A “light” went on during my daydream featuring photographic memories of my childhood summer trips to my Aunt Nora and Uncle Alf’s dairy farm in Wisconsin, U.S.A. I realized I was engrained with the mindset “Sustainable Agriculture”. This relatively new term is a common thread in today’s modern farms. Most of us have a backyard that may have room for a patio, picnic table, grassy patch and a swimming pool. You may say, “How am I able to practice “Sustainable Agriculture” in a small space? Consider taking up this challenge
as a hobbyist or simply agree with the practice by supporting your local farmer’s market, reading labels of origin or volunteering on a field trip to a family farm or State Fair with your children.
May this story about a Norwegian descent farm couple inspire you to make room for Sustainable Agriculture practices in your household. Perhaps it’s a simple compost bucket or a collection of heirloom seeds sown from one season to the next. It might be a few chickens in your backyard eating pests from the garden. It’s fun when you make it a family project.
Uncle Alf was my childhood mentor. The experiences became a part of who I am today. I credit him for introducing me to chores that repeated themselves multiple times a day and started all over again the next day. This family farm was self-sufficient. The test was the Great Depression. There was no want for food. A meal was shared with strangers who gladly worked to save their pride instead of receiving a hand-out. The rock foundation barn was large enough to store hay for the herd for winter feeding. The fields were rotated with various crops including Alfalfa Hay and Timothy Hay. Corn was grown, dried, harvested and stored in the granary. The rolling hilled grassy pasture featured full grown shade trees with worn “Cow” paths to and from the milking barn. My Uncle was a horseman who rode a sturdy black stallion with ease. He was a teamster with the gift of driving work horses pulling wagons, rakes, combines and the like until the Model-T and International Harvester Tractors were brought into the machine shed. I should interject a note to self here that I learned to steer a tractor before an automobile and sat on a saddle before my feet touched the stirrups. My adventures included skipping along the Cow paths, foraging through the Limestone sink holes (used for junk disposal) for old bottles, wagon wheels and the favorite quiet attic above the machine shed that held treasures including harnesses and buggies.
The farm was my “College” experience without realizing it at the time. The farmhouse was a historic stage coach stop with legends of an overnight stay by the infamous Jesse James. I knew the room where the overnight guest purportedly stayed with original wall paper revealed with a careful examination under layers of new paper in the closet.
Uncle Alf had a sense of humor. He handed me a rope with a young Holstein Calf on the other end. I began to walk with the animal and in an instant the Hemp rope burned through my skin as I was dragged until I let loose. The “magic salve” was the home remedy for my rope burn. Please take note and look for a homemade salve recipe by Amy Casaldi. Bookmark this site and look forward to receiving original recipes without charge.
Uncle Alf Farm Girl At Heart
The family garden was large enough to grow and can for year round meals and saved heirloom seeds harvested in the new ground broken for next season’s crop. Currants and Asparagus always wintered well providing a new harvest annually.
I idolized my Uncle Alf as he included me in his daily chores. The cows were milked twice a day. I had my favorite I nicknamed “Honey”. My first raw milk experience was a pre-dawn cereal breakfast. My Aunt Nora never allowed her husband to start the day without a full breakfast that included farm eggs, meat, homemade bread and black coffee. Yes, I drank a lot of coffee as a child and was proud of it.
One day terrible news reached my ears…Uncle Alf suffered a massive heart attack. I was heartbroken when he died too young. My Aunt sold the farm and held an auction for the vast majority of the implements and various items. I wonder to this day who purchased the hand carved pump organ I played for hours in the upper room.
You are wondering about the picture I am painting here. Well, it could be embellished with more detail but my point has been made. Maintain your household and property whether leased or rented with every ounce of your strength and produce fruits from your labors wasting not what you have been given.
This farm made it through the hardest times and slowly modernized with equipment that replaced hand operated tools. The windmill pumped water until electrified; the rock foundation of the barn standing today was improved with a concrete floor, feeding troughs, gutters for manure and Cow Stanchions. Prior to electricity the Holstein cows were milked by hand then replaced by machines that hung from a belt around each cow during milking. The labor was extensive even with the machines. I will always hear the “music” of cows chewing their cud in time to a radio blasting loudly in the barn. The safety regulations at the time were carefully followed. Milk was poured into covered pails and stored in ice cold water in the cooler room until picked up by a milk truck. In those days small cheese makers and creameries were in abundance.
There is a revolution taking place. The modern farmer is applying technologies proven in the past. People who live in cities plant urban gardens, buy and trade locally grown produce. Major U.S. cities have opened their “barn doors” to host local markets. Discover your role. Will you be part of the next generation moving from metropolitan areas, buying acreage to raise livestock or plant a vineyard? Will you become a cheesemaker?
A farm girl at heart wrote this. I am a modern farmer in my own right. Our family lives on a small rural property in the South West desert. The Norwegian Fjord horse will be Twenty years old this spring. She is the horse of the Viking raised at our home since six months of age. I learned how to drive her in a cart and ride her English. Uncle Alf would be proud!