When I was a girl, summer vacation meant I was free to spend lots of time on my grandparent’s farm. It was my favorite place to be and I loved everything about summer when I was there.
There were often baby animals to pet and love and name. One summer, I “assisted” in the delivery of a baby pony, two goat kids, and a litter of puppies. I remember staying with my grandmother’s dog, Misha, until all of her puppies were born. I kept a cool washcloth on her head and told her what a good job she was doing. Later, my family adopted one of those puppies that I had helped deliver. Bandit was well loved by my family for 16 happy years.
My grandmother planted a huge garden every year, and I loved walking through it and checking the progress of the growing plants, and then later of the ripening fruits and vegetables. She would also plant huge yellow sunflowers on one side of the garden and we used to make bets about how tall they would grow.
Some years, I would help my grandmother attach foil pie pans to strings that hung from stakes in the ground to keep the rabbits out of her garden. We would also plant Marigolds on the perimeter because she said the rabbits didn’t like the smell of them.
And yes, we would stuff old clothes with straw to make a scarecrow to keep the birds out of the garden. Usually, he would wear some old overalls and a discarded flannel shirt. Sometimes we drew his face with a Magic Marker on a burlap sack. Other times, we used a Halloween mask for a face. Our scarecrow would wear an old straw hat or a baseball cap, and we always gave him a name…such as Fred or Oliver or Sam.
The apple orchard bordered one side of my grandmother’s huge garden. As the summer progressed, I would check the status of the apples, and of the pears that grew on the other side of the orchard. By August, the trees would be loaded down from the weight of the ripe fruit.
My favorite thing of all was to find a quiet place on the farm and read books. Sometimes I would climb to the top of my favorite apple tree and read. I had discovered a spot where three branches came together in a way that provided a safe reading perch. The other benefit was that I was high enough that I could look out over the entire farm.
I also liked to take books to read up into the hayloft of the barn. This practice ended abruptly for me one lazy summer day when a mouse ran by me as I was lying on my stomach reading a book in the soft hay. After the mouse encounter, I would usually read under a tree. I liked the shade of the catalpa tree until the day I glanced up and saw the fat black and yellow worms munching away on the big catalpa leaves!
When I complained to my grandmother that I needed a place without critters to read, she tossed a patchwork quilt over the clothesline and then laid another quilt on the ground underneath and told me it would be safe to read there. I remember falling asleep while reading during many warm sunny days in my personal quilt tent.
The only thing I didn’t like about being at my grandparent’s farm during the summer, was that my grandmother would ask me to gather the eggs from the nests in the chicken coop that was attached to the red barn. I was very afraid of the hens and even more afraid of the roosters. My grandmother always named her roosters…Pretty Boy, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Sylvester…and I thought that was funny but I still kept my distance from them.
My grandmother felt that we learned by doing, and she was convinced that I would overcome my fear of the chickens if I gathered the eggs often enough. I did eventually learn to gather the eggs, but I never liked doing it.
I wrote about this experience in my second book, “Which Came First?” Originally, I wrote the story for my children so they would know a little about my childhood and about farm life. But now, I see the book as an entertaining story with a female protagonist who doesn’t give up and who finds a resourceful way to overcome her fear and get the task completed.
There are two parts of the book that always make me laugh because of the personal meaning attached to them. One is when the girl tells herself, “Don’t be a chicken liver” because that’s something my brother and I actually said to one another as kids when we were afraid. The other part that is funny to me, is that artist Vicki Guess hid a mouse for kids to find in all of the outside illustrations in the book. There’s even a mouse hidden in the hayloft of the barn on the front cover!
Have a good summer vacation and I hope you get to read a lot of books! If you have the chance to visit a farm or to take a child in your life to visit one, it’s a wonderful experience.
I’m going to take a summer vacation from this blog so I can work on my new book. I look forward to seeing you again in September!
Please check out my author website to order a signed copy of my books…I’ve made the shipping free for the summer! www.janetseverhull.com