in there like fresh butter and we always came away with ice cream cones that were so delicious!
The barn was made of stone on the bottom half and slatted boards on the upper floor with giant carved beams holding it all together. We would climb and swing from those beams, falling into the hay piled high in that airy barn. There was a big silo for the grain from the fields and wooden machines to crush the oats and grains.
My memories of the farm were impressed into my being, the smells and warmth, the realness of it all stayed with me and helped make me who I am today. The oats, slow cooked on the wood stove in the house while my grandparents went off to milk the cows...the butter and good cheddar cheese from the creamery, always on the table. No matter what time of day or night we pulled into the farm from Montreal, there would be the most wonderful spread of fresh baked pies, tea biscuits, cookies and jellies. jams and cheese available. It was a gathering place on the weekends and other times for family and friends to play cards and tell stories. I remember bridge and other games and grandpa teaching me checkers and cribbage. It was the best of the times...summer or winter with snow on the ground. Deep sense-filled memories....for which I am so grateful...to my grandparents and to that wonderful farm which they built and kept so much natural. Oh thank you for those days when good, pure food and company was so precious...what a gift!